If you’re in menopause you might have noticed your skin is often itchy or tingling, like you have insects crawling over you? You may find yourself reaching for something to scratch your back with more often - because nobody useful is ever around when this happens! Sound familiar?
While this is one of the lesser-known menopause symptoms, itchy skin, prickly skin and irritated skin are one of the most common menopause symptoms. In this article, we’ll look at what causes itchy skin in menopause and how you can keep skin moisturised and these pesky symptoms at bay.
Let’s get straight into it!
How do you know you're in menopause?
Menopause is defined as the period in a woman’s life in which menstruation stops. It’s caused by depleting hormone levels – oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone. When you are no longer having periods and up to 12 consecutive months, you’re officially in menopause. A woman is considered to be postmenopausal after 12 consecutive months without experiencing a period.
The lead-up to menopause, when hormone levels begin to drop and your menstrual cycle becomes irregular, is called perimenopause, and usually happens in women around the age of 46. Initial symptoms of declining hormone rates start to appear, commonly less reliable periods, brain fog and dry skin and more severe pre menstrual tension.
Is itchy skin a menopause symptom?
Menopausal symptoms are numerous and include hot flashes and headaches to forgetfulness, vaginal dryness, night sweats, hot flushes and mood swings. Itchy skin, along with itchiness, is a lesser-known menopause symptom, however, it’s very uncommon.
Healthy skin needs both moisture and oil to glow. Lower levels of oestrogen affects the skins ability to produce collagen and natural oils which help it retain moisture which can make skin dry.
Itching and tingling can happen anywhere on the body, but the feet, legs, arms, back and hands are most commonly affected. It’s also common to experience an itchy scalp. Some women describe feeling a crawling sensation on the skin, pins and needles, or that they develop more sensitive skin, too.
Why does menopause cause skin to become less supple?
Many people are unaware of the numerous benefits that oestrogen brings to the table. Oestrogens contribute to skin function and regeneration, stimulating the production of new skin cells, increasing sebum production and water retention and plays a very important role in how healthy our skin is. Oestogen recptors are abundant in the face, genitals and lower limbs.As menopause approaches and oestrogen levels start to fall, it wreaks havoc on our skin.
Skin relies on natural oil secreted by the sebaceous glands to help it retain water and stay moisturised. Collagen helps to maintain the strength of the skin and elastin helps to keep the skin supple so it doesn't tear. Oil production is slowed by lower levels of oestrogen making skin dry, more fragile and dull.
Collagen levels take a nosedive
Studies have shown that low levels of oestrogen levels lead to our skin becoming thinner, less elastic, and more wrinkled thanks to depleting collagen levels . In fact, the production of collagen falls by as much as 30% in the first five years of menopause. Production of collagen continues to fall by a further 2% per year from then onwards
Lower oestrogen affects the nervous system
Declining oestrogen levels also have an effect on the central nervous system, nerves can be impacted which can create different sensations which include numbness, tingling and pis and needles.
The PH level of your skin changes from the age of 50
And it’s not only lower levels of oestrogen that affects skin hydration. From age 50, the pH level of our skin changes, which leads to it becoming more sensitive and more prone to rashes and irritation.
Vaginal itching will be an issue for 1 in 2 women
It's not just the skin on display which gets drier during menopause. Vaginal itching is also a common post menopause symptom. 50% of women will experience genital itching post menopause.
The good news is, there are plenty of things you can do to reduce this annoying sensation and stop it from interfering with your day-to-day life.
How to keep your skin healthy during menopause
Itchy skin during menopause can be maddeningly annoying and uncomfortable. Natural skin moistening oils may be in short supply but there are plenty of things you can try to get some relief from itchy skin and improve your skin health.
Turn down the central heating
Having your heating on too high can cause your skin to dry out even further, making your menopausal itchy skin worse. If you’re suffering from itchiness, it’s a good idea to dial down your thermostat a little.
As oestrogen levels deplete, our skin becomes dry and loses its ability to retain water, leaving it prone to cracking, as well as itching. You can moisturise a couple of times a day to help bring some moisture back into your skin. If your skin is sensitive, you might want to choose an unscented product or one designed especially for sensitive skin.
Avoid harsh chemicals in your skincare routine
Chemical exfoliants which worked for you before you hormones started to change and gave your skin a boost will be too harsh. Using acids and harsh chemicals too frequently is going to disrupt your skin barrier, the is the protective layer that keeps moisture in and oestrogen levels are too low to replace the outermost layer of your skin the way it used to.
Make sure you're getting enough Vitamin C and E
The dynamic duo Vitamin C and Vitamin E take through diet or as an oral supplement can help to improve your skin. Vitamin C is an essential building block of elastin and collagen production and helps to plump skin by supporting moisture in skin cells. Vitamin E supports the sebaceous glands which help to keep the skin hydrated.
Wear loose fitting clothes and choose natural fibres
Tight clothing can rub on skin and contribute to dryness. Go for natural fibres which allow it to breathe and avoid synthetic fibres which can irritate easily when you have less natural moisture. And talking about clothes, you may need to check your laundry detergent isn't making irritation worse.
Try localised hormone replacement therapy hrt
Thankfully, if you're suffering with vaginal dryness or vaginal atrophy ( when vaginal tissues dry out) you can buy over the counter hormone replacement therapy hrt in the form of a localised oestrogen. You can sooth itchy skin around the vulva with a cream and inside the vagina with an oestrogen based pessary or a vaginal ring
Avoid scratching skin
This one’s easier said than done, but it’s really important to resist the urge to scratch when you're itching. By scratching, you’ll damage your skin further, making the problem worse. When you feel itchy to avoid scratching try patting or tapping instead. If you're a home apply a cool compress to itchy areas. If you’re prone to scratching in your sleep, make sure you cut your nails to avoid cutting yourself.
Cut down on hot baths and add some oatmeal
If you enjoy soaking in a hot bath, hot showers or sitting in a hot tub and you have itchy skin, you might want to opt for a warm water instead. Hot water dehydrates skin which can make itching worse. Spending too much time in water can strip out the essential oils in your skin, which can lead to further dryness and irritation. Try an oatmeal bath. Natural colloidal oatmeal made from finely ground oats helps to sooth very dry, itchy and irritable skin. Try the Aveeno range
Try applying an aloe vera gel
Aloe is a plant that looks like a cactus and is packed with antioxidants, vitamins including C and E and has soothing anti inflammatory properties which can help to sooth itchy skin.
See a dermatologist or your doctor
Acne is common in menopause thanks to fluctuating hormone testosterone levels. If you’re struggling with skin conditions like acne during menopause, speak to a dermatologist. They’ll be able to advise you on how to tackle your skin problems and prescribe a treatment that’s suitable for you. Alternatively, your doctor can prescribe prescription medications in the form of mild steroid creams to help with skin itching.
The bottom line
Menopause affects many different parts of the body, including the skin. As oestrogen and collagen levels fall, skin can become drier and more sensitive, which means that itching, irritation and tingling are common.
There are a few things you can do to minimize this, like avoiding extreme heat, wearing loose clothing, moisturizing, and not scratching your skin. For more intimate itching you can turn to over the counter solutions like creams and pessaries.
Is itching a sign of perimenopause?
Perimenopause skin itching is common. It’s caused by decreasing estrogen levels and a drop in collagen production as women approach menopause. So, if you’re experiencing things like hot flashes and itching all over, this could be the reason.
Can menopause cause itchy scalp?
Yes – an itchy scalp is a common but lesser-known menopause symptom. It might be accompanied by redness or flaking. Like many symptoms, menopause scalp itching is caused by reduced oestrogen levels.