When was the last time you took a long, hard look at your face? I don’t mean the kind of cursory glance you might give the hall mirror as you rush past.
Looking at yourself while putting on make-up or doing your skin care routine — the kind of daily rituals we do on autopilot — don’t count either.
No, I’m talking about when you make a conscious effort to dispassionately appraise your own appearance: noting everything from skin tone and wrinkle depth to the condition of your lips.
Of course, once you start with something like that — especially if your 30s or 40s are behind you and, certainly, if you are going through the menopause — cold analysis often gives way to heated emotion as you recognise various signs of ageing.
Maryon Stewart who is an expert in women’s hormonal health, shared her dietary advice for reducing the signs of ageing on the face
Too often today, women see these signs, panic, and head straight for Botox, fillers or even to the cosmetic surgeon to ‘fix’ them. Or perhaps they go to the GP for HRT. Neither are remotely necessary in my view.
As an expert in women’s hormonal health, I have spent more than three decades helping tens of thousands of women get through their menopause without resorting to the surgeon’s knife or to HRT.
Your face is a brilliant barometer for your state of health as a whole. If your face is looking old and tired, it’s almost certainly because your midlife body is feeling that way too.
A big part of the problem is how few women reach their mid-40s in a nutritionally good place.
As early as your mid-thirties onwards, which is when hormonal levels tend to peak, it’s important to regularly check in with your face and take a careful look at how it might be changing. If you don’t like what you see, then that’s not your cue to give up!
Instead, you need to appreciate that Mother Nature has armed you with a whole load of visual clues and, once you’ve decoded them, you can start replacing the vitamins, minerals and nutrients the ageing process has begun to deplete.
Cracking the code is where I can help. Nobody teaches us how to survive menopause well. Our mothers and grandmothers didn’t talk about their experience — menopause was taboo.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. So be brave and pay attention to what’s written all over your face. By interpreting what it’s trying to tell you, you can make 2021 a fabulous-looking year.
ADD VOLUME WITH ORANGES
Maryon said hair loss in women is often caused by low levels of ferritin, as she recommends a diet including citrus fruits to boost vitamin c intake
CAUSES: Hair loss is often associated with men, but women experience it, too, particularly during menopause when oestrogen and progesterone levels are falling — these hormones help the hair grow faster and the follicles stay in for longer.
Some women find their hair thins all over, while others get what’s known as alopecia areata, resulting in more patchy loss. This is often caused by low levels of ferritin, a blood protein that contains iron. A lack of the B vitamin biotin and vitamin C can be an issue, too.
SOLUTION: Citrus fruits provide vitamin C as well as aiding iron absorption. Egg yolks, nut butters and wholegrains provide biotin.
Or take a good quality multi-vitamin that includes iron, biotin and vitamin C such as Alive! Ultra Women’s Energy Gummies (£14.99, hollandandbarrett.com).
LEAFY GREENS FOR A ROSY GLOW
CAUSES: Pale skin can be due to anaemia, commonly experienced by women who have heavy periods going into menopause. Vegetarians are also susceptible, as they may be eating a diet that is low in iron and vitamin B12.
SOLUTION: Iron and vitamin B12 are most abundant in meat products and dairy foods, but vegetarians can still boost their iron levels by eating plenty of green leafy vegetables and nuts and seeds.
Many cereals are fortified with iron and folic acid. Lean meat, eggs and to a lesser extent fish are good sources of B12.
Vegetarians should concentrate on using fortified soya milk and consider taking a good quality B-complex vitamin supplement such as Floradix vitamin B complex liquid (£13.50, Boots).
SMOOTH WRINKLES WITH A MISO BOWL
CAUSES: Falling levels of oestrogen during the menopause will make it harder for your body to renew and repair sun-damaged skin caused by excess sunlight. Selenium is an important antioxidant; wrinkles can be a sign you’re low in this, and also zinc.
SOLUTION: Research from Japan has found that consuming isoflavone can reduce wrinkle depth. Isoflavones are part of a group of plant-based chemicals called phytoestrogens. These chemicals mimic the female hormone oestrogen.
Soy products contain plentiful amounts naturally. Both edamame and miso soup are good sources.
Maryon said women can have pale skin due to anaemia, however iron levels can be boosted by eating plenty of green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds (file image)
EAT OILY FISH FOR LUSCIOUS LIPS
CAUSES: You can get chapped lips in both hot and cold weather, but it can also be a sign of vitamin B12 deficiency.
Brain fog can be a serious issue for menopausal women and is often caused by a lack of this important nutrient — so if you’re fuzzy-headed and also suffer with chapped lips this might be why. A sore, red tongue is another indicator.
