Women associate menopause with weight gain, hot flashes, joint pain, insomnia, and cognitive decline, but did you know that as much as 30% of the collagen in your skin is lost in the first five years after menopause? I don’t know about you but that’s a staggering statistic. Who wants to look old from the time they’re 50 until they sign off. Thanks, but no. What’s the correlation between menopause and skin health?
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When Does Menopause Happen?
52 is the average onset of menopause, but it can happen a fews earlier or later. And lest you think the uncomfortable symptoms associated with menopause only happen at menopause, think again. Perimenopause, the period before the actual onset of menopause, is fraught with these same symptoms. Not to be a downer, but perimenopause can last a decade or more. Doesn’t seem fair, right?
It all goes back to a powerful little hormone called estrogen, or the loss of it, in the case of menopause. Estrogen is so vital to a woman’s health, when it’s lost, things go south. This will look different for each woman, and the hormonal changes taking place in her body will be no more apparent than what’s happening on her face.
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Menopause and Estrogen
Declining hormones are responsible for the host of symptoms women experience at midlife, often misconstrued as other conditions, such as, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, osteoporosis, anxiety, depression, and endometriosis. And that’s just for starters.
These hormonally assaulted women are then handed a prescription medication, that will supposedly help and it may for a while, but since the root cause was never addressed, symptoms return. Often, the medications prescribed come with side effects, and another medication is doled out to relieve those.
This is how people get on the medical merry-go-round, and it’s very difficult to get off. Many steeped in the medical paradigm believe prescription meds to be safe, while viewing estrogen as dangerous, and implicated in cancer. I’m firmly entrenched in the other camp.
Menopause And Skin
Loss of collagen is directly tied to low estrogen levels, and is one of the first visual signs of menopause. Estrogen is responsible for keeping the skin thick and for retaining its moisture. When estrogen is low, sweat glands and oil-producing cells slow their production, and hyaluronic acid, our natural moisturizer, declines.
Healthy levels of estrogen keep the skin thick, moist, plump, with better blood flow and optimal collagen and elastin production. You know that dewy look young women have, they have estrogen to thank for that glowing, moist, taut look. Collagen is the primary structural protein of connective tissue, which is basically the scaffolding of your skin. Elastin gives the skin resiliency and bounce. This drop in production of both these proteins is what leads to wrinkling, sagging, and an aged look.
If this weren’t enough, during menopause, fat is redistributed leading to lack of support in the face, contributing to sagging and wrinkling. To give you a visual of reduced collagen, along with dehydration, envision a female smoker’s face.
The deep furrows are caused by collagen degradation and lack of moisture accelerated by smoking. When that smoker goes through menopause she’ll sustain a double hit, and it won’t be pretty!
The ability to detoxify also decreases during menopause, accelerating the breakdown of structures in the skin, keeping it firm. Focus on detoxification strategies that support lymphatic drainage. Rebounders are great for stimulating lymph, promoting detoxification and better circulation. This Bellicon rebounder doesn’t have springs but uses bungee cords and the legs fold for easy storing.
The Role Of Estrogen
A little more about how estrogen affects the skin as we age. Estrogen controls melanocyte production in the skin. Melanocytes produce melanin, the pigment in skin. With menopause, fewer melanocytes are produced, which means less melanin. This effect can result in lighter skin, which is more susceptible to sun damage. Take preventative measures to ensure your face is protected from UV radiation.
Have you ever wondered why older people get age spots? Age spots are in essence sun spots due to estrogen’s moderating effect on melanin production. These spots typically appear on parts of the body that have been exposed to the sun over the years, like the face, neck, arms, and hands. Pigmentation on these areas increases as menopause approaches due to changes in melanin from declining estrogen levels.
