Today is my 52nd birthday, and as I got up and looked in the mirror, I couldn’t help but notice how dry my face and hair look. My skin is literally crying out for moisture. Ever since I started going through menopause, moisture has been zapped from both my hair and skin. What were once luxuriously full locks and a glowing, well-hydrated complexion, have now become dry flaky skin, and an undernourished, lifeless mane. And although I have a beauty ritual that consists of moisturizers, oils, and exfoliates to pamper and prime my skin, nothing seems to work.
According to the North American Menopause Society (yes, there exists such a society), estrogen improves the thickness and quality of the skin, as well as the collagen content, which prevents aging. But as we hit menopause, estrogen levels begin to decrease, which creates adverse effects on your hair and skin. “That, combined with hormonal changes, creates fine lines and wrinkles, and sagging skin around the neck, cheeks, and jawline,” says Dr. Cynthia Cobb, nurse practitioner specializing in women’s health, and founder and owner of the medical spa Allure Enhancement Center.
Do More of This
We all want to age gracefully, but many women don’t know that certain foods can cause wrinkles and sagging skin. We’ve all heard the saying, “You are what you eat.” Well, the same is true for what you don’t eat. Nourishing your hair and skin starts from the inside out.
Hydrate: Drink more water. Water is not only essential for your organs to function properly; it also plays an important role in providing moisture to your hair and skin. Remember to keep your water bottle full. It’s not that hard to do and your body will thank you for years to come.
Moisturize: Apply a moisturizer after bathing and throughout the day. A moisturizer with hyaluronic acid or glycerin can be especially helpful.
Wear UV Protected Sunglasses: Wearing sunglasses prevents squinting, which in turn, prevents crows feet. They also block out UV rays and help protect from photo and free radical damage to the thinner, more sensitive skin around the eye area.
Healthy Eating: A healthy diet can help the body produce collagen. Nutrients that may help collagen form include:
Pline: found in egg whites, meat cheese, soy, and cabbage
Anthocyanindins: In blackberries, blueberries, cherries, and raspberries
Vitamin C: In oranges strawberries, peppers, and broccoli
Copper: In shellfish, nuts, red meat, and some drinking water
Vitamin A: In animal-derived foods and in plant foods such as beta-carotene
Do Less of This
There are certain things you can do without to prevent the depletion of collagen within the body and keep your skin healthy longer:
Get rid of sugar-sag: Sugar sag is a loss of elasticity in the skin that occurs from elevated levels of blood sugar, explains Dr. Rajani Katta, professor in the department of dermatology at Baylor College of Medicine. A high-sugar diet increases the rate of glycation which forms advanced glycation end products (AGEs). AGEs damage nearby proteins and can make collagen dry, brittle, and weak, causing wrinkles and sagging skin.
Smoking: Many chemicals present in tobacco smoke damage both collagen and elastin in the skin. Nicotine also narrows the blood vessels in the outer layers of the skin. This compromises skin health by reducing the delivery of nutrients and oxygen to the skin.
Alcohol: Drinks with the girls is great, but too much alcohol dehydrates the skin, causing wrinkles from the inside out. It also depletes our body of Vitamin A, which plays an important role in keeping our skin firm and youthful looking, and depletes our body of zinc, which causes hair loss. The key here is everything in moderation.
Sunlight: Rain or shine, sunscreen should be a part of your everyday routine. Why? UV rays in sunlight damage the collagen in the dermis, and the skin rebuilds incorrectly, forming wrinkles. Apply sunscreen before you go outdoors, cover up, and avoid long periods of exposure to the sun (this means saying “no” to tanning and tanning salons, as well). Don’t forget about your neck, hands, and arms.
Thyroidism: When it comes to thyroid dysfunction, an overactive thyroid—known as hyperthyroidism—can cause symptoms including warm, sweaty, flushed skin,” says Dr. Alissia Zenhausern, NMD, “When hormones are off balance, they can lead to the development of symptoms both in your body as well as on your skin,” she explains. “An underactive thyroid—hypothyroidism—can lead to symptoms including dry, coarse skin that actually have difficulty sweating,” she adds.
Stress: When we’re under stress, our bodies shift into flight or fight mode, and the adrenal glands produce cortisol and adrenaline instead of estrogen and progesterone. This is especially bad for menopausal women because we need those hormones for our health and emotional well-being. To combat stress, try practicing simple yoga moves, meditation techniques, or go for a walk.