Face time: 5 steps to better skin for women over 40

While it’s true that skin changes throughout life, one of the most dramatic shifts undoubtedly occurs after 40. Declining oestrogen levels cause skin to become thinner, as collagen – which provides support and structure – diminishes. According to UK dermatologist, Dr Sam Bunting, up to thirty percent of collagen is lost in the first five years after menopause. The added kicker is skin regeneration also slows down as we age and sagging becomes more obvious due to the body producing less elastin.

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Everything you need to know about the menopause

Changing The Conversation

Menopause – when a woman stops ovulating – is the most natural thing in the world, but confusion around the subject, combined with unhelpful stereotypes, has served to demonise it. Although we’re now much more open about the realities of childbirth and post-natal depression, there’s still a secrecy shrouding ‘the change’, which means many women are unprepared. According to a 2017 survey conducted by the British Menopause Society (BMS), three quarters of women said the menopause had life-changing consequences and over half said it negatively impacted their lives. Despite this, a third of women surveyed hadn’t tried anything to reduce or prevent their symptoms. The burning question is, why?

Kathy Abernethy, menopause specialist nurse and author of the book Menopause: The One-Stop Guide, says that – despite plenty of information and advice available on the net, from menopause cafés to online forums) – deciphering what really works is another matter, and people are often left feeling in the dark. “Women don’t always know what to expect when it comes to the menopause, with partners too feeling helpless to offer support,” she says. “I encourage my patients to seek evidence-based information and explore the options that are right for them.”

Put simply, we’re just not talking about the menopause enough. But Dr Bella Smith, a GP specialising in women’s health, is hopeful that as women are becoming more informed about symptoms, they’ll feel more comfortable discussing their effects with friends and partners. “If you know what is happening in your body and why you’re feeling a certain way, things can seem less scary. Being forewarned about the menopause is certainly being forearmed. There are so many fantastic websites, articles, podcasts and blogs that women can look to for information now.”

Getting The Terminology right

The menopause is the last period you ever have, but this only becomes clear retrospectively. A woman is described as post-menopausal if she’s over 50 and hasn’t had a period for one year, or is over 45 and hasn’t had a period for two years. If you’re under 45, however, this diagnosis may not be as clear-cut, as there can be other reasons why periods stop in younger women.

Perimenopause is the time before your periods stop, when hormonal changes start and symptoms often occur. This can last up to ten years, which means symptoms may well start manifesting in your mid- to late-thirties, although it most commonly begins when women are in their early- to mid-forties. Physical symptoms include: fatigue, erratic periods, hair loss, palpitations, hot flushes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, weight increase, loss of libido, headaches, joint pain and dry or itchy skin. There are also mental health implications to consider: anxiety, depression, mood swings, insomnia and memory loss.

Unfortunately, perimenopause often strikes at a time of life when women are juggling a lot of plates, which can mean symptoms get overlooked. As Dr Smith says, “The women I commonly see in surgery are extremely busy. They’re usually the lynchpin of families – running busy households, holding down successful careers, looking after children and often with elderly parents. It’s not uncommon for women to put themselves and their own health last.”

Debunking HRT Myths

HRT is neither necessary nor suitable for everyone but, when prescribed appropriately it can be life-changing – especially when it comes to osteoporosis prevention. Despite being lambasted in the past, recent research has put HRT squarely back in favour, with NICE advocating wider use of hormones in symptomatic women and many women’s health experts declaring that the benefits outweigh the risks. Here are a few below:

Kathy Abernethy: “Although women may explore other options, HRT remains the most effective treatment for symptoms of the menopause, easing them substantially. It’s low-risk for most women starting it at or around the time of the menopause but treatment should always be unique to the individual.”

Dr Louise Newson: “If you’re taking HRT and are under 51, then you won’t have an increased risk of breast cancer, regardless of the type of HRT you’re taking. Any risks of HRT are only relevant to those women who are over 51-years-old. This risk is similar to the increased risk of breast cancer you have if you’re overweight or drink around two glasses of wine a day. Any risk associated with breast cancer is reversed when you stop taking HRT.”

Dr Rosemary Leonard: “For post-menopausal women in their 50s, HRT can be a really good option for helping to prevent mood swings and keep bones strong, but it’s important to check the symptoms are due to the menopause and not an underlying issue such as depression.”

