Aromatherapy and Menopausal Skin Care
“I’ve been menopausal for the last few years and have noticed some skin changes. Recently I developed a sensitivity to the products I have regularly been using and have an itchy, reddened, slightly bumpy rash around my nose. Do you have any suggestions on how I can reduce the rash? I have chosen to go with a more natural and organic product line, but want to know how to manage any break outs etc. with aromatherapy if I can. Thank you for your help.” Julie, Oregon
Thank you for your question, Julie! As you are experiencing, the stages of menopause (peri-menopause, menopause, post-menopause) are marked by a variety of changes including but not limited to the decrease in estrogen levels, diminishing collagen cell production, slowing blood circulation, decreasing efficiency for moisture retention and thinning skin. In addition to the natural aging process, other factors affecting the look and health of our skin include genetics, state of health, medications, physical environment (contaminates, pollution, climate), diet and nutrition, lifestyle choices, behaviours and circumstances. And while stress is often a common thread among these factors it deserves its own place of prominence due to its impact on our skin!
It is common for one’s skin type – dry, normal, oily, combination or sensitive – to change a few times over the years and some of us will develop sensitivity to various ingredients in skin care products. I stand among the counted! I developed a dermatitis-like rash when my ‘experienced’ skin reacted to a favourite, not to mention expensive, eye cream. My red, itchy rash covered both of my eyelids. I was so very relieved that wearing sunglasses was in vogue!
Jacqueline Fairbrass, Life Facilitator and CEO of Feeling Absolutely Fabulous! LLC, considers; “The skin is our ‘outer layer’ and therefore reflects quite a bit. Little spots and bumps are little ‘angry’ signs…which is absolutely expected during times of change.” And, “Even the most hypoallergenic products can cause reactions when we are stressed or going through changes.” Jacqueline cautions to be careful of changing one’s skin care products and regime all at once as this too can stress the skin.
It is no surprise that the skin care industry is a multi-billion dollar business, estimated at over 43 billion per year in the United States. (i) And with an aging society, a segment of the industry is progressively targeting maturing women with various products and treatments. The overabundance of information and advertising is often confusing, frustrating and can be costly when product after product is tried to deal with all that ‘plagues’ our aging skin. I am absolutely delighted that there is increasing awareness about and availability of natural, herbal and organic land and marine botanically-based skin care products. Imagine the gentle but effective ‘hugs and kisses’ from Mother Nature’s essences to achieve and maintain healthy skin. I’m in!
I would like to suggest that if your facial skin care budget will allow, see a qualified esthetician to whom you can trust your precious skin every couple of months or so for a thorough cleansing, moisturizing and rejuvenating facial massage. For chronic or more serious skin issues see your primary health care provider or a dermatologist.
Bear with me as I do a quick review of skin care before getting to specific aromatherapy solutions. Skin care experts stress the importance of cleansing the face and neck gently but thoroughly, washing it twice if necessary to get rid of all make-up and sunscreen residue. Occasional, gentle exfoliation will help prevent a build up of dead skin cells that are notorious for causing breakouts and a dull complexion. Be warned that the water should not be too warm as this encourages dilated capillaries and surface dehydration. Cleansing the face in the evening before retiring is crucial. During restorative sleep our skin recuperates from the ‘elements’ of the day. If you use a night-time moisturizer, a light morning cleanse will rid the skin of any remaining serum, lotion or cream.
Use a toner on your freshly cleaned face to remove traces of cleanser and to help refresh the skin. It is best to avoid toners containing alcohol as it is typically too harsh for sensitive, mature and broken skin. Try alcohol-free Witch Hazel. It is excellent for sensitive skin, removes excess oil and sebum, controls oil production, reduces skin blemishes, cleans and conditions skin, tones and tightens pores, soothes redness, refreshes and cools skin, does not over dry and it is considered hypoallergenic. (ii)
You might also try using a hydrosol (floral water) or hydrosol blend. For a change from Witch Hazel, I use a 50-50 blend of Rose and Sandalwood hydrosols and here’s why. Rose hydrosol stimulates the skin thereby improving circulation while diminishing the redness of broken capillaries. It helps to tighten pores and balance the skin’s natural pH levels. Its antibacterial properties help fight breakouts and it is reputed to be useful in the treatment of a variety of dermatitis. (iii) It also balances emotions and female hormones, and promotes relaxation. Sandalwood hydrosol can be used for any skin type including sensitive. It nourishes experienced skin, smoothes and softens lines and wrinkles, benefits broken capillaries, and it calms itching and irritated skin. It relaxes the mind and body. Combined, these hydrosols are perfect for my experienced skin not to mention my menopausal, female psyche. I close my eyes and spritz it on! It’s heavenly!
