You’ve probably read a lot about the health effects of menopause. They range from increased risk of heart disease to osteoporosis and painful intercourse. But this time can also bring about changes in appearance that, while not life-threatening, can affect your self-image, mood and overall sense of well-being. Here’s a look at how menopause can affect your appearance—and what you can do to prevent, delay or treat these changes.
Yes, hormone changes can wreak havoc with hair. So don’t be surprised if you find that you have less of it on your head and more of it on your face and body. Female pattern baldness—general thinning of hair all over the head that may be accompanied by loss of hair on the crown or at the hairline—is caused in part by heredity and in part to declining estrogen levels. As estrogen diminishes, the hormone androgen—sometimes called the male hormone—begins to make its presence known. For some women, that means thicker, coarser, darker hair on the face and body.
Hair loss can be treated with minoxidil, a drug that stimulates hair growth. Treatment is expensive, must be continued for life and isn’t effective for everyone. Hair transplantation is another option for some women, but it’s also expensive. If you’re concerned, you might simply ask your hairstylist to suggest a good style for thin hair. He or she may recommend that you color your hair or get a permanent. A hairstylist also can advise you on how to care for your hair to minimize loss.
Unwanted facial or body hair can be plucked, bleached or waxed. Electrolysis is the most permanent method of hair removal, but it requires repeated visits to a trained electrologist, which can become expensive. In some cases, drug treatment may be appropriate. A sudden increase in body hair can signal a medical problem, so if you notice such a change, see your doctor.
As estrogen levels decline, skin becomes drier and less elastic. What can you do? Because your skin produces less protective melanin after menopause, it’s important to use sunscreen, wear a hat and avoid the sun—especially between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Doing so will help you delay further aging of the skin.
The hormonal changes that accompany menopause can cause or aggravate various dental problems. These include gum diseases such as gingivitis and its more damaging relative, periodontitis. In some women, especially those who have osteoporosis, the tooth-bearing bones become weak, a condition that can lead to tooth loss.
Symptoms of gum disease (also called periodontal disease) include gums that are red and swollen, gums that bleed easily or are badly receding and chronic bad breath. Good dental hygiene can prevent periodontal disease and minimize the damage caused by receding gums. See your dentist for regular checkups and cleanings, brush as instructed by your dentist and floss daily.
Menopause can aggravate varicose veins that may have appeared during pregnancy. Keep varicose veins at bay by following these tips:
- exercise (it improves blood flow)
- avoid leg waxing (it can injure delicate blood vessels)
- don’t cross your legs while sitting
- don’t take hot showers (they can dilate blood vessels)
- maintain a healthy weight
- wear support hose if you stand a lot
Fortunately, most of the cosmetic changes that may arise after menopause are minor and can be prevented or treated. But if you’re troubled by any of them, it doesn’t hurt to remember that true beauty really does come from within!