By Alix Fuller
Cosmetics: What is menopause?
Dr. Lisa Kellett: The literal meaning of the word is “last menstrual period”; the time leading up to it is called the climacteric and the time after is post menopause. It typically occurs in the late ’40s to early ’50s, although smokers can experience menopause a few years earlier since they generally age overall faster than non-smokers.
Cosmetics: What are the physical manifestations of menopause?
Dr. Lisa Kellett: They include hot flushes and night sweats, menstrual irregularity, thinning of vaginal tissue (which, along with a decrease in lubrication, might make intercourse painful) and muscle pain. Other symptoms are the need for frequent urination and discomfort during it, plus redistribution of body fat to the abdomen. Also, bone loss is accelerated due to a loss in estrogen so osteoporosis becomes common. And, since estrogen protects women from cardiovascular disease, there can be an increase in heart problems after menopause. Twenty-five percent of women don’t have any problems with menopause, 50% experience mild to moderate symptoms and 25% have more severe symptoms.
Cosmetics: What causes these symptoms?
Dr. Lisa Kellett: The ovaries produce three types of hormones: estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. During the climacteric, the production of all three decreases, hence the symptoms.
Cosmetics: In what ways does this affect the look of the skin?
Dr. Lisa Kellett: It becomes thinner and less elastic. Skin texture and tone become more uneven and fine lines are more prominent, often turning into wrinkles. Due to increased skin laxity, you’ll see sagging, particularly in the lower part of the face. You will also notice a loss of volume in the central facial area, especially around the cheekbones. An increase in facial hair often occurs, and thinning of scalp and pubic hair is also common. Most of this is largely due to a decrease in estrogen at the cellular level.
Cosmetics: Why do some menopausal women suddenly experience acne breakouts?
Dr. Lisa Kellett: In some women the skin can become oilier due to a sudden increase in sebaceous gland output, thus causing acne or pimples.
Cosmetics: Other than undergoing a medical procedure, what can a menopausal woman do to improve the look of her skin?
Dr. Lisa Kellett: If she isn’t doing so already, she should practice good sun protection, using a high SPF sunscreen and wearing a hat. Also, she can apply topical products containing vitamin A and anti-oxidants like vitamin C, which are helpful.