Keep That Youthful Glow during Menopause and Beyond

3SHARES

By: , SparkPeople Blogger
8/17/2011 10:00 AM   :  19 comments   :  21,844 Views

Editor's Note: Cathy Cram, M.S., is the resident maternal fitness expert on our sister site, BabyFit.com. She writes a monthly series on menopause health and fitness.

One of the most visible changes you may notice during the menopausal period is the look of your skin.  What may start out as a subtle increase in fine lines and dryness can quickly accelerate as estrogen wanes to crepey, uneven texture and deep wrinkles.  Although the aging process plays a role in skin changes, the hormonal shifts of menopause hastens the appearance of pigmented and wrinkled skin, especially in women who smoke, eat a poor diet and are sedentary. The good news is you can improve the health and appearance of your skin by making some positive lifestyle changes and adding a few “silver bullets” to your skincare routine.
 
The leading causes of poor skin health are:
  • Smoking
  • Chronic alcohol use
  • Rollercoaster weight gain/loss
  • Poor diet
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Sun exposure
 
Smokers have premature wrinkling around the mouth from the repetitive motion of smoking and have a “smoker’s pallor” from decreased blood flow to the skin.  One of the fastest ways to improve your skin is by stopping smoking, with positive changes in facial skin appearing within weeks of smoking cessation.  Drinking alcohol also affects the health and look of your skin by causing short-term skin dehydration and, with chronic alcohol use, liver and other organ stress affects the health and functioning of your skin.
 
Weight loss can cause facial skin to appear slack, as fat stores that support the facial structure shrink.  As we age, our facial skin isn’t as resilient and doesn’t snap back as well as youthful skin.  The more you gain and lose weight, the more the skin goes through expansion and reduction, so if you’re losing weight, do it slowly and make the changes that will enable you to keep the weight off.  
 
Your skin is a window into your body’s health, and dietary deficiencies show up as poor skin tone, dark circles and lack of a healthy glow.  A diet rich in vegetables, fruits, lean protein and complex carbs from whole grains provide the building blocks your skin needs for optimal health.  Drink plenty of water to provide hydration, and think about taking a fish oil supplement if you don’t include Omega-3 fatty acids (such as walnuts, flaxseed and fish) in your weekly diet. Some studies have shown that eating a diet rich in Omega-3 fatty acids can help with skin health and reduce dry skin.
 
Exercise is one of the best ways to improve the health of your skin.  During exercise blood vessels at the surface of the skin dilate, causing that flushed look you get after a good workout. The increased blood flow to the surface of the skin supplies nutrients and oxygen and take away wastes, helping your skin function at peak performance.
 
Who among us hasn’t spent their youth basking in summer rays and working on building their tan? Sadly, there’s not much we can do about past sun exposure, but you can start now with smart sun habits by wearing sunscreen every day, and reapplying it frequently. (Check out the American Academy of Dermatology's facts on sunscreen.)
 
 
There are some topical skin treatments that have been shown to improve skin health by increasing cell turnover rate and collagen production. Over-the-counter products that contain retinol, a form of vitamin A, can boost exfoliation of the outer layer of skin and stimulate the production of collagen in the deeper layers of the skin.  For more intensive skin rejuvenation, a topical prescription retinoid (available as a cream or gel under the brand names Renova, Retin-A, Tazorac or Avage) are very effective for reducing fine lines, uneven skin tone and improving skin texture. These products require that the user start with every other night application to allow time for the skin to adjust to the product.  It’s normal to experience some redness, flaking and dryness within the first month of use, and daily sunscreen use is mandatory as these products can increase sun sensitivity.
 
The topical application of certain types of vitamin C has shown clinical improvements in skin texture and may reduce hyperpigmentation.  Skin bleaching creams that contain hydroquinone, kojic acid or licorice extract can be effective at reducing hyperpigmented skin (those brown spots that appear with age, pregnancy and sun exposure).  Skin care products that contain glycolic, lactic, or salicylic acids speed up cell turnover rate, exposing new, fresh skin and a more luminous look.  
 
