“Rita Hayworth gave good face!” Oh, how we loved to sing along with Madonna’s, “vogue, vogue,” song, right? During our midlife years, giving good face gets a little trickier, however, as hormonal shifts can result in skin issues we may not have encountered since puberty.
Fluctuating and/or dropping levels of estrogen combined with an increase in the ratio of testosterone and progesterone during menopause affects the skin in several ways, according to Dr. Zenovia Gabriel, a hormonal dermatologist in Newport Beach, California.
“During menopause, the decrease in estrogen levels causes the skin to lose some of its ability to retain water which leads to dryness,” Dr. Gabriel explains in a recent blog post.
Gabriel adds that women should also be aware of changing pH levels in the skin that can make it more irritable and sensitive. Other issues include those ubiquitous wrinkles, a loss of skin firmness and tone, sun damage, age spots, and later-in-life acne on-set.
Fortunately, there are some measures we can take to empower ourselves, to improve and address these particular issues—and extra great news here—many are simple and natural!
Hydrate Your Skin
The Number One issue associated with menopausal skin is its inability to retain moisture. With this in mind, choose what goes on your skin and in your body wisely. Look primarily for gentle, organic cleansers that are either lightly scented or unscented. Scented, antibacterial, or deodorant soaps can be too harsh and strip your body of essential oils.
Treat your dry skin with an applicable daily moisturizer with a minimum of 30 SPF. Topical applications of antioxidants with ingredients such as vitamin C and green tea are also recommended.
As far as activity goes, keep hot baths and showers to a minimum. Choose warm water instead.
And naturally, as the subtitle implies, it’s essential to get that daily intake of H20 up. That golden rule of 8 glasses of water a day still applies, as water helps rid the body and the skin of toxins.
If you’re having trouble hitting that daily 8-glass mark, you can also try coconut water, herbal teas and aloe vera juice which are super-hydrating and packed with regenerative benefits. Keep in mind that soda and many sports drinks actually have a dehydrating effect on the body and should not be substituted for water—they also add extra calories.
Feed Your Skin
You are what you eat, and what you eat can affect how your skin looks, too! A review of the types of fuel you’re using to power through the day and what you can toss from your diet can make all the difference in the tone and appearance of your skin.
Among these clean foods is the cruciferous vegetables group. The consumption of foods in this group such as broccoli, kale, cauliflower and cabbage provide vitamin C and carotenoids, as well as sulforaphane—a potent compound with cancer-fighting properties that protect against free radical damage. LisaHealth.com relays that recent research has also shown these veggies may support the formation of collagen in the skin.
Foods that deliver essential fatty acids, such as the omega-3s found in salmon, walnuts, fortified eggs, or algae oils, help produce your skin's oil barrier, vital in keeping skin hydrated. A diet that limits these body-boosting fats can result in dry, itchy, and acne prone skin. Additional sources of omega-3s are sardines, soy, safflower oil, and flax.
Other foods that are advantageous for us to be eating for healthier skin at midlife include nuts and seeds rich in vitamin E, citrus fruits, and fermented food that can help us maintain good gut health. When our digestive systems are working less than optimally it increases the chance for inflammatory responses that can lead to eczema, redness or irritation, and acne. (We’ll be looking at gut health and the effect it can have on your overall well-being in a future health feature.)
Along with all of the “yes” foods associated with healthier skin, there is certainly one big “no” we would be neglectful not to mention, sugar. Refined sugar can cause inflammation that can result in the breakdown of collagen and elastin in your skin leading to the development of wrinkles, sagging skin, and even causing insulin resistance in the body. If you must “sugar,” substitute some natural alternatives like honey, stevia, and monk fruit.
Love Your Skin
Like the special people in your life, your skin needs individual attention. One of the best ways to care for your skin is to first recognize and honor the changes it now requires. A great start is understanding that the time-honored beauty routine you practiced in your 30s probably no longer applies.
For example, if you have noticed increased irritability and sensitivity in your skin, it may be time to switch up the scented products in your repertoire for ones that are organic, chemical and fragrance-free.
If you use foundation of any kind, that probably requires a re-think, as well. In most instances, the more makeup you wear after 50, the older you appear, as layers of makeup on the skin tend to round your age up. Making-up after 50 is definitely a “less is more” proposition and we will address makeup musts for women at midlife in an upcoming beauty story, so stay tuned!