Before applying an all over moisturizer, it is time to treat that itchy rash. Following are a couple of recipes I think you will find effective. I have also listed some additional resources at the end of this article. I encourage you to explore and experiment BUT be sure to use only high quality essential oils and carrier (base) oils. Remember when working with essential oils the ‘less is more’ principle applies! If you are taking medication (oral or topical) and/or are seeing a natural or other health care provider for a specific ailment or treatment please speak to him or her before using essential oils.
To enhance the treatment of your rash and sensitive, maturing skin the choice of carrier or base oil into which you will add recommended essential oils is an important one. The most suitable carrier or base oils for your skin issue are Apricot Kernel, Borage Seed, Calendula Infused, Evening Primrose and Jojoba.
Apricot Kernel oil is very nourishing to the skin, contains many minerals and vitamins and provides relief to sensitive, damaged and inflamed skin. It can represent 100% of your base oil. Borage Seed oil is rich in an important fatty acid called gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). It is high in vitamins and minerals and is a great regenerator for damaged skin. A small amount can be added to another base oil representing 10-15% of the base. Calendula infused oil is soothing and softening. It treats itchy, inflamed skin and is excellent for rashes. It can represent 100% of your base oil. Evening Primrose oil has high levels of GLA, is great for mature skin aggravated by hormonal imbalances and is key in repairing ‘broken’ or damaged skin. Like Borage Seed oil, it is added to another carrier oil representing up to 10% of the base. Jojoba oil, which is actually a liquid wax, has a close affinity to human skin so it is easily absorbed and rarely causes sensitivity reactions. It has strong anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, is a wonderful moisturizer and is healing for sensitive, mature skin. It can represent 100% of your base oil.
So you may choose not to create a blended base oil or you can design a special base blend such as 80% Apricot Kernel, 10% Borage Seed and 10% Evening Primrose or 50% Calendula Infused and 50% Jojoba, and so on. Take this opportunity to have fun! Let your inner medicine woman come out to play!
In addition to selecting your base oil or oils, great care must be used when selecting and then using essential oils on inflamed, ‘broken’ and/or sensitive skin. The total dilution of essential oils blended into the base oil is a mild 1%. The recommended essential oils for you are the chamomiles (German and Roman), helichrysum, lavender, neroli, rose otto, rosemary verbenone and sandalwood. (iv) Note that both chamomiles, helichrysum and rose otto have strong aromas and can very quickly overtake a blend. You’ll be putting this on and around your nose so be careful to avoid disappointment. The botanical names for the essential oils and carrier oils are at the end of this article.
Here are a few recipes to get you started. Into a dark glass or dark plastic bottle pour 50 mLs or 10 teaspoons of the base oil or base oil blend of your choosing. To this add 1 drop German chamomile, 4 drops lavender, 1 drop neroli and 4 drops sandalwood. Screw on the cap tightly and briskly roll bottle between the palms of your hands to blend. For a more floral blend; to 50 mLs or 10 teaspoons of jojoba or apricot kernel base oil add 1 drop Roman chamomile, 5 drops lavender, 1 drop rose otto and 3 drops sandalwood. And this recipe provides a herbaceous aroma; into 50 mLs or 10 teaspoons of base oil add 1 drop German chamomile, 1 drop helichrysum, 3 drops lavender and 5 drops rosemary verbenone. Be creative and give your personal blend a name!
It is advised that you do a patch test with your finished blend before treating your rash, particularly since your skin is undergoing change and you have already experienced a reaction. Simply apply a small amount of the blend on a part of your body where the oil will not be washed or rubbed off for up to 24 hours. The inside of your thigh or arm would be a good place. Assuming that you do not have a reaction, apply your blend sparingly to your rash and allow it to absorb before finishing your skin care routine with moisturizer and sunscreen.
Protecting your maturing skin from the sun is super important; sunscreen and perhaps a large brimmed hat? Finish the look with ‘styling’ sunglasses to protect your eyes and the delicate skin around them and who will know that your fashionista look is all about taking good care of the skin you’ve been blessed with!
I would love to know how this works out for you, Julie! You can send me a message at any time: firstname.lastname@example.org
(iv)The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy (p 550-551); Salvatore Battaglia, 2003
Making Aromatherapy Creams and Lotions; Donna Maria, 2000
WorldwideHealth.com (Articles-Aromatherapy-Women’s Natural Beauty)
Common and Botanical Names for Carrier and Infused Oils
Apricot Kernel – Prunus armeniaca; Borage Seed – Borago officinalis; Calendula infused – Calendula officinalis; Evening Primrose – Oenothera biennis; and Jojoba – Simmondsia chinensis.
Common and Botanical Names for Essential Oils
Chamomile, German – Matricaria chamomilla; Chamomile, Roman – Anthemis nobilis; Helichrysum – Helichrysum angustifolia; Lavender – Lavandula angustifolia; Neroli – Citrus aurantium; Rose otto – Rosa damascena; Rosemary verbenone – Rosmarinus officinalis ct. verbenone; and Sandalwood – Santalum album.
Barbara Power, Certified Aromatherapist