How you can… Turn back the clock on menopause face

It’s not just hot flushes, the menopause takes a toll on your complexion too. In a groundbreaking new book, ALICE HART-DAVIS reveals how you can… Turn back the clock on menopause face

  • Alice Hart-Davis describes how skincare routine can battle effects of menopause
  • She was prescribed hormone replacement therapy which kept her skin hydrated
  • One tip she recommends is to try an online dermatologist to help with skincare

The first I knew of the menopause was 11 years ago when, aged 46, I began feeling a bit fuzzy around the edges — both in my brain, which felt dull, as if it was struggling with a slight, ongoing hangover, and in my body, which began steadily layering more fat around my middle.

But what was most surprising was my skin, which was rapidly losing its remaining bounce so that it looked drab and flat — and, to add insult to injury, was beginning to throw up spots I hadn’t seen since I was a teenager.

We might have become more familiar with the idea that, as our levels of sex hormones begin to dwindle, women often experience hot flushes and night sweats, along with mood swings, weight gain and anxiety, but we rarely hear about what those declining hormone levels are doing to our complexions.

Alice Hart-Davis (pictured) describes how a good skincare routine can battle effects of menopause

It is when our oestrogen levels take a nosedive — usually around the age of 50 — that women really notice the onset of ageing in the skin. If you look at a graph of how female hormone levels decline over time, the line for oestrogen, which has been on a slow downward trend, suddenly drops off the chart when women hit full menopause.

Oestrogen stimulates the production of collagen, the protein that provides the firm ‘scaffolding’ in the skin, and also of hyaluronic acid, which helps the skin hold on to water. Take that oestrogen away and the skin becomes thinner, drier and more fragile. It loses its elasticity and radiance and collapses more easily into wrinkles. It’s all very normal but it’s not great news.

Even though I had been a beauty and health writer for years, it took a few months before the penny dropped. I booked in at a clinic where I had done a specialised hormone blood test a few years ago. Back then, the results were all in the normal range. Now, the test showed my hormone levels were dropping. The doctor prescribed bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT), a chemical cocktail adapted whenever necessary to keep pace with my falling hormone levels.

It has kept me feeling sane as I’ve crawled through the menopause over the past decade — and helps my skin enormously, keeping it stronger, fresher and better hydrated.

She shared a range of her favourite products that keep her skin hydrated and looking youthful

In the UK, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is available on the NHS, via your GP; or as the more personalised BHRT form, which is usually only available privately. But not everyone wants to use it; and it’s also a no-go for anyone who has had an oestrogen-related cancer and some other conditions.

However, supplementation is not the only way to address the effects of the menopause, as I’ve discovered. Good skincare can be utterly transformative. Here’s my tried-and-tested guide to what will really keep your skin radiant when you feel anything but.

TURN OVER NEW LEAF WITH SKIN-BRIGHTENING ACIDS

Light, regular exfoliation will make your skin look fresher and keep your pores from blocking up, which is useful if the hormonal swings that come with the menopause start giving you breakouts. Your new best friend should be an acid toner with alpha hydroxy acids. This will give your skin a gentle, chemical exfoliation without scratching up the surface.

If you find your skin becomes actively oily, it’s worth trying an acid toner based on salicylic acid (a beta rather than alpha hydroxy acid) because that will reach into oily pores and clear them out, as well as exfoliating the skin surface.

Whichever you choose, start by using it just twice a week to see how your skin gets on with it. Then build up to using it more often.

My favourites include:

With 5 per cent glycolic acid, this popular ‘acid toner’ boosts radiance

pixibeauty.co.uk 

Nip+Fab does a great range of decongesting easy-to-use acid-soaked pads in different strengths and acid combinations

nipandfab.com 

This is my go-to salicylic acid 

paulaschoice.co.uk 

HARNESS A HYALURONIC

Scientific studies show the close relationship between the presence of oestrogen and the thickness and hydration of the skin. When we are younger, our skin thickness is lower at the start of our menstrual cycle, when oestrogen levels are less, then it increases for the rest of the month.

The menopause is making your skin thinner and drier, but hydrating serums will help to keep your skin feeling more comfortable, plump and smoother, so wrinkles look less obvious. Plus, the extra hydration enables your skin to function better.