Symptoms Of Low Estrogen
Are you ready for this all-encompassing list?:
- Mood swings, depression, and anxiety
- Hot flashes and night sweats
- Weight gain and muscle loss
- Lowered metabolism
- Dry skin and eyes
- Low libido
- Irregular periods
- Difficulty focusing and remembering
- Lack of motivation and joy
- Painful joints
- Increased blood sugar
- Frequent urinary tract infections
Menopause And Cancer
I’d like to devote a paragraph to menopause and cancer. Estrogen isn’t just one hormone, but three hormones working synergistically together, along with the various metabolites of estrogen. Not only do estrogen levels fall during menopause, the ratio of these metabolites becomes altered in favor of the harmful ones, increasing breast and uterine cancer risk.
There are lifestyle strategies that modulate this risk by increasing the ratio of protective metabolites. Liver health is crucial for hormonal balance as toxic estrogens are metabolized in the liver. Keeping your liver and gallbladder functioning at full speed ensures the ratio is balanced. Get eight to nine hours of sleep per night to repair and heal the adrenals, which take over the job of the ovaries during menopause.
[Read More: Does Sleep Affect Your Skin?]
Exercise smart during this time, as too much exercise depletes the adrenals, and increases cortisol levels, damaging the body in many ways. High cortisol levels break down collagen in the skin leading to dryness, fine lines, and sagging. Stress imbalances hormone levels so find healthy outlets to manage your stress. Make time for self-care every day.
Topical creams with retinol and serums with vitamin C and hyaluronic acid stimulate collagen production, locking in moisture. Engage in good skin care practices, and religiously avoid sun exposure on your face and neck.
We live in a sea of estrogen; plastics, soy, and GMOs are all estrogenic in nature, assaulting us every day. Meat and milk that aren’t organic are also sources of estrogen as animals consume GMO grains. Soy and corn, both GMO foods, are found in all processed foods, and are heavily used by restaurants.
Take great care when buying your food and eating out. Pesticides are sprayed on produce adding an additional source of estrogen. Buy organic if possible. Your health is worth it! As estrogen levels fall, insulin levels rise, hence the weight gain and inflammation many women experience in menopause. Now is the time to fine tune your diet, making sure you’re eating foods that won’t spike insulin.
Adequate nutrition is essential. Cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, arugula, and broccoli have a compound in them called DIM that balances the ratio of protective and dangerous estrogen metabolites. Gently steam them with butter and seasonings a few times a week for a hormonal-balancing treat. Sea vegetables are full of iodine and other essential minerals so try incorporating them into your diet on a regular basis. They’re a great replacement for chips.
Menopause And Bioidentical Hormones
Menopause is a wonderful stage of life. Kids are grown, careers are established, and personal freedom abounds. This is all good and wonderful IF you feel good. Bio-identical hormones can be a godsend for women who need them. Those with good adrenal function may sail through menopause with hardly a hitch, while those whose adrenals are struggling can be quite miserable.
Then there’s all the women that fall somewhere in between trudging along in chronic discomfort. Small doses of natural hormones can be life-restoring for many women approaching middle age. With regard to skin, collagen production may increase up to 50 percent in women who opt for bio-identical hormone replacement.
That’s not to mention all the other benefits estrogen is responsible for: better sleep, ability to lose weight, mental clarity, happiness, motivation, joint and bone health, and feeling comfortable in one’s skin. If you are approaching menopause and are unhappy with how your skin is changing, discuss bio-identical estrogen with your doctor.
Estrogen is a vital and life-giving hormone that makes women look beautiful, and feel well physically, mentally, and emotionally. It’s a big deal when it declines.
Menopause brings many changes and none are more noticeable than what’s happening on your face. Lifestyle strategies are critical for optimal hormonal balance, as are bio identical hormones if you feel comfortable using them.
I encourage all women reading this to be aware of what is happening during this time of change. It helps to understand the role estrogen plays in the body, and the symptoms associated with low levels. Consider adding bio-identical estrogen to your supplement regime. You’ll be pleasantly surprised how normal you feel again, and you’ll be whistling Dixie with all the positive changes you’ll see in your skin.
Are you in menopause or approaching menopause? What have you noticed regarding the health of your skin? Let me know in the comments:)