The menopause causes all manner of bodily changes as a result of fluctuating hormone levels. While some women may be aware of and prepared for certain symptoms, such as the hot flushes and night sweats, an unexpected development can be accelerated ageing.
Skin can become dry and lacking in elasticity and fine lines can begin to appear. Other unwelcome skin changes can occur, too, such as adult acne and skin pigmentation.
So what causes these changes in the skin? First, the stratum corneum, the outermost skin layer, loses its ability to retain water and becomes dry, leading to wrinkle formation.
Second, collagen levels decrease, by as much as 30 per cent, and this causes a loss in skin thickness.
The remaining cells expand to fill the space, leading to transparency and fragility that can cause wrinkles and micro wounds.
The average age of menopause is 51 in the UK, but this varies from woman to woman. Some begin to experience symptoms in their forties, and some not until their 60s, and some women suffer early menopause as early as their late 20s or 30s.
And, though the body regains its hormonal balance after the menopause, collagen levels continue to decrease as we age.
Why we need collagen
Collagen is a vital protein that is found in all the connective tissues in the body, from the skin and bones to the blood vessels. It is responsible for skin strength and elasticity, so loss of collagen can lead to sagging skin and wrinkles.
Various things can cause collagen damage, such as overexposure to the sun, smoking, pollution and injury. But as we age we also experience a natural drop in our collagen levels. This is why it is essential to limit the damage to our skin as we reach the menopause, and to initiate a skincare regime that will help to counteract the changes to the skin, during and after this process.
Why menopause needs specific skincare
A new product range has come to the market which has been specifically designed to address the skin changes that occur during the menopause. Stratum C is the first scientifically proven menopausal skincare range to launch in the UK.
The flagship products, Stratum C Menopause Protect Cream and Repair Serum, were developed following scientific research by Professor Ian Hamley of the University of Reading, which was published in the Journal of Molecular Pharmaceutics in March 2013. The research showed that a unique combination and concentration of peptides helped to increase collagen production and improve skin elasticity by 70 per cent when it was applied topically to the skin.
The power of peptides
A peptide is made up of amino acids, naturally occurring proteins that are the building blocks of life. Peptides are of interest to the medical and pharmaceutical sector because of their role in wound healing and skincare.
Stratum C products use two different combinations of peptides. The first combination works together to tighten up the muscles under the skin in order to reduce fine lines and wrinkles. Clinical trials have shown that this helps to reduce existing deep wrinkles by 45 per cent in 28 days. This is a far safer method than the invasive procedures such as the paralysis of muscles using Botox injections.
The second combination activates a biochemical process that helps to increase the production of collagen. This improves tone and suppleness. Achieving this with a topically applied cream or serum is far more pleasant and safer than using injectable wrinkle fillers.
Skin suppleness and hydration
In addition to these powerful collagen-stimulating peptides, Stratum C Menopause Protect Cream and Repair Serum also contain high-quality cosmetic-grade hyaluronic acid and squalane, which are naturally occurring cellular lubricants shown in clinical studies to improve skin elasticity, suppleness and hydration.
Other ingredients include jojoba oil, seaweed extract and apricot kernel oil. The latter is a good source of vitamin A and E, two very important skin vitamins that are lost during the menopause.
What’s more, for those of us who like to go down the natural route with what we put on our skin, no synthetic perfumes or colours are used in these products. The range is free from parabens, DEA, BHA, BHT, phthalate, formaldehyde and MI, and uses only the gentlest preservatives. So it seems we can get the science but without all the nasties!
How to use the products
Begin by thoroughly cleansing your skin, and then applying a small amount of Stratum C Menopause Repair Serum to the areas of the face that are in most need of attention. It is especially effective for the forehead and the lines above the nose and around the mouth.
Then, take a pea-sized amount of Stratum C Menopause Protect Cream and massage it gently into the skin in small, circular motions.
The two products are most effective when used together as the serum targets problem areas, while the cream is for long-term protection. For a complete skincare routine, you can also use the other products in the range, which include Stratum C Menopause Gentle Cleanser, Stratum C Menopause Correction Gel and Stratum C Menopause Spot Relief.
Yes, but does it work?
No matter how impressive the claims, we at High50 think that nothing beats using a product to see whether it actually works. So one of our lovely readers volunteered to test the cream and the serum for a month.
Vivienne Carter, 52, says: “My skin has felt smoother, more elastic and not as dry. I have noticed there may be fewer lines and I’m also pleased that the little red veins on my cheeks have disappeared.
“The serum feels fresh and the cream glides on well. It’s easily absorbed, making my face feel fresh and clean. My skin feels plumper, smoother and softer, and it looks a better colour.”
The Stratum C range has become a must-have for celebrity interior designer Linda Barker, too. She says: “I have always taken care of my body and ensure that I eat well and exercise regularly. My skin and complexion have also been important for my job because any imperfections are magnified a hundred times on TV.
“At 50 I encountered a new challenge: menopause. I read about the changes in my skin and wanted to ensure that I did everything possible to protect myself during this critical period.
“I was relieved to find Stratum C, which gives my skin the very best nourishment and protection. I love the fact that the luxurious face cream has been scientifically formulated, not just for the menopause, with advanced peptides and the best ingredients, but that it rivals any moisturising cream on the high street for sheer richness, texture and feeling.”
And we all love a bit of celebrity endorsement, don’t we?!