Whether it’s a tag in the back of your shirt, a merino wool sweater, or even your favorite body wash that gets you scratching, you may be noticing that you feel itchy more often lately. And, yup, you can chalk it up to menopause. Itchy skin is yet another symptom, and the itchiness is usually due to dry skin.
Your skin is made up of 64 percent water. One of estrogen’s many responsibilities is to trigger the body’s production of collagen and body oils, which keeps your skin moist. The hormone also makes it easier for your body to retain its natural moisture. As estrogen declines in perimenopause and menopause, so does your body’s moisture, resulting in dry, itchy skin, irritation, small bumps, and occasionally even a rash.
Unlike other menopause symptoms that ease up after menopause, your body never regains its ability to create and retain moisture the way it did in your youth. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to relieve the itch and keep your skin dewy.
While drinking more water is popular advice for dry skin, it isn’t super helpful in this instance because your skin isn’t retaining moisture like it did when you were younger. The best remedies work from the outside to minimize the amount of water your skin cells are losing. (But keep drinking water; there are lots of other benefits.)
Slather on moisturizer. It comes in lotions, creams, ointments, and oils so pick your favorite. A moisturizer creates an effective barrier to prevent your skin from losing more moisture. Products with the fewest harsh chemicals, like sulfates, and no fragrances, such as petroleum jelly or coconut oil, are usually best tolerated. Or look for natural products with anti-inflammatory properties that are rich in vitamins, antioxidants, oleic acids, and fatty acids. For best results, always apply a moisturizer after a bath or shower while skin is still damp to lock in moisture.
Turn down the temp. A hot, steamy shower or soak in the hot tub may sound or even feel luxurious, but hot water damages skin and can increase dryness. Instead keep the water lukewarm and limit showers to no more than 10 minutes, once a day. And skip the hot tub. Bonus: a cool shower before bed may also reduce night-time hot flashes.
Avoid irritants. Antibacterial and deodorant soaps strip natural oils from your skin, making it drier. Any products with harsh chemicals or fragrances that come in contact with your skin like laundry detergent (it stays in your clothes), makeup, and skin care products can also irritate your skin and increase the itch. If you enjoy swimming, always take a quick, cool shower afterward to remove harsh pool chemicals.
Soak in an oatmeal bath. Oats have been used for centuries to soothe a variety of skin conditions, and dozens of modern-day research studies confirm its effectiveness. It’s even approved as a skin protectant by the Food and Drug Administration. Chemicals in oats called avenanthramides have been found to reduce itching and decrease inflammation and redness. That’s why you see so many products with oatmeal on the market. But you can make your own. Simply grind one cup of oatmeal into a fine powder, add it to a tub of warm water, and soak for 10 to 15 minutes.
Always wear sunscreen. It may not replace the moisture that’s lost, but it can help protect your skin from further sun damage which dries it out more. Use an SPF 30 or higher on all exposed areas, year-round.
Add moisture to the air. Winter is prime time for dry skin because the air is drier and cranking up the heat dries skin out more. You can counter this by using a humidifier in your home to create a more skin-friendly environment.
Eat more good fats. The good kinds of fats nourish your body and skin. This is one strategy from the inside out that is effective. Eating more essential fatty acids such as olive oil, nuts, salmon, and flaxseeds can help skin cells retain more moisture.
Can’t stop scratching? Scratching getting worse? Talk to your doctor. There are prescription products they can offer relief. They can also check to see if another condition may be contributing to your suffering.
If your skin is not only dry, but also has a yellowish tinge and is cold to the touch, you might want to ask your doctor to check your thyroid. If you find you are often too cold or too hot, and you’re experiencing unexplained changes in body weight, these can also be indicators of a thyroid imbalance that may need medical care.
Diabetes and kidney disease can also cause dry, itchy skin. If you have a family history or other risk factors for either disease, or if you're concerned that you may be experiencing either diabetes or kidney issues, get in touch with a doctor right away.
The information on the Gennev site is never meant to replace the care of a qualified medical professional. Hormonal shifts throughout menopause can prompt a lot of changes in your body, and simply assuming something is “just menopause” can leave you vulnerable to other possible causes. Always consult with your physician or schedule an appointment with one of Gennev's telemedicine doctors before beginning any new treatment or therapy.