Post by Jane Atherton
How is our skin affected by the menopause? We asked menopause expert Jane Atherton to explain and to offer her tips on maintaining optimum skin health at this time.
What are the main changes to the skin during menopause
As oestrogen declines during menopause collagen production slows down dramatically, bringing about a decrease in skin density and a loss of firmness. Lines and wrinkles will become more noticeable and sagging will begin to appear, especially along the jawline. Skin will become drier as the sebaceous glands now produce less natural oils, skin cell turnover slows down, complexion may appear dull and you will notice the appearance of pigmentation marks such as age spots, which develop rapidly without the regulating effect oestrogen has on melanin.
What are the main causes for these changes?
Protein synthesis, particularly that of collagen and elastin, are controlled by oestrogens, meaning the lower oestrogen levels during menopause result in less production and repair of collagen and elastin in the dermis of the skin.
A normal anti-ageing cream is not going to help when the cause of the problem is a drop in the level of hormones, which can begin as early as 35
What can we do to prevent changes to our skin during menopause?
You can’t stop the ageing process and you can’t delay it either. Using an anti-ageing cream in your 20’s for example will not delay skin ageing, this is not how the body works. Anyone under the age of 35 should use a good moisturiser with SPF filters to protect skin cells from the harmful effect of UV rays, but they certainly don’t need to be using any anti-ageing products. As long as you have oestrogen, you will have a plentiful supply of collagen, keeping your skin looking plump and firm. Once you reach 35 I would recommend you upgrade your skin care regime and use a product specifically designed for hormonally changing skin, such as Pause Hydra Crème, which naturally replenishes what nature has taken away. It is an advanced skin care treatment developed around a rich source of plant hormones to address these problems at the root cause, i.e lack of oestrogen.
Are there changes we can make to lifestyle during the menopause i.e. diet and exercise? Are there specific foods we should be including/avoiding?
Menopause is a time of change both mentally and physically. The average age to reach menopause is 51/52. Hormones will now be at an all-time low and will never increase again naturally. You need to make sure you are eating a well-balanced diet and do not cut out any of the major food groups.
Your diet should be made up of 50% good carbs, 30-35% good fats, 15-20% protein and around 24gm of fibre. So when you go shopping, remember you should have more fruit and veg in your trolley than meat and fish for example!
Eating too much protein, including dairy, can make the blood acidic and in order to rebalance your Ph levels your body will draw calcium from the bones, which is the last thing a menopausal woman needs, so definitely stay away from any high protein diets. Eat more dark green leafy vegetables, which contain phytoestrogens, these offer a much weaker form of human oestrogens, but provide a useful boost to declining hormone levels.
Obtain calcium from non-dairy products such as broccoli, almonds and sesame seeds and try adding maca root powder to your diet to help balance hormones naturally. If you eat soya make sure it is fermented, such as Tempeh, Miso or Soya Sauce. Unfermented soya like tofu for example, contains high levels of phytic acid which block the body’s ability to absorb calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and zinc.
Exercise is not only important for health, but it will also help control menopause symptoms. You should exercise daily and make sure you incorporate aerobic, muscle strengthening and stretching exercises. This doesn’t mean you have to go to the gym every day and do an intense workout. A brisk 20 minute walk for example would get your heart beating faster and if you do part of this uphill with ankle weights, you will be strengthening and stretching your muscles at the same time. Also remember that if you practice Yoga, which is great for stretching and balance, you will need to incorporate some form of aerobic exercise.
The important thing is to find something you enjoy. If you suffer from joint pain, which many women do during menopause, then try exercising in the water, the buoyancy of the water will take the weight off your joints and has the added benefit of keeping you cool if a hot flush develops.
Most importantly, make time for yourself. Take up a new hobby, or revisit an old one. Discover meditation, create a little space in your home where you can sit quietly and re-energise, reflect and rebalance. Learning something new is also a great way to keep the brain active and minimise those ‘spacey’ moments which come with menopause!
Journal writing is also very therapeutic. Recording you menopausal journey will help in times of frustration and confusion, when you are finding it hard to understand what is happening.
Are there specific products we should avoid using on our skin during and after menopause?.
This really does depend on how your skin reacts to oestrogen deficiency. As skin loses its strength, resilience, and its ability to retain moisture, women can suffer from itchy skin, not only on their face, but other parts of their body too. To minimise this condition increase omega 3 in your diet, eat more salmon, eggs, flaxseed and walnuts.
Avoid baths and showers that are too hot which can be drying.
Moisturise while skin is still damp after bathing – use a nourishing body oil such as Phytomone Mood Swings Balancing Body Oil to replenishing depleted cells and seal in moisture and nutrients.
Use gently, non-irritating soaps
If you do develop skin sensitivity you may have to look at changing several products that come into contact with your skin, not only moisturisers, but also soap, deodorants, shampoos, washing powders and cleaning products.
Are there products/ingredients in products we should be looking for to support our skin during and beyond menopause?
My training in clinical nutrition also covered endocrinology, so I was very well aware of the effect lack of hormones had on the skin. I knew it was important for the Phytomone skin care collection to be based around plant hormones so we could address the problem at the root cause, rather than being be just another collection of ‘peptide packed products. The plant hormones used in our ‘hero’ product, Pause Hydra Crème have a molecular structure very similar to human oestrogen, where they have the ability to bind to oestrogen receptors, of which there are many in the facial area. ‘By having the skin believe it’s receiving more oestrogen from the natural alternative we use in the form of Genistein, it enables the skin to produce more collagen.
Genistein also inhibits the action of enzymes which reduce and degrade the production and quality of collagen and elastin in the deeper dermal layers of the skin, which it is able to do due to the special liposomal delivery system.
Clinical trials showed it had the ability to increase the density of the skin effectively as a woman who is taking HRT, which is around 12%, but without any of the associate hormonal side effects many women worry about.
But the Phytomone philosophy isn’t about making your skin look 20 years younger, no cosmetic cream can do that, this really is about making your skin look the very best it possibly can for your age, and with the latest advances in skin care technology, we are now able to target specific problems related to skin ageing caused by hormone deficiency, which goes above and beyond collagen producing peptides, giving you a radiant looking complexion, which your body is capable of achieving if using the right products.
Top Tips for Skincare during Menopause
What are your top 3 tips for skincare during the menopause?
1. Switch to using a cleansing oil. Cleansing is an important part of your skin care routine, whether you wear make-up or not. This is the perfect opportunity to massage nutrient rich ingredients into the skin, where it will nourish the skin and remove impurities, rather than stripping away natural oils, which is the last thing a more mature skin needs. Make sure you check the ingredient list, don’t use anything that contains mineral oil. This is a cheap oil, a by- product of petroleum which offers no nutritional value. While it may be fine for a younger skin, it will be of no benefit to mature skin. We will be releasing our Skin Exhaustion Cleansing Oil next month. This product is a luxurious blend of 17 phytoestrogen rich oils which removes all impurities and detoxifies pores for deep nourishing cleanse, while the anti-bacterial bamboo cloth gently exfoliates the skin, leaving the complexion looking bright, fresh and smooth.
2. Do not waste your money on anti-ageing creams if you are under 35. You can’t delay the ageing process by using these creams before you need them, this is not how your body works. A good moisturiser with and SPF is all you need until you reach this age.
3. When buying a good quality skin care product make sure it is in an airless pump. Many special actives used in treatment products or anti-ageing creams are very volatile and will oxidise when exposed to air, leaving you with nothing more than a very expensive basic moisturiser.