Menopause and Cosmetics

The skin becomes lighter and its texture changes somewhat as you age. Thus, makeup that has always looked good on you may look odd. Either it is too dark or too light or too bold. You should experiment with color. A good way to begin is to schedule an appointment with a professional makeup artist. (Makeup artists are usually available at the cosmetic counters of department stores.) With­out explaining in detail what is bothering you, see what makeup products and colors they choose for you.

For makeup to work for you, it all has to work together. Midlife is usually not the time for makeup extremes, even if you could get away with them in your younger years. The natural look is beautiful and makeup should serve as enhancement, not camouflage. Consumers spend billions of dollars a year on cosmetics. If you support this large industry, make sure you are buying what is right for you. Learn what it is that you are putting on your face and whether it is good for you.

We suggest that you stop buying cosmetics on impulse and buy only what suits your coloring. Once you have determined your look, buy into it. There are many looks to work toward in the years before “fiftysomething.” Some women who have passed that mark, like ac­tress Joan Collins, can still wear the darkest hair, the lightest skin, and the reddest lips. For others, a softer palette creates a quite different, yet equally attractive, face.

No amount of cosmetics can cover poorly cared-for skin. Begin cosmetic application with a clean face and a good moisturizer. We have a friend who prides herself on wearing only powder, light lip­stick, and a touch of mascara most of the time, and she looks terrific. We have another who can’t leave home without false eyelashes and a complete paint job. She looks good, too. They have chosen to make up in a way that makes them look and feel good. You choose for yourself what works for you. If you do choose a full range of makeup, be sure you know how to apply it artfully. Study yourself in daylight and in lamplight. The effects of your makeup change in different lights. You may find you need a lighter hand during the day.

However you feel about cosmetics and their use, if you use them, use them to your best advantage. That professional lesson we men­tioned earlier can work wonders for you in helping you to pick your image and enhance it with makeup.

Menopause and Skin Care

Estrogen thickens the skin. Additionally, it is the effect of estrogen on the exocrine glands that helps to keep the skin moisturized, plumped up, and smooth. Lacking estrogen, dryness and wrinkles result.

The skin also shows the results of aging in many ways that can be flattering, softening harsh features, and showing inner character. The deeper layer of the skin loses its moisture and elasticity, and so it shrinks. The outer skin, or epidermis, is now looser than the inner layer and so it hangs, or creases. How and when this aging happens depends on many factors. Your genetic makeup plays its part as does whether you had acne or another skin condition, and whether you smoke. The skin also has slower circulation so it may become blotchy, with broken capillaries, perhaps the result of hormonal ups and downs. The skin becomes lighter and rougher-textured from enlarged pores. Exercise provides help because it nourishes the skin and creates moisture.

Why do many women get upset every time a new wrinkle appears? Perhaps self-esteem gets in the way of reality. In your thirties, you laugh off the first laugh lines or crow’s-feet that spring up around the outer edges of the eyes, or the frown lines that mark the forehead. When you are fifty or more, the accumulation of sun, normal loss of elasticity, and the pull of gravity may cause the little vertical “stitches” that run around the upper lip. The skin may droop slightly under the chin, the jaw line may gather two small pouches on either side, and the skin on the neck may slacken.

You have more than twenty years between laugh lines and lip stitches. If you limit your exposure to the sun, protect against the sun when exposed, and apply moisturizer daily (many are prepared with sunscreen added for protection), you can delay the aging of the skin by many years. Once it begins, there is no cosmetic product that can rid you of wrinkles, age spots, or facial blemishes, although some can give you a mini-lift for a couple of hours.

Retin-A, the new “dream cream” on the market, is showing good results in removing tiny surface wrinkles and lightening brown spots. It is a product that may retard the effects of photoaging of your skin (the aging caused by sun exposure, which shows up as wrinkled, yellowish, rough, lax, and leathery skin with age spots and sometimes with fine veins that mar cheeks and nose). Before considering Retin-A, a visit to your dermatologist is essential for examination, explanation, prescription, and follow-up care.

Aging skin does not bother all women, and it need not bother you. If you can value the outward charm of aging along with the wisdom of your experience, then you will see the beauty and dignity of aging as you are. We are reminded of famous artist Georgia O’Keeffe, who died in her nineties and whose face grew more beautiful with age. We imagine she used a good moisturizer and little else on that interesting face.