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Turning Back Time: Ageless Skin After Menopause

“Honey, time marches on and eventually you realize it’s marching all over your face.”—Truvy, Steel Magnolias

According to a recent Forbes article, by 2025 there will be over 1 billion women experiencing menopause around the world. One billion! That is a huge number of us who will be transitioning into a life after menstrual periods. This time in a woman’s life can be overwhelming and downright scary. Our hormones are all over the place; affecting not just our minds and bodies, but our skin.

The most significant hormonal effects on the skin are linked specifically to estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. Tied to the proper function of our female reproductive organs, these three hormones are what give our skin youthful elasticity and suppleness. During menopause, we begin to lose our precious estrogen, and our skin’s collagen production slows down significantly.

Scientific studies have proven there is a clear relationship between estrogen levels and how old we look. For that reason, it is urgent that we begin incorporating proven ingredients that will do three fundamental things to transform our skin: protect it from environmental damage, effectively remove fine lines and wrinkles, and reignite collagen production.

Menopause: you don’t have to say goodbye to the glow. (Model: Cienah Akesa Photography: Audrey Fretz )

Scientific studies have proven there is a clear relationship between estrogen levels and how old we look.

FIRST, PREVENTION

Hippocrates once famously said: “better prevent than cure”, a millennia later, his words still apply—especially when it comes to mature skin care. Starting a serious skin care routine long before menopause is vital for maintaining your skin’s beauty as we age. That also includes what you put inside your body.

Eat a healthy, balanced diet with more whole foods. Include fatty fish, fresh vegetables, unrefined carbs and rich, leafy greens. These offer a perfect cocktail for keeping your skin plump with collagen. Ditch the cigarettes and avoid or cutdown on alcohol—both of which can seriously damage skin after long-term use. Add supplements designed for women to help give a boost to your nutrient intake. Sugar ages your skin. Take it out of your diet as much as possible, and start making water your go-to refreshment. Watch what you drink. Have you ever noticed how much sugar commercial fruit juices contain? Danger!

A Mediterranean-style diet with plenty of fish, greens, and healthy oils is key in maintaining plump skin. (Photo by Edward Howell )

UP THE ANTE ON YOUR SKIN PRODUCTS

Toner and moisturizer are not going to cut it anymore. By your 30s, you should be adding more effective products to your skin care routine. Incorporating certain specific—and effective— ingredients will provide you with excellent weapons against the loss of collagen and elasticity that occur during menopause.

RETINOL

Not just for acne: Tretinoin is the most effective product for fighting wrinkles.

Retinol is a type of retinoid, which is made from vitamin A. Rather than removing dead skin cells as many other anti-aging and acne products do, the small molecules that make up retinol go deep beneath the epidermis (outer layer of skin) to the dermis.

Although retinols in varying strengths in products found in pharmacies and department stores, the most effective (and proven) retinol sources come with a doctor’s prescription. Known commercially as Retin-A, Tretinoin is the most powerful retinol product on the market. Tretinoin is the only product that is scientifically proven to reduce wrinkles. In addition, it diminishes brown spots, shrinks pores, clears acne, evens skin tone, and boosts collagen.

Getting a prescription for Tretinoin is easy. Just ask your dermatologist for one and they will not have any issue handing it to you. More than anyone, dermatologists understand how important retinols are for skincare. The caveat is that it will likely not be covered by insurance (unless the prescription is for acne). The costs for a small tube of Tretinoin range between $75 to $100. You can also get Tretinoin online via skin RX websites like Mint. (They may even help get you a prescription if you don’t have access to a dermatologist). The price and process of acquiring Tretinoin is absolutely worth it. You don’t need to use much for each application—a small pea-sized amount is enough—so a tube should last you well over six months.

Remember that retinols make your skin sensitive to the sun. Only use them at night, before bed, and always use a broad spectrum sunscreen of at least 30 SPF during the day. If you’re planning a day outdoors, be sure to cover up with a hat and a beach-grade sunscreen with an SPF of at least 50. Since Tretinoin is a strong skin exfoliator, it will be drying to your skin and will cause peeling. You can ease the dryness by mixing it with moisturizer and by cutting back your weekly usage.

Along with retinols, there are other ingredients that are effective and necessary for getting your skin ready for menopause. They should be used as part of your skincare routine along with the retinols.

TOPICAL VITAMIN C

Vitamin C protects your skin from skin-damaging free radicals. (Photo by Apostolos Vamvouras on Unsplash)

Vitamin C is essential for beautiful skin. Pure vitamin C (L-Ascorbic Acid) is a potent antioxidant that can neutralize free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that cause damage to skin cells. Because of its antioxidant properties, Vitamin C aids in the skin’s natural regeneration process, which helps your body repair damaged skin cells. When combined with the use of retinols, this is one of the most powerful combinations for maintaining the skin’s collagen synthesis. Vitamin C is vital for giving skin the ability to increase production of collagen and elastin—the building blocks of skin that support firmness and bounce (take that menopause!). Vitamin C will also brighten the skin and reduce hyperpigmentation.