Daily skincare can make a big difference in how your skin functions and looks.  Your local drugstore has a wide array of effective cleansing and treatment products at a low price point. One of my favorites is Neutrogena Acne wash with 2% salicylic acid, which is great for clearing pores and increasing skin turnover rate. If you have dry skin, Cetaphil is a dermatologist favorite, and that brand uses glycerin to gently cleanse.  I’ve also invested in a Clarisonic sonic cleanser and found that it’s significantly reduced my menopausal acne flares and leaves my skin feeling extremely clean and soft.  
 
Most women think that the cream or lotion they apply to their skin provide moisture to the skin.  In reality, many of the products advertised as moisturizers are really occlusives, meaning they form a barrier on the skin surface that prevents evaporation of water from the top layer of the skin.  Products that contain petrolatum, lanolin, dimethicone, cocoa butter, and cosmetic grade waxes all provide a heavy layer to protect skin.
 
Products that truly moisturize skin by attracting water are called humectants. These products draw water to the skin surface and are very beneficial for dry skin.  Some of the most effective humectants are hyaluranic acid, glycerin, urea and lactic acid. To achieve long lasting moisturization of your skin, apply a humectant based product after showering or bathing, and once it is absorbed, seal the skin with an application of an occlusive-based product.
 
There has been a growth in skincare products targeted for mature skin, with ingredients that range from hormones to cutting edge peptides, but there hasn’t been enough research to show whether these products are worth the cost.  The products and prescriptions mentioned above have all shown significant results when used consistently and correctly, so if you’re interested in exploring more than just a cleanser and moisturizer for your skin care it’s a good idea to consult with a dermatologist for a treatment that’s right for your skin concerns.
 
There are more intensive treatments that can improve skin wrinkling, texture and tone, but there are increased side effects with these treatments as well.  Intense pulsed light (IPL), fractional lasers, and deep chemical peels are just some of the treatments available from dermatologists and plastic surgeons, and you should explore the pros/cons before trying any treatments that have a risk of scarring, burns or other complications.
 
My advice is to start with the basics of diet, exercise and lifestyle changes, and think about adding some of the topical treatments listed above.  You may find that the glow you get from just these minor changes enhance your skin without a lot of expense and risk.  
 
Selected resources:
How did your skin change during and after menopause? How did you deal with it? What worked and what didn't?

Catherine Cram, M.S. is the author of Fit Pregnancy For Dummies, and the owner of Comprehensive Fitness Consulting, LLC. Catherine's company specializes in providing prenatal postpartum fitness information to health-care professionals.


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Comments

  • 19
    I didn't really notice, such a skin change, older of course..but the texture of my hair did change. It seemed like I had less hair. I knew it wasn't falling out, but it was so much finer. Anyway, I'm pleased to say, it is back to normal now. - 8/19/2011   8:24:00 PM
  • 18
    Wear sunscreen, every day, summer and winter. Moisturize, and exercise, to keep your blood flowing. - 8/18/2011   8:44:10 PM
  • 17
    when I quit smoking my skin looked much better almost immediately. - 8/18/2011   3:52:56 PM
  • DIABETICLADY
    16
    While all the information given in this article are very interesting; I tend to think that by using soap and water and very little make up (like my mother used to wear -- powder on her nose, eyebrow pencil and just a touch of lipstick) is more in line for my choosing. I don't want to have to worry about what I'm putting on my face. - 8/18/2011   11:35:20 AM
  • ALICOTTER
    15
    Personally I think it is all the junk that women put on their faces that cause the problem. They buy into what the media says you should put on your face to look younger and paster alot of junk on their faces. Then they wonder why they have to keep putting junk on their faces.
    I will be 51 in the fall and people usually tell me I look closer to 30. I rarely wear any makeup, usually only a little eyeliner. I am talking once every 6 months or so. Have never used any moisturizer. Hate the feel of it on my skin. I have lost over 100 lbs as well.

    I have never had dry skin. Don't have nor do i worry about wrinkles. Course my grandmother, born 1904 never used anything on her skin and had great skin at 80.

    Seem like the issue of dry skin, old looking skin really only came around after women started layering on tons of junk on their skin.

    Same goes for lip bonds. Never use the junk, hate the feel of it. I believe most people seem to think they need it because they have gotten so in the habit.

