The term “change of life” is synonymous with menopause, and for a very good reason. Menopause is a time in a woman’s life when her priorities, goals and perspective begin to change. It is a time of major emotional and physical shifting. Along with the many changes that occur during this phase of a woman’s life, one of the most common, yet least talked about, are the changes that occur to a woman’s skin. It is said that the changes that occur in menopausal skin can only be compared to those that occur during puberty. What do these two phases of life have in common? The answer is hormones.
There are two different hormones that fluctuate during menopause and cause changes in the appearance and texture of the skin. Those hormones are estrogen and testosterone, and they each play a different role in how premenopausal, perimenopausal and postmenopausal skin differ from each other.
- Estrogen: Estrogen levels begin to rise during puberty and stay fairly consistent through a woman’s life until she reaches perimenopause. Perimenopause is the period of time, typically several years, before actual menopause. It is the time when hormone fluctuations begin to occur. During this time, estrogen levels become very inconsistent. Generally, the level of estrogen produced by the body is decreasing, but there may also be times when estrogen levels surge to higher than normal levels. Eventually, levels of estrogen produced by the body become very low. This fluctuation can do quite a number on your skin. Estrogen regulates the thickness, or plumpness of the skin. It is also responsible for keeping the skin smooth, wrinkle free and naturally moisturized. As estrogen levels begin to decrease, you will notice that the youthful plumpness begins to disappear and fine lines become more noticeable. Part of the reason for this is the breakdown of collagen that is associated with estrogen loss. Some women might opt for hormone replacement therapy, and those that do are less likely to suffer from the hormonal effects of estrogen shifts to the same degree as women who do not use hormone therapy. However, hormone replacement therapy does not come without side effects and not every woman is a good candidate. Therefore, every woman should have a natural line of defense against the estrogen related changes that occur in their skin.
- Testosterone: This hormone is typically thought of as a male hormone, but women produce it also, just in lesser amounts. Testosterone actually plays a role in the level of estrogen produced and it is responsible for maintaining bone and muscle mass. During the menopausal phase of a woman’s life, testosterone levels also begin to decrease, however not at the same rate that estrogen does. This means that as these hormonal shifts are occurring, there are times when testosterone is present in greater levels than estrogen. It is this imbalance that is responsible for an increase in facial hair growth and the sudden reoccurrence of acne related symptoms. Did I just say acne? Yes, I did. At the very same time that a woman is suffering from dry, aging skin she might also begin suffering once again from an increase in oil production and the development of pesky and unsightly acne breakouts. It might seem as if this is a no-win situation, however there are plenty of ways that you can balance menopausal skin and bring back, or maintain, your radiant beauty.
The way that menopause affects a woman’s skin is a very individual process. Some women seem to go through menopause with little changes, at least at first, while others suffer from dramatic changes that seemingly occur overnight. It might be a quick process, or perhaps for you it is slower, but make no mistake, changes are occurring. We have all known, or at least seen, a woman that looked youthfully radiant and nowhere near her chronological age. I am not talking about the altered images of women of women over the age of forty or fifty that you might see in magazines or online. I am talking about the women you know, the ones you pass on the street, the ones that you admire in real life. It really doesn’t matter if you are in the thick of it, or you are planning for the day when you start to notice these changes occurring, there is a very simple, two sided approach that will help you maintain more youthful looking skin. The solution involves both lifestyle habits and skin care.
What does lifestyle have to do with how hormones affect your skin during menopause? Just like every other phase of life, how you treat your body, both inside and out, can have a very noticeable effect on your skin health. This effect is even more noticeable during times when you are also going through other physical changes, such as menopause. The big lifestyle factors that play a role in any good menopausal skin care routine are diet, exercise, sleep and hydration.
You know that your diet is important, but what you fuel your body with becomes even more meaningful as you enter into the stages of menopause. First and foremost, as we age our bodies are forced to depend more upon the foods that we choose to nourish ourselves with. Nutrition becomes more important and energy isn’t as naturally abundant as it was a couple of decades ago. This is a time in your life when good health needs to be protected and not taken for granted. In addition to protecting your health, a diet filled with natural foods, including plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables will help maintain beautiful skin. Your body, including your skin, needs those nutrients. Foods that are rich in omega 3 fatty acids are also very beneficial to menopausal skin health. Make an effort to stay away from processed foods and those that contain added sugars. Those foods will only serve to promote inflammation in your body, which can show on your skin in a number of unpleasant ways, especially when testosterone levels are unbalanced. Redness, acne, rosacea and other inflammatory skin conditions are a signal that your diet might need to be addressed.