A pure Vitamin C is the best option. Available as a liquid serum applied with a dropper, the product should contain at least 15% L-Ascorbic Acid. Vitamin C and retinoids are heat and light sensitive, meaning they break down and oxidize faster if stored in places with lots of light or heat. Most Vitamin C serums are packaged into dark bottles. To ensure longer product life, these should be stored in the fridge or kept in a cool place.

How to use Vitamin C with retinols (Tretinoin):

Since you should only apply retinols to your skin during your nighttime routine, you can use Vitamin C alternatively during the day. Do not use Vitamin C and retinols together. By using Vitamin C in the mornings, after your previous evening’s retinol application, you are giving your skin a potent set of ingredients to fight wrinkles. Make sure your face is completely clean and dry before applying. After waiting a few moments to let the product absorb into the skin, apply a broad spectrum sunscreen, followed by your makeup. You will love the healthy glow the Vitamin C gives your skin!

HYALURONIC ACID

The Ordinary’s Hyaluronic Acid is both potent and budget-friendly. (Photo by Miska Sag)

Hyaluronic acid is used as a humectant — a substance that helps the skin hold onto water. A thick, clear liquid applied directly to the skin, hyaluronic acid helps hydrate the outer layers of dermis, thereby improving the skin’s appearance. Hyaluronic acid will give your skin a supple feel. Apply a few drops to the skin and gently pat it on (don’t just smooth it on). You can use hyaluronic acid alone, or make it part of your morning skincare routine applying it to the skin after your Vitamin C application has been absorbed.

VITAMIN E (Oral and topical)

Vitamin E is a rich antioxidant that protects your skin and body from free radical damage. (Photo by Mockupo on Unsplash)

Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol), is another highly potent antioxidant that is critical for protecting against premature skin aging. When combined with vitamin C, Vitamin E receives a boost that charges its anti-aging power. Simultaneously, vitamin E acts as a stabilizer for vitamin C. Using these two vitamins together can do extraordinary things for the skin. Vitamin E is available in a number of foods including almonds, avocado, vegetable oils, leafy greens, red bell peppers and sunflower seeds. You can also get Vitamin E through supplements that are easily available at various stores and supermarkets.

When Vitamins C and E are combined topically, you are creating a scientifically proven layer of skin protection against free radicals and sun damage. It will also smooth the appearance of scars and helps heal dryness including from conditions such as eczema. If your skin is not oil or acne-prone, adding a topical Vitamin E serum will benefit your overall skin care.

HYDROQUINONE

Hydroquinone is a skin bleaching agent that helps to eliminate dark spots, skin discoloring and hyperpigmentation. It can help give your skin a brighter and more even tone. Hyrdoquonine is most effective when used with retinols. After your application of Tretinoin has set in (at least 30 minutes), you can apply the hydroquinone to the affected areas of your skin.

SUNSCREEN

No matter what skin care routine you use, sunscreen is the one product no-one can afford to miss. The sun is the number one culprit in damaging the skin. During the day, always use a sunscreen that is broad spectrum (covers both UVB and UAE rays). And make sure the SPF is at least 30. If you are going to be spending a significant time outdoors, wear a protective hat and use a beach-grade sunscreen with an SPF of at least 50. Reapply at intervals.

GREEN TEA & NIACINAMIDE

Green tea is a natural antioxidant that protects skin. (Photo: Pinterest)

You can easily add these two to your diet to help bring everything together. Green tea and green tea extract are a great natural antioxidant that can improve skin damage and elasticity. Niacinamide (Vitamin B-3), helps build keratin for firmness, minimizes fine lines and wrinkles, protects against sun damage, and treats acne. You can find Vitamin B in supplement form and in foods such as fish, eggs, beans and green veggies.

IN THE END, GREAT SKIN

It may seem overwhelming at first to learn about and use these essential skin products, but if you want results, you have to do the work! It’s time to save your money for the products that will be the most transforming to your skin. Department and pharmacy store brands can remain a part of your routine as basic cleansers and moisturizers, but they are not going to provide your skin with the proper ingredients to fight the aging process. There are countless articles available online that explain the benefits of all of the ingredients listed here. Listen to the doctors, and keep your skin glowing, smooth and healthy, no matter what age.

Shopping:

Obaji Tretinoin: $84, get it here.

Obaji Professional C Serum: $89-$133, buy here.

SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic (Vitamin C): $166, get it here.

The Original Hyaluronic Acid: $7, buy at Target.

Nature Made Vitamin E Supplements: $14, get it on Amazon.

Cliganic 100% Pure Vitamin E Oil: $9, buy on Amazon.

Obaji Hydroquinone: $65, buy here.

*Products are the writer’s personal selections. You can research online or ask your dermatologist to find the specific brands and prices that are right for you.

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