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Many women look forward to menopause and the next phase of their life. But before you enjoy fewer mood swings and headaches, you might go through unpleasant menopause symptoms, such as dry, itchy skin, for several months.
These discomforting signs are associated with decreasing oestrogen levels in the body.
Let’s look at how oestrogen impacts skin health and how we can help itchy skin in menopause.
Oestrogen is a key player in skin health and function. This hormone helps regulate collagen and oil production, making the skin look healthy, hydrated, and smooth.
But as you reach your 40s or 50s, dropping oestrogens renders the body to change how collagen and oil are produced.
Your skin health is affected as the body's efficiency in moderating these things dwindles. Dry, wrinkled, itchy and thin skin indicates deficient oestrogen (1) in the body.
As you approach menopause, your skin loses hydration, a normal effect of ageing. It's not an alarming health issue, though it can affect your self-esteem. You can minimise or restore your skin's radiance in many ways.
Hormones have a universal role in the body and affect how it functions. The fall of oestrogen can impact daily functioning.
In one study, 51.4% of women (2) experienced poor quality of life due to the effects of menopause, as it incites waves of other displeasing symptoms.
When oestrogen balance is disturbed, the body can't hold adequate water to hydrate the skin's layers. It's especially noticeable during winter when the air is the driest.
Skin dryness can lead to itchiness. It can affect several body parts, including the face, neck, chest, limbs, elbows and back.
The body circulates less oestrogen, but the same amount of testosterone — a hormone dominant in men — circles through the body. The disproportion results in women developing characteristics of men, such as unwanted hair on the face, above the lips, jawline and chin.
Melanin — a substance responsible for body pigments — protects the skin from the effects of the sun. Low oestrogen leads to decreased melanin production, making your skin more vulnerable to the sun's rays and causing age spots and wrinkles to become more noticeable.
Skin problems during menopause are problematic because they can last for months. It means you should pay more attention to your skin health at this stage. You can go the natural or medical route to relieve itchy skin and other annoying concerns.
Nutrition is vital at any stage of life, but it’s even more essential during menopause or as you age. Consuming clean foods can help you manage bothersome symptoms. As the body transitions to a different phase of womanhood, it needs nutritional benefits (3) to sustain proper functions.
Some people stick to a specific diet, like the Mediterranean style offering more wholesome choices. Load up your plate with these foods:
You can eat dairy in moderation. The Mediterranean diet handbook also includes consuming less fatty or processed meat, sugary drinks, salt, saturated fats and refined grains.
Similarly, avoid eating foods that trigger your sensitivities, such as nuts, fish, wheat or eggs. These options can worsen menopausal symptoms.
Smoking and alcohol can increase the severity of menopause symptoms. Drinking alcohol prompts hot flashes, headaches and night sweats. If you continue negative habits, you'll have to deal with more irksome health effects.
On the other hand, smoking has been linked to many chronic diseases. The nicotine in tobacco and cigarettes can impede the conversion of androstenedione — a different hormone — into oestrogen. The dip in oestrogen due to nicotine intercepting the process can trigger early-onset menopause.
You should strive to develop a healthy lifestyle (4) during menopause and beyond. It includes putting a stop to bad habits.
A bath can relieve itchy skin, but stay away from hot water. Some people might indulge in a hot bath to ease muscle aches. However, it also strips the natural oils in the skin. When showering, use warm water and follow these tips:
You should avoid soaking in the bath as longer showers can aggravate skin dryness and itchiness. Limit your bath time to less than 10 minutes (5), enough to clean your body.
Colloidal oatmeal is an ancient method for solving skin problems such as rashes, eczema, dryness and itchiness. Oatmeal contains several nutrients making it an excellent food and a topical fix for skin problems.
You can buy a colloidal oat powder online* or make one at home. All you need is enough oats for a bath. Blend it until they're powdery fine, then mix some with your bathwater before soaking.
These skincare essentials help soothe dry and itchy skin, but you must use the right products. For women in their 40s or 50s, choosing mild and fragrance-free options containing retinol and vitamin C* is a good idea.
These ingredients can increase the thickness of your skin (6), reduce fine lines and delay signs of ageing. Remember also to use suncream to protect your skin from the sun.
Stress provokes and exacerbates waves of minor and severe health concerns. High cortisol in the body manifests as insomnia, mood swings, body pains and cravings for unhealthy foods — all of which degrade skin health.
Learn stress management skills (7) to increase your resilience to health problems. These will also help you cope better with symptoms that don’t make you feel good. One method is eating nutritious foods.
