Ms Shahnaz Husain explains how Diabetes, ageing and menopause affect your skin and offers skin care tips to keep your skin healthy and glowing.
Managing the triad
No other organ of the body manifests the signs of internal health, hormonal changes and ageing the way the skin does, especially in terms of showing the tell-tale signs of visible ageing, like lines and wrinkles, loss of skin elasticity and resilience, sagging skin and so on. Both Diabetes and menopause also lead to skin conditions like dehydration, dry, flaky patches, skin-sensitivity, dark pigmented patches, itching and so on. Long-term Diabetes can cause decreased blood flow to the skin, leading to serious skin conditions that require medical treatment. A person with Diabetes is also more susceptible to fungal and bacterial infections that take long to heal. People with Diabetes also find that their skin becomes more fragile.
Generally speaking, by the age of fifty, the skin becomes drier and the tell-tale signs of age become visible. Diabetes and menopause both add to these effects. I believe that it is regular and preventive skin care that goes a long way in keeping the skin healthy. Our living and dietary habits also play an important part in determining blood sugar levels and how soon degeneration and ageing set in.
Diabetes and ageing
Between the ages of forty and fifty, women undergo menopause that can affect their physical appearance. Age causes certain visible changes in your skin. A person with Diabetes has to manage not only age-related changes but also various skin conditions.
Menopause also makes it more difficult to control blood sugar levels. Issues like tiny lines and wrinkles, growth of facial hair occur due to falling oestrogen levels. Such problems can often result in a loss of confidence as the woman feels she is no longer attractive. Managing Diabetes, ageing and menopause is a fine balancing act.
I believe what is needed most is to be able to come to terms with ageing in a positive way. The woman should not accept it as something inevitable, but rather learn to discover herself again, find new avenues of self-development, hobbies and interests. She should also honestly introspect and identify areas which may need her attention. For instance, a weight loss program would not only help her manage weight but also improve her health parameters. It can improve her self-confidence and make her feel younger and more attractive.
Diabetes and menopause
Managing blood sugar levels becomes more difficult due to hormonal changes during the menopausal years. Oestrogen levels fall and progesterone levels rise which makes sugar levels fluctuate. High progesterone levels may increase insulin resistance. Naturally, if blood sugar levels are not under control and remain high for a period of time, there is a risk of complications, including skin conditions that take longer to respond to treatment.
Lifestyle choices matter
Women who follow a healthy diet and lifestyle find it much easier to cope with these changes. Blood sugar levels must be controlled in order to prevent the ill effects on the skin and body. Regular exercise is beneficial to both body and mind. It also has a rejuvenating effect. So, consult your doctor about taking up some regular exercise. Walking is an excellent form of exercise as it conditions the entire body.
Along with exercise, adopting a low-fat, healthy eating pattern, with an emphasis on fresh fruits, unrefined cereals, salads, sprouts, lightly cooked vegetables, yoghurt and skimmed milk, clear soups, fresh fruit juices is important. Your diet should be low in fats, sugar and starch, but high in vitamins and minerals. This will improve the skin tone keeping it clear, radiant and youthful.
Diabetes and your skin
With age, the skin cells become dry and lose their ability to retain moisture. Both menopause and Diabetes compound this problem. The skin loses moisture to the atmosphere, which needs to be replaced. Sun-exposure also causes loss of moisture. Dryness becomes apparent on the outer layer of the skin, which develops fine lines. The cells of the outer layer become dry and shrivelled, giving the skin a rough texture. With age and a decrease in oil production, the dryness and dehydration are aggravated. So, the stage is set for lines, wrinkles and ageing skin.
Help is on hand
Today we are fortunate to have the benefit of professional skin and hair treatments, apart from various kinds of cosmetics and make-up, which can help to improve the appearance and even deal with specific problems. It is never too late to start a regular skin care routine, selecting products according to the skin type.
The skin-care routine should include cleansing, toning, moisturising and nourishing. In dry skin, the activity of the oil glands decreases and the skin becomes drier. Daily moisturising and nourishing helps keep the skin soft, supple, moist and youthful. Pay special attention to the neck and the area around the eyes, which show age most of all. Nowadays specialized products are available for the care of particular areas, like the eyes. Avoid massaging the skin around the eyes, as it can get easily pulled and stretched. The application of outer-eye creams helps to maintain the elasticity of the skin and prevent early wrinkles.
Take weekly facials at a hygiene conscious salon. Professional massage with cleansing, toning and mask really helps to rejuvenate the skin. The skin's ability to retain moisture improves and so does the process of cell renewal. In fact, the youthfulness of the skin depends on the efficient regeneration of new skin cells. If there is a build-up of dead cells on the outer layer, the process of cell renewal slows down. With the help of scrubs and masks, as well as professional care, the outer-layer build-up can be removed, giving the process of cell renewal a boost. The skin also becomes clearer, finer and more translucent.
Skin-care clinics also offer treatments for skin problems. One of these is pigmentation, which is common during the menopausal years and can be due to hormonal imbalances during menopause. Dark spots or patches can develop on the skin. Avoid sun exposure and the use of sunscreens as a part of the treatment. Intensive moisturising and revitalisation of the skin can help to improve its condition. It also becomes necessary to use exfoliating methods and apply creams that lighten the colour of the skin.
When problems begin to occur, the skin-care routine and products should be adjusted, according to one's needs. For instance, in cases of deep dehydration, the use of soap can be discontinued, so that further dryness and sensitivity are prevented and the sensitive skin can be nourished and nursed back to good health.
Your daily routine should lay more emphasis on moisturizing the skin and prevention of moisture loss. Use cleansing cream or gel containing ingredients like aloe vera. A suitable sunscreen, along with a moisturiser, should be used during the day. At night, after cleansing, apply a nourishing cream on the face and massage with a few drops of water, with outward and slightly upward movements. Wipe off excess cream before bedtime with moist cotton wool. The creams nourish the skin and improve the skin's moisture retention ability.
Weekly salon facials help to revitalise the skin. They increase the skin's capacity to function more efficiently. Facials include various procedures, but the main aspect is a facial massage. A facial involves specialised cleansing and refinement of the skin. Moisturised cleansers are used for dry and dehydrated skins, along with the refinement of skin texture. Blood circulation to the skin surface improves and helps to correct the oil-moisture and pH balance. Toning procedures are also followed, which benefit the skin tissue and facial muscles. The skin's normal functions improve, including that of cell-renewal.
People with Diabetes need to take special care of the skin, by keeping it clean and dry. Avoid harsh soaps. Mild glycerine soaps are more suitable. Apply body lotions to relieve dryness, but take special care when the weather is hot and humid. Moisture encourages fungal infections. Injuries and cuts need to be treated properly. Apart from the face, the skin on the body and especially the feet require special attention in people with Diabetes. Daily cleansing of the feet and oil massage helps to keep the skin healthy. Avoid using metal instruments for a pedicure, as people with Diabetes need to guard against injuries to the feet. Pay special attention to footwear in order to avoid sores and cuts. Needless to say, with the onset of menopause, special attention must be paid to keep blood sugar levels under control.
Daily moisturising and nourishment, weekly professional care and the use of specialised products go a long way in keeping the skin soft, smooth, resilient and youthful. The skin also responds to appropriate care. Helena Rubinstein once said, "The skin has a tremendous capacity for self-regeneration if properly cared for."
Ms Shahnaz Husain is the CEO of Shahnaz Herbals Inc, specialising in herbal cosmetics, particularly skin care products. She was awarded the Padma Shri in 2006 and Success Magazine's World's Greatest Woman Entrepreneur award in 1996