Hormonal changes caused during menopause often lead to a person’s skin feeling drier than usual, leaving skin itchy and oftentimes flaky. More than this, while menopause already comes with a series of uncomfortable symptoms, dryness is only one of the many things people in menopause will need to consider, and how to handle itchiness that may be present across the body and genitals.
While many people often think that dry and itchy skin is a cause of the natural aging process, in some scenarios, menopause may be one of the leading causes of mild to severe skin-related problems, including itchy and saggy skin.
In fact, in one survey of roughly 3,875 postmenopausal women over the age of 40 years, researchers found that around 36.2 percent of them suffered from dry skin. This study, and several others, helps to show that dry and itchy skin may be caused by hormonal changes that take place during menopause and that as people age and pass through the stages of menopause, treating unhealthy itchy skin should form part of everyday skincare routine.
Relationship Between Hormones and Skin Health
Before treating dry and itchy skin, especially during menopause, it’s important to consider how these changes take place, and what natural elements may influence the overall health and condition of a person’s skin.
One of the most well-documented relationships between menopause and skin health is the decreasing levels of estrogen and progesterone. During menopause and postmenopause, many people, often women, will begin to notice several physical changes taking shape, one of them being dry and itchy skin.
As a person ages, hormonal levels fluctuate, and eventually completely begin to deplete due to limited natural production, the pH level of the skin begins to change, meaning that it will become harder for the skin to retain water and moisture.
More than this, certain bodily complications may further impact the overall condition of a person’s skin. As a person’s metabolism begins to slow down, around the age of 50 and onward, the natural reaction of the skin would typically be to become less firm, causing the skin to look saggy and feel less smooth.
Due to the unfriendly nature of all these complications taking place, the reactions typically cause the skin to become drier, eventually leading to itchy and oftentimes flaky skin that’s spread across different parts of the body and the vaginal area.
Common Skin Changes During Menopause
As already mentioned, due to the natural aging process, and the development of menopause, the skin undergoes several significant changes, leading to the physical appearance of the skin looking less radiant, and causing skin to be more dull.
Other common skin changes caused by menopause may include flaky or peeling skin, which is often caused by the skin’s decreased ability to hold and retain moisture. In some instances, people have reported having even tighter, and less elastic skin after swimming or having prolonged exposure to water.
Menopause-induced dryness and the decreased frequency of cell turnover lead to skin looking lackluster, oftentimes dull, or having patches of ashy tones. This is especially the case in people with darker skin or complexions, and the combination of dead skin cells on the surface of the skin further causes the skin to lose some of its physical healthy-looking appearance.
Another physical appearance change that some people may begin to notice as they age is the presence of fine lines and wrinkles. The main cause of this is due to a dwindling supply of collagen, which is a natural protein produced by the body.
In one study, researchers suggest that women tend to lose roughly 30 percent of natural collagen during the first five years of menopause. Following this, women will continue to lose collagen, although more gradually, with experts suggesting at least two percent of natural collagen each year after menopause.
Menopausal acne is another visible change that occurs on the skin. While this might be less frequent, the influence of menopausal acne is often multifactorial and is caused by hormonal imbalance and the increase of androgens, according to one study published in 2019.
Vaginal Itching during Menopause
Aside from noticeable changes taking place on the skin, including itching, dryness, and acne, menopausal itching isn’t that uncommon, and is a frequent occurrence in people that may be experiencing menopause.
The leading cause of menopausal itching is mainly due to the decline of estrogen, which is a vital natural hormone that helps to support vaginal tissue and vulvar skin. This may also commonly be referred to as vaginal atrophy. However, as the supply of estrogen declines, so does the overall health and elasticity of vaginal tissue and vulvar skin.
In this event, the skin becomes drier and thinner, which leads to a burning and itching sensation. Along with this, some people may experience having uncomfortable, often painful sex due to decreased natural vaginal lubrication. The combination of decreased lubrication and thinning vaginal tissue may lead to an increased risk of urinary tract infections, according to one clinical study.
Another leading cause for vaginal itching may be due vagina’s pH levels continuously fluctuating, this further influences the presence of bacteria in the vaginal region, which not only causes itching, but raises the risk of infections such as bacterial vaginosis.
Take A Look At Can Menopause Cause Itching?:
Factors Contributing to Itching During Menopause
While there may be several factors that can contribute to itching during menopause, one of the main, and perhaps most frequently reported causes is due to the decline of estrogen.
More than this, some experts have also found that another contributing factor may be due to the overproduction of histamine, a natural compound released by the immune system, that assists with physiological function and communication.
Histamine tends to experience elevated levels when a person may feel stressed or anxious, other leading causes may be dehydration, leaving the skin feeling sensitive, and further causing irritation on parts of the body.
A combination of declining hormones, including estrogen and progesterone, mixed with putting skincare lotion onto the skin can cause skin to become more sensitive to certain treatments and remedies, especially to lotions that contain synthetic colorants and flavoring.
Types of Itching Experienced in Menopause
Skin irritation experienced during menopause due to a decrease in hormones is often referred to as dermatosis, however, finding suitable treatments and remedies can become complicated due to the various types of itching a person may experience during menopause.
Perhaps the most common type of itching a person may experience during menopause is skin itching, which occurs as the skin begins to dry and loses elasticity.
Itching may be elevated by the excessive use of certain products, such as soaps, shampoos, or lotions. This may lead to the skin feeling inflamed or further increase itching, and experts often refer to this as ‘contact dermatitis.’
Irritation of the skin can occur on various parts of the body, including the hands, feet, fingers, toes, underarms, neck, face, and limbs.
Another form of itching that may take place during menopause is the feeling of toes and fingers going numb, often followed by a tingling sensation. This is called paresthesia and may cause a pricking cramp in the legs or back after sitting in one position for extended periods.