When it comes to age spots and sun damage, the best course of action is to book a yearly skin cancer exam with a dermatologist to review your face and body to determine if you have any troublesome areas. And establishing a healthy skin baseline now, enables you to better identify abnormalities later. Our middle years are a sensitive time in our skin’s story when we may start finding irregular looking growths and odd skin patches. Every irregularity needs to be brought to your physician’s attention as soon as possible. Early detection is essential for better outcomes and enhanced skin cancer survival rates.
Clean skin starts with clean sleep. Pillowcases should be washed once a week. Pillowcases can be a breeding ground for bacteria, dead skin cells, hair oils, and other pore-clogging matter.
Another vexing aspect of menopausal skin is the return of the dreaded breakout or even acne. However, the skin you’re dealing with now is different, thinner, than your pimple-prone high school skin, so your treatment will differ.
“Using acne products formulated for teens may be too harsh for the skin,” explains Dr. Gabriel. “To help reduce and prevent future hormonal breakouts, use a cleanser with 5 to 10% Benzoyl Peroxide several times a week.” Dr. Gabriel also recommends cleansers with this ingredient to remove everyday impurities and excess sebum. Before using any formula that is chemically-based we recommend talking to your dermatologist about natural, holistic options and remedies.
Of course, it is essential to explore what else could be going on that causes breakouts. Experts have confirmed that stress and anxiety can cause acne flare-ups as stress responses in the body increase production of our androgen hormones which stimulate the skin’s oil glands and hair follicles leading to clogged pores.
Experts recommend developing a regular routine and considering periodic professional facials targeted for your specific skin type and issues. If getting a pro facial is something you aren’t comfortable going out for right now, we found an at-home practice that provides some salon-quality cleansing and pampering, as well.
LisaHealth.comrecommends performing the following regimen every 2 to 3 weeks.
Cleanse your skin with a gentle face wash. Even if you are not wearing makeup, wash your skin to remove accumulated dirt and pollution.
Exfoliate with a gentle exfoliation product. Don’t rub too hard.
Steam your skin with a clean washcloth run under very hot water, taking care not to burn your skin. Leave the cloth on your skin for a few minutes.
Apply a clay mask to cleanse the pores and remove impurities. If your skin is very dry and not acne prone skip the clay mask as it may be over drying.
Repeat the steaming-washcloth routine to remove the mask.
Apply a hydrating mask for dry skin or a brightening mask for dull skin and rinse it off with cool water.
Finish by applying a moisturizer. If you are going to go out in the sun, make sure it has an SPF of at least 30
Firm Up Your Skin
Wrinkles and facial firmness issues associated with the slow-down of collagen production can seem like the most arbitrary of the changes we experience as we age. What can we do about it? Plenty!
Indeed, we have already introduced an at-home practice that helps to retain skin firmness during midlife, by supporting the structure underneath, facial fitness. Information on this no-cost alternative pioneered by Patricia Goroway, is described in our facial fitness feature.
When it comes to the plethora of anti-aging remedies most often touted with success for increasing collagen levels in the skin, early on there were two major product ingredients: retinol and peptides. Some of these products are available over-the-counter products, and some can be prescribed by your dermatologist.
If you’re experimenting with products on your own, be mindful to:
follow the instructions as provided, as some of these formulas can be irritating to the skin.
not use more than one of these products on the skin at a time.
be patient. Many of these formulas require a minimum of 6 weeks to see improvement.
Also, products containing alpha hydroxy acids, such as glycolic or lactic acid, have scientifically shown promise for improving the look of fine lines and wrinkles, uneven skin tone, and skin texture. Regular use glycolic peels have also been shown to help restore a more youthful and radiant look to skin.
As we age, the production of hyaluronic acid also diminishes, so serums and creams that incorporate this molecule can also be beneficial when used as directed. We should note that hyaluronic acid, as well as alpha hydroxy acids, retinol, and peptides are all naturally occurring components in the skin.
We are now entering the area where skin care can get pricey, as are the myriad of medical grade-level treatments and procedures. At the end of the day only you can decide how much emphasis you wish to give to outward appearance, and it’s important to remember, when it comes to treating your skin – cost does not necessarily denote efficacy.
Perhaps, it’s best to be proactive when it comes to loving your skin and developing your skin self-care plan. Take a tip from Madonna, “Beauty's where you find it.” Empower yourself for the search.