Menopause is a nasty word that no woman enjoys dealing with. It is the time when the body transitions from having ovulation and the menstrual cycle to the complete cessation of this. While for most of us loosing the ability to have more children at 50+ is not a big issue, the challenges we must endure as we go through this process are not so great. Not only do we have to deal with hot flashes, nightsweats, poor sleep, hormonal imbalance triggering diminished sexual desire or discomfort during sex, mood swings, headaches, changes in hair growth patterns, and breakouts, but also what seems like a sudden aging appearance to the skin.
Actually, when you think about it, many of these symptoms are similar to PMS with hotflashes being the main difference. And some of the medical therapies are the same. Know that if this is an issue you deal with You are NOT ALONE. Women between 44 and 65 now make up America's largest demographic group. By 2015 nearly one half of American women will be either menopausal or post menopause. That's a rather staggering figure - sorry guys, not something you want to hear. But with your help, we can deal with this. Its not just us average gals, its the celebrities and female politicians also. Fortune Magazine in a recent report ran a cover story on the world's 100 most powerful women. If we use their ages as a guide, then 90% of them are menopausal.
Side note: 6000 US women enter menopause every day with an average age of 51!
With menopause comes a loss of estrogen. Unfortunately, appropriate levels of estrogen is what helps keep the skin young looking, our emotions in balance, and our libido interested in intimacy. With the loss of estrogen the skin tends to be more dry, there is an increase the development of wrinkles and loss of skin tone. Women often note their skin seemed to suddenly age. Its common to have hair loss both on the head and of the eyebrows. While we can't stop the time clock, there are things we can do to improve the appearance of the skin.
1) Skin Care. Find a good, well trained esthetician who understands the problems and how to address them. A variety of facial treatments can be beneficial including microdermabrasion, chemical exfoliation, hydration and facial toning. To improve the appearance of the skin it is important to exfoliate the dead skin cells off. This process tends to slow down with menopause and the skin takes on a dull appearance. Exfoliation counteracts this. Hydration improves the moisture in the surface layers of the skin. Facial toning helps give the face a subtle lift that just keeps getting better the longer it is done. I know women who have used Facial toning as their go to treatment for over a decade and they look far younger than the calender would indicate. The secret to success is think "series" instead of an occasional treatment, you will see much better results. Home use of mild AHAs or Retinols in skin care products plus incorporation of peptides and topical antioxidants generally give very impressive results. Use your esthetician as your "skin care coach" and get their recommendations to the exact products that will be the best for you.
2) If you want a quick fix, find a well qualified doctor who specializes in neurotoxin and filler therapy. Botox is the most commonly recognized brand but there are others that are FDA approved. This type of treatment requires redoing every few months, but many women (and men) find it gives them that mental boost and confidence that makes it well worth the expense. Extend the life of your injections with the home care products mentioned above (AHA's or retinols, antioxidants and peptides as ingredients in your cosmetics.) Facial toning also works to extend the life of your injections.
3) Light therapies do improve skin appearance. IPL and laser can quickly improve the appearance of sun damage. Radio frequency can help sculpt. LED can help the skin perform better and self correct to appear younger and act healthier. LEDs are very safe to use and have no contraindications except for those with epilepsy. For laser and IPL the darker your skin tone, the more cautious you need to be as it can trigger post inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
4) Hormone therapies are another way to fight back. Many women and their doctors have been scared away from hormone therapy for long term use due to the problems with products like Premarin which is derived from processed pregnant mare urine. This product was chosen due to the high level of hormones in it. But Premarin has many side effects. There seem to be alternative choices now available to physicians that are more specific with the hormones they choose to prescribe. Lesser known but (at least in my experience) more effective and without side effects are bio-identical hormones. However, if you google this on the web, you will find controversy does exist. Commonly used are plant derived hormones including estradiol, esterone, progesterone and sometimes testosterone. With these the doctor would test your exact hormonal levels and only prescribe just what you need. These can be prescribed as topical creams, suppositories or little pellets that implanted under the skin of your butt. While the creams or suppositories are used on a daily or weekly basis the pellets last for about six months. The biggest challenge seems to be finding a doctor that really understands these therapies and that will customize the recommendations to suit the specific individual.
5) Reduce stress. Stress is a huge contributor to the aging process in the body. It is crucial to find ways to keep it in balance. Very helpful are yoga, exercise, good rest, avoiding excesses, and a healthy diet. Find something you like to to that helps you relax whether it is a walk with your favorite person or dog or that nice hot bath. Since when we are under a lot of stress, weight management becomes more challenging, finding ways to reduce your stress and/or deal with it can be very beneficial. Get and give Hugs. Research has shown that good hugs are extremely beneficial to both your physical and mental health. A good hug and/or laugh triggers the body to release soothing, healing chemicals which boost your mood and create happiness. Try for 8 hugs a day and watch your stress levels decline.