Middle Years Skin
Some say that the perimenopause and menopause years present the toughest challenges our skin will ever face. Not sure I entirely agree, as chronic stress, what we eat and lack of sleep (which many of us live with daily) can be equally damaging to our skin - and indeed our bodies overall. This said, it is times like these that we need a focused skin care routine, and furthermore, it may be time to switch things up, especially if you don’t feel you’re getting the same results from the routine that has served you for many years.
The hormones oestrogen and progesterone decline during our menopausal years and from the skin’s point of view, amongst other issues, this means:
Oestrogen stimulates collagen production and turnover through the body, so once oestrogen levels fall, so too does collagen and the skin starts to thin, losing up to 30% of its collagen content.
Decreased fat under the skin
Normal levels of oestrogen promote the storage of fat under the skin, so reduced oestrogen means less fat storage which explains why skin tends to sag more as we age.
Oestrogen enhances hyaluronic acid production which helps to increase the water content of the dermis and outer epidermis layers of the skin., so a drop in oestrogen results in a loss of water.
Melanin production in the skin is regulated by hormones. The fluctuation of hormone levels and changing balance between oestrogen and progesterone during our menopausal years, upsets this finely tuned balance and dark spots of excess melanin commonly known as ‘age spots’ appear in some women.
My book GLOW: Your Complete Four Week Plan for Healthy Radiant Skin outlines a comprehensive reset for your skin - and body and features a comprehensive list of skin nourishing GLOW foods, targeted skincare advice and routines and delicious skin-nourishing recipes.
While there are many essential skin ingredients for …those always my daily routine, regardless of the season, are Hyaluronic Acid, pure skin oils, Vitamin C and retinol… - all of which I have written in detail about in GLOW and in previous posts - here and here).
Hyaluronic Acid (also known as HA, hyaluron or hyaluronate) is a clear, sticky substance that occurs naturally in the body, where its main function is hydration. Scientifically, it is a glycosaminoglycan (or GAG) that helps the body build stronger more flexible joints and acts as a shock absorber lubricating the fluid in our joint tissues. HA shows similar benefits on the skin where it works like a massive sponge, pulling moisture from the air into the skin and holding up to 1,000 times its weight in water to soften and plump the skin. Young skin is smooth, elastic and rich in HA, but as our skin ages the natural production of HA slows.
The reality for most of us is that our skin is dehydrated to some degree - even oily skin types are likely to be lacking in water. Many beauty experts attest that the quickest way to transform dull lacklustre skin face is to saturate it with hydration – giving a plump and rosy glow.
Vitamin C, or L-ascorbic acid in its purest form, is a powerful antioxidant and skin brightener. it is water soluble and protects skin from environmental aggressors and free radical damage. It acts by penetrating deep into the skin to stimulate fresh collagen production, while also helping to smooth, brighten and revitalise the complexion – hence the use of these key words in vitamin-C-enriched products! Used daily at an appropriate concentration, it can help clear pores and reduce pigmentation.
Like all antioxidants, it is vulnerable to damage, so choose light, water-based formulations that penetrate fast, packaged in opaque, airtight containers. Alternatively, vitamin-C powders tend to be more stable and can be used straight on the skin or mixed into other products. If the colour of the formula darkens or the smell changes, it has likely oxidised and should be binned.
About twice a year, I prep my skin every morning with Nuori Supreme C Serum (20-day) Treatment (more here)
Natural Skin Oils
I adore pure, natural face oils especially during the colder, drier months and could write for days about the benefits and how wonderful they feel on my skin. They feel so luxuriously soft and really do nourish, soothe and help repair my skin. (especially when part of a natural superfood serum like the wonderful new(ish) Irish brand Nunaia that I am currently adoring!). The more natural the better of course so look out for the key words above.
My other favourites, for many reasons, but mostly because I trust the passionate folk behind the brands, include: Alexandra Soveral, Modern Botany, Ila Spa , African Botanics and Kahina Giving Beauty.
Magnesium is a multi-tasking mineral needed for numerous chemical processes in the body including bone and heart health, mood, thyroid and nerve function, blood pressure, sleep, healthy hair and nails amongst many others. Magnesium stores decline during menopause, as does our body’s ability to efficiently use the magnesium already in our system, thereby worsening many menopause symptoms.
Even if you seem to be getting enough magnesium in your diet (main sources include green leafy vegetables, bananas, avocado, figs, seafood, peas, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds) research has shown that excess sugar, stress, caffeine, alcohol and cigarettes can prevent magnesium absorption within the body cells. While complete avoidance of these is not necessary, if you do consume any in excess and want to take better care of your skin and body, it is well worth …
All of the GLOW foods outlined in my book - without exception - are designed to keep skin nourished, while also helping to reduce the impact of stress on skin and throughout the body. The following are just a few and I strongly recommend you include at least one of the following food groups with every meal:
Berries - all types and colours overflow with antioxidant-rich flavonoids and Vitamin C
Dark leafy greens — add a handful of green leafy veggies like kale or spinach to your daily diet
Edamame beans- these young soya beans are a nutritional powerhouse - great in salads and curries and delicious centre stage in my pea & edamame houmous (see here)
Nuts and seeds —think essential skin fats, vitamins and skin-loving minerals (like zinc, iron, magnesium and more). All are good but almonds, walnuts, brazil nuts, chia, pumpkin and sunflower seeds are top of the pile.
Oily fish & Eggs - just fab for skin as packed with protein, essential skin oils (omega-3s), Vitamins A and D (esp egg yolk). Eggs also packed with lecithin (phosphatidylcholine) helps maintain healthy active skin barrier.
Avocado — just one creamy avocado contains a whopping 15% of your RDA
Grains — especially quinoa, millet and brown rice
Dark chocolate —well maybe not daily but a top quality dark chocolate (at least 75% cocoa content) is rich in magnesium - and it tastes delicious too so gets that serotonin moving to help use feel better in and about ourselves,
Kate’s Skin Rules
Just to reiterate a few rules that have become my middle years norm (see full post here)
I switch up my regime seasonally and also if my skin is feeling it needs it - as the weather changes so does our skin so its good to stay in sync where possible
I thoroughly cleanse my skin as early as possible in the evening and prep it for the night to give it as much time as possible to repair and rejuvenate overnight.
I try to get at least 7 hours sleep at night - research has shown time and time again just how important adequate restful shut eye is for our skin. No argument you night owls!
The older I am growing, the more gentle I am becoming with my skin - harsh doesn’t work anymore. I have reduced the amount of acid-based product and am choosing more gentle, nourishing ranges that are kinder to my skin - and it’s working!
I drink lots of fluids (water, herbal teas and my morning coffee which is a must!
The above is by no means comprehensive but hopefully gives some insight into what might work for you too. Just try it!
[Credit Lead illustration: Eva Byrne]