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Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: In Menopause, Can We Have It All?

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Sometimes it's the mirror that delivers the shock; sometimes it's a photo. Changes in hair and skin show up during our menopausal transition, often bringing an unwelcome sense that our attractive years are over. This isn't true.

Comedian Lily Tomlin quips that she needs a "wattlectomy" to correct the midlife folds in her neck. In an episode of The Golden Girls, Dorothy laments new and unwanted facial hair, plaintively telling Blanche and Rose, "One day I woke up, and I had a little beard." As menopausal women, these quips make us laugh and cringe at the same time.

We can thrive and shine as we go through menopause; it just takes a little effort and some different techniques. Make the commitment right now to swap out the old for some new. You'll breathe new life into your image in the mirror.

Hair may change due to changing hormonal levels. Our hair is producing less oil now and may not need to be shampooed every day. Try a volumizing shampoo if your hair has become thinner, and add a bit of gel for more body. Most of us do the drill of: shampoo, condition and rinse in rapid succession so we can scramble out of the shower and get on to the next thing. We all need to slow down, and this is one area where we can do it. Instead of the rapid fire approach, put the conditioner in your hair, get out of the shower and wrap your hair in a warm towel. Before you rinse your hair, wait for 10 or 15 minutes while you read a magazine, have a cup of tea, or just sink into a comfortable chair with your feet up. It's a mini-break that helps your hair and your psyche.

Skin changes in menopause and can be a part of what we don't like seeing in that "mirror, mirror on the wall." Less collagen and elastin, which makes our skin pliant, can mean more wrinkles. Some considerations to make those reflections in the mirror more appealing include washing your face with a good, moisturizing cleanser and applying a moisturizer with at least SPF 15 to protect your skin from the damaging effects of the sun. Be sure to apply the moisturizer when you first get out of the shower, while your skin is a bit moist, and the pores in your skin are more open. Along with skin changes, lips can change too. Subtly outline your lips with a soft-colored lip pencil, and add a touch of clear or lightly tinted gloss either alone or on top of your lipstick to accent a lovely part of your face. While some women use lip plumpers to puff up their lips, the ingredients in these products work by irritating the skin on your lips so that they swell slightly in response. Most of us in menopause don't subscribe to the philosophy that we must suffer to be beautiful, so you can skip anything that makes you feel like you've been stung by a wasp!

They say that "the eyes are the window to the soul." Brighten and wake up your eyes with a bit of matte shadow in a neutral color, such as cream or cocoa, that matches your skin tone. Avoid anything shimmery around your eyes because the sparkle can accentuate wrinkles and lines. You can draw attention to your eyes and brows with just a hint of color that you apply with a brush or soft pencil. This quick, easy eye makeup routine shows off the natural gleam in your eyes while softening the effects of time.

Tend to the rest of your skin, too, by massaging your hands and feet with moisturizer regularly -- you increase your circulation and give yourself a few extra moments to unwind. Choose a gentle scrub that soothes you and apply it all over your body with a soft mitt or loofa. Or, make a sugar scrub by filling a plastic jar with natural cane turbinado sugar (found in the baking aisle of the grocery store) and then pouring olive oil over it to soak in and saturate the sugar. After that, use it as a sugar scrub to exfoliate and moisturize your skin while you're in the shower. If you like the idea of a moisturizer that is inexpensive and easy to apply every day, pick up a spray bottle of olive oil (yes, that too is in the baking aisle of the grocery store) and spray it on your body before you dry off, after your shower. Then, rub it in and pat yourself dry with a soft, fluffy towel. It's a marvelous moisturizer that very few of us think of using in the bathroom, rather than in the kitchen.

Whether you favor home remedies, minerals, botanicals or other makeup formulas, your most important cosmetic, the one you absolutely can't do without, is your smile. More than anything you can put on your face, your smile shows the world (and you) that you are relaxed, confident and comfortable with who you are. Consider the words of Bonnie Prudden, the amazing rock climber and fitness expert who lived a vigorous and exciting life until she died at age 97. She said, "You can't turn back the clock, but you can wind it up again." Looking and feeling marvelous in menopause doesn't mean trying to recapture the way we looked in another decade. It does mean winding up the clock again and going forward with radiance and joy, content with who we are.

Founder of Full Circle Women's Health in Colorado, Stephanie Bender has significantly contributed to a much larger understanding of women's health through her books, lectures and television appearances. Her most recent book is, "End Your Menopause Misery." You can post a comment or read more about Stephanie on her website, by clicking here. You can also follow her on Facebook by clicking here.