Hormones play an important role in skin health. Lower levels of estrogen at menopause contribute to a decline in skin collagen and thickness, which is more rapid in the years right after menopause. Your skin also develops some slight sags and wrinkles and usually becomes drier. So what can you do to help keep skin looking healthy at midlife and menopause?
In smokers, the effects of aging on the skin are more pronounced. Long-time smokers have more skin damage, particularly wrinkles around the lips and dark circles under the eyes. Maintaining skin health is another good reason not to smoke.
Exposure to sunlight causes skin to age and is responsible for variations in pigmentation (skin color). Because aging skin is more prone to sun damage (including skin cancer), use of a good sunscreen is essential. For optimal ultraviolet protection, women should use a sunscreen (minimum SPF 15) throughout the year. However, sunscreen blocks vitamin D absorption, so women may need to take a vitamin D supplement to obtain the recommended amount. Avoid tanning. There’s no such thing as a “healthy tan”—tanned skin means that skin is damaged.
Some women will experience acne around menopause, usually due to the shift in the balance between the hormones androgen and estrogen (estrogen levels decline more than androgen). Women who had acne during their teen years will almost always have acne in midlife. The effects of androgen, even at normal levels, can increase acne more in adult women than in adolescents. The adult variety is mostly on the lower face, particularly along the chin and neck. Adult acne sometimes responds to teenage acne therapies (lotions, soaps, antibiotics). Oral contraceptives may help but is only an option for very healthy, nonsmoking women during the menopause transition.
Practice healthy habits
Other skin-healthy habits include:
• Avoiding stress and getting enough exercise and sleep
• Drinking plenty of water helps keep skin hydrated
• Limiting coffee, tea, soft drinks, and alcohol because they decrease hydration
• Avoiding hot, soapy showers and baths to prevent dry skin
• Using bath oil or lotion on wet skin will help skin stay lubricated and more resistant to damage
• Investigating any mole that changes
• Including omega-3s (salmon, walnuts, sardines, flax, or fortified eggs) to help keep your skin hydrated. A diet short on omega-3s can leave skin dry and itchy.
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