Does the menopause give you itchy skin?
Issues such as hot flushes, night sweats, and mood swings get a lot of air time when we discuss menopause symptoms. Other less drastic but more niggling issues like itchy skin are often overlooked.
Itchy skin is an especially bothersome symptom, and one that many women may not realise menopause causes. Also known as pruritus, itchy skin can develop in the perimenopause and menopause as estrogen levels start to diminish. The drop in estrogen levels we experience during the menopause can result in thinning of the epidermis (outer layer of skin), leading to greater water loss and dry skin. Our skin also becomes more prone to ageing through sun damage. We produce less skin-plumping collagen with lower levels of estrogen.
Read on for tips and tricks to prevent and alleviate itchy skin.
How to prevent itchy skin
Enjoy a shower
Long, hot baths or showers may already have been discarded from your routine if you’re prone to hot flushes. Itchy skin may be another reason to turn the temperature down. Having a piping hot bath or shower can strip our skin of its natural oils, leaving it drier and more prone to itchiness. Instead, opt for a shorter, lukewarm dip of no more than 20 minutes.
Avoid antibacterial or heavily perfumed soaps, which may further strip the essential oils from our skin. Lavender essential oil, however, does seem to have mild pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory qualities, which may help soothe irritated skin if added sparingly to a warm bath.
Alternatively, try Liz’s skin soothing rose petal milk bath for a relaxing soak. When finished in the bathroom, dab skin gently with a towel and then slather on moisturiser while skin is still damp. This helps to prevent moisture from leaving the skin.
Protect your skin from the sun
Protecting skin from the sun is important for all skin types. It’s especially vital if you have developed dry, itchy skin. UV rays are very damaging to collagen. With a reduced ability to restore our collagen levels, skin can become discoloured and wrinkled. While 10 minutes of exposure to sunlight in the summer is important for ensuring our bodies produce enough vitamin D, it is important not to allow yourself to burn, as reduced collagen levels make it more difficult for the skin to heal itself.
A mineral sunscreen that physically blocks the sun’s UV rays is the kindest option for sensitive skin. Advances in mineral sunscreen development mean they rub in with less residue.
Opt for soft fabrics
Certain fabrics such as wool and synthetic fibres can really exacerbate itchy skin. Try to wear cotton clothing as a barrier underneath to prevent the urge to scratch. Opt for loose-fitting night clothes made of cotton to allow the skin to breathe at night.
Listen to the Liz Earle Wellbeing Podcast episode where Liz discusses the benefits of organic, Fairtrade cotton with Rebecca Winckworth, the founder of organic and Fairtrade cotton company White & Green.
Some specialist clothing companies even incorporate colloidal silver into their fabrics that can also help soothe irritated, eczema-prone skin. Colloidal silver is known for being a natural antibiotic. You can purchase it in a spray bottle for skin application, to spray around the home, or even add it to a laundry cycle to add protection to clothes and sheets.
Studies on menopausal women with decreased levels of collagen show that applying estrogen topically twice a day can considerably increase collagen production. Wrinkle appearance, pore size, and skin thickness showed marked improvements in women whose skin had not already been sun damaged. Another incentive to slap on the sun cream as a preventative measure.
Fats to include in your diet
Omega-3, found in soya products, oily fish such as mackerel and salmon, flaxseed oil and walnuts, plays an important role in skin hydration. It can help skin hold on to moisture. Skin can become dry and itchy without it. Try Liz’s very delicious recipe for salmon with pumpkin seed pesto for a hearty kick of omega-3 – it could even help soothe your itchy skin.
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