If you’re taking HRT, you should be assessed by your doctor at least annually, and must always tell your GP or menopause specialist if you’re taking any over-the-counter medication such as the herbs listed above.

Healthy Eating For The Menopause

Unfortunately, it’s a scientific fact that, as you get older, your metabolism slows, so you need fewer calories to maintain the same weight. For this reason, you may need to be more mindful of portion sizes, frequency of meals and snacking. Keeping a food diary for a day or two can highlight where your weak spots are in the day and also help you track your calorie intake.

Emma Bardwell, nutritional therapist and women’s health specialist, suggests aiming for food choices that are nutritionally dense, “Good quality carbs keep blood sugar levels stable, protein (plant and lean animal) fills you up and lots of fruit and vegetables will help meet your recommended 30g of fibre a day. I’d also add in probiotic foods to your diet if you don’t eat them already – fermented foods like sauerkraut, kefir, live yoghurt and kimchi – to help with digestive function and enhance immunity. Don’t forget healthy fats too, they’re crucial to hormone production and the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K – think seeds, nuts, avocado and oily fish such as salmon or mackerel.”

Many women find that making simple changes to their diet can be very effective in helping manage menopausal symptoms. Here are Bardwell’s top tips:

  • Eat more wholefoods than processed foods.
  • Calcium helps support bone health. Dairy products, fortified plant milks, broccoli, green leafy vegetables such as kale and tinned salmon are good sources. Be aware that fizzy drinks contain phosphorous, which can accelerate the loss of minerals such as calcium and magnesium from bone.
  • To boost heart health, eat more fish, especially oily fish like sardines, salmon, herring, mackerel and anchovies.
  • Salt can raise blood pressure, which increases risk of heart disease and stroke. The NHS recommends no more than 6g a day (about a teaspoon).
  • To help support your skin, keep vitamin C intake high (red peppers, dark leafy greens, kiwi fruit and broccoli) and add in vitamin E (nuts, seeds, olive oil, legumes and avocados).
  • For mood, foods containing tryptophan such as turkey, oats, sesame, soya beans and sunflower seeds may help. Tryptophan is converted to serotonin in the brain, which can lift mood and help promote better sleep.
  • Some women find alcohol, caffeine and spicy foods make hot flushes worse, especially when consumed at night. Alcohol can also increase fatigue, anxiety and depression.
  • Phytoestrogens are oestrogenic compounds that may help keep hormones a little more in balance. They’re found in soya milk, linseeds, tofu, tempeh, miso, pumpkins seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, celery, rhubarb and green beans.

Staying Active

Claire Finlay, Founder of Transition Zone, promotes exercise to her female clients as a way of helping to boost mood, tackle stress, reduce anxiety and improve sleep – all areas impacted by the menopause. “Never has there been a more important time to keep on top of fitness levels than for women in their 40a and over,” she says. “Declining oestrogen levels mean fat tends to get stored around the tummy, which exercise can really help keep at bay. I recommend a mix of cardio to keep metabolism fired up and resistance training to turn the body into a fat torching machine.”
Here’s Finlay’s guide to making exercise work for you:

  • No matter what your age, the key is to be consistent. Treat your fitness sessions as you would a social event or a work meeting. Once in the diary, see them as something that can’t be moved.
  • Aim to exercise three times a week.
  • Weight-bearing exercise such as walking or jogging will keep you mobile and help your bones stay strong, but don’t be afraid to take it up a notch. Lifting weights increases androgen levels (i.e. testosterone) which deteriorate with age and are important for mood, libido, energy and muscle mass.
  • It’s not uncommon for self-confidence to take a knock around the menopause, so make sure you enlist the advice of a good personal trainer or join a studio that offers small classes and plenty of one-to-one guidance.
  • The menopause can play havoc with mood and anxiety levels. Yoga is a great way to connect with your mind and body, and feel more centred and calm.
  • Integrate movement into your daily life wherever you can. Walk up escalators; use the stairs; take a stroll at lunchtime.
  • Lastly, enjoy your fitness time. There are so many different classes and approaches these days, take the time to find one that works for you.

Knowledge Is Power

Understanding what lies ahead could make a huge difference to your experience. If unexplained changes are impacting your wellbeing, it could be time to talk to your GP or a menopause clinic – most surgeries have a doctor specialising in menopause, ask to see them when discussing your symptoms.

