Women are extraordinary beings. Not only are we capable of growing and nourishing another human, but our bodies go through major changes every month as we ride the hormonal rollercoaster. The funny thing is, it’s only when our hormones are causing chaos (I’m talking about you - mood swings, cramps and headaches!) that we actually notice they’re there.
Our recent chat with nutritionist Jess Fisk about skin health sparked some interesting conversation around women’s hormones - specifically the importance of balancing our hormones during perimenopause and menopause. Before we kick into our tips and recommendations (including Jess’ valuable insights from a nutritional point of view), let’s look at both of these phases a little closer…
Perimenopause: Perimenopause, pre-menopause or menopause transition begins several years before menopause – usually in a woman’s 40s, but it can start earlier or later. Perimenopause is when our ovaries gradually start to make less estrogen. This phase begins with irregular menstrual cycles and often comes with symptoms such as hot flashes, sleep disturbances and mood swings, which are a result of changing levels of estrogen.
Menopause: When entering menopause, some women will transition from regular cycles to their last period without batting an eyelid, while for others it’s a time of insomnia, hot flashes, constant heat, low mood, no libido and weight gain. Every woman’s experience is unique, but the hormone changes are the same.
“When moving into the menopausal stage, our hormones are all over the show,” Jess explains. “There’s a big drop in estrogen before this phase, which can significantly impact mood, appetite, skin and overall health.”
During menopause or perimenopause, Jess says it’s important to listen to your body and use this time to make positive changes. Here’s how!
Nourish yourself with good food
“Be kind to yourself during this phase as you may be feeling grumpy and tired, or craving sweet, starchy foods. If that means indulging in a few squares of chocolate, so be it! If you eat a balanced diet most of the time with adequate protein and fats, you’re better to nourish your needs (without overdoing it) rather than fight your cravings and feel miserable. Magnesium is found in cocoa, after all!”
It’s important to avoid aggravating your hormones further during this time, so Jess suggests reducing stimulants like caffeine.
“Some of us metabolize caffeine easier than others - it all comes down to genetics - but we could all benefit from avoiding coffee after lunch. I’d also suggest reducing sugar and refined carbs, as these may drive your stress hormones up and affect the sex hormones, estrogen and progesterone.”
Not familiar with refined carbs? Think packaged foods that are highly processed, like cereals and crackers. These products also contain processed fats in the form of canola and soybean oils, which (in excess) are highly inflammatory.
“Stick to coconut or extra virgin olive oil,” says Jess. “And don’t be scared of good fats, like those naturally occurring animal products, avocados or raw nuts and seeds.”
Make positive lifestyle changes
When it comes to managing menopause symptoms, the lifestyle habits we practise daily are just as important as what we eat. Here are our top tips:
Sleep: Getting eight hours of quality, uninterrupted sleep every night is one of the best things you can do to balance hormone levels.
- Exercise: Find something you enjoy doing, whether it’s running, walking, weight training, cycling or yoga. Try to move your body every day.
- Manage stress: Constantly feeling frazzled causes our bodies to produce too much cortisol (the stress hormone), which puts a lot of strain on our bodies and throws our hormones out of whack. Explore relaxation techniques such as meditation, deep breathing and mindfulness.
- Be prepared: Understand your triggers for hot-flashes (like hot drinks, spicy food, stress, alcohol, caffeine and medications) and try to avoid them. Dress in layers so you can easily cool down if you need to.
Show your skin some love
Last but certainly not least, is caring for our skin. During menopause our estrogen levels decrease, and testosterone stimulates the sebaceous glands to create significantly much thicker sebum (in other words, some women find their skin becomes much oilier and acne-prone). Acne during menopause, sometimes called microcystic acne, tends to be deeper - often with tender cysts.
Then there’s after menopause, which is when skin becomes drier because our oil glands aren't as active. To help boost hydration, skip the long, hot showers and apply moisturiser while your skin is still damp. A heavier cream, like our super-hydrating Even Pure moisturiser or ultra-nourishing Pearlesque moisturiser, can work wonders!
Our skin is our body’s largest organ – it takes just 20 seconds to absorb any chemicals that touches it and for those chemicals to enter the bloodstream. Switching to organic skincare and makeup is the best way to care for your skin naturally, and when switching to VOYA, you can be certain that the products you’re using contain as many organic ingredients as possible (minimum 70%).
Instead of GM ingredients and synthetic colours, fragrances and preservatives, our products employ the incredible benefits of seaweed. Why? Because seaweed contains natural anti-ageing properties to improve the suppleness and elasticity of skin while stimulating the renewal of damaged skin cells.