Just one-in-three women in Ireland realise ‘the change’ has begun when the menopause arrives, a new study shows. We spoke to three experts about how best to manage diet, skin and attitude to smooth the transition
1 Read Up
Educate yourself about perimenopause and menopause while still in your early forties, advises Aisling Grimley, founder of the menopause website, mysecondspring.ie. On average, menopause is experienced by women in Ireland between the ages of 51 and 53, but for the majority of women, the main symptoms happen years earlier, in the mid-late 40s, tapering off in the early-to-mid 50s. That’s because the key time for symptoms and change is during perimenopause which takes place four to eight years before your periods finally stop.
So once you hit your early forties, learn about what’s to come – this means you’ll have time to make necessary life adjustments in terms of eating well, exercising, giving up smoking and getting to grips with your stress levels. Being informed will also enable you to seek appropriate support – and it can make the transition easier, says Grimley, who recommends reading The Wisdom of Menopause by Dr Christiane Northrup.
2 Add seeds
Your skin needs lots of essential fats to hold moisture and help it stay soft and supple – and seeds are a great place to start, says dietitian Sarah Keogh. “Seeds are rich in healthy fats and are packed with zinc, iron and vitamin E, all needed for healthy skin,” she says. “They’re a good source of fibre and good for keeping the digestion working.” Add seeds like sunflower, pumpkin and chia to cereals, salads and yoghurt or try adding milled seeds to homemade breads and scones.
3 Clean your skin properly
Avoid dull, lacklustre menopausal skin by starting what skin expert Dr Katherine Mulrooney calls “an optimal skincare regime”. This means cleansing twice daily with a cream cleanser to gently remove all traces of make-up or environmental impurities. Next apply a good serum and moisturiser to soften the skin – followed, each morning, by a sun protection factor of 30-50. This regime allows for more effective penetration of the serum, a combination of anti-ageing ingredients which hydrate, plump and improve the skin density. Carry out your night-time regime at least a half-hour before bedtime. Mulrooney says this gives the formula time to work and ensures that the creams are properly absorbed.
4 Recalibrate your attitude
The Chinese refer to it as The Second Spring, and Grimley believes that with the right attitude, menopause can be a time for new beginnings. “Embrace the change,” she advises. “As our oestrogen (the nurturing hormone) levels drop, it’s time to put ourselves first. Menopause transition allows us to pause and reassess our priorities from a new vantage point and with the experience of the first half of our lives,” adds the mysecondspring.ie founder.
“Many women find a new voice and take a more sure-footed approach to life as they enter the second half of life – many experience a second spring. It can be a time for a new career, rediscovery of old passions/ hobbies or a different attitude to life.”
5 Eat fish
One of the things that happens in menopause is that protective hormones which are good for the heart, such as oestrogen, tend to decline, explains Keogh. So add oil-rich fish to your diet – they have benefits for the heart and for the skin.
Salmon, trout, mackerel, herring and sardines are all rich in healthy omega-3 fats. They’re also a great source of iodine and selenium which are needed for healthy hair, nails and skin. Aim to have oil-rich fish at least once a week, she adds. Look for fresh, frozen or tinned which all have the omega-3s and minerals you need.
6 Don’t suffer in silence
Some women don’t notice ‘the change’ taking place until their period has been gone for a whole year; others feel they’re experiencing, all the symptoms at once. Be aware that something really is going on, says Grimley, and if you experience troublesome symptoms don’t suffer in silence. Seek the help which appeals to you – from medicine to acupuncture, nutritional advice to meditation.
7 Eat well
Cut down on sugar because when it’s digested, it causes what we call ‘glycation’, explains Mulrooney. This affects the collagen in the skin, causing breakage in the collagen strands, and making skin weaker and more friable, she explains.
Meanwhile, increase your intake of vitamin A, says Keogh – it helps your skin hold on to more moisture and is found in red, orange and yellow fruits and vegetable. “Go for sweet potato, red peppers, carrots and kale. One-third of every meal needs to be fruit, salad or vegetables,” says Keogh.