If you talk to a healthcare professional who doesn’t seem to be listening, get another opinion. No woman should have their health concerns diminished; we all need to feel empowered enough to feel heard. As Dr Smith says, “There’s absolutely no need to feel embarrassed. The more open and honest you are, the easier it will be to get the correct advice and treatment.”
Some useful resources to know:

Menopause MattersA website covering all things menopause, including an online forum where you can research, discuss and ask questions.

The British Menopause Society: A brilliant source for factsheets on everything from CBT to HRT.

The Daisy Network: An online support for women going through premature ovarian insufficiency (premature menopause).

60 seconds with Ian Marber – Nutritional Therapist

You may know Ian better as founder of The Food Doctor, one of the inaugural healthy food brands to hit the high street some 20 years ago (and creator of my all-time favourite pitta bread). Since then he has penned over 12 books about diet and nutrition, acted in an advisory role to brands such as Innocent, and clocked up over 6000 private consultations. He also carries out a range of corporate work for businesses and has written columns for The Spectator, Daily Telegraph, Attitude and Natural Health Magazine, as well as featuring on LBC, Talk Radio and the BBC. Basically, he doesn’t sit still! A stickler for responsible nutrition (ie one that doesn’t peddle pseudoscience) he calls out #nutribollocks in a weekly poll on Twitter and is a veritable voice of reason among the increasingly confused chatter that permeates the world of nutrition. I persuaded him to take a breather from writing his latest book to talk Uber ratings, podcasts and the meditative effects of reading.

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60 seconds with Natalie Lee aka Style Me Sunday

Natalie Lee, founder of award winning fashion site Style Me Sunday, created her blog back in 2012 as a creative outlet during pregnancy. Today, thanks to the #WarriorWoman initiative set up last year, she leverages her influence to spread the word on diversity, body confidence and self acceptance. Nat’s carefully considered social media content is a vibrant mash up of high street style, serious discussion, beauty tips and travel posts – all delivered with a candour and inclusivity that make her utterly relatable. She’s appeared on the cover of Rock n Roll Bride, written about female hair loss for The Pool and features in Marie Claire’s “Verified Power 2018′ list. I managed to pin her down for a quick fire round of Q&As where she talks about the importance of listening to your body, coke floats and staying in your lane. Enjoy…

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Pins-terest: a lesson in loving your legs.

Legs are, quite literally, your lynchpins yet seldom get the shout out they deserve. Here I’ve rounded up a few nifty tricks, products and techniques to help get the most from your gams. Forget trying to transform them into something unattainable (check out everyone’s favourite dermatologist, Dr Sam Bunting, for a refreshing approach to cellulite), this is all about celebrating what you’ve got. More and more brands – here’s looking at you Asos and Missguided – are embracing body positivity by scrapping digital retouching. Stretch marks, scars, freckles, moles and rolls are finally out and proud. When it comes to stepping out yourself, confidence is key, so why not do a little legwork – think strengthening, hydrating and, if the mood takes you, a little buffing.

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Roasted Romanesco cauliflower and turmeric soup

This is a small but mighty soup that’s incredibly rich and satiating. The colour alone is enough to make your heart sing. You can thin it out by adding more broth as you go, or keep it thick and full and creamy and eat in smaller portions. Because it’s so densely flavoured it lends itself well to lots of crunchy toppings. I like chickpeas for their fibre content (just roast them with some oil and cumin) but croutons work equally well too.

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The sweet spot: chocolate orange protein smoothie


A healthy, balanced diet should give you all the protein you need (as a rough guide aim for 0.8g for each kilo you weigh) but if you’re time poor, hungry post-workout or need to replenish energy levels fast, a protein shake can be an excellent solution. This recipe can easily be rustled up in a blender/ magic bullet, contains just 5 ingredients and tastes like Terry’s Chocolate Orange. Best of all it contains fibre, prebiotics, probiotics, B vitamins and chromium (which helps balance blood sugar levels). You’re welcome.

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Pelvic flaw.

A weak pelvic floor is no fun; trampolines become a thing of the past, Tena Lady pads a shopping list staple. Sneezing, jumping, running – even coughing – all come with the threat of a wet gusset. While often sniggered at, urinary dysfunction is rarely talked about, yet one in three women are affected at some point in their lives. Chances are, you’re one of them.

