You may be well acquainted with the hot flushes, night sweats and mood swings associated with the menopause, but did you know that those hormonal changes could also cause hair and tooth loss, and deplete your skin’s collagen stores by as much as a third? Scary stuff, but don’t panic just yet: a few simple tweaks to your day-to-day routine could make all the difference…
Menopause-proof your smile…
Dry mouth? Falling oestrogen levels inhibit saliva production. Since saliva is the mouth’s first line of defence against plaque and acid erosion, this can hasten the onset of tooth decay and gum disease. The menopause is also associated with a dramatic downturn in collagen production. How does this affect your teeth? Well, the connective tissue which holds our teeth in place is primarily composed of collagen. As collagen levels drop, our gums can literally ‘lose their grip’ on our teeth. So what can you do about it?
Rethink your dental hygiene
Brushing your teeth properly is more important than ever. Book an appointment to see a hygienist for a technique refresher – and don’t forget to take your own toothbrush along.
Following fluoride’s classification as a neurotoxin by The Lancet, many women are seeking natural alternatives to conventional toothpastes. Most dentists remain dubious, however, and advise sticking to products containing fluoride in order to maintain enamel strength. Some menopausal women are offered Duraphat, a high-fluoride prescription toothpaste.
Moisturise your mouth
Keep your mouth hydrated by drinking plenty of water and non-fruit herbal tea, and snacking on celery, broccoli and cucumber. Try to minimise your consumption of alcohol, which can cause dehydration, and fruit juice, fruit tea and fizzy drinks (even diet varieties), which can all cause acid erosion.
Chew sugar-free gum
Chewing gum sweetened with xylitol can stimulate saliva production, repair enamel and neutralise plaque acidity.
Take collagen supplements
Supplements could help you to maintain healthy gums.
Ask for a retainer
Wearing a retainer or braces can help to stop the tooth movement which sometimes occurs during the menopause.
Swilling a tablespoon of coconut oil around your mouth for 20 minutes each day (before spitting it out) is said to fight plaque and whiten teeth. Although there is little scientific evidence to back up its efficacy as yet, several dentists have admitted that it seems to improve gum health.
Menopause-proof your skin…
Collagen can be depleted by up to 30% within 5 years of menopause onset. As cell turnover slows down, skin becomes dryer, thinner and more prone to wrinkles, sensitivity, pigmentation and even acne.
Up your D3 intake
Modern diets and lifestyles rarely provide us with sufficient vitamin D3, particularly during the winter, when we are not exposed to the sun. However, it could be the key to maintaining healthy, glowing skin, so consider taking a supplement. Vitamin D3 is also credited with boosting bone density and overall health – consider it your secret weapon.
Make friends with phytoestrogens
Phytoestrogens, found naturally in plants, mimic the actions of oestrogen. Choose skincare products rich in plants oils such as flaxseed, soya, grapeseed and wheatgerm for a natural hormonal boost.
Look out for retinoids
Skincare products containing retinoids (derived from vitamin A) help to stimulate collagen production. Combine with rich moisturising ingredients such as hyaluronic acid for optimum benefits.
Crack open the oil
Your face might be your focus, but don’t forget your body (even if 90% of it is covered in knitwear 90% of the time). Extra-virgin coconut oil has been described as the ultimate moisturiser for menopausal skin. You can also apply evening primrose oil directly onto the skin.
Menopause-proof your hair…
As oestrogen levels drop, relative proportions of androgens (male hormones) increase. These can literally shrink the hair follicles, causing hair to become thinner and reducing the length of its growth cycle. Up to 40% of women suffer hair loss and thinning during the menopause, whilst many more may find that their hair will no longer grow to the same length.
Hair is treated as ‘non-essential tissue’ by the body, so, when nutrition drops below par, it’s the first thing to fall by the wayside. It might just be in your best interests to learn to love those love handles – during perimenopause, oestrogen is stashed in fat stores around the hips and midriff. Diet them away and your hair, skin, teeth and overall health could suffer.
The energy needed to maintain hair cell growth begins to dip after a 4 hour meal break, so eat regular, healthy meals and snacks packed with unprocessed carbohydrates and foods rich in essential fatty acids, such as oily fish, nuts and seeds. Pumpkin seed oil, soy, green tea and circumin (found in turmeric) inhibit the enzyme which converts testosterone into the follicle-damaging dihydrotestosterone (DHT).
Take the right supplements
Vitamin D3 is as crucial to the maintenance of lustrous locks as it is to a youthful complexion. But pumpkin seed oil and saw palmetto berry supplements actively fight the conversion of testosterone to DHT. If you’re concerned about hair loss, they might well be the answer to your prayers.
Step up your home haircare routine
Tricho 7, packed with zinc sulphate, azelaic acid and vitamin B6, fights those nasty androgens from the outside in, and can be applied directly to the scalp in droplet form.
Try a salon treatment
New salon technology allows professionals to repair hair which is already damaged. Try Olaplex, L’Oreal’s Smartbond or Schwarzkopf’s Fibreplex treatment, which all claim to repair and strengthen the bonds of dry, damaged hair.