One of the most common and annoying aspects of aging is . . . dryness.
Hair, eyes, skin -- and a few other places -- might need a bit more attention (and lubrication) than when we were younger.
But, don't despair! Here's a quick guide to moisturizing your body -- head to toe -- with tips and products that get the job done:
Hair: Most of us wash our hair too often and use too much shampoo. Lorraine Massey, founder of Devachan Salons and Deva hair products, hasn't used the stuff in over 25 years. Instead she cleanses her hair and scalp with conditioner every day. I'm not suggesting you stop shampoo cold turkey, but try this for a few weeks: use only conditioner (no shampoo) to cleanse your hair, letting a little extra stay on instead of rinsing it all out as we've been trained to do (I count to 5 as I rinse, then stop). Use a tiny bit of shampoo (without sulfates!) just once a week. And slow down on the blow-drying (or stop completely if you can!). Result? Dry hair will be a distant memory. Bonus tip: I had a short chat with Lorraine about how to have fabulous hair at any age, and you can watch right here:
Eyes: Dry eyes are a huge complaint for a lot of people, and sometimes only a prescription from your eye doctor will help. But, for mild cases, here are some great tips from my ophthalmologist: always wear sunglasses to protect eyes from the elements (especially sun and wind); use over-the-counter moisturizing eye drops (like Optive), not the ones that "get the red out;" take "computer breaks" every 20 minutes so you don't over-stress your eyes; and lastly, keep your computer chair slightly higher than you normally would, forcing your eyes to look down a bit toward the screen and your eye lids to cover a little more of your eye. It helps stop air from drying eyes even more. Bonus tip: Some people swear that downing a few tablespoons of flax seed oil every day has helped, too. Can't hurt!
Skin around your eyes: Everyone should use a special moisturizer--like RoC or Neutrogena -- made specifically for the delicate eye area. Using your ring finger pat (not rub!) a few drops around the entire orb area (you can feel the bone with your finger), not directly under or over your lashes, as that's too close to the eye. Gently pat the area with your fingers like you're playing the piano until completely absorbed. Bonus tip: Don't use eye cream before bed, only during the day, as it could inadvertently get into eyes causing irritation and puffiness.
Facial skin: Dry skin is the leading complaint we have about our skin as we get older. But, a dewy complexion is absolutely within our reach if we use the right products in the right ways. First, gently exfoliate every day to remove dead skin and flakes. Next, moisturize with super rich creams, like Clinique Moisture Surge or CeraVe' (which makes a great day moisturizer with 50 SPF). During the day, always wear a moisturizer with sunscreen, all year long. Add a few drops of high quality olive oil or coconut oil on top of moisturizer, then dab the excess with a tissue, letting it all settle into skin before applying makeup. During colder months when dry skin is even more of a challenge, carry a small container of moisturizer with you and gently pat it all over your face throughout the day, avoiding the t-zone area. Bonus tip: Consider adding a retinol product -- which can help with fine wrinkles and builds collagen -- to your nightly routine. Start with an OTC product then talk with your dermatologist about one that's prescription-strength, like Retin-A.
Body skin: One of the best things you can use on (and in) your body is olive oil. Natural and pure, it moisturizes like nothing else I've tried. In the shower, exfoliate entire body with white sugar (much better on your body, than in!). When skin is still slightly damp, apply olive oil, everywhere. Result? Skin like velvet! Bonus tip: Keep it in a plastic squeeze bottle, add a few drops of lavender oil (or whatever scent you like), and store in your bathroom cabinet. And put a plastic jar of sugar in the tub area. For a quick look at some other amazing uses for olive oil, watch this!
Vagina: Loss of estrogen after menopause contributes to dryness overall, but this is specifically true of vaginas. Studies show that over 75% of post-menopausal women suffer from vaginal dryness, but don't seek help, even though it's easy to fix. This kind of dryness gets worse over time if not dealt with and can impact a woman's sexual happiness and vaginal health. The best solution? Talk with your doctor. Bonus tip: For info on treatment options, check out vaginaldiscomfort.com and watch the chat I had with a menopause expert on ways to counter dryness, right here.
Hands: Cuticles, the area around the nail, are notoriously dry, but the problem can become worse if we abuse our hands without giving them a little TLC in return. Once again, olive oil is the best solution: massage into cuticles every day to keep them soft. And never cut cuticles during a manicure. It can cause infection! Bonus tip: When hands are especially dry, massage extra rich hand cream (Nivea is fantastic) onto hands, then add a layer of olive oil over cream. Put light cotton gloves onto hands, and . . . get your beauty sleep! Hands will look and feel fab in the morning. Works great on feet, too!Until next time, remember this:
We can't control getting older . . . but . . . we can control how we do it!