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60 seconds with Rhiannon Lambert

Rhiannon Lambert, leading Harley Street nutritionist, imparts evidence-based health advice to a whole range of clients – from postpartum mums to professional footballers. An avid foodie and popular face on social media, newspaper and TV circuits (she consulted behind the scenes on the Masterchef series), she also works alongside NHS cardiologists and GPs to demonstrate the influence nutrition can have on illness and recovery. On top of all that she has developed menus at some of London’s finest eateries and has a book, Re-nourish: The definitive Guide to Optimum Nutrition, coming out in December 2017.

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No matter how many parties the festive period has thrown at you, there’s not much that can’t be fixed by some well administered self care. Now imagine that self care played out against azure skies and rustling palm trees. With an estimated 320 days of sunshine a year, Marbella is a mere three hour hop-skip from the UK, so what better way to kickstart 2017 than with a stint at its Puente Romano Hotel and Spa. For a start there are nine restaurants, a cocktail lounge and a world-class nightclub. A spa resort that allows you to recuperate but also indulge seemed too good an opportunity to pass up. I checked in for a long weekend to find out more.

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Be happy. Be hygge. Broccoli and blue cheese soup

Achingly hip interiors, insouciant fashion and deliciously dark Nordic noir. Is there anything those Scandi cool kids don’t do with aplomb? Apparently not. Now, thanks to hygge, they can add the art of wellbeing to their expanding list of accolades. Hygge is hot here right now (there are no less than nine books coming out on the subject in the next couple of months) but has been a Danish staple for over a hundred years. Loosely pronounced /hue-gah/ it translates as the pleasure you get from being cosy, comfortable and nurtured. It’s a state of mind rather than a physical thing; that warm feeling you get when you’re totally in the moment, taking time out from life to be good to yourself. Think long baths, merino throws, good lighting and hearty food.

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Cold comfort: vanilla, date and chia porridge.

Thanks to 26 Grains and a legion of modern cooks, porridge has had a bit of a makeover since its gruel-like origins and is now a healthy diet staple. It’s low on the GI index, so it releases energy slowly. It’s cheap. And it’s a wonderfully nutritious blank canvas on which to celebrate whatever’s in season. On cold mornings, nothing says cosy more than a bowl of sweet, warm porridge buoyed up with aromatic winter spices. For something so simple – essentially just oats and milk, although you can try different grains to dial up the taste and texture – the possibilities with porridge are endless. Think of the ‘recipe’ below as a base from which you can add your own twists.

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Skinside out: how to eat yourself beautiful

When it comes to your face, you really are what you eat. You can trowel on endless miracle creams, but the appearance of your skin – the body’s largest organ – is often a reflection of what’s going on internally. Nothing beats that natural glow that radiates from deep within, so start loading up on nutritious foods that help promote cell regeneration, reduce free radical damage and keep skin clear and beautiful. Here are your secret weapons:

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Go with your gut.

[As featured in Sheer Luxe]

Put down that matcha latte and quit being mindful for a minute. Getting down with your gut is the health industry’s latest hot topic with wellness insiders, nutritionists, scientists and medics all eager to expound the importance of a well functioning gastrointestinal tract. And for good reason too. Turns out the digestive system isn’t just there to break down the food you eat, it also plays a pivotal role in many of your body’s other processes – from immunity to skin health to serotonin production*.

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60 Seconds with Zanna Van Dijk

Blogger, vlogger, sports model and co-founder of the #girlsgains movement, Zanna Van Dijk is one of the fitness industry’s biggest rising stars. When Women’s Fitness magazine cited her as “one to watch in 2016” they weren’t wrong; she currently has almost 100k Instagram followers and her first book The Balanced Body comes out at the end of the year. I caught up with her to talk smoothie recipes, guilty pleasures and favourite London restaurants.

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Urinary incontinence is no laughing matter.

[As featured in Sheer Luxe]

Heard the one about the mother getting caught short after a particularly vociferous sneeze? Course you have. We’ve all been privy to stories of women who change their knickers three times a day, who leak water when they get out the bath or who loiter around the ladies’ aisle, furtively stockpiling incontinence pads. Heck, some of us don’t even try and hide it. My mum’s all-female pub quiz team are called The Tena Ladies. Oh, how we laugh (while furiously crossing our legs of course), but since when did wetting yourself become an accepted part of life after birth?

