The Age of Change: making the best of menopausal skin

In the next 20 years, nearly 40 million American women will pass through menopause, a period commonly known as “the change of life.” By the year 2020, about 60 million women will be at, or through, this transition. By Howard Murad, MD.

What is menopause and why is it so unsettling? Menopause is the cessation of menstruation during which time a woman’s ovaries produce less of the female hormone estrogen, and it signals unwanted ageing for women in a society which highly prizes youth. In addition, menopause is unpredictable. The drop in hormone levels differs from woman to woman, as do overall menopausal symptoms. While the onset of menopause usually occurs between the ages of 45 and 55, some women in their early 30’s experience menopausal sleeplessness, weight gain, irritability, temporary memory loss, hot flashes, brittle hair and dry skin.

Let’s concentrate on the effects of menopause on maturing skin. Psychologists find that good, youthful skin quality is one of the primary factors linked to a woman’s physical self-esteem. Although the eventual dryness and inelasticity of skin that come with age are inevitable facts of life, the ageing process is a cumulative one that occurs at varying rates, from individual to individual, far before menopause begins.

Three variables—heredity, environment and lifestyle—determine how a woman’s skin will respond during menopause. How did her mother’s skin age? Has she protected her skin from the drying, discoloring damage caused by environmental hazards such as sun, wind, pollution and indoor and outdoor heating? Does she live a healthy life that includes exercise, balanced nutrition and sufficient rest? As menopause approaches, normal imbalances that upset a woman’s skin equilibrium, combined with biological precedent and the lifestyle choices she has made, will determine the course of ageing on her skin. To understand how to minimize, and in some cases even delay, the menopausal ageing process of skin, we must first look at the structural changes that occur during the maturation cycle of this important organ.

The sub dermis, or layer of fat that cushions the skin, deflates while the production of collagen and elastin (structural protein tissue) lessens. The dermis (the skin’s supporting and nourishing layer) thins out and the skin loses much of its” extensibility,” or ability to bounce back. Sweat and oil secretions also slow down, causing the skin to lose much of its natural protective film, which in turn makes it susceptible to moisture loss and more vulnerable to damage. Wrinkles become facial highlights, while the skin assumes a dull, discolored, rough, dry appearance.

Mature skin also suffers from a decelerated cell renewal rate resulting in the accumulation of dead cells on its surface layer, the epidermis. This process of building and shedding cells in the right amounts is affected by hormone levels in the bloodstream.

Although there are no established rules for managing menopausal skin, proper skin care and long-term preventative techniques can help lessen its visible influence. Remember that skin reacts well to excellent treatment at all ages. The following whole-being therapeutic approach includes methods that encourage healthy, supple skin at any age.

First, since it is universally agreed that sun is the number-one damaging influence on the skin, avoid the results of premature ageing by wearing sunblock, protective clothing and sunglasses while outdoors.

Living a balanced life shows on the face. Follow the Greek maxim, “everything in moderation”; exercise to keep the circulation moving. Good circulation sends nutrients, oxygen and moisture to the skin, ridding it of excess impurities and toxins. Get plenty of sleep; eat a nutritious diet high in fibre and low in fats, salt and carbohydrates; avoid undue stress; don’t smoke or over-medicate and avoid excessive alcohol consumption.

Hydrate the skin inside and out. Drink eight glasses of water a day. Always use a moisturiser and, as the skin matures, moisturise more intensively.

Accelerate cell shedding or exfoliation with products that utilise advanced alpha hydroxy acids, natural derivatives of sugar cane. These formulations have proven beneficial in loosening the bonds that hold dead cells to the surface of the skin. The cells slough off more readily, softening the appearance of skin. The newer, fresher-looking skin below is exposed and is better able to absorb natural moisture from the air.

Glycolic acid-based skin treatments are available which contain special ingredient complexes that work to alleviate uneven skin tone, ‘shallowness’, and age and sun spots. The lightening agent hydroquinone helps to soften pigmentation flaws and restore skin clarity. Anti-oxidant vitamin complexes A and E help neutralise unstable oxygen molecules called free radicals that accelerate skin ageing if left unchecked.

There are many myths still surrounding menopause. Combat these myths by learning about the subject beforehand to know what to expect. Then, to make the best of menopausal skin when the time comes, consult a dermatologist to initiate the most effective management program possible.

For more information please contact Aptcorp on 1300 362 027.

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