Brightly coloured vegetables and fruit are packed with anti-oxidants, which scavenge for free radicals or toxins that cause ageing of the skin. Fruits and vegetables such as red and orange peppers, carrots and pomegranates also contain phytoestrogen, or plant-oestrogen – this helps alleviate the signs of the menopause and has a range of immune-boosting effects. Eat protein such as nuts, seeds, organic meat and dairy and fatty acids which have amino acids, the building blocks of the skin.
8 It’s an individual thing
Some women have few or no symptoms; others have many. Menopause is a very individual experience, so you need to listen to your body. “Your mother’s menopause age and experience may be the only road map you have and it is no more than a guideline,” says Grimley, who points out that around 75pc of women have symptoms. Department of Health statistics show that about 260,000 women in Ireland are going through menopause at any one time
9 Drink more water
Dehydrated skin shows more fine lines, but adding water helps skin look plumper. Aim to have 6-8 glasses (1.5 to 2 litres) per day, suggests Keogh. If you struggle to drink a lot of water, she says, try having a glass as soon as you get up and one with every meal. Have herbal tea between meals. Try a cube of ginger with a slice of lime in hot water; buy a fresh mint plant and add a few leaves to make a fresh tea or try any berry tea that you enjoy.
10 Manage your stress
Stress accelerates skin ageing by spiking cortisol levels. When cortisol levels increase, it has a pro-inflammatory effect on the skin. This causes the skin to become inflamed and puffy and also accelerates skin ageing. Along with adrenaline, it is one of the major stress hormones which drive inflammation in the skin and in the organs of the body: “It’s pro-ageing and it is very much down to how you manage stress so try to find a balance,” advises Mulrooney, who suggests taking enough ‘me time’ regularly to rebalance and de-stress.
11 Stay interested – and interesting
Aim to stay connected to family and friends and have meaningful engagements each day, advises Grimley. “If you have extra time on your hands, give something back to family, friends or your community. It will give you a great sense of purpose and fulfilment. There’s nothing more wonderful than meeting someone with that twinkle in their eye created by having joy and interest in their lives!”
Sleep disturbance is a hallmark of menopause as a result of nocturnal hot flashes. But this just doesn’t leave you feeling tired – it can also affect your skin, warns Keogh. “When you’re asleep, your body does all of its repairing and makes use of the foods and nutrients you ate all day. Make the most of all those skin-boosting foods by getting a good night’s sleep. Aim for eight hours and try to be in bed before 10pm a few nights a week.” If you’re having trouble, try taking exercise in the fresh air, because if you’re physically tired, you’ll sleep better.
13 Trash the ash!
Smoking accelerates skin ageing and decreases tissue repair, warns Mulrooney. “It’s extremely detrimental to skin health, accelerating skin ageing, and, combined with sun exposure has a very detrimental effect on the skin,” she says. “Certainly try to cut down on your smoking, but also work out a plan to give it up completely. From every point of view it has a very negative affect on your health.”
14 Maintain your weight
Maintain a stable weight – yo-yo dieting is detrimental to the skin. It results in premature skin laxity and sagging, most noticeable along the jawline.
“When you lose weight, particularly if you are a woman over the age of 30, it comes off your face first,” explains Mulrooney. “This inflation and deflation of the skin has a detrimental effect on the elastic structure of the skin and it can become lax.”
15 Exercise regularly
Aim for 150 minutes per week – about half an hour’s exercise five days a week, suggests Mulrooney. “This helps with the elimination of toxins through the process of sweating so it’s great for detoxing. It will also improve your microcirculation, thus allowing nutrients to get to the skin. Always cleanse properly after exercise to remove all excess oil and impurities.”
* No Pause in Menopause study was undertaken by Vichy to launch the Vichy Neovadiol Compensating Complex range of menopausal skincare products, available from pharmacies nationwide. vichy.ie
Health & Living