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60 Seconds with Amy Lamont

Co-creator of luxury residential retreat, The Strength Sanctuary, avid marathon runner (she has no less than 11 under her belt), mother, football coach, qualified PE teacher and personal trainer, Amy Lamont is a force to be reckoned with. When she’s not teaching packed out Piloxing classes, Amy’s helping individuals stay on track with their fitness goals – from new mums to seasoned athletes. Channelling an athleisure wardrobe that’s as diverse as her fitness CV, you’ll be hard pushed to catch her in the same leggings twice.

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How to get a great night’s sleep.

[As featured in Hip and Healthy]

When was the last time you had eight hours of uninterrupted sleep? Okay, make that six? Five? A recent survey* revealed that, as a nation, over half of us suffer from insomnia. The worry is that bad sleeping habits don’t just make nights unbearable, they have a profound knock-on effect during the day. And as if not being able to concentrate and feeling narky as hell wasn’t bad enough, poor sleep can lead to much more serious issues such as diabetes, obesity and depression.

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60 Seconds with Tania Brown

She’s amassed quite a following during her 13 years as a yoga teacher and is one of the sets of brains behind Strength Sanctuary, a brand new wellness retreat for women set in rural Kent. From Thailand to Yorkshire, Tania Brown’s journey has taken her to some pretty special places but she still manages to stay remarkably grounded. When not leading inspirational hatha yoga classes, this yogi whirlwind can be found hosting acclaimed retreats at Trill Farm in Devon, fulfilling her duties as a Lululemon ambassador and running around with her two sons. How does she do it? With Headspace, Rioja and a good old dose of Dolly.

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60 Seconds with Claire Finlay

Following a successful career in advertising, Claire started her much lauded health and fitness consultancy in 2008. These days, when she’s not competing in triathlons or organising luxury barefoot retreats on private islands, she’s creating world-class workouts for discerning clients. As a result, her name has become synonymous with the cream of London’s health and wellness scene. Spurred on by the desire to build a studio that bridged the gap between boutique fitness, motivational group classes and personal training, she launched Transition Zone in 2013 and hasn’t looked back since.

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60 seconds with Tally Rye from GirlGains

What started off as a social media movement aimed at empowering women to become fitter, healthier and happier, has since developed into a fully fledged fitness community. Talitha Rye is one of three women behind the 27,000-strong Insta success that is Girl Gains. On the eve of International Women’s Day, I catch up with her to talk about girl boss inspiration, Ariana Grande and why you’ll never catch her drinking skinny tea.

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60 seconds with Ruben Tabares.

Ruben Tabares needs little introduction. The former hurdles athlete and superstar trainer is respected the world over for his unique coaching approach. When he’s not putting the likes of Amir Khan, Tinie Tempah and P Diddy through their paces (to name just a few of his A lister fans), you’ll find him training his 10 year old’s football team and honing his knowledge of nutrition. I caught up with him in his sleek new fitness centre, nestled deep in the heart of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Hyde Park.

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Raising the bar: why women should lift weights.

[As featured in Hip and Healthy]

Have you checked out Millie Mackintosh’s Instagram feed lately? Well you should. She’s just one of a slew of female celebrities debunking the age old myth that weight lifting makes you bulky. She’s not the only one at it either. Thanks to the likes of Karlie Kloss and Miranda Kerr breezily deadlifting loaded barbells, there’s been a rapid increase in women turning to weights. So, what do these all these A listers know that we don’t?

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Top tips for avoiding winter weight gain.

[As featured in Resident magazine]

When the temperatures drop, it’s all too easy to let things slip, whether that means avoiding early morning workouts, overindulging at party season events or tucking into comfort food on chilly evenings in.

Piling on a few pounds can feel inevitable, but luckily there are ways you can limit the damage to your waistline this winter.

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5 reasons to try TRX.

[As featured in Sheer Luxe]

We’ve been cranking up our toning regime now that bikini season is in full swing…Our secret weapon? TRX. The suspension training workout is having a moment (A-list fans include Gisele) thanks to its quick results.

Although invented by a Navy SEAL, TRX is less intimidating than it looks, and the benefits for women are huge – from a super-firm core to increased strength and flexibility.

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