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October 01, 2021 10 min read
When it comes to Peri and Menopause, the key hormone we’re talking about is Estrogen.
And when we talk about skin specifically, Estrogen is essential for collagen synthesis, hyaluronic acid synthesis, elasticity, hydration, skin thickness/density and resilience, a healthy skin barrier, and helping skin heal and repair itself.
It also helps skin protect itself against internal and external stressors like inflammation, oxidative stress and free radicals.
When our Estrogen levels start to decline we start to experience an overall Estrogen deficiency in our bodies that affect many of our biochemical functions, including our skin health, vitality and appearance. This is referred to as Estrogen Deficient Skin (EDS).
Even though I’ve heard of the term “Estrogen Deficient Skin” (EDS) as a result of the hormonal impact of peri- and menopause - it never really meant that much to me - and when it came to my own skin I didn’t fully connect the dots for quite some time.
Did you know that, with women expecting to live longer than ever, and often entering peri- and menopause earlier it can mean that you can spend at least a third, or in some cases even more than half of your life with EDS?
Additionally, studies have shown that women lose a significant amount (up to 30%) of collagen in the first five years of menopause, with a 2% loss in subsequent years.
We also start losing Hyaluronic Acid (naturally synthesised in our bodies and helps to keep skin looking plump and hydrated from the inside out) - and this decline accelerates when Estrogen declines.
I think we often attribute the changes in our appearance and skin to the ageing process overall (which makes complete sense of course), but without really being fully aware of EDS and the impact these hormonal changes have on us, especially when it feels as if the whole process is accelerating and we notice significant changes in a short space of time.
This is often the moment when we look in the mirror and we feel we don’t quite recognise ourselves, or that we’ve aged 5 years in the space of one.
Something I’ve heard often from women I know - and definitely something I’m feeling most days myself.
There is a lot we can do ourselves to care for, prevent and proactively protect our skin against the accelerated effects of hormonal ageing.
I've often wished that I started paying more attention to my skin overall in my twenties and thirties, especially when it came to look after my own collagen levels.
I was always buying a lot of products, but never really in a systematic and purposeful way, and I certainly didn't really think that much about how other lifestyle factors would be impacting my skin as well.
Not to mention all the sunscreen I didn't wear... and that I'm still cringing about!
Peri- and Menopause was something very far away in the future and not for a second did I even realise or think about the potential impact on my skin.
Of course this will happen in different ways and at different rates for all of us, and some of us will be more or less affected than others.
There’s no way to really hold back or stop the clock, and neither do we want to - but there are definitely lifestyle factors and skincare habits we can incorporate to take care of it as best we can, regardless of the age or stage of life we're at.
It's never too late to start making changes, wherever that starting point it is - and it will be different for all of us.
Being aware and being able to take more regular, day-to-day proactive and preventative steps now, however small will absolutely pay off in the long run and you can give your skin the support and TLC it needs.
Every small step is a long term investment in your skin's health and appearance.
All the tips below will help you to do that.
I know, maybe the least exciting skincare advice there is.
But also the most important, and the most true - the one product that can do more for preventing and protecting against overall skin damage than any other, especially preventing and protecting against collagen loss.
The biggest cause of skin damage is all around us, every day and whatever the weather. The sun’s UV & UVB rays can be incredibly harmful to skin, causing most of the tell-tale signs of ageing by permanently damaging the upper layers of skin.
And that’s before we even consider the more devastating potential risks of sun damage like melanoma.
Sun damage affects collagen synthesis in the skin, and as we now know - protecting the collagen we have, as well as preventing further damage to it is crucial in supporting our skin through hormonal changes and also to keep that youthful plumpness longer.
You can do everything else right, but neglect to apply sunscreen and you’re fighting a losing battle against a permanently damaged complexion.
It’s also counterproductive to invest time, energy and money in a lot of skincare products (often quite expensive) and then not use sunscreen.
My biggest skincare regret is not being more consistent much earlier on with my sunscreen - especially all those times we were sunning ourselves with only olive oil under the South African sun. I absolutely cringe when I think about that now!
Every day, whatever the weather, make sure you apply and re-apply an effective broad spectrum sunscreen. The simplest way that works best for me is to just make it a non-negotiable last step in my skincare routine so I don’t even think about it.
My mantra is that “skincare isn’t done until sunscreen is on”.
There are plenty of good brands out there, but my preferred option is Heliocare - I’ve used them for years and always go back even if I try something else. I specifically love the Mineral Fluid Factor 50 and the Gel Oil Free Factor 50.
I also love Altruist, La Roche Posay Anthelios options and the Kate Somerville Makeup Setting Spray SPF50 for re-applying over makeup.
Diet and skin is very big topic, and a bit too big to go into full detail here, but it’s very important to be aware what foods are affecting your body, skin and mood.
The are certain biochemical triggers that cause signs of skin ageing, ie. pigmentation and brown spots, sagging skin, lines and wrinkles and rough texture.
One of these triggers is known as Advanced Glycation End-products (AGEs). Glycation is the process whereby excess glucose attaches itself to the collagen and elastin proteins in our skin - the exact same proteins that gives us a youthful, plump complexion.
This process forms Advanced Glycation End-products (AGEs) that cause the collagen and protein to become weak, rigid and stiff, manifesting in signs of ageing like sagging, fine lines and wrinkles and dull skin. AGEs in our skin also makes it less able to protect itself against damage and inflammation cause by external factors like smoking and sun exposure.
Glycation is happening in our bodies right now and it’s a biochemical process we can’t avoid, but we do know that there are diet and lifestyle factors that increase the damage it can do.
A high-glycemic diet, a high level of refined carbohydrates and sugar, alcohol and smoking are all factors that lead to inflammation, free radical formation and oxidative stress - and in the process accelerate ageing and a decline in collagen synthesis.