If you have not already, now is the perfect time to adopt a set of healthy lifestyle habits. Just like with the dietary considerations, the right lifestyle choices can make a tremendous difference in how you look and feel. What are the most important lifestyle factors, besides diet, that will help ease the symptoms of menopausal skin? The answer is exercise, sleep, stress control and the kicking of any negative health habits such as smoking or excessive drinking. Exercise helps to promote circulation which will give you a natural, healthy glow. And there are few things that will show on your face as quickly as lack of sleep and an abundance of stress. Aim to get in at least eight hours of sleep a night and work on developing stress reduction techniques that are effective for you in the areas of your life that you feel the most overwhelmed, overburdened and stress out. Finally, kick those habits that ruin your health rather than support it. Now is the time to set new health goals that are going to support you through this new and exciting phase of your life.
You know that no matter how well you take care of your physical and emotional health, that some changes to the skin are just unavoidable. The choices that are available in skin care can be overwhelming, especially if being as natural as possible is a priority for you. You don’t want to rely on a lot of unnatural chemicals to keep your skin youthful and radiant, but it can also be difficult to get really clear advice on what types of natural skin care options are best for aging skin. There are several ingredients that are especially beneficial for skin that is going through the changes caused by menopause. When you are looking to change up your skin care routine in an effort to counteract the effects of hormonal fluctuations, look for products that contain these great, natural ingredients:
- Vitamin C: Serums that contain vitamin C and other antioxidants can help support and maintain the collagen matrix in the skin. This will help reduce the appearance of wrinkles and keep the skin smooth and firm.
- Retinol: Retinoids are among the first go-to remedies of dermatologists for menopausal skin. For women in their mid forties and beyond, retinol helps maintain the structure and integrity of the skin. Retinol is especially great for menopausal skin because it address both the effects of the lack of estrogen and the unbalanced levels of testosterone. You might want to start with a product that contains a lower level of retinol, such as a natural serum of cream that is available on the consumer market. If you find that you are just not getting the results that you desire, you might consider contacting a dermatologist to discuss a stronger application.
- Hyaluronic Acid: Available as both a topical application and a nutritional supplement, hyaluronic acid can help can help maintain the smoothness and plumpness of skin as it counteracts the breakdown of collagen. Adding hyaluronic acid to your beauty care routine can help even out your skin tone, reduce thinning and sagging and minimize the appearance of wrinkles.
- Extra Virgin Coconut Oil: Menopausal skin needs extra moisture. In addition to applying additional moisture, you should seek out products that work to maintain the level of natural moisture your skin is still producing. One ingredient that can do both is extra virgin coconut oil. This all natural moisturizer has a number of natural properties that make it a healing, soothing and ultra moisturizing option for dry, thinning or otherwise delicate skin. Additionally, coconut oil can be found almost anywhere and you can use it for a number of different purposes. Just make sure that the coconut oil you choose is as pure and as high quality as possible.
- Gentle Exfoliant: As you age, regular exfoliation remains as important as always. You need to consistently remove old, dead skin cells in order for new ones to be able to effectively regenerate. Exfoliation also keeps your skin looking fresh and radiant. When choosing an exfoliant for menopausal skin, remember that gentler is better. Your skin is becoming thinner and more delicate, so extra care must be taken to not overstress or damage the skin during the exfoliating process.
- Sunscreen: As if sunscreen use wasn’t important enough for healthy skin, it becomes even more vital as you approach menopause and beyond. Estrogen is involved in the production of melanin, which is a skin pigment. As estrogen levels decrease, melanin production increases. This is the cause behind those light brown splotches on your face, chest, arms and hands that are referred to as age spots. When exposed to UV rays, the melanin effect is amplified and you are at even greater risk of developing age spots. Always wear a good quality sunscreen of at least 30 SPF to protect your skin from the aging effects of the sun.