The menopause. It happens to every woman, but when symptoms hit, nothing quite prepares you for them.
A natural part of ageing, the menopause and the transition towards it, the perimenopause, can strike at any age – but usually between 45 and 55 – with all sorts of unwanted side effects. These can last from four to 10 years. And any woman who is experiencing it, or has gone through it already, will tell you it can be a roller coaster ride of emotions and health issues.
When you’re out the other side – the average age is 51 – there’s no more monthly misery to contend with but the journey there can be fraught with hot flushes, night sweats, mood changes, sleep problems and even anxiety. All this is caused by a natural drop in hormones as oestrogen levels decline, which can affect mood and also the skin, changing the elasticity and thickness.
Annie Coleridge, head of strategy and operations at healthcare company Thriva says: “Each woman’s experience can be different. There are lots of different ways to manage your menopausal symptoms but, in general, some simple lifestyle changes can really help. These include having a balanced and nutrient-rich diet with enough fruit and vegetables. And regular exercise at least three times a week can help reduce hot flushes and manage your mood. Even making sure you’re getting at least six to eight hours sleep a night can really help with any associated stress and low mood.”
While there are ways to manage the menopause medically, such as HRT, there are some simple and effective things you can try to help improve symptoms and to get you through the tough times. We’ve picked out some alternative ways to treat skin, keep calm, improve sleep and feel cooler.
Best for: Plumping skin
Key specs – Volume: 30ml; How to use: Apply 4 drops to freshly cleansed skin on the face and neck morning and evening
Meg Matthews, once married to Oasis singer Noel Gallagher, has her own range of products to help women through the menopause. All UK-made and vegan-friendly, we were keen to see what she had to offer.
The ageing process causes the skin to lose some of its elasticity, particularly during the menopause, as hormone levels decline. But there are ways to perk skin up. As a big fan of serums, this one is now a favourite. The thick, clear liquid feels luxurious and glides on the skin effortlessly, and absorbs quickly. There’s no sticky residue either, just skin which is soft to the touch.
After a few days of using the serum, skin was noticeably plumper, looking and feeling clearer, fresher and fuller. The bottle should last a long time too, as a little goes a long way.
Best for: Intense moisturisation
Key specs – Volume: 50ml; How to use: Massage evenly over face, neck and chest
The menopause can play havoc with skin, leaving it dry and flaky. An intense moisturiser, like this one from Murad, is one way to combat these issues. As a dermatologist, Dr Murad is an expert in skincare formulas.
This lightweight cream has no real scent, which is ideal as perfumes can sometimes make skin drier. It’s easy to rub in and absorbs quickly. The cream contains coconut extract, which helps retain moisture, and we found this was certainly true.
After a couple of weeks, skin felt noticeably softer and more hydrated, which eliminated any signs of flaking or dry patches. It claims to reduce fine lines and wrinkles – this may require a more lengthy trial, but so far, so good. It’s on the pricey side but we think it’s well worth it.
£30, Monique Hart
Best for: Unwinding
Key specs – Volume: 50ml; How to use: Light to create a relaxing environment
If you’re feeling stressed, it’s a good idea to make the ambience in your home as calm and tranquil as possible. This candle is ideal for creating your own spa at home. With the scent of cedarwood, grapefruit, lavender, mandarin red, neroli, spearmint and ylang ylang, it really does smell like a posh spa retreat and quickly fills the air with a fresh, citrus scent that’s both calming and relaxing.
It’s best used coupled with a warming, bubble bath or with a good book to distract your mind. The brand was founded by Monique Hart during a stressful time in her life and her bespoke products are made with care and calm – this certainly shows in the scents.
£3.50 (price correct at time of publishing), Amazon
Best for: Inducing sleep
Key specs – Volume: 15 tea bags; How to use: Place 1 tea bag in a mug, add boiling water and brew for 3-5 minutes
Insomnia is one of the many symptoms of perimenopause and menopause. Not being able to sleep can be frustrating as when you wake you may find your mind filling up with unwanted thoughts, making it hard to switch off and get back to sleep.
