The Doctor Is In – Understanding Menopause
Cosmetics Magazine: 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 Magazine: 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 Magazine: 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 Magazine: 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 Magazine: 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 Magazine: 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.
From Cosmetics Magazine, November-December 2006
By Alix Fuller