Additionally, you can adopt stress-regulating techniques. Some popular examples are meditation, yoga and breathwork. If done intentionally, any of these strategies can keep stress hormones at bay.
Herbal remedies may also effectively soothe dry and itchy skin (8) during menopause. For instance, dong quai — also known as female ginseng* — is a popular Asian natural remedy for complexion problems, dry skin and eyes, irregular heart rate and imbalanced hormones. It's a plant in the carrot family, used for thousands of years as a medicinal plant in Japan, Korea and China.
Asians boil the roots, twigs and leaves with another herb, like black cohosh, and drink it. It promotes blood health, builds the immune system and relieves pain. Dong quai is effective because it has an oestrogenic effect. It mimics oestrogen and replenishes the amount in the body to regulate hormones and minimise symptoms.
Most supplements don't require prescriptions, but visit your doctor if you have a health condition or food sensitivities to avoid interactions and side effects.
If natural solutions are insufficient to ease menopausal symptoms, talk to your doctor for prescriptions and hormone therapy.
Corticosteroids are a class of steroid medicine that treats allergies, asthma and other diseases. It can also treat skin itch caused by menopause symptoms.
The drug is applied to the affected area once or twice a day (9) for up to seven days to treat skin concerns unless otherwise mended by your doctor. It’s available in several forms:
It also has varying strengths from mild, moderate, potent and very potent. You can buy the mild options over the counter at your local pharmacy. But for the stronger types, visit your dermatologist (10) to obtain a prescription.
Topical corticosteroids have side effects such as skin thinning or inflamed hair follicles. Prescribed or not, always check with your doctor before you use this medicine.
RELATED: Menopause skin care concerns
Hormone replacement therapy reloads the quantity of oestrogen in the body so it returns to a normal level. When the oestrogen is restored, the symptoms you're experiencing will also lessen or some women report that they completely disappear.
To get started on HRT, bring up the discomforts of menopause to your doctor. If you are under 45 years old, a blood test may be needed to determine the amount of hormones in the body. The doctor will then explain the types of HRT and recommend which option is the best for you:
Oestrogen replacement therapy comes in many forms, such as:
You usually start with a low dosage of HRT to determine its initial effects. Your doctor may increase the dose or change the form if it's ineffective. Once you begin HRT, you must commit to it for two to five years (11) or even longer until your menopausal concerns disappear.
Doctors suggest cutting the HRT dose instead of stopping immediately, as symptoms can return.
The symptoms of menopause can impact your daily life. But you don’t have to bear with it. Natural and medical treatment options are available to relieve dry, itchy skin and other problematic signs.
In summary, your lifestyle is the most impactful change you can make.
Be sure to eat healthy foods, quit negative habits and practice self-care. If this doesn't improve the skin concerns, talk to your doctor about over-the-counter and prescribed corticosteroids or hormone therapy.
(1) Dermatology Times (2019).A solution for oestrogen-deficient skin. https://www.dermatologytimes.com/view/solution-oestrogen-deficient-skin
(2) PLOS (2023).Health-related quality of life among menopausal women: A cross-sectional study from Pokhara, Nepal.https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0280632
(3) British Nutrition Foundation (2022).Managing menopause symptoms with nutrition and diet.https://www.nutrition.org.uk/life-stages/women/menopause/managing-menopause-symptoms-with-nutrition-and-diet/
(4) The Latte Lounge.Illnesses and conditions in menopause and beyond.. https://www.lattelounge.co.uk/menopause/long-term-health/
(5) Medical News Today (2019). What's the best shower frequency?. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324682
(6) British Vogue (2022).The 5 Dos And Don’ts Of Menopause Skincare. https://www.vogue.co.uk/beauty/article/menopause-skincare
(7) The Latte Lounge.Mental health and menopause. https://www.lattelounge.co.uk/menopause/mental-health-and-menopause/
(8) Healthline (2019). Why Is Dong Quai Called the ‘Female Ginseng’?. https://www.healthline.com/health/dong-quai-ancient-mystery
(9) NHS (2023).Topical corticosteroids. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/topical-steroids/
(10) DermCare Management (2022).Dermatology Industry Trends. https://www.dermcaremgt.com/2022/07/dermatology-industry-trends/
(11) NHS Inform (2022.Hormone replacement therapy (HRT). https://www.nhsinform.scot/tests-and-treatments/medicines-and-medical-aids/types-of-medicine/hormone-replacement-therapy-hrt
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