Aside from paresthesia, some people may report feeling a tingling sensation, similar to insects crawling across the skin, however, this is known as formication, a rare subsection of paresthesia.
Declining levels of estrogen may lead to the thinning and drying of the vaginal walls, which may become worse over time, especially in people that had experienced vaginal dryness during the stages of menopause.
As estrogen levels continue to decline, other parts such as the vulva, the outer region of the vagina may experience dryness and further lead to itching. Over time, vaginal tissue may become drier, only intensifying vaginal drying and thinning, and causing further discomfort.
Menopause-related vaginal dryness may increase a feeling of discomfort for some people, and result in painful sex, often bleeding after sexual intercourse.
Itching may also be caused by chemical soaps used around the genital region, leaving the skin feeling irritated or inflamed.
Impact of Itching on Quality of Life
Itchy skin during menopause may cause excessive irritation, impacting the overall quality of a person’s life, and leading to discomfort during day-to-day life.
Depending on which part of the body is being affected by menopausal itching, i.e. the neck, scalp, arms, legs, abdomen, or vagina, itching may cause irritation during nights while sleeping, leaving many people feeling irritable or often restless.
More than this, sexual intercourse may become uncomfortable due to the thinning and drying of the vaginal walls. Seeing as natural vaginal lubrication may begin to decline during menopause and further accelerate in postmenopause, libido, and sexual pleasure is often less frequent during this time.
Additionally, it may be required for some people to swap out soaps, shampoos, and other lotions used on a day-to-day basis. Some menopausal itching may be elevated by chemicals often present in soaps and lotions and can cause inflammation.
Finally, external implications may be another cause of the increase in the presence or frequency of itching. In some instances, warmer and drier temperatures could aggravate skin itching and this is similar in colder, less moist air conditions as well.
Managing and Alleviating Itching During Menopause
Finding suitable treatments is dependent on the severity of the itching. However, although some remedies are available, not all over-the-counter topical lotions or supplements will be as effective as desired.
Skincare Tips for Menopausal Itching
Adopting a gentle skincare routine is one of the most basic changes a person can make. Swapping out topical lotions or face creams that contain various chemicals might help to alleviate itching.
Using a moderate steroid cream is advised, however, experts suggest that the use of a steroid cream or topical application should be used in small quantities, and should only be considered as a short-term solution.
Additionally, using skincare products that are non-foaming, which may leave the skin feeling dry should be avoided. Strong exfoliants, or products that might contain micro-exfoliant properties will need to be swapped out for something more gentle, and that can help to promote the natural production of natural oils on the skin.
Medical Treatments for Itching During Menopause
Medical treatments such as Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) can help to treat some symptoms, including menopause itchy skin. HRT helps to replenish estrogen, which in return helps to restore hormonal balance, and further enhance the quality of skin.
While HRT is considered to be one of the most effective treatments for menopausal itching, it’s advised that each person consult with a registered healthcare provider beforehand.
Other medical treatments such as a topical corticosteroid, and an anti-itch cream, are in some instances prescribed to individuals who may have severe itching or inflammation. Some topical lotions which contain antihistamines may be a suitable alternative, and help to reduce inflammation and some itching.
Lifestyle Changes to Reduce Itching
Smaller lifestyle changes one can adopt include:
- Taking short showers, or reducing exposure to water for prolonged periods.
- Avoid taking hot showers, or lower the temperature of the water when showering.
- Use an SPF or sunscreen when outside to help reduce exposure to UV.
- Consume plenty of water to help keep the body and skin hydrated.
- Incorporating food that contains Vitamin E is crucial for skin health. These items may include things such as avocados, or various types of tree nuts.
- Reduce the intake of nicotine or heavy drinking.
- Wear loose-fitting clothing that is less likely to irritate the skin.
- Apply a dermatologically-approved topical lotion that contains minimal synthetic chemicals.
Does Menopause Itching Go Away?
While the severity of each case may be different from person to person, menopausal itching tends to subside several months after menopause has ended, usually during postmenopause. However, this might not be the case for everyone, and some people may still experience menopausal itching even during postmenopause, although some menopausal symptoms may be less severe.
How to Stop Perimenopause Itching?
Consider consulting with a healthcare professional to obtain Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). Adopt a gentle skincare routine that is not tough on the skin, and contains natural ingredients. Avoid using skincare products that are high in synthetic chemicals, and wear sunscreen as much as possible when outside.
Additionally, you may want to change some lifestyle habits, including eating foods rich in vitamins E and C, which can help improve the overall well-being of the skin. Stay well hydrated, and make use of a topical lotion in areas that are severely affected by itching.
What is the Best Cream for Menopause Itching?
Depending on the brand or manufacturer, it’s typically advised to opt for a topical lotion that contains a mild steroid or an anesthetic cream to help reduce itching, redness, and inflammation. This, however, may only provide temporary relief and shouldn’t be used in excess with additional lotions which may counter the efficacy.
Other creams that contain antihistamines, or a hormone replacement therapy (HRT) cream might be suitable, but it’s advised to consult with a medical professional before purchasing or using an over-the-counter brand.
While menopausal itching may be a temporary occurrence, taking care of your skin, through a healthy diet and having a gentle skin care routine is imperative to the overall well-being of a person’s skin, regardless of their age.
For those people experiencing menopausal itching, consider consulting with a medical professional beforehand to better understand the severity of the itching and whether any suitable treatments or remedies may be available to help treat or alleviate the itching.
Make use of topical lotions that contain natural or organic ingredients, and avoid using applications that contain harmful chemicals. Making some lifestyle choices is advised for a person experiencing severe reactions, or visiting a medical professional for guidance.