My favourites include:

Lovely formula which is easily absorbed and sits nicely on the skin. Will suit anyone

vichy.co.uk 

Get past the complicated name (‘multi-molecular’ means it has big molecules of moisturising hyaluronic acid that sit on the surface of the skin, as well as smaller ones, which sink in deeper) and see how well it works for you 

cultbeauty.co.uk 

GIVE YOUR VITAMIN C CONTENT A BOOST

Vitamin C serums help skin defend itself against environmental pollution and also reduce pigmentation, making skin brighter, too. They are a great daily addition to your skincare routine if you are looking to combat menopausal dullness.

My favourites include:

This award-winning brightening serum also includes hyaluronic acid, so it hydrates as well as softening the look of uneven pigmentation.

balanceme.com 

A one-step multi-tasking product that produces particularly good results for both pigmentation and wrinkles. It’s created by two top dermatologists. There’s 20 per cent vitamin C in here, along with niacinamide (to help with pigmentation, wrinkles and hydration) and skin-strengthening peptides.

belgraviadermatology.co.uk 

This classic high-strength cosmeceutical (a product with bioactive ingredients that has medical benefits) combines vitamin C with vitamin E and ferulic acid — which, like vitamin C, are both antioxidants — with impressive results. If your skin is oilier, go for Phloretin CF, which has a lighter texture (but, sadly, a similarly high price).

skinceuticals.co.uk 

PLUMP UP YOUR COLLAGEN

The collagen content of our skin decreases by as much as 30 per cent in the first five years after menopause. Adding a retinoid into your skincare regime will encourage skin renewal and generate more collagen to keep skin firm.

Retinol, and its close cousins such as retinaldehyde or retinyl retinoate, all fall into the category of retinoids —ingredients which are derived from vitamin A and are well-proven to have a regenerating effect on the skin.

Start slowly with any retinoid, using it twice a week as your skin adjusts to it, and use plenty of moisturiser on top to stop your skin from becoming dry while it adjusts.

My favourites include:

The TR stands for time release. This makes it easier to tolerate as the retinol is drip-fed into your skin cells overnight, rather than being dumped in all at once.

lookfantastic.com 

You know that an ingredient has reached a tipping point in popular awareness when No7 includes it in its signature range. This product, with 0.3 per cent retinol, softens wrinkles without aggravating skin.

boots.com 

An easy-to-tolerate product from Hollywood dermatologist Dr Howard Murad. There’s a cream version if this isn’t moisturising enough.

murad.co.uk 

SWITCH ON YOUR SKIN

A peptide-based serum can help firm and strengthen menopausal skin. Peptides such as Matrixyl 3000 are chains of amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, and work like chemical messengers to switch on particular processes that encourage skin renewal.

My favourites include:

The Regenerist range is powered by pentapeptides and an ‘advanced amino-peptide complex’. The point is that it is well proven and, thanks to regular tweaks to update the formula, is as popular as ever.

boots.com 

Since this serum shot to national prominence in 2007, it has become something of a national treasure. It is based on the powerhouse peptide Matrixyl 3000+ (No7’s specially ‘tweaked’ version of Matrixyl 3000) and has been shown to reduce fine lines in the same way a prescription skincare product would.

boots.com 

TRY A TARGETED MENOPAUSAL RANGE

Here are three skincare ranges formulated specially for menopausal and post-menopausal skin. While certainly not cheap, these brands offer genuine benefits.

My favourites include:

A luxurious cream based on phytoestrogens (plant-derived ingredients that have a hormone-like effect on the body), which bind to oestrogen receptors in the skin to kid it into thinking there is still oestrogen around, so it continues making collagen.

phytomone.com 

This range is based on plant oestrogens, also known as phytoestrogens, which mimic the effects of oestrogen on the skin to boost its fading glow.

cultbeauty.co.uk 

Impressive new skincare collection that combines all the key actives — antioxidants, peptides, niacinamide and retinol — with a branded ingredient it calls ‘MEP technology’, which makes the skin behave as if it still had pre-menopausal levels of oestrogen. The clinical results show brighter, clearer, better hydrated skin within eight weeks.

empelle.co.uk 

TRY AN ONLINE DERMATOLOGIST

If you want to try prescription-strength creams without the cost of visiting a private dermatologist, try an online dermatology service such as dermatica.co.uk or skinandme.com.

Through these websites you can upload photos of your face to be scrutinised by a consultant dermatologist, who will then advise on which ingredients should be included in your personalised prescription product from £19.99 a month.

Start With Skincare: What You Really Need To Know About Looking After Your Skin by Alice Hart-Davis (£9.95, thetweakments guide.com) is out now.

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