Not just in the skin, but also in the rest of the body.
I wouldn’t dream of suggesting you completely give up your favourite chocolate, pasta or glass of wine (I’m not giving up mine), but it’s definitely worth taking a look at your diet overall and see whether there are potential adjustments to be made.
Over time sugar, processed and refined carbs, fizzy drinks and alcohol can wreak havoc on our skins.
Gut health also plays a huge role in the health of our skin - if you think there are changes to be made in that area it could be a great help overall. It certainly has been for me.
Increased skin dryness can be a sign of Estrogen deficiency. To support your skin it’s more important than ever to stay hydrated from the inside by drinking enough water, and also to pay attention to what may be dehydrating you, ie. coffee, alcohol.
Water is an essential component of collagen and elastin production. No need to overdo it, but drinking enough water, and eating water-rich foods to increase overall hydration can help your body counteract some of the damage done by glycation. It also really helps with energy levels and feeling more able to focus and concentrate.
Estrogen deficiency has an impact on our natural Hyaluronic Acid synthesis in the body, and including a topical HA product can support skin in keeping it hydrated.
Hydrating ingredients to look out for: Glycerine (my favourite), Sodium PCA, Hyaluronic Acid, Niacinamide, Panthenol, Urea - these are all great skin hydrators.
Dry Skin vs Dehydrated Skin: A simple distinction between dry and dehydrated skin is to keep in mind that dry skin needs oil, ie. Essential Fatty Acids in Plant Oils; and that dehydrated skin needs water, ie. Hyaluronic Acid. I find that my skin looks and feels its best with both oil, ie. Ané Glow in a Bottle Face oil, and water based products and emulsions (products that contain both oil and water soluble ingredients). It’s not an either / or between oil and water for me as my skin loves and needs both.
I’ve always been interested, but never really known for sure, or believed in the true power of supplements until I experienced first hand how the right supplements at the right time helped me to overcome major metabolic issues that were causing an incredible amount of stress in my body.
I've been placed on a specific protocol after undergoing very in-depth blood tests and it's been a slowly-but-surely turning point for me health wise. I don’t feel able to make specific recommendations as we’re all so different, but looking into the correct supplementation for you may be a very helpful step.
Key daily supplements for me include Magnesium Threonate or Glycinate (this really helps me to sleep better); Omega 3s (Flax and Evening Primrose) or Fish Oils, Probiotics and Vitamin B12. As a minimum these are me personal daily go-to’s.
Omega 3s are a game changer for me and especially skin wise I absolutely notice when I stop taking them for whatever reason. We’re working on our own Omega 3 product right now - that’s how important it is to me!
We hear a lot about Collagen supplements and I’ve been trying several versions myself. There are still some grey areas around the science as to whether these really work, but there certainly is some really great anecdotal evidence from many customers of different brands who feel it’s made a huge difference for them.
I’m doing a lot of research myself as I’m considering adding an ingestible Collagen product to the Ané range, but I’m still exploring the various options.
In the meantime’s I’d say when it comes to Collagen supplement that if you feel they work for you and they fit within your lifestyle and budget then go for it, but it’s certainly not an absolute necessity. Bone broth is another option that works well for a lot of people.
Going through peri and menopause with all the internal and external turmoil it can bring for some can cause a huge amount of stress in our daily lives.
It’s also true that these hormonal shifts often happen during a time of life where the demands from family life, marriages or relationship issues, child care, taking care of elderly parents, running a business or building a career alongside keeping a household going all coincide.
It’s more important than ever to prioritise our health and taking care of ourselves.
We know that chronically elevated Cortisol levels (known as the stress hormone) can have a detrimental impact on our bodies, inside and out.
Cortisol can also increase oil production in the skin which can lead to clogged pores and acne. It can also cause inflammation in our bodies, and it can also cause existing conditions to flare up or worsen, ie. acne, eczema or psoriasis. Alongside a possible rise in testosterone for some it really play havoc with skin.
Avoiding and minimising stress is really important. But it’s also equally important to actively prioritise and do the things that makes you really happy. You really do deserve that.
When was the last time you really prioritised and consistently did something that really makes you feel good and happy and that YOU love - whatever that means to you?
Isn’t it beautiful to see and hear someone doing something they really love? I don’t think there are many skincare products that can achieve that particular glow.
Take some more time for you. Your mind and body, inside and out can only benefit from it, and you deserve it.
Easy to say, not so easy to do when your sleep is affected by hot flushes, insomnia or feelings of anxiety and depression.
We all know it’s crucial to get a good night’s sleep - but there are so many factors that can affect our sleep.
Saying that, it’s always worth doing what you can to prioritise proper, restful sleep as much as you can.
Again it’s not only important skin-wise. It’s also crucial for protecting our long term health.
Our skin, brain and body need this time to repair and recover - it will help lower stress levels and just help us feel more able to deal with whatever life throws at us.
The benefits of exercise at any age are endless. From dealing with stress, depression and mood swings to improving sleep I believe it’s crucial to move our bodies every day.
Saying this I also know how hard this is when you have zero energy and can barely get out of bed or get through the day without sleeping for hours, I’ve certainly been there.
I also know the days without exercise are always just a bit less good than the days I managed a walk, or a Pilates class - or if I feel really well - a proper session with weights or on the Peloton. Getting your heart rate up and at least a bit of a sweat is just so good for you.
When it comes to our skin healthy circulation is key. Exercise supports blood circulation that in turn helps to nourish skin with vital nutrients and oxygen. It also helps to remove toxins and and free radicals from on a cellular level.
The important thing here is to do what you like, consistently - whatever form of exercise that is and in whatever way you prefer to move your body.
It’s not just your skin that will benefit, but also the rest of your body, inside and out.