    Save us from this farce, that we need to layer junk on our skin in order for it to me healthy.

    Exercise, drink water and eat good healthy food and your skin will be healthier than putting a ton of junk on it. - 8/18/2011   10:37:46 AM
  • 14
    Great info! Will be on the lookout for the RIGHT moisturizer! anyone found a good one? - 8/18/2011   8:47:04 AM
  • 13
    Very informative blog. I have definitely learned a lot.
    Thanks for the info on occlusives vs. homectants! - 8/18/2011   5:45:27 AM
  • 12
    I always remember my college biology teacher telling us "All skin you see on the outside of the body is DEAD. He told us to remember that it mattered what we put IN our bodies and not what we put ON. He would laugh at the marketing of skin care products that had big calms. I do use Neutragena since menopause as my skin has gotten thinner. - 8/17/2011   7:26:53 PM
  • COMPFC
    11
    The word crepey refers to crepe paper like texture. Thin and crinkled would be a good description. When estrogen levels decrease the texture of skin can change and start to lose elasticity and collagen.
    Hope this helps!
    Cathy Cram - 8/17/2011   4:19:03 PM
  • 10
    started the menopause in my 40'ss. I'm 50 now and thankfully my skin is still ok but I have noticed some dryness recently. I'll be keeping my eye out for humectants in my moisturisers from now on - 8/17/2011   4:16:37 PM
  • LORTHOM2001
    9
    not sure, but wanted to ask. what does this (the top portion of the article) mean: "estrogen wanes to crepey, uneven texture and deep wrinkles." (the word crepey, is what i don't understand) would it mean that perhaps the estrogen in your body starts to get thinner and thinner in the body and inside of the body begins to feel like a (Belgian or French) crepe? would love to hear more. - 8/17/2011   4:13:48 PM
  • 8
    I'm so glad I always looked after my skin. I'm very fair and burn easily so never was a sun worshipper, thank goodness. This was a useful blog and, like others, I shall be more careful when choosing face cream in the future. Thanks. - 8/17/2011   2:19:22 PM
  • 7
    Just this week I asked my dermatologist what I could do about my skin that looks a bit like an alligator's. He suggested I look for lotion with the ingredient dimethicone (that you mentioned above). That's what I'm going to do. - 8/17/2011   1:45:58 PM
  • 6
    About smoking: I used to do makeup and "colors" for women, and observed that I could often tell a smoker by the breakdown of the skin, with facial lines going in may different directions.... caused by the accelerated breakdown of collagen in the skin. The difference between smoker and nonsmoker skin was often drastic, even among those that had quite smoking.

    I've been told that Aloe Vera is a humectant as well, though I haven't done research on that. - 8/17/2011   1:26:39 PM
  • 5
    Occlusives vs. humectants, I had no idea, thanks for the info. I will be checking the next time I look for a "moisturizer". - 8/17/2011   11:59:36 AM
  • GMAGEE
    4
    Thanks for this blog. Found the info on occlusives and humectants VERY interesting. I have tried to take menopause in stride, not worrying too much about the subtle and not so subtle changes. I had to laugh when I was in my fifties - it finally dawned on me that my combination skin (oily and dry) was not going to change. In other words, I was still in that teenage mindset that if I tried some new product, it would give me flawless skin! I work at home, so I stopped wearing daily make up several years ago and kept to my usual regimen of mild soap or cream wash for my face. Many people have told me I don't look my age.

    I see the increasing variety of skin care products for aging skin in stores and doubt very much that many of them work. Of course, the high prices keep me from buying any of them. But, I think I might try a humectant followed by an occlusive as it makes sense to me. - 8/17/2011   11:37:21 AM
  • 3
    Great information. Menopause is life-changing on so many levels, both physical and mental. - 8/17/2011   10:47:10 AM
  • 2
    Great blog thank you so much for sharing. - 8/17/2011   10:32:11 AM
  • 1
    Thank you for a great, informative blog! I actually learned a lot, especially about the occlusives vs. humectants. I appreciate the straight-forward info. - 8/17/2011   10:27:40 AM

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