Ask a woman over the age of 45 about her main skin concerns, and she’s likely to name wrinkles, discoloration and skin sagging. While the ideal course of action for improving these age-related issues (that are intrinsically connected to the decline of estrogen associated with menopause) often focuses on the skin’s uppermost visible layer and the muscular activity that leads to expression-related lines, there’s actually a lot more going on beneath the surface.
Yes, we can use exfoliating skincare products to smooth skin texture along with targeted treatments that help minimize unwanted pigment. We can also turn to wrinkle-reducing injections that help minimize the appearance of lines and wrinkles by stopping the muscle contractions responsible for lines caused by smiling and squinting. Yet it’s important to know that muscle isn’t the only tissue beneath the skin that can contribute to an aged appearance—which is why it’s time to focus on our fascia. This unique network of tissue is present beneath the skin from head to toe, and it affects the appearance of the skin especially as we approach and enter menopause.
What is fascia?
New York City dermatologist and founder of MMSkincare Dr. Ellen Marmur explains, “Fascia is a specialized system within the body that looks like a densely woven fabric. It encloses every muscle, bone, nerve, artery and vein, as well as our internal organs, including the heart, lungs, brain and spinal cord. I often describe it as ‘Saran Wrap’ that protects all of the major structures of our anatomy.”
Although dermatological and scientific research has recently started paying a lot more attention to fascia, we do know that there are several different types of fascia that are all connected, but this tissue can serve different functions depending on where it’s located in the body. Case in point, the fascia that reinforces the arch of the foot is thick and dense, while it’s soft and pliable in other areas.
What happens to fascia with age?
Menopause and the natural aging process affect our bodies inside and out, and this includes the fascia. Yet time and menopause don’t affect all areas of fascia the same way. Dr. Marmur explains, “Some fascia becomes rigid, in turn compressing the muscles and nerves. In areas of fascia with more collagen, the tissue stretches out and laxity increases—particularly on the face and neck.” In fact, two types of fascia are present in the tissues of the face. There’s a superficial layer just beneath the skin that lends support to the skin, providing its lift and tone. There’s also a deeper layer that can pull the face downward, causing wrinkles and sagging as it degrades.
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“When you tighten the fascia, smoother, younger-looking skin is a realistic expectation”
How fascia affects our appearance
In terms of the face and neck, “Aging fascia creates laxity, wrinkles and jowls,” says Dr. Marmur. This effect is likely amplified by the hormonal shift associated with menopause, but all hope is not lost. Similar to muscle, it’s possible to tone and strengthen fascia with at-home treatments and tools that stimulate collagen production. “When you tighten the fascia, smoother, younger-looking skin is a realistic expectation,” according to Dr. Marmur.
Fascia-toning tools to try
In simplest terms, fascia is a fibrous sheet of woven collagen located just below the skin, and it receives nourishment and replenishment from the blood vessels and lymphatic system. Dr. Marmur says, “Overall good health, deep-tissue and lymphatic drainage massage, as well as at-home beauty tools such as the FDA-cleared MMSphere 2.0 LED device can all help improve the appearance of wrinkles and skin laxity on the face and neck by improving the quality of fascial collagen.”
If you’re willing to put in the work, facial massage can help relax and release constricted fascia, enhance circulation to boost the available supply of nutrients to the cells and, in turn, help restore the skin’s smoothness and suppleness. There are several DIY tools that are effective for improving the integrity and function of aging fascia, including gua sha facial-massagers that can be readily found at most beauty retailers at a wide range of price points. One option specifically designed for targeting facial fascia is the Pause Well Aging Fascia Stimulating Tool.
This FDA-cleared medical device takes jade- and other stone-based tools to the next level with medical-grade stainless steel and an ergonomic design that helps promote blood flow, stimulate cell turnover and optimize fascial performance.
Lifestyle hacks that help your fascia
Hydration is essential for maintaining healthy fascia, so be sure to drink plenty of water (avoid dehydration caused by too much caffeine or alcohol. Stretching can also help release fascial tension, so you may want to explore facial exercises. (You can find plenty on YouTube.) Remember, there’s a layer of fascia beneath every square inch of the skin, so all of this advice applies from head to toe!
Disclaimer: This is not medical advice, does not take the place of medical advice from your physician, and is not intended to treat or cure any disease. Patients should see a qualified medical provider for assessment and treatment.