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Tracy Ramsden discovers how Eastern medicine views the menopause as an exciting time of discovery, and shares an expert’s 5 best tips to help your skin feel great.
It can be with a sense of trepidation that we approach perimenopause and menopause, with all its connotations around approaching the autumn of our lives. But with more women drawing upon the wisdom of eastern medicine, it could be time to welcome your ‘second spring’.
“It’s such a lovely phrase, like the dawning of a new life with a different focus,” explains Annee de Mamiel, skin health specialist and founder of de Mamiel, who combines her background in clinical western physiology with holistic eastern medicine.
“In Chinese medicine, our first spring is when first have a period, those awkward early years when we feel the expectations of the world are on our shoulders,” says de Mamiel. “Whereas in our second spring, all of that is removed and we have a new outward focus. It’s exciting because you emerge from that quiet of winter with an incredible energy to start exploring who we’ve become and new ways of being.”
Embracing this new phase, according to de Mamiel, who specialises in natural formulas activated by science to treat the impact of stress on the skin, is about tuning in to your authentic self, emotionally, physically and on a cellular level. “It’s about saying, this is who I am, this is what works for me and learning to hold our vulnerability alongside our authority. It’s that stage of life where we can exist without bravado. And of course, after the second spring we have a second summer, and who doesn’t love summer?”
Taking a fully holistic approach means reconnecting with our body after spending too much time in our minds. “The body has such an intelligence when it comes to healing itself but sometimes we’re so in our head that we don’t always pick up on the body’s signals. Our thinking in western science has been turned upside down with stress and cortisol. Fight or flight was developed when we were cavemen – glucose is dumped so we can run away, and breathing and muscles have everything they need to escape danger. But in modern day life, everyday things create that physiological response – you’re late for a meeting, stuck in traffic, you’ve forgotten your child’s lunchbox – so the body is constantly in fight or flight, the cortisol tap never gets turned off and there’s no space for repair.”
Whether approaching or currently navigating a ‘second spring’, de Mamiel advises taking time to reattune yourself with your body. “What works for one person, may not work for another, so find what works for you. Whether that’s HRT or natural remedies. And crucially, be ok with the way you choose to deal with it. That alone can feel momentous in terms of empowering you through this phase.”
The greatest thing you can do to support yourself, whatever life stage you’re navigating, is to stop and pause, according to de Mamiel. “Taking a breath is the single most beneficial conscious thing we can do,” she explains. “It engages the parasympathetic nervous system (responsible for rest) and slows the fight or flight response. The breath is so powerful and really allows the body to get back to its own rhythm.”
The impact of stress on the skin is de Mamiel’s area of expertise and she advocates using your skincare time to multi-task and take a moment to reconnect with yourself.
“Breathe consciously, massage your skin – touch is so important for tuning in to our bodies – and choose a simple scent that grounds or centres you. For me it’s rose or frankincense but citrus has been proven by studies to reduce anxiety. I work with a professor of neuroscience in Paris and it’s been proven that taking a moment as you wash your face can literally help wash away the day’s stress, pausing when you start your day and pausing when it ends.”
Even in the face of off-kilter hormones and not feeling yourself, taking a moment can help you reset. “Once we recognise that it’s our hormones making us feel unbalanced, it can take less than a minute while making your morning cup of tea, or closing your laptop for a moment, to allow time for yourself without guilt. It sets us up to be more efficient and move through challenges.”
Ultimately, it’s about listening to your body on what it needs, and switching your mindset to respond. “There’s a whole bunch of studies on why having a positive outlook makes us feel stronger and more confident. I call it flow, the ease of life and not sweating the small stuff.”
De Mamiel’s 5 tips for menopausal skin
- “Stress has a huge impact on skin, from dryness and dehydration to redness caused by a reduced immune system which shortens the longevity of the cells. The skin has its own cortisol and stress receptors, so reducing stress by taking moments to yourself has a positive impact on skin.”
- “Play the long game. I’m not talking about moments of acute stress but of stress built-up over the long-term that we almost don’t see coming. The earlier we start tuning in to our bodies and consciously carve out time to pause, the better we will be at de-stressing during challenging periods.”
- “Touch is so powerful in reconnecting with yourself so during your daily skincare routine, take time to gently massage your face with your fingertips (rather than using a gadget) to help engage and properly slow down.”
- “The breath is the most powerful tool you have at your disposal. We’re all shallow breathing as a coping mechanism to get things done fast. Instead, one hand on your chest, on your belly, close your eyes, inhale for 3 and exhale for 5 three times. Exhaling will help you to let go of emotion and daily stress.”
- “Introduce scent to your breathing routine. The limbic system and the way the brain processes scent is interesting. Citrus helps to reduce anxiety and scent can change the brain chemistry to help slow everything down. This could be essential oils in your skincare or just a big bowl of lemons and limes in the kitchen (citrus can help reduce anxiety).”
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