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May/June 2007


Midlife Beauty

Christiane Northrup

An unmistakable glow emanates from midlife women who are happy and satisfied with their lives - a glow that no amount of skin-care products, cosmetics, or plastic surgery can create.  It comes only from connecting with Source energy.  This current gives us the courage to live our lives joyfully and fully, despite such things as sun damage and varicose veins.

Sagging skin and wrinkles result from a breakdown of collagen (which starts in our 20s).  By midlife, we may have lost up to 20 percent of our collagen layer.  Oil glands also decrease their secretions, causing dryness.  And the capacity of our skin to repair itself slows, which may be related to free-radical damage.  This damage is brought on by emotional stress; exposure to sunlight; repeated bouts of high blood sugar and insulin (glycemic stress); and toxins of all kinds, including cigarette smoke and air pollutants - all of which means that we can stop or reverse much of the damage through lifestyle choices.

Other midlife skin conditions include acne, rosacea, the appearance of coarse or dark hair on the chin or upper lip, thinning hair, and varicose and spider veins.  Each of these can be helped with a multitude of natural treatments.

Body

Avoid too much sun.

Follow a low-glycemic diet.  Eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily, limit caffeine, get enough fiber, and consume fatty fish (especially salmon, sardines, and swordfish) or take omega-3 supplements.

Take antioxidant supplements. Particularly important ones include coenzyme Q10, vitamin C, vitamin E and tocotrienols, and proanthocyanidins.

Use topical antioxidants. Good ingredients include high-potency vitamin E in the form of a natural blend of the tocopherols and tocotrienols, vitamin C, coenzyme Q10, melatonin, proanthocyanidins (or procyanadins) and catechins.

Drink more water.  Consume eight 8 oz. glasses of water per day.

Cleanse your skin regularly. Clean your face and neck once a day for dry skin, twice a day for oily skin, using a pH-balanced cleanser.  Then close your pores with a toner or cool water.  Be sure to remove all makeup every night.

Exfoliate.  This removes old, dead layers; opens your pores; and speeds up new skin growth.  Use a washcloth or cleanse with products that contain fruit acids (such as alpha hydroxy, beta hydroxy, or glycolic acids).

Use SPF-15 sunscreen daily.  Apply it to your face, neck, and hands, except during the brief early-morning or late-afternoon “sunbath” that I advocate for optimal vitamin D levels.

Moisturize. Use a light moisturizer for day and a richer formula for the evening.

Use products that contain one or more of the following:

• Microcollagen pentapeptides:  These substances greatly boost collagen production.

Liposomes:  This delivery system increases the effectiveness of any active ingredient by ten times.

Antioxidants:  Examples includetocotrienols, absorbable vitamin C, coenzyme Q10, and proanthocyanidins.

Avoid products with potentially harmful preservatives, such as parabens. This reduces your lifetime exposure to chemicals.

Eat more soy.  Aim for 100 - 160 mg of soy isoflavones per day.

Use 2 percent natural progesterone cream. This decreases midlife acne, moisturizes, and helps fade age spots.

Consider retinoic-acid derivatives.  Retin-A, Retin-A Micro, and Renova are all prescription medications derived from retinoic acid, a form of vitamin A that helps prevent or reduce fine lines and wrinkles, reverse sun damage, and heal acne.  Side effects include redness, dryness, itching, and increased sun sensitivity.

Consider topical estrogen. This thickens collagen, decreases pore size, and helps the skin hold moisture.  If you’re already on bioidentical hormone replacement, ask your doctor to prescribe your hormones via a formulary pharmacist who can put them into skin lotion.  If you aren’t on HRT, ask your physician to prescribe a small amount of estradiol or estriol in an ointment or cream.

Consider intense pulsed light (IPL). This is very effective for reducing wrinkles, evening out skin tone, thickening the collagen layer, and removing spider veins.  Acid and laser peels are also available.  If you have this surgery:

• Pick a good doctor who makes you comfortable, not the one who charges the least.

• Use guided-imagery tapes before and during surgery.

• Take at least 2,000 mg of vitamin C for two weeks pre-op and four weeks post-op to help build up collagen in your skin.  You can also use skin cream containing vitamin C ester to speed healing.

For Midlife Acne

A good diet, comprehensive vitamin and mineral supplements, losing excess weight, and cleansing your skin regularly will help.  Use tea-tree oil for pimples that haven’t come to a head (or apply a paste of baking soda and lemon juice).  Try products containing benzoyl peroxide or sulfur to dry up breakouts.  Get a professional facial with blackhead removal about once a month until your skin has cleared, then use blackhead-removal strips.  Avoid antibiotics to treat acne, and take birth-control pills only as a last resort.

For Rosacea

This neurological disorder results in dilated blood vessels in the “blush” areas of the face and upper chest.  To alleviate the symptoms, follow an insulin-normalizing, low-glycemic diet and avoid alpha hydroxy acids as well as hydrocortisone, benzoyl peroxide, and topical retinoids.  Try betaine-hydrochloride supplements (500 to 1,000 mg with meals).  Intense pulsed light (IPL) treatment is also effective, as is a skin-care regimen that includes high-quality topical antioxidants.

For Dark, Coarse Chin or Lip Hair

This is the result of the naturally higher androgen-to-estrogen ratio prevailing at the start of perimenopause.  Plucking, waxing, or shaving can eventually distort the follicles, making permanent hair removal more difficult.  First, try an insulin-balancing diet.  Electrolysis, laser hair removal, and prescription medications are other options.

For Hair Loss

Your hair may become finer and thinner and may eventually recede, although in women the front hairline is usually preserved.  If this becomes a problem, ask your doctor to test for any systemic causes and to check your hormone levels.  Before opting for prescription medications, look into a hormone-balancing diet, lose excess fat, take a vitamin and mineral supplement, and try the Chinese herb Shou Wu Pian.

For Varicose Veins

Lose excess weight, which puts too much pressure on the veins - in this state, even chronic coughing can contribute.  Wear compression or support stockings as well.  If estrogen replacement makes this condition worse, lower your dose.  Avoid constipation by consuming adequate fiber, plenty of water, and very few refined carbohydrates.  Do rhythmic exercise such as walking, biking, running, or swimming to keep your blood moving.  Eat lots of flavonoid-rich blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries, or take the herb bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) (160 mg per day for prevention and up to 480 mg a day to treat varicose veins).  Also get enough vitamin E (100 to 400 IU per day) and take bromelain (125 to 450 mg three times a day on an empty stomach; the lower end is for prevention, the higher for treatment).  Ask your dermatologist about EndoVenous Laser Therapy (EVLT) and about sclerotherapy for spider veins.

Christiane Northrup, M.D., is an ob-gyn who helps empower women to tune in to their inner wisdom and take charge of their health.  She’s also a best-selling author and the host of five successful public television specials.  The above article is an excerpt taken from her book The Wisdom of Menopause It is published by Hay House (March 2007) and available at all bookstores or online at: www.hayhouse.com

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