From Premenopause to Postmenopause—and Everywhere in Between
Let’s talk about the stages of menopause. I know it doesn’t sound like the sexiest of topics, but I promise that it is actually quite fascinating to discover what our bodies are capable of. I really believe that our bodies should be celebrated more.
The Stages of Menopause
From the time you have your first menstrual period to the time of your last menstrual period, you are considered in premenopause. In other words, as long as you are having menstrual cycles, you are in premenopause.
Perimenopause, however, is a specific stage that leads up to menopause. It can last anywhere from 3 to 10 years, usually after age 45. Before age 45 is referred to as early menopause and before age 40 is called premature menopause. As hormone levels decrease, women may experience some telltale signs such as irregular periods, mood swings, insomnia, thinning hair, or hot flashes. If you’re not just wearing sleeveless shirts these days to show off your beautifully toned arms, you know what I’m talking about. The hot flashes are real!
And then, there’s menopause. A woman is considered in menopause when she has not had a menstrual cycle over the period of one year. It’s important to know that during this time, it is still possible to conceive—less likely, but still possible.
The symptoms of menopause are the same as perimenopause, though they are often more pronounced, as hormone levels have dropped even lower. During this phase, symptoms peak. Some women will experience more discomfort than others, just like in anything related to women’s health (such as conceiving, pregnancy, and giving birth). For some, it’s smooth sailing. For others, it can be a trying time.
The symptoms are alleviated once the woman passes into the postmenopausal phase, where she will stay for the rest of her life. I love to think of the postmenopausal phase as a time for deep reverence and gratitude, a time to reflect on everything your body has accomplished and experienced over the years. It is a beautiful stage of life to be enjoyed and savored.
How Hormones Affect Your Skin
As a woman enters the perimenopausal phase, her estrogen decreases gradually leading up to menopause. Along with the decreasing estrogen, there is also a loss of collagen and slowing of cell turnover. This means that perimenopausal skin can become dryer, thinner, and less firm.
Once a woman reaches menopause, her body begins to produce more androgens. You might be thinking, “wait, aren’t those male sex hormones, like testosterone?” Yes, those are the ones, but androgens, contrary to their reputation, are also present in women. For some women, this change may lead to breakouts.
What You Can Do to Care for Your Skin Leading Up To and During Menopause
The best way to take care of your skin during perimenopause and during menopause is to moisturize religiously. Look for facial oils or creams with moisturizing, plant-based ingredients such as prickly pear seed oil, argan kernel oil, tamanu seed oil or nilotica shea butter.
You also want to be sure your products contain potent value in antioxidants, as these can help to protect your skin from environmental damage. Some good ones to incorporate, both in what you apply to your skin and what you include in your daily diet, are Coenzyme Q10, vitamin C, and vitamin E.
Finally, don’t forget the sunscreen! Sun protection is always important, but it becomes absolutely essential as our skin matures. During perimenopause and menopause, the skin becomes thinner, and it is particularly delicate. Find a mineral sunscreen you love and apply it daily. Don’t forget your neck and hands! This is also a great time to build a sunhat collection for added protection.
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