Posts made in August, 2009

Buyer beware: on snake oil, false promises, male menopause and Michael Jackson

Posted by on Aug 7, 2009 in menopause | 2 comments


Snake oil. Can’t live with it. 

Patented snake oil remedies have been around since the early 1700’s, lending credence to the hypothesis that preying on an individual’s healthcare needs is a well-honed art. For months now, I’ve been exposing various menopausal remedies that offer relief for anything and everything that ails.  I’ve found supplements, chewing gum and magnets, audio tapes, creams, rubs and lotions… the whole nine yards. Mind you, some do contain ingredients that, on their own and in standardized formulations, may alleviate or prevent symptoms from worsening or peaking. However, I have long fought against the “one size fits all” proposition, instead arguing that the best therapeutic approach is individualized, evidenced-based, methodical, fluid and supervised by a licensed healthcare professional.

The menopause market is huge, with latest industry projections topping, if not exceeding $4 to $8 billion, depending on who you speak to. And this number is expected to grow as the population ages. So, it’s not surprising that there are increasing numbers of players who want a piece of the action. And, that the action is not just geared towards women, but to men as well.

Wait! Women are the only one’s who go through menopause, right?!

Readers of this blog know what I think about male menopause and I continue to question the terminology as well as its comparison to what women experience during the transition. Yet, regardless of my beliefs, I object to predators, period.

So, it troubled me when I ran across the following headline:

“Michael Jackson could have been going through ‘male menopause’ says SimplyAgeless411.”

Hmmmm. The rat is back. And he’s smelling even worse.

According to the two anti-aging consultants who are quoted in the press release, Michael Jackson, a “dark, troubled soul,” could have been suffering from male menopause for years, that the anxiety, depression, insomnia and fatigue that prompted his reliance on prescription medicines might have been easily treated had he gotten to the right doctor. The hook here is that if you “realize after taking a long hard look at the man in the mirror that male menopause might be sneaking up on you,” that you should talk to your doctor about hormone therapy. The close? That low hormone levels can be easily addressed through a regimen of tablets, and gels applied to the skin. Results they claim, are “dramatic and immediate.” Of note, a frequent contributor to this site’s Ezine is a Board-certified hormone specialist.

So, ladies and gents, gather round, the menopausal marketing circus is in town. And it appears that it’s here to stay. If the spotlight in the ring is on “dramatic,” “immediate,” “cure” or “guarantee,” money-back or not, you might want to avoid the big tent at all costs.

p.s. If you are looking for information about how to go about selecting an alternative therapy for menopause, Flashfree is the place. Throughout this blog and its various topics, I’ve explored many alternative therapies and the most current evidence that I can find supporting or disputing their use throughout the menopause; I encourage you to peruse the archives. You might also want to revisit ‘Navigating the Maze, Parts I and II,’ my interview with  NYC-based acupuncturist and Chinese medicine specialist Elaine Stern, about what to look for. I also recommend that you check out the links on the Blogroll, as they will take you to reputable sources of information.

Special thanks to Andrew Scherer and Scherer Cybrarian LLC for assistance with some of the research for this post.

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Wednesday Bubble: Better living through chemistry? Your aging skin

Posted by on Aug 5, 2009 in appearance, HRT | 2 comments


Still thinking that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can improve the appearance of aging skin? You may want to think again.

This past March, dermatologists at the American Academy of Dermatologists’ annual meeting once again debunked claims that HRT can improve the appearance of aging, photo-damaged skin. Although I’ve written on this topic previously, the subject is interesting (and relevant) enough to revisit.

Undoubtedly, certain areas of the body are more receptive to estrogen than others, e.g., cells comprising the skin on the face. And while estrogen can increase collagen, help the skin retain water and promote elasticity, its ability to reverse the effects of aging remain questionable.

Dr. Margaret Parsons, assistance clinical professor of dermatology at the University of California-Davis, says that she does not prescribe estrogen to improve skin’s appearance because data have not consistently shown any benefit. Not only doesn’t she believe that topical or oral estrogens offer any sort of long-term solution, but she also points to the risks involved in their use, such as breast cancer.

Consider the evidence (or lack, thereof):

  • In a study published last year in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, researchers evaluated whether or not low-dose HRT could improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, skin dryness/texture and sagging. Study participants were 485 women who had been menopausal for about five years.  No significant improvements were seen after 48 weeks of treatment, although researchers suggested that longer use of hormones or different doses might lead to better results.
  • In another study, which I wrote about last year, applying topical estrogen to sun-damaged skin, likewise, did not improve the skin’s appearance, although it did appear to promote collagen production in areas that had not seen the light of day, i.e. the hip.
  • A third study, published in the early 90s, suggests that use of a topical cream early in menopause and for a longer period of time, may improve the appearance of aging skin. However, this study was only conducted in 18 women over a period of six months, making it difficult to reach any definitive conclusions.

It appears that the jury is still out but deliberations don’t look too promising.

Think about it: are you willing to risk the adverse effects of HRT – cancer, death from lung disease, heart disease – for your appearance?

