Summer is finally here! And summer means, sunbathing, long days out, skin exposed, cute summer clothes, and more. But, with sun exposure comes some unwanted issues. Exposure to the sun has a high number of positive effects on our body but on the other hand, it can also be detrimental to our skin. First of all, we need to protect our skin from the potential damage done by sunlight. Secondly, protection is pivotal especially on the first days of sun exposure then, a lower level of protection can in most cases be used, depending on your skin type. Sun enhances many processes in our body (like Vitamin D synthesis) therefore it is very important to expose ourselves to the sunlight, but, with some precautions.
During menopause, women really need Vitamin D, and the best way to synthetize this vitamin is by sunlight exposure. It is way more efficient than any supplement that you can buy and the additional benefit is that it’s free! But of course, too much sun can have detrimental effects on our skin especially during menopause where everything changes for us including our skin. In fact, if you’ve spent a lot of time in the sun without any sun protection, you’ll likely see the effects now. These can include; Age spots and larger areas of darker skin can appear on your face, hands, neck, arms, or chest. The only way to counteract this process is to use the correct protection consistently. Moreover, taking too much sun without any protection can increase the risk of skin cancer. Considering that menopause already increases the risk of skin cancer, it is better to start wearing sun protection as soon as possible. Moreover, sun exposure without the proper protection increases wrinkle formation, so definitely, a good sunscreen is the only solution that we have to combat this. But how do we choose the right protection for our delicate menopausal skin?
To answer this question, we need to consider different factors that occur during menopause. One of the primary changes women see with their skin during and post menopause is increased dryness. Drier skin is a result of oestrogen levels dropping during the menopause. Among oestrogen’s many functions, it helps to maintain the skins’ barrier function, and by doing so helps the skin retain moisture (water basically). It follows then, when oestrogen levels decrease, so does the skins’ water retention, which can basically lead to a dry, parched and dull-looking complexion. Moreover, skin loses elasticity. So, what we need is not only to protect the skin, but also to look after the skin in another way that we didn’t have to think about before. To counteract skin drying out, you should always look for products containing hyaluronic acid (see S.W.A.L.K. (Sealed With A Loving Kiss) Hyaluronic Acid Serum). The reason behind this is that Hyaluronic acid can hold a thousand times its own weight in water, and has the ability to hold that moisture for days, meaning it’s great for hydrating the skin.
But let’s get back to sunscreen, so how to choose a good sunscreen? One of the first things we need to consider is the chemical agent in the sun protection. You have to be extra careful as some sunscreens basically contain the same amount of oestrogen of your daily HRT. It can be detrimental to use the wrong one, as it can increase the hormonal imbalance. So it is important to know that some petrochemical agents in sunscreen, are absorbed by the skin and stay in your body. The major difference between chemical and mineral sunscreens is that mineral active ingredients are not organic and stay on the surface of the skin. The active ingredients are usually zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Chemical based sunscreens must be absorbed into the skin to be effective through a chemical reaction with the UV rays and therefore the absorption can be toxic. Ingredients vary widely, and with them their safety. The sun is said to cause cancer because it forms free radicals in the skin. Sunscreens help protect our skin (to a certain extent) from that radiation, but in the process, they also form free radicals, because all of the energy coming from the sun has to go somewhere. The important thing is to block more free radicals than the sun cream creates. Many sunscreens include natural antioxidants like Vitamin E or green tea to counteract the formation of free radicals in the skin.
Some of the potential health risks of chemical sunscreens include:
- Hormone disruption; mimics oestrogen and raises risk of breast cancer (theoretical but frightening)
- Allergic reactions
- Bioaccumulation in tissue and organs (found in 97% of volunteers’ bloodstreams!)
- Also found in mother’s milk, demonstrating its reach even to the unborn
- Oxybenzone is known for lowering thyroid hormones
- Failure to biodegrade which is bad for the environment
I guess in this case as menopausal women it’s a no brainer. Mineral based sunscreens are preferable compared to the chemical options. What about your face? Really it should be protected from sunlight all the time especially during menopause. So, every morning, before going out, you should apply a moisturiser with sun protection in it. At the end, it is better to choose a mineral based sunscreen and use it always when going outside.
By Ornella Cappellari