Symptoms of Itchy Skin
- Itchiness around facial t-zone
- Itchiness on elbows
- Generalized Itchiness
- Dry skin
- Cracked Skin
- Leathery Texture to skin
- Scaly Texture
Due to a decline in estrogen levels during menopause, estrogen receptors around the face and genital areas that once were abundant in hormones are susceptible to skin conditions, such as itchy skin. While many women notice their skin wrinkling more than normal, others notice severe drying out of the skin due to moisture depletion caused by collagen breaking down. Hormone fluctuations also decrease the blood supply to the skin, producing less oil and the fat layers become thinner.
Without adequate levels of estrogen, the formation of skin-smoothing collagen and oils ceases, as well as your body’s ability to retain moisture. Itchy skin, also known as pruritus, is a common symptom experienced by menopausal women and although it can interfere with one’s daily life, it can be properly treated with daily lifestyle changes, diet adjustments, medicine and herbal supplements.
What is Itchy Skin?
Pruritus, also known as itchy skin, is when an uncomfortable and unpleasant sensation begins on your skin that causes the need to scratch to maintain comfort. This feeling can also be a burning or stinging sensation and can appear anywhere on your body in spots or a generalized area.
Causes of Itchy Skin
As discussed earlier, itchy skin can be the result of fluctuating hormones during menopause. As estrogen leaves your body during menopause, it will stop the production of collagen, a youth hormone that keeps us looking young. Therefore when the production of collagen stops, itchy skin begins. Estrogen also is responsible for maintaining moisture, so dehydration can occur as a reduction in estrogen production occurs, which can cause extreme itchiness. Unfortunately, itchy skin can become extremely disruptive and the more one itches, the more one scratches. During menopause, many women find itchy skin to be more of an annoyance than a debilitating symptom, but there are many treatment options.
If the menopause years are in full swing, and there are no other symptoms, menopause is the most likely cause of your itchy skin. However, there can be other causes of itchy skin, such as:
- Dry Skin
- Insect Bites
- Bacterial Infections
- Viral Hepatitis
- Allergic Reaction
- Kidney Failure
- Scented Lotions
- Fungal Infections
- Drug use or side effects
- Vitamin deficiencies
- Skin Cancer
When to Seek a Doctor
It is advised to see your healthcare provider immediately if your menopausal itching is extremely severe, affects your entire body, has lasted for over a week and doesn’t improve with lifestyle adjustments and/or is accompanied by weight loss, changes in bowel habits, fever or redness.
Managing Hair Loss
Daily Lifestyle Changes
- Stress Reduction and Relaxation –If stress is what is causing your itchy skin, relaxation exercises, breathing exercises, massage, hypnosis, yoga and visualization techniques are all wonderful ways to help deal with stress and minimize the effects of stress on your body during menopause.
- Cold Baths – Avoid hot water. Lukewarm water is best for dry skin. When the itchiness gets bad, take a lukewarm bath and fill the water with baking soda or oatmeal.
- Wear Sunscreen – Be sure to wear sunscreen to avoid skin irritation and excessive drying out of the skin. Also, sunscreen protects from skin cancer and dryer skin. Buy only dermatologist approved sunscreens.
- Anti-Itch Creams – Apply anti-itch creams to the itchy areas, typically a cream that contains at least 1% hydrocortisone, to relieve the itching
- Avoid Scratching – Cover the itchy areas to help refrain from scratching it. It is advised to cut one’s fingernails to help avoid scratching the problem areas.
- Use Mild and Organic Detergents – Try switching the laundry detergent you use to an organic or non-scented, non-colored soap.
- Avoid Substances That Irritate Your Skin – After taking a shower, apply mild lotion that does not have any alcohol in the ingredient list. It’s best to apply the lotion after first getting out of a warm shower, while the pores in skin are still receptive to moisture. Don’t use perfume or wear jewelry that could irritate your skin.