Having a nice cup of tea before bed can work wonders though, and Teapigs Snooze teabags are ideal for this. Each bag is full of apple pieces, chamomile flowers and lavender flowers, while the scent of lavender is great for calming the mind and helping you slowly unwind and relax, which is so important in order to nod off.
Teapigs was founded by two experts passionate about tea and determined to make quality infusions, and they have this blend spot on.
£9.99, Stress No More
Best for: Soothing skin
Key specs – Volume: 200ml; How to use: Twice daily. Wet face and body with warm water, use 1 teaspoon spread onto wet hands and massage gently for 1 minute. Wash off with warm water.
Hormone changes before and during the menopause can result in outbreaks of spots or even acne. To tackle this, we tested the ZincWorks face wash – zinc has anti-inflammatory properties.
The wash has quite a thin, runny consistency, so be careful as you pour it into your hands. It has a strong scent of lavender too, which immediately evokes calmness. It’s light and easy to massage into the face, relieving any sore patches.
After using three or four times, our tester noticed reduced redness and less itching to the face. It also alleviated any soreness from skin flare-ups. Created in the UK using natural and cruelty-free ingredients, which certainly makes it more appealing, this is ideal for anyone suffering from irritated skin.
Best for: Calming effects
Key specs – Volume: N/A; How to use: Choose from 12 sounds and ambient compositions. Adjustable volume and choice of 30, 60 or 90-minute timer with fade
Mood swings and anxiety are some of the more unfavourable symptoms of the menopause and can leave you feeling emotional and tense. One way to alleviate these feelings in the short-term is by relaxing the mind and restoring a sense of calm. Lifemax, whose products are aimed at the senior market, has the perfect gadget for this: The Soothing Sounds Dial.
Select a “sound” from 12 options – rain, ambience, peace, stream, campfire, calm, meditate, rainforest, ocean, tranquil, relax and white noise – then lie down and relax. It has a handy timer so if you listen while you drift off to sleep you can set it to fade and switch off after a certain time.
We love the sound of the ocean – it felt like the sea was gently rolling into the shore – and also the earthy sound of the crackling campfire. This is the ideal gadget to help you switch off from the hectic everyday noise that may be polluting your mind.
£19, Love Lula
Best for: Hot flushes
Key specs – Volume: 100ml; How to use: Apply liberally as often as required
During the menopause women are subjected to hot flushes, this means your body can feel like it’s on fire as it struggles to regulate its temperature. Balmonds cooling cream is a great solution to help turn down the heat.
The pale yellow cream is thick and comes in a pump action dispenser so you can easily gauge the amount you need – more is better. It has a strong scent of menthol and lavender, so it also has a calming odour.
It contains hemp seed oil, shea butter and aloe vera to help soothe and cool – and it works. After applying a generous amount to hot skin, our tester felt cooler and more comfortable almost immediately. Founded by a mum trying to find a cream to soothe her daughter’s skin, it’s 99 per cent natural and suitable for vegans. This is one to keep by the bed for those night sweats.
£64.90 each, Dagsmejan
Best for: Comfortable sleep
Key specs – Volume: N/A; How to use: Wear every night to bed
Night sweats are one of the many unwanted menopause symptoms and can cause disturbance to sleep, which can impact the body and mind. Getting a good night’s rest can make all the difference, so what you wear to bed is important, too.
Dagsmejan is a Swedish company that takes sleepwear seriously and with Swiss textile engineering has come up with the ideal garments. This t-shirt and shorts set are ideal if you’re suffering from night sweats. The super-soft fabric immediately makes you feel comfortable and has a cooling effect on the skin. It can help keep your body temperature 1°C cooler and is six times more breathable than cotton.
The fit of the top and shorts gives you enough room to move about without feeling restricted by tight fabrics, and it certainly helped our tester feel cooler and calmer, leading to a less disturbed night’s sleep. Even better, there are no scratchy labels with washing instructions on, it’s all printed on the fabric – genius.
