How many of us, hand on heart, can say we have maintained a perfect skin-care routine from our teens to our 40s? I know I haven’t!
I’ve had an interesting relationship with my skin over the years. I went from being very confident in it, to a miserable wreck as hormones kicked in as a kid. I became very shy as my body changed and I developed spots, pimples and large pores.
Fast forward a little while and my confidence grew once I was happy with curves and boobs. But you are confident then, aren’t you? Nothing has started to head south, droop, sag, dimple or wrinkle.
That’s also round the time I didn’t look after my skin as well as I should. I would rarely moisturise, would sleep in makeup after a heavy night of partying, drinking and smoking, and didn’t use sunscreen. Holidays abroad would see me slap on something that prevented sunburn but didn’t stop me getting a tan, but on home soil I have had a few red-shoulder incidents where I could (and should) have taken better care of myself in the sun.
I’m from a generation where our parents were obsessed with getting a tan. Brown skin gave the impression of health, wealth and an exotic lifestyle. The grown-ups in my life were certainly not role models when it came to skin-care.
In my late 20s and early 30s I started to take better care of my skin, but also started to generate more of it as I exercised less and gained weight. I discovered the delights of stretch marks, cellulite and frown lines. Smoking was soon banished and a basic and gentle skin-care regime was introduced.
As I entered my 40s I was doing OK. Often complimented on my skin with a few extra pounds keeping any sallowness at bay. I was doing fine. That was, until perimenopause reared it’s ugly little head.
As you know if you are a regular reader of The Perimenopausal Princess Papers, this whole business caught me on the hop. I had my head completely in the clouds when it came to the menopause, being uninformed and ill-prepared for the 50+ symptoms (yes, really) that us women can experience as we transition to the next phase in our lives.
Periods stopping was something I was aware of and looked forward to, but skin issues? Who knew about the effect perimenopause and menopause would have on our skin? So what kinds of things should we be looking out for and what can we do about them?
Hot Flushes & Hot Skin
Probably the symptom most of us are aware of – we all have memories of a female relative fanning themselves at a family get together or complaining of a ‘warm moment’.
It’s basically a sudden feeling of heat, sweating, a red and flushed face, or a combination of them all. Unfortunately there is nothing we can do to avoid them completely, although not everyone will suffer with them. Not that it’s much consolation.
We can, however, avoid the most common triggers and make them less frequent or severe such as caffeine, alcohol, stress, spicy food, tight clothes and cigarette smoke.
Just when we thought that our spotty skin and acne days were far behind us, perimenopause welcomes them back like a long lost friend. Just like in puberty, our hormonal changes and imbalances trigger our skin to react with pimples and acne … as if perimenopause isn’t enough!
Luckily this phase should not last for long and rights itself, so resist the urge to pick, scratch and squeeze. Instead, wash or cleanse with something mild that won’t dry your skin, remove any makeup thoroughly each night, moisturise and again wear sunscreen.
It might also be worth reviewing the contents of your makeup bag, throwing away anything old and past it’s best and avoiding any products containing oil.
Dry, Oily & Itchy Skin
Our backstabbing retreating friend, estrogen, can lead to dry skin. It’s important to keep ourselves hydrated, but we also need to ‘feed’ our skin’s oil barrier with omega-3. If you don’t suffer with dry patches, then you could suffer with a bout or two of oily skin. A clay mask on the oily patches will help, but gentle cleansers and sun screen are the best way forward.
Itchy skin can crop up anywhere but most likely on your face, limbs, neck, chest or back. The combination of dry and thinning skin means the urge to have a good scratch can strike all of us. And you are not alone if you get very itchy boobs or scalp.
Keep your skin moisturised, using a good quality, unperfumed emollient at least once a day or more if you need to. The best time is after a bath or shower. My pharmacist, also perimenopausal, was really helpful and recommended some products, but your doctor will also be able to help if you think your issues are more than a result of perimenopause.
Stress and anxiety are the most common triggers for rosacea, so it’s no surprise that women suffer most with this between their 30s and 60s. We have a lot to deal with at this time of our lives after all. Rosacea is an inflammatory skin condition – you’ll be the not so proud owner of red skin, bumps and visible blood vessels, usually over the nose and cheeks.
Triggers include spicy food, hot drinks, red wine (and alcohol in general), exercise and skin care products. It’s worth consulting a dermatologist, especially as this can also affect the eyes. They will be able to help you identify your triggers and make the best recommendations for your skin care routine and if any treatments will help.
Again, mild and gentle products, sunscreen and a wide hat are your best choices, as well as avoiding your triggers.
Have you noticed that wounds take longer to repair themselves or that you bruise more easily? Falling oestrogen levels can make the skin appear thinner and more delicate.
The best advice for us here is to take care of our skin, moisturise and wear SPF even when we are not in the sun.
I hope that you have found some useful tips in this article. Life is hard enough – even more so at this time of life. Remember that great help and support is available from your pharmacist, doctor and dermatologist.
Don’t suffer and soldier on – we all deserve to be happy in our skin.