The connection between oestrogen and itchy skin probably isn't something you gave a lot of thought prior to before menopause, but hormonal changes can cause a range of skin changes, ranging from dryness to extreme itchiness.
Here we look at the cause of dry and itchy skin in menopause, and offer what we hope are some hopeful home care and holistic support to help prevent and relieve dryness and itchiness alongside any medical support.
What causes dry and itchy skin in menopause?
The hormone oestrogen plays a key role in skin health, so when it starts to deplete, it stands to reason that it will show in our skin. Skin loses some ability to hold moisture and the additional loss of collagen as we get older also makes it dry and it loses its elasticity.
How does dry and itchy skin in menopause manifest?
For some, skin simply becomes more dry with more lines and wrinkles - dry skin in itself can feel itchy. Others experience mild to severe itchiness, irritation and sometimes tingling, prickling, or numbness of the skin, otherwise known as paresthesia.
When itchiness becomes extreme it's called pruritus (generally caused by dry skin and manifesting in red skin, rashes or small bumps on the skin's surface) and that can add to sleep disruption. For lots of women it's a question of experiencing a variety of symptoms to varying degrees over the menopausal years.
What can you do to help with dry and itchy skin during menopause?
Dry and itchy skin can be at best annoying and at worst extremely uncomfortable or disruptive. We want you to have a really positive experience of menopause (there are positives!) and we have found that there are lots of really enjoyable things you can do to help care for your skin and overall wellbeing in the way that feels right for you. Here are a few of our favourite suggestions:
Avoid using stringent soaps, face and body washes
Frankly, this is good advice at any stage of life. So often we gravitate towards astringent soaps and wash products, particularly if we're experiencing acne (which can also occur in menopause). However, they tend to strip the skin of the moisture it has, drying it out further and actually making it oilier as the skin tries to balance itself out. Personally we're fans of gentle, oil-based cleansers which balance the skin gently - yes, really!
Use gentle washing detergents for sensitive skin
Much like the products we put on our skin, the detergents that we wash our sheets and clothes in can also irritate dry skin further. They can also cause vaginal itching, which no one wants either.
Keep skin cool when it's irritated
Keeping skin cool with a damp cloth or cold compress can be really soothing for itchy skin, especially if it's disturbing your sleep. To keep things easier however, we prefer having a cooling spray at hand, whether it's in your handbag or by the bed. It's more convenient than a damp cloth and it's also great for hot flashes.
Try an oatmeal bath for itchy skin
Really, is there no end to the benefits offered by the humble oat? An oatmeal bath is a classic favourite amongst natural skincare devotees for soothing dry and itchy skin. Cheap and easy to use, all you need is to blend rolled oats in the food processor until they make a fine powder and then add them to your bath and soak for a bit. They contain micronutrients like vitamin E, which are great for the skin, and also help to prevent skin from losing moisture. They also contain phytoestrogens - more on that in a moment.
Moisturise regularly for healthy skin
This probably goes without saying, but it's not just a question of moisturising - it's about using products that don't irritate the skin further, as well as those that are absorbed into the skin rather than sitting on the surface. It's for that reason that we use all natural ingredients in our skincare products at MPlus, and we also use balms and oils instead of creams so we can avoid the preservatives and 'filler ingredients' required for lotions. You can apply moisturiser any time you feel the need, but especially after a bath or shower to lock in moisture.
Phytoestrogens for dry skin
While your oestrogen levels are dropping, naturally occurring plant oestrogens can help ease the transition. Available in foods as well as our plant-based skincare products, they don't do exactly the same job as your body's own oestrogen, but these plant compounds can bind to the body's oestrogen receptors and mimic them.
Speak to your GP about dry skin
It's always worth having a chat with your GP if you're experiencing menopause symptoms so that you have as much information as possible on the medical options available in case you want to try them, whether it's HRT or steroid creams. If you're experiencing extreme itchy skin, particularly if it breaks, then it's worth chatting to the doctor as well, just to make sure you avoid irritation and make sure it isn't being caused by anything else.