Dry, itchy skin during the menopause? Here's how to soothe it.
Throughout our lifetime, our skin is in a constant state of change. We may not notice it happening on a daily basis, but, it often goes through very obvious changes during certain stages of your life such as adolescence and middle age, and for women, especially during the menopause. While the more familiar buzz words around menopause skin changes are issues like hot flushes and night sweats, dry and itchy skin is a common problem which many women may experience during too. In a word, here's why: oestrogen.
What causes menopause skin changes like itchy skin?
Oestrogen's role in maintaining healthy skin is vital and multifaceted. It helps the skin stay moist by regulating the production of the skin's natural oils as well as stimulating collagen production to aid skin renewal and elasticity. In a nutshell, oestrogen is responsible for that glowing, dewy, bouncy skin we women crave. During the menopause, declining oestrogen levels affect the skin's ability to retain moisture and to regenerate itself the way it used to, resulting in thinner, drier skin. This change in your skin may begin to happen as early as your forties, during the perimenopausal stage.
Medically known as pruritus, the itchiness you may experience due to this increasing dryness may occur on your face, neck, chest, limbs, back or genital region. Other changes you may see in your skin include flakiness in certain areas like your elbows, acne, rashes, wrinkling, and pigmentation. In rare cases, you may feel a tingling, pins-and-needles sensation on your skin known as paresthesia, or, in even more rare cases, the sensation of insects crawling underneath your skin, an advanced type of paresthesia called formication. These symptoms may come and go, but if they persist for more than 3 days at a time, you should consult your doctor, as symptoms like formication could be indicators of another underlying issue such as anxiety, Parkinson's disease or diabetic neuropathy.
How to soothe dry, itchy skin during the menopause
While the change that will take place in your skin with age is both inevitable and irreversible, the feeling of itchiness and other symptoms of pruritus are totally beatable. From nutritional changes to natural home remedies and medical treatments, there are many ways to soothe your skin, both from the outside and from inside.
Skincare on the outside
Skincare is something that everyone seems to be talking about these days, and with good reason. For women in their menopausal and perimenopausal years, good skincare practices are key for keeping issues such as itchiness at bay. A daily moisturising routine rich in ingredients such as shea butter, antioxidants, hyaluronic acid, and lactic acid is important whatever the season; you may need heavier lotions and body butters during the dry winter months and lighter moisturisers during balmy summer days, and sunscreen is a must all year round. You may also want to try essential oils as moisturisers; frankincense, rose, helichrysum, geranium, and lavender are recommended by practitioners for their moisturising and healing properties. Showering or bathing in excessively hot water can strip your skin of its natural oils, as can strong soaps and cleansing products. Switch the water to warm (or cool in the hotter months), use mild soaps and cleansers, exfoliate gently but well, and moisturise, moisturise, moisturise.
Care from the inside
The human body is 60% water, and the skin is its biggest organ, so it should come as no surprise that water is an essential component of skin. Your skin is up to 64% water, and diffusion through your skin is also one of the main ways that water leaves your body. We lose on average 300-400 ml of water through our skin every day, so drinking a good amount of water daily is crucial to keep your skin hydrated and comfortable. Along with water, a good diet of nutrient-rich food can make a massive difference from within. Incorporating ingredients rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and essential fatty acids, including citrus fruit, berries, leafy greens, yoghurt, nuts, and oily fish can help keep your skin hydrated and feeling its best. Cutting down your alcohol intake is another way to reduce skin dryness, as is giving up smoking.
Supplements for supple skin
The first, most vital supplement you should begin taking as the menopause skin change starts is a complex of vitamins and minerals that can help keep your skin in the best condition possible. Vitamins C, D, E, and K all play important roles in your skin's health and are available as over-the-counter supplements, though of course, you can get them from your diet too. Collagen peptides and zinc are also great ways to boost your collagen levels, and essential fatty acids like omega-3s will help your skin fight dryness and irritation too. Another supplement to consider is turmeric. Recent studies have shown that turmeric, which has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, is highly effective at soothing dry, itchy and irritated skin. This golden miracle spice can be taken as a capsule or tablet, but you can also use it in your cooking, add it to smoothies, and make tea with it.
Out with stress and caffeine
High levels of stress or anxiety can result in your body releasing histamine, which can cause flushing, itching and sometimes skin rashes. If your work or home life is stressful, you may be more susceptible to these symptoms, so try to keep stress and anxiety at bay. Another factor to watch out for is your consumption of caffeinated drinks, particularly those double espressos you may be turning to in order to get you through tiring or stressful days. Caffeine will dehydrate your system even more, causing your uric acid levels to rise and in turn making the itching feel worse. By cutting down your caffeine intake, you may be able to significantly ease the itch, as well as many other symptoms of the menopause.
If your pruritus is particularly bad, you may want to consult a dermatologist to determine exactly what your skin needs. There are medicated creams and other pharmacological treatments that you can get over the counter or have prescribed by your doctor, including mild steroid creams for short-term use on localised areas of itchy skin, anti-histamines in tablet or cream form, hydrocortisone creams and gels, and creams with lactic acid, urea, or even a topical local anaesthetic.
Clothing to soothe your skin
During this time when your skin may be particularly sensitive to everything from touch to weather, it is also important to avoid textiles that may irritate it further, such as wools and synthetic fabrics. Natural fabrics such as cottons and silks can help keep your skin cool and calm due to their breathable qualities. You can also invest in clothing that's made to soothe your skin during the menopause, like the new Become HydraDerma range which is made from silky, breathable fabrics with Anti-Flush TechnologyTM. This unique fabric is engineered to keep your skin cool and soothed while helping to keep itching at bay. Browse the full range here.
To discover more great advice on how you can stay feeling and looking your best during the menopause, visit our Meno Guide.
You can also check out our Cooling Bedding Range, innovatively engineered to keep your skin feeling cool and comfortable all night long
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