Questions? I want to hear from you! For more tips on living your best life after 50 (or 60, or 70...) check out The Best of Everything After 50: The Experts' Guide to Style, Sex, Health, Money and More and www.bestofeverythingafter50.com. Keep me posted on how you're doing by subscribing to me on Facebook and "tweeting" me on Twitter at @BGrufferman. Check out the full video series - The Best of Everything - on the AARP YouTube Channel.
"Exercise is absolutely critical," says Susan Moores, a registered dietician. Exercise can be a powerful sleep aid, combating the sleep disturbances many women complain about. It has been shown to improve the whole gamut of menopause symptoms from hot flashes to mood swings. She says not to just focus on aerobic exercise, but also try strength training and relaxation techniques, such as yoga.
"Flaxseed falls in the same camp as soy for the phytoestrogens," says Susan Moores, a registered dietician. One study by the Mayo Clinic found the incidence of hot flashes was reduced as much as 50 percent by consuming flaxseed. It is also thought to be very promising because, along with phytoestrogens, it also contains omega-3 fatty acids, which can aid in mood stabilization. According to A.D.A.M., an online health content provider, when compared to hormone replacement therapy, 40 grams of flaxseed was reported to be equally as effective in reducing hot flashes, vaginal dryness and mood disturbances.
Two German studies have shown black cohosh to be effective in reducing hot flashes, according to A.D.A.M. One study in particular showed 80 percent of women saw a decrease in hot flashes while using black cohosh. However, no long-term studies have been done and there have been reports of side-effects including upset stomach and low blood pressure, caution the experts at Harvard Medical School.
This over-the-counter cure uses progesterone or progesterone-like compounds as the active ingredient. "Natural progesterone is a hormone and it works," says Dr. Marcie Richardson, obstetrician and gynecologist at Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates and Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital in Boston. "Skin creams that contain extracts of Mexican wild yams have been widely promoted for natural menopause relief for years," says Harvard Medical School. However, because of variation among products and the individual nature of skin's responsiveness, this method is not recommended by the North American Menopause Society, says Harvard. There's no safety data on this hormone, Dr. Richardson cautions. Learn more about the risks and benefits here.
Red clover is often used to reduce vaginal dryness and decrease hot flashes. The effectiveness of red clover is thought to be due to a plant-chemical, isoflavones, which has an estrogen-like effect in the body. However, according to Harvard Medical School, research results have been disappointing. Two studies published in the journal 'Menopause' found that women fared no better with red clover than a placebo for both hot flashes and vaginal dryness. Learn more about red clover here.
Fish isn't just delicious; it contains a valuable ingredient that may help stabilize your mood swings too -- omega-3 fatty acids. There have been some good studies to attest that omega-3 can help improve mood, says Dr. Marcie Richardson. There's also growing research that omega-3 fatty acids help fight heart disease. The best way to add this key ingredient to your diet is by eating fatty fish like salmon, tuna and trout.
You wouldn't necessarily think that sticking needles in your body would be a helpful way to cure menopause symptoms, but when combined with other treatments, it can be helpful. Some controlled studies have shown some effectiveness in some woman for hot flashes, says Dr. Marcie Richardson. According to A.D.A.M., "both the World Health Organization and the National Institutes of Health recognize that acupuncture can be a helpful part of a treatment plan" for many illnesses, including menopausal symptoms.
There has been a study, which showed a slight effect in decreasing hot flashes for women using vitamin E, says Dr. Marcie Richardson. Along with reducing hot flashes vitamin E may carry with it extra benefits, such as fending off macular degeneration, lowering blood pressure, and slowing the aging of cells and tissues according to A.D.A.M.
Who hasn't felt the negative effects of drinking too much alcohol, such as trouble sleeping or feeling flushed? This goes double for women during menopause. The thing about alcohol is: women metabolize it worse than men and we metabolize it worse as we age, says Dr. Marcie Richardson. According to Harvard Medical School, alcohol can act as a trigger for hot flashes. And if that wasn't enough to ward you off the bottle, studies show that consuming alcohol regularly ups your risk for other conditions like breast cancer and stroke.
Follow Barbara Hannah Grufferman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/BGrufferman