If you are deadset on erasing a few lines and a few years, there are effective therapies that dermatologist regularly suggest to improve skin’s appearance, for example retinoids, glycolic acid or procedures such as chemical peels, lasers, botox and skin fillers. While they might hit your pocketbook harder than HRT, most do not come with the same degree of health risks. You can learn more about taking care of mature skin in this issue of the American Academy of Dermatology’s SKIN e-newsletter.

Obviously, the best advice is to wear sunscreen regularly, avoid smoking and use a topical retinoid. We may not be able to turn back the clock but we can preserve what we have more responsibly. Estrogen might not be the ounce of prevention that works best.

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Reaching the Gentler Sex: Why Marketing to Women Requires a Holistic Approach. A guest post by Andrea Learned

Posted by on Aug 3, 2009 in emotions, work | 4 comments


I’ve written a few posts on the value of connections and the unique relationships that women have with one another, and with the world at-large. Not only do these connections provide a sense of security and enrich our emotional, psychological and physical fabrics, but they can teach us a lot about how we relate to others and how others relate to us as women.

Midlife is a time when many changes occur, particularly on the career front. You may find yourself reevaluating what you are doing, or better yet, how. I think that Andrea Learned has an interesting perspective on how women relate to the products they buy, because it says a lot about how we relate to ourselves and each other: holistically.

So, when I saw this post on Andrea’s Site, Learned on Women, I asked if she might do me the honours of reframing it for Flashfree. It’s a terrific, informative piece, whether you are interested in marketing or not.

Enjoy!!! And show Andrea some love!

Part of what makes women seem so complicated, from the marketing perspective, is the fact that their purchase decision-making paths can be a bit winding. For most women, there is more to a decision than bullet points listing product features on the side of a package.  They take it all in — from the causes a brand supports, to the friendliness of a retailer’s employees, to knowing that a brand actually does interact with women like them (and so has much better ideas how to serve them).

Women certainly consider the usual suspects of linear product facts: like price and quality.  However, their buying curves give them even more to ponder. They may have checked off everything on their list, be close to a decision, and then hear that your company sponsored the run they participated in last weekend. Boom! She’s sold. Or a woman may be 99 percent decided or buying from a retailer, have a short conversation with a sales team member who was a little too hard-sell — and, boom, the deal is off.

The key to understanding how to reach women buyers is understanding how they think.  And, it is in a very holistic – take it all in – manner.

Not surprisingly, a woman’s more typically holistic buying characteristics are founded in the extra-connectedness of her brain. In fact, in comparison to a man’s brain, a woman’s brain typically has more connecting fibers between cells and a larger connecting tissue (corpus collusum) between right and left hemispheres. (Louann Brizendine’s book, The Female Brain, is a great resource for more brain science information.)

Noted socio-anthropologist Helen Fisher wrote in her book The First Sex: “As women make decisions, they weigh more variables, consider more options and outcomes, recall more points of view, and see more ways to proceed.” Fisher refers to women’s tendency to think in terms of interrelated factors (as opposed to men’s tendency to think more in a straight line or in steps) as “web thinking.”

As a result of web thinking, she says, women have easier access to both sides of the brain in any given decision, and are better able to integrate the emotional (is this company doing well by their employees and the environment?) with the rational (price, features, quality of product).

In Dan Pink’s book, A Whole New Mind, the author points out that “the left hemisphere handles what is said; the right hemisphere focuses on how it’s said.” Women can tap right hemisphere concerns (nonverbal, usually more emotional) much more easily, on average, then men.

In fact, as Face Time author Dan Hill found, emotions may play a larger role in the way women think about everything. This is worth noting, as he also mentions that emotion seems to drive reason more than reason drives emotion.


Given this perhaps more right-brained, emotionally-driven thinking, the curved path of a woman’s buying decision-making process makes a lot of sense.  In today’s tough economic and environmental situation – this more holistic perspective comes in very handy.   How and what anyone buys needs to be more deliberate.  And, what I see happening now in terms of consumer behavior is that men are starting to learn these “women’s” ways and use the finer points of such decision-making themselves.

What’s that phrase?  It’s all good.


The above was excerpted/edited a bit from Andrea’s original piece for a building industry publication.  You can see that full article here:

If you are a twitter fan, you can stay easily updated on Andrea’s thoughts/ideas/blog posts by following: @AndreaLearned.

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Posted by on Aug 2, 2009 in musings | 2 comments

The French novelist Colette once wrote:

“There are days when solitude is a heady wine that intoxicates you with freedom, others when it is a bitter tonic, and still others when it is a poison that makes you beat your head against the wall.”

I have always been a person who needs and cherishes my alone time. In fact, being alone is often a deliberate choice rather than something that is forced upon me. As we get older, solitude allows a break from the busy-ness of life, from the noise, from the distractions. It rejuvenates the soul and provides an opportunity to look closely within, to take stock, to gain clarity and balance.

However, as Colette so aptly says, it can also be detrimental to our health when our needs or when fears, allow solitude to become all-consuming.

At times, immersing oneself in solitude may be the correct path. Other times, solitude may lead to a burrowing that is so deep, that in the end, not only do you lose those who care for you, but your soul as well.

Poetic license with Lao-Tsu: It takes strength to love someone deeply. It takes courage to allow yourself to be deeply loved.

Just a thought for a Sunday afternoon.

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