“At 54, I am menopausal and feel like a dried-up, asexual old prune. My husband is up for sex at least three times a week and we both mourn my lusty, younger self. Is there any way of retrieving desire, short of HRT (hormone replacement therapy)? I love my husband and sex used to be a very important part of our intimacy.”
Could this woman’s tale of woe have come from your mouth, too? As you’ve aged, have you noticed different parts of your body getting drier, from your hair to your feet, and everything in between, especially your vagina?
If you’re like millions of other menopausal women (the average age of menopause is 51), you’re probably nodding your head and saying “yes, yes!” Well, fret no more. Even if these five body parts aren’t as supple and hydrated as they once were, you can take steps to fight the ravages of time.
DRY, ROUGH SKIN
As we age, the skin’s natural renewal cycle of cell formation slows down, which can produce dead skin cell build-up on the skin’s surface. Dead skin cells mean dry, rough skin.
Oil glands also become less active. Natural lipids decrease (molecules containing cholesterol, fatty acids and ceramides) in the more vulnerable outer skin, which can make it harder to keep skin moist. And, when the balance of the skin’s protective barrier is upset, the skin becomes more susceptible to environmental factors such as dry air (low humidity), which probably is the most common cause of dry skin. The more water content in your skin, the softer it is.
Harsh soaps, scratchy clothing, long, hot showers or baths, hot or cold weather with low humidity, and constant exposure to air conditioning also can trigger lipid depletion.
Hormone imbalances which can occur in menopause also can cause severe skin dryness.
It’s wisest to start protecting your skin as early as your 20s, so make sure to tell your daughters and nieces to get started. But for those of us who are FabOverFifty, it’s definitely not too late to begin a smart body skin care routine.
Step One: Take a warm (never hot) bath or shower. Step Two: Avoid using perfumed soaps on your body, which can be terribly drying. Instead use washes that are loaded with moisturizing ingredients, such as shea butter, vitamin E and jojoba oil. Step Three: Moisturize immediately after bathing or showering, when your skin is damp, and before bedtime, using creams and lotions containing skin barrier strengthening ceramides and multitasking alpha-hydroxy acids. Alpha-hydroxy acids have a special ability to not only exfoliate away dry, dead skin cells, but also to deeply hydrate for long-lasting moisture.
DRY, BRITTLE NAILS
Hormone fluctuations during menopause are the most likely cause for brittle nails, but dietary issues, stress and anxiety also can slow nail growth and lead to weakness. Nutrients including vitamin C, vitamin B7 (biotin), calcium, folic acid, protein, iron and unsaturated fat help to build strong, healthy nails. Liver, cauliflower, salmon, carrots, bananas, soy flour, yeast, wheat germ, whole-grain cereals, whole wheat bread, eggs, dairy products, nuts, Swiss chard and chicken contain small amounts of biotin, which is essential for the metabolism of carbohydrate and fat. Almonds, beans and spinach are rich in calcium.
When you’re younger, oil travels down your hair follicles to naturally coat your hair, but your oil glands shrink over time and don’t produce oil efficiently, leaving your hair much dryer. Applying Argan oil to your hair is an excellent remedy because it’s incredibly hydrating. You can use Argan oil alone or buy hair care products that contain it. Taking a hair vitamin with biotin and silica is another way to help strengthen your hair, but you won’t see the results for about six months.
Also avoid high heat and aggressive hairstyling techniques, such as straightening, that can strip the hair of natural oil.
OCCASIONAL DRY EYE
“Both men and women past the age of 50 experience increased dryness in their eyes, but the condition is nearly twice as likely to occur in women,” says Sean Mulqueeny, O.D. of Mulqueeny Eye Centers in St. Louis. “It’s a result of the decrease of the hormone androgen, which causes the eyes to lose moisture.”
Common occasional dry eye symptoms include redness and scratchy eyes that feel as if they have a foreign particle in them. You also may experience difficulty in keeping focus, as well as blurring, especially while reading or working on the computer. These symptoms also can lead to eye fatigue and eyestrain, Mulqueeny explains. Patients with occasional dry eye also can become increasingly intolerant to contact lenses.
While artificial tears provide only temporary relief, and aren’t a long-term solution. Oral supplements with vitamins A, D3, and E, as well as fish oil, Omega 3, can help treat occasional dry eye from within, Mulqueeny says.
DRY VAGINAL TISSUE
Yep, you read that right! Even your vaginal tissue becomes thinner and less hydrated during menopause, which is why the 54-year-old woman quoted at the beginning of this article “feels like a dried-up asexual old prune.”
The natural protective barrier of the vaginal tissue, consisting of water and oils products by the sebaceous glands, eventually loses elasticity and water, which can lead to a range of problems, including itching, bleeding and pain during sex. Besides menopause, vaginal dryness can be caused by diabetes and antidepressant drugs such as Zoloft. Even younger women, who take birth control pills, can have it.
Using regular bar soap and foaming gels to cleanse this sensitive tissue further weakens and removes its protective film while removing the dirt. That’s why you want use a moisturizing and lubricating lotion that helps to soothe, soften and refresh your intimate area while it cleanses. Lubrigyn Cleansing Lotion is blended with sweet almond, jojoba and olive oils, chamomile and aloe vera, and it contains sodium hyaluronate (hyaluronic acid), a powerful, active ingredient used in face creams to attract and retain moisture.