Half of the world’s population are women and every individual of this half goes through “the change”. “The change” was once barely spoken of, except maybe whispered about. By older aunties and in gossipy tones.
But now it’s a multi-billion dollar opportunity for the skin care industry. You can find anything from expensive products to routines and treatments targeting the skin concerns of midlife women.
But what if the ingredients to healthy skin can be found in your kitchen? And what if some simple changes that keep your skin in good shape can be done without much effort?
- Why "the change"?
- These are some things that can happen in menopause
- What can you do to maintain your youthful complexion?
- What changes will you make?
Why “the change”?
To understand skin changes in midlife, it’s important to first understand your skin and its health. Most of the time, the things associated with skin are only skin-deep. That is, the skin and its health is often overlooked, although it’s the largest organ in your body.
Your skin has the important job of protecting you from external elements. It guards you against the elements and other unwanted things that might harm your health.
If you look at your skin, it’s mainly made up of three layers: The epidermis, dermis, and hypodermis. The top layer is the epidermis. It contains the pigment melanin that gives your skin its colour. The medium layer is the dermis. It’s made of fibrous and elastic tissue. It’s the thickness layer and it’s where the magic happens. It’s where new skin cells are formed and it supports blood vessels and nerve endings. The lowest layer is the hypodermis. It’s the fat storage that helps control body temperature and also provides insulation.
People link skin changes with puberty. That’s when most of the world’s population gets acne and uneven complexion. But only for one half of the population – the women – these skin concerns come back for a second time in midlife when we experience perimenopause, menopause, and postmenopause.
On both occasions, our bodies undergo major upheaval: In the teenage years, our hormones skyrocket like a bullish stock market. But as we move into midlife, the hormone level goes the other direction like a bearish stock market. The hormone talked about is mainly oestrogen.
It can be 8 to 10 years before menopause that our bodies gradually produce less oestrogen. This hormone plays a huge role in skin health. Lower oestrogen levels go hand in hand with wrinkles, dry and thinner skin, and impaired wound healing. In a nutshell: Ageing skin. The visible changes of the skin are not so much linked to your actual chronological but to the years after menopause.
These are some things that can happen in menopause
Lower oestrogen levels correlate with collagen production and skin thickness. Collagen is the protein responsible for your skin’s firmness and structure. It makes up to 80% of the dry weight of adult skin. As we age, these levels decrease because collagen formation starts to slow down. Lower collagen levels means the skin loses its youthful volume and plumpness.
Loose and sagging skin
Oestrogen drives the formation of elastin, the protein that allows your skin to stretch and bounce back. When elastin levels drop, your lines and wrinkles deepen.
As oestrogen levels drop, everything gets drier. Not just drier, but potentially also itchier and flakier. Everywhere on the skin. With lower oestrogen levels, sebum production drops as well affecting the skin barrier. And, dry skin looks old because fine lines and wrinkles are more visible.
Pimples and breakouts
The hormonal upheaval can bring with it zits just like in the teenage years. When oestrogen levels fall, it can unmask androgens like testosterone, which levels remain stable. These hormones can stimulate your skin’s sebum production. But as we age, our skin’s turnover rate also slows. This leads to clogged pores and pimples.
Age spots and other signs of sun damage
If you’ve spent time in the sun unprotected, you’re most likely to see its visible effects now. Those pesky dark spots – or age spots – appear on areas most frequently exposed to the sun. These can be the face, neck, chest, back, and arms.
You’re entire life, you’ve been getting damage from the sun and environmental pollution. With thinner skin, the trouble beneath is more exposed and the dark spots or areas become more obvious.
What can you do to maintain your youthful complexion?
You don’t have to spend a fortune on improving your skin health. Neither do you need just accept it.
Best foods for your skin in midlife
Focusing on your diet makes a big contribution. You can support your skin health by adding essential fatty acids to your diet. Essential fatty acids support sebum production to keep your skin moisturised and help protect a healthy skin barrier. Fatty fish such as sardines or salmon is a good source. You can also turn to plant-based sources such as avocados or nuts.
Your gut health is intrinsically linked to your skin health. A simple way to boost the number of beneficial bacteria, probiotics, in your gut is to eat fermented food. Probiotics are linked with many health benefits such as better immunity and of course better gut health. Try adding a serving a day of fermented food such as miso, natto, kimchi, or sauerkraut to your diet.
Do you know the saying “eat your rainbow coloured fruits and veggies”? Brightly coloured vegetables and fruits contain many essential nutrients such as minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants. For example, vitamin C is essential for collagen production.
Sun protection is a must – always
Don’t forget that sun damage is your number one enemy with ageing. It doesn’t matter what your skin concern is, protect your skin from the sun. Use it all day, every day. No matter the weather. This can help reduce visible wrinkles and prevent new ones. It can also prevent new dark spots from forming and help fade already existing ones.
Be gentle to your skin
The basic skincare principles remain the same, no matter your age. Keep up applying products with antioxidants such as vitamins A, B, and C.
Use a mild cleanser instead of soap on your face and body. Soap can be too harsh and drying for mature skin. Always apply a moisturiser after shower or washing your hands and throughout the day, whenever your skin feels dry. Look for a more occlusive cream that forms a barrier and prevents water loss from the skin. You may want to find a cream with glycerin if a thick, occlusive moisturiser feels too heavy.
Sports and light exercise make your skin glow. For one, it increases blood flow which brings more oxygen and nutrients to your skin. Then, it can boost your body’s production of natural antioxidants that help protect your cells from free radical induces stress.
You don’t need to do long and strenuous training. Even small changes can help. You can take the stairs instead of the lift. Park your car a bit further away or get out one stop earlier if you’re taking public transport.
It’s during sleep that your body goes into repair mode. This means, if you don’t get enough sleep during the night, your body will repair less of the daily damage in your collagen and elastin.
What changes will you make?
Midlife can be a hectic and stressful period for women. We have a career going and juggle caring for children and elderly parents, while also dealing with health concerns. Prioritise self-care. No one but you can do it.
Age is something we all have to come to terms with. It’s much easier and healthier for all of us to embrace change than to struggle against it. It doesn’t mean to give up and settle for ageing skin and all the issues that come with it.
But you can lead a healthy lifestyle – not smoking, get regular exercise, sleep and eat well – to help push back the hands of time and ease into midlife. If you listen to your body and make good health your priority, you’ll look and feel your best at any time in your life.