SOLUTION: This vitamin is best gained through meat, salmon, milk, cheese and eggs. Vegans and vegetarians should look for a good quality supplement, such as Seagreens Food Capsules (£19.95 oceansofgoodness.co.uk).
CURE PAINFUL SKIN WITH PISTACHIOS
CAUSES: Cracks in the skin at the corner of the mouth or eyes, which can be sore, are often blamed on the cold weather, but it’s also associated with poor dietary intake of iron and vitamins B2 and B6. Again, vegetarians and women with heavy periods are susceptible to this condition.
SOLUTION: A steak or hearty beef stew, or an increase in nuts and seeds will help boost iron levels — pistachios are especially high in iron, as are lentils. You find B vitamins predominantly in wholegrains, eggs, meat and dairy.
A good quality multivitamin and mineral supplement containing iron and B vitamins is a good idea. Try Floradix Iron and vitamin tablets (£11.99, Holland & Barrett).
DITCH SUGAR TO STOP REDNESS
CAUSES: Red, greasy skin, especially at the sides of the nose, is usually hormone-related — pre-menopause it often flares up in the run-up to a period, due to fluctuating hormone levels. Spots on the chin are also common.
SOLUTION: To cope with any hormonal fluctuations the body needs to be in good nutritional shape — so the less refined food it has to process the better.
Try keeping refined carbohydrates, such as sugar and white bread and flour, to a minimum and increase your daily intake of fresh fruit and vegetables to six portions a day.
Maryon said spots can be the result of midlife hormonal changes, stress or low zinc levels, as she explained almonds and Brazil nuts have essential fatty acids for improving the quality of skin, nails and hair (file image)
ZAP SPOTS WITH NUTS
CAUSES: It’s a myth that spots only affect teenagers; women can suffer too, often the result of midlife hormonal changes, midlife stress and low zinc levels. In adulthood, it tends to affect the lower parts of the face such as the jaw, neck and chin.
SOLUTION: A 15mg daily zinc supplement can help (Boots’ own cost £7 for a six month supply). Higher doses can cause abdominal discomfort and should only be taken under medical supervision.
Almonds and Brazil nuts contain a decent amount of zinc as well as essential fatty acids that will improve the quality of skin, nails and hair.
END DRY SKIN WITH SWEET POTATOES
CAUSES: Dry skin can be the result of spending time out in the elements without using protective barrier creams along with a diet low in essential fatty acids.
It also indicates deficiencies in vitamin A, necessary for cell membrane health, and vitamin E, which protects the skin cells from free radical damage. At midlife, when the ovaries are failing, skin becomes dry due to lack of oestrogen.
SOLUTION: Eat green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds and oily fish to help encourage healthy cells and give natural ‘lubrication’.
Often additional Omega 3 fats are needed such as Efamol Efamax Ultra Strength Fish Oil (£13.99, boots.com) and Evelle (£34.95, victoriahealth.com), the supplement rich in biotin, zinc, selenium as well as vitamins E and C which helps to improve the quality of our skin, hair and nails.
Apply vitamin E oil topically — I pop open a Pharma Nord vitamin E capsule (£17 for 150, amazon.co.uk) and put it on my face.
Vitamin A, also called retinol, is key for making skin springy and youthful looking — liver, sweet potatoes and cheese are all excellent sources.
Plus, consume isoflavone-rich foods including soya and flaxseeds. Dry skin can also occur if you don’t drink enough — aim for at least six glasses of water a day.
NIBBLE ORANGE PEEL FOR LUMINOUS SKIN
CAUSES: Thread veins on the cheeks and other parts of the body are often hereditary.
SOLUTION: Vitamin C supplements and bioflavonoids help by strengthening capillaries under the skin.
Try Wild Nutrition Vitamin C & Bioflavanoids (£21 for 60 capsules, boots.com). Eat fresh fruit and vegetables and nibble on orange peel, which is a good source of bioflavonoids.
SLIM FACE WITH SOY
CAUSES: You look in the mirror one day and, gulp, the first signs of a double chin stare back at you.
As we get older, lower oestrogen levels can affect the way your body metabolises food, making it much harder for it to cope with processed foods causing bloating and weight gain. Reduced skin laxity is a problem here, too.
SOLUTION: Consuming a nutrient dense diet and plenty of isoflavone-rich foods such as soya helps fool the brain into believing we have normal circulating levels of hormones. As a result, women on my programme routinely lose weight without dieting.
In addition, doing regular face exercises or using a jaw exerciser can help you to maintain muscle tone, resulting in a more youthful appearance.
ADAPTED BY RACHEL HALLIWELL from Manage Your Menopause Naturally by Maryon Stewart (£10.99, New World Library).
You can further assess your menopausal symptoms at maryonstewart.com by joining her Midlife Refuel Club, offering free webinars and advice sessions.