It’s important to remember that while lifestyle changes might treat the symptoms of your dry, itchy skin, the root cause must also be treated, hormonal imbalance. Increase your omega 3 fatty acids that are found in salmon, eggs, sardines and soy. Adequate vitamin B is another factor of healthy skin. Avoid smoking and dairy products as well.
- Stay Hydrated – One of the most important diet changes to minimize itchiness is to drink at least eight glasses of water a day.
- Antioxidants – Antioxidants can come from various types of healthy food, such as nuts, olive oil, fruits, shellfish, meat, chicken, garlic and fish. Sticking to healthy, fresh and unprocessed food will ward off itchy skin due to its extremely high vitamin content.
- Phytoestrogens – Adopt a dietary plan that includes foods that contain phytoestrogens. These plant estrogens bind to estrogen receptors in your body and can alleviate itchy skin. Soy, tofu, beans, legumes, seaweed, potatoes, apples and carrots are all wonderful sources of phytoestrogens.
- Replenishing Your Diet – Eating more calcium-rich foods, magnesium-rich foods and Vitamin E-foods, like green vegetables, nuts and almonds, are other easily adaptable diet changes to help prevent itchiness.
- Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids – Eat oily fish like salmon, mackerel and tuna that are high in omega-3 fatty acids.
- Zinc – Oysters, red meat, liver, kidney beans
- Magnesium – Almonds, buckwheat, leafy greens
- Protein – Lean meats, fish, nuts, dairy
- Soy – Edamame, tofu, miso, soymilk
- Vitamins - Vitamin E is not only an antioxidant that improves the immune system, but it also protects the cells against free radicals that cause dryness and itchiness. A Vitamin E deficiency presents itself when one is unable to retain moisture in the skin.
- Alternative Medicine – Chinese medicine (acupuncture) has been a long standing treatment for itching and pruritus around the world. Acupuncture is a medical treatment involving the insertion of sharp sterile needles into the body at specific points according to a mapping of “energy pathways.” Acupuncture in particular has produced outstanding results in pruritus for many people. Many practitioners who perform acupuncture have found that when performed directly after patients’ skin was exposed to an allergen, it appeared to soothe subjective feelings of itchiness.
- Black Cohosh One of the most commonly used herbal remedies is Black Cohosh, a perennial plant that is a member of the buttercup family. It provides powerful phytoestrogens that mimic the hormone’s effects and bind to hormone receptors in the uterus and other parts of the body, alleviating hot flashes. Black Cohosh is also known to relieve hot flashes efficiently and is a good alternative to HRT. It is also used effectively for treating PMS, arthritis and lowering blood pressure. Red Clover, Dong Quai, Ginseng, Kava and evening primrose oil can be used as natural therapies, although there are some risks involved. Herbal supplements are not as closely regulated as prescription drugs and the amount of the herbal product, quality and safety may vary between brands.
- Herbal Remedies – Witch Hazel acts as an astringent that relieves itchy skin experienced during menopause. Aloe vera produces anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. Some of the most common phytoestrogen herbs are Saint Johns Wort, Black Cohosh and Dong Quai – all which contain estrogenic components produced by plants and replace some of the missing Beta carotenes, vitamin C and zinc are also responsible for preventing menopausal itchy estrogen hormones experienced as a result of menopause. Although these herbs are known to maintain the balance of key neurotransmitters in the brain, they can also make your body less responsive to producing its own hormones, causing a further decrease of one’s hormone levels. Non-estrogenic herbs are known to nourish one’s hormonal glands into producing its own natural hormones. By stimulating one’s own hormone production, non-estrogenic herbs, such as Macafem. Macafem is grown in the Andes of Peru and has achieved great success in naturally increasing one’s hormone levels.
- Hormone Replacement Therapy - For more severe cases of itchy skin, women may seek surgical or pharmaceutical treatments, although it is important to keep in mind that there are many studies showing hormone replacement therapy (HRT) increases a woman’s risk of elevated blood pressure, endometrial and breast cancers, strokes, blood clots and gallbladder disease. It is advised to speak with your doctor or healthcare professional regarding the negative side effects before you begin treatment.