Most of us are familiar with popular menopause symptoms like night sweats, hot flashes, chills, vaginal dryness, and irregular periods. All of these are due to the crazy imbalance of hormones in a woman’s body.
But you know what else this hormonal imbalance causes? Dry, itchy skin that can cause irritation and discomfort. So, how do hormones affect the skin during menopause? What are the causes and solutions to this problem? Scroll down and find out!
What is Hormone Balance Itching?
Menopause and perimenopause or the transition stage to menopause both trigger many bodily changes, including a condition called hormone balance itching. This condition, medically known as pruritis, is characterized by dry, itchy skin that can be so severe and uncomfortable that it can disrupt your sleep and affect your daily life.
Another related condition called paresthesia is also known to affect women during the transitional stage of menopause. It is an abnormal skin condition that meddles with the nerves and your sense of touch, causing numbness or a tingling, prickling “pins and needles” sensation on the skin. Some women also report that their skin feels as if small insects are creeping or crawling under and on it.
What Causes Hormone Balance Itching?
The main cause of hormone balance itching is the significant decline in the production of estrogen, one of the main female hormones.
Aside from stimulating reproductive maturation during puberty, keeping the bones strong, and controlling the release of eggs and menstruation, estrogen is also responsible for the formation of oils and collagen on the skin. Without sufficient estrogen, these substances are also reduced, resulting to parched, flaky, itchy, and sensitive skin.
According to Dr. Elizabeth Tanzi, co-director of the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery, this diminished production of the skin’s natural conditioners and smoothing agents is the main reason why dry, itchy skin happens as menopause approaches.
The change in hormonal balance in the body and reduced estrogen also decreases your skin’s ability to maintain and retain moisture. This happens all throughout the body even though it is often first noticed on the T-zone of the face or the elbows, says Dr. Tanzi.
Dr. Tanzi adds that dry skin can appear just about anywhere, including the legs, back, chest, face, and even your genitals and nails.
These skin changes may occur as early as between the ages of 40 and 58 when most women undergo perimenopause. While these effects are irreversible, there are (thankfully) many ways to combat dry skin and soothe itchiness.
What are the Best Solutions for Menopause Itching Symptoms?
Here are essential tips in caring for dry skin during menopause:
Consume more smart and healthy fats
Essential fatty acids and healthy fats and oils help fortify and rebuild the skin’s natural oil barrier, which keeps it from becoming dry and dehydrated. Examples of these are the omega-3 fatty acid from flax seeds, soy, safflower oil, salmon, sardines, and other oily fish. You can also get healthy fats from algae oils, walnuts, or fortified eggs.
Without a steady, sufficient supply of these body-boosting fats from your diet, your skin can get dry, itchy, dull, crepey, and very prone to acne breakouts.
Wear sunscreen regularly
As we age, sun protection becomes increasingly important to protect our skin from damage, dryness, and aging signs. The ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun can penetrate deep into the skin, causing free radical damage and photodamage.
Too much exposure to the sun’s UVA and UVB rays not only lead to dry skin but can cause wrinkles, moles, dark spots, hyperpigmentation, and skin cancers as well.
So, Dr. Andria Cambio, Fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology (FAAD) and a Florida-based board-certified dermatologist, recommends slathering on a broad-spectrum sunblock or sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 or higher to keep your skin healthy and protected.
Do this every day, even during overcast or gloomy days when it seems like the sun is nowhere to be found. Based on multiple studies, UV rays can penetrate through clouds, fog, snow, and even concrete buildings. If you must go outside and spend some time under the sun, do wear protective clothing like long-sleeved shirts and wide-brimmed hats.
Avoid harsh, scalding hot showers
Dr. Cambio also adds that though piping-hot baths and steamy showers can feel great, they are extremely harsh and can miserably dry your skin. Hot water strips the skin of its natural oils.
Instead, take quicker showers using warm or lukewarm water. Dr. Tanzi suggests preserving your skin’s oils further by only scrubbing or applying soap on spots where these badly needed, such as the groin, your feet, and underarms. Your arms, legs, and back don’t get as dirty, so it might be better to just rinse these areas with water.
Choose a mild, gentle soap
Deodorant soaps with strong scents or antibacterial soaps can be very harsh on the skin and also get rid of essential oils, leaving your skin dry and itchy. Opt for lightly scented or unscented moisturizing bars instead.
Don’t forget to moisturize!
By this time, you might have already realized how your skin is constantly exposed to conditions that dry it up, which makes moisturizing necessary. Apply a moisturizer within a few minutes after every shower.
Because lotions and body moisturizers can be expensive, Dr. Tanzi suggests petroleum jelly and mineral oil as great alternative moisture-trappers. She explains that petroleum jelly is one of the best products out there that can restore moisture even to the driest skin.
Apply a generous amount after bathing, focusing on problem areas. Then, pat the excess off with a towel. However, while it works great on the body, it can cause breakouts when applied on the face.
Take care of your face
For dry skin on the face, Dr. Cambio recommends topical antioxidants like green tea or vitamin C. Other effective moisturizers include lactic acid, hyaluronic acid, and shea butter.
To allow the products to penetrate better, experts suggest exfoliating with a gentle scrub or products with alpha- or beta-hydroxy acids.
Improve your lifestyle
Dr. Valerie Callender, a Maryland-based dermatologist, stresses out the importance of hydration by drinking enough water daily. Also, reduce or quit smoking and drinking alcohol as both can dry the skin and cause premature aging.
Regular exercise is also helpful in keeping the skin healthy by improving nutrient and oxygen circulation and increasing collagen production.
Hormone balance itching is not very common but is still a real problem in some menopausal women. Fortunately, it can be solved and relieved through simple changes in your skincare routine and lifestyle. So, follow these tips for a smoother, softer, moisturized, and itch-free skin!