They come in four colours, ice blue, midnight blue, dusty pink and dark grey. It is quite pricey but worth every penny for the quality of the products and the results – a sweat-free, cool snooze.
£24.95, Not On The High Street
Best for: Distracting the mind
Key specs – Volume: 100 pages; How to use: Colour in pages when feeling stressed or anxious
Anxiety and stress levels can be elevated during the menopause, so it’s a good idea to have some distractions on hand to help clear the mind and focus on something creative and fun instead.
This colouring book is a great option and it’s made by Signature Gifts here in the UK. There are lots of different drawings to colour in, all printed on good-quality, thick paper – from patterns and flowers to cityscapes and animals – so you can let yourself go and get really arty.
Our tester found it very therapeutic and it soon lessened any anxious thoughts that crept in the mind. It’s well worth keeping at hand if you feel on edge – you can even get it personalised with your name.
£19.50, Pen Heaven
Best for: Emotional declutter
Key specs – Volume: 128 pages of A5 lined or plain paper; How to use: Fill in whenever the mood strikes
One way to keep track of your thoughts, emotions and changes is to keep a journal. This means you can keep note of your symptoms and the way you feel on a day-to-day basis. It can also keep your mind healthy if you write down what’s going on your head; getting it on paper can clear your mind and seeing it in black and white often makes more sense.
This beautiful Italian-made journal is ideal for this. It’s a good-quality notebook with the scent of leather and lovely, thick pages on which to pour out all your thoughts. It would easily fit in a handbag too, so you can get writing whenever the mood strikes you. There is also the option to have it personalised with initials or a title.
£69 for annual membership, Beach Body On Demand
Best for: Mind and body
Key specs – Volume: N/A; How to use: Select a programme eg 3 week yoga retreat to master the fundamentals of yoga in 21 days. Gentle and aimed at beginners
Exercise is a great way to boost your brain and clear any memory fog caused by the menopause. Yoga is a gentle exercise that can improve strength and flexibility and also work on meditation and mindfulness skills. Beach Body On Demand is an exercise app that lets you work out wherever and whenever you feel like, and in the comfort of your own home.
There are options ranging from a three-day yoga refresh to a 21-day yoga retreat, featuring different workouts over a certain time frame. Our tester loved it. You can download the app or log in on the internet on a smart TV and work out wherever you like. The exercises are aimed at beginner, intermediate and advanced levels and at the start of each one it tells you what equipment you need.
It helps to focus on breathing techniques too, which is great for keeping calm. The workouts are gentle and varied – you get out what you put in – and our tester was left feeling fully stretched and relaxed. The annual membership works out at 27p a day so it’s an absolute bargain if you’re dedicated enough.
Best for: Relaxation
Key specs – Size: 25 x 60 cm; How to use: When stretching or during a yoga workout
If you’re embarking on a yoga workout with the focus on relaxation, then you’ll need a bolster cushion. These are often used in restorative poses and offer support to the neck and spine.
This cylindrical cushion by Domyos – a brand focusing on designing top-quality, functional sports products – is great for opening poses and stretching, and also for the meditation at the end of a yoga workout. It’s an eco-friendly organic cotton fabric too, and the best bit is that you can remove some of the padding to adjust it to the right level of support you need, whether it’s super firm or soft.
There’s also a handy strap for carrying it around and it’s machine washable. Even if you’re not doing a yoga workout, it’s good to keep handy in case you want to focus on breathing exercises and meditation.
Best for: Keeping cool
Key specs – Size: 70 x 90 cm; How to use: Place under your bed sheets
This is a real game changer for targeting hot flushes. Feeling hot and bothered in bed can lead to insomnia or restless legs, and can ultimately affect your mental health.
The single bed size means you can slip it under yourself or the sheet and it needn’t affect your other half. The gel-filled pad combats high temperatures, lowering body temperature by around three degrees to make you feel more comfortable. Lifemax prides itself on making life more enjoyable for the older generation and if you’re a menopausal woman, this product will help keep those hot flushes under control.
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