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Perimenopause and Itching Skin – Causes and Treatments

Updated: Jun 1

Wondering how to deal with the perimenopause and itching skin changes that come with it? Well, you just landed at the right spot!


Entering those years of life when you no longer have to worry about period cramps or PMS can be fun—until you start having intense itching in various areas of your body. This itching is clinically named pruritus.


It can be both painful and annoying, and unlike other perimenopause symptoms, it doesn't go away quickly.


But don't worry; we have expert remedies and medications for you to relieve the itchiness and keep your skin moist and fresh.


perimenopausal skin itching with woman scratching her forarm

What is the Link Between Perimenopause and Itching Skin?


As we grow older, our skin undergoes some changes regardless of our gender. However, women's skin is influenced more than men's due to their hormones.


You may be familiar with how estrogen hormones are essential for the functioning of the female reproductive system. But it's not just about reproduction – estrogen has a significant impact on  your skin health as well. It helps by:



During perimenopause, there is a quick drop in estrogen hormone production. This drop in estrogen decreases skin's collagen content by 2% every postmenopausal year. Moreover, there's a reduction in skin oils, and perimenopausal women might notice their skin getting dry, breaking out in acne, or getting thinner day by day.


Itchy skin is just one of many perimenopausal symptoms.

 

Skin Itching: Identifying Its Causes and Triggers


For any skin condition, it is really important to identify its causes and triggers.

 

Causes of itching skin


Skin itching mainly occurs when the skin gets dry and scaly. There are different causes of itching skin, for example:


Skin conditions


  • Dry skin, eczema, psoriasis, scabies, insect bite.


Nerve disorders


  • Herpes Zoster, multiple sclerosis.


Psychiatric conditions


  • Anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and depression.


Allergic reaction


  • Wool, chemicals, soaps, and other substances can irritate the skin and cause rashes and itching.


Medical Conditions


  • Liver failure, bile duct obstruction, hepatitis


Triggers of itching skin

 

As for the triggers, their identification is crucial to prevent worsening symptoms.

Here are some of the triggers of itching skin (especially during menopause):


  1. Hormonal changes

  2. Histamine intolerance

  3. Dry air

  4. Heat and sweating

  5. Stress

  6. Prolonged sun exposure

  7. Irritants (such as harsh soaps, bodywash, perfumes, or laundry detergents )

  8. Clothing (Wearing tight or synthetic clothing that doesn't allow the skin to breathe)

  9. Allergens

  10. Medications (amlodipine: Norvasc®, atenolol: Tenormin®)


Why Is Itching Skin in Perimenopause a Problem?


Besides driving you crazy, itching skin can cause some ongoing issues for perimenopausal women that can persist or worsen post-menopause. This can be due to both the changes in the skin from reduced estrogen levels as well as the consequences of scratching.


  • increased skin fragility

  • increased susceptibility to trauma

  • poor wound healing.

 Don't despair, there are many things you can do to reduce perimenopausal skin itching.


Expert Tips for Managing Skin Itching During Perimenopause

 

Here, we bring you our expert tips, home remedies and medication treatment for skin itching during perimenopause.


Home remedies for itching skin


Skin itching can be quickly relieved by changing your skincare and diet routines. Here are some easy tips you can follow at home to avoid skin itching during perimenopause:


Give your skin cold compresses:


Putting a cold, damp cloth on itchy skin can make it feel better.

If itching bothers you at night, try wrapping the itchy area with a wet towel overnight.


Moisturize regularly:


After you shower or bathe, use a moisturizer to hydrate your skin. Look for fragrance-free moisturizers made for dry, sensitive skin. Natural options like aloe vera gel or coconut oil can help soothe your skin better.


perimenopausal skin itching with woman applying moisturizer as treatment

Take an oatmeal bath with warm water:


Adding oatmeal to your bathwater can help calm itchy skin.


Colloidal oatmeal bath is a fancy term for a finely ground oatmeal that is dissolved in bath water. It helps soften and soothe your skin. You can find colloidal oatmeal in drugstores or online.


Always make sure the water is warm, not hot, as hot water can strip away your body's natural oils and make itching worse.


Eat more omega-3 fatty acid foods:


Itching skin means there is some inflammation inside the body. Omega-3 fatty acids are a form of essential fatty acids that have potent anti-inflammatory properties. So, eating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids (such as salmon, mackerel, chia seeds, walnuts, etc) can relieve itching skin.


Stay away from irritants:


Soaps with antibacterial or deodorant properties can strip your skin off natural oils, making it even drier. Also, be careful with products with strong chemicals or perfumes, like laundry detergents, makeup, and skincare items. Even after swimming, rinse off quickly to remove any harsh chemicals from the pool.


Use the Skin Deep database to check your cosmetics to see if there are allergenic or irritant ingredients in them.


Always put on sunscreen when you're outside:


The sun's rays can make dry or sensitive skin even worse. Use sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher on all the parts of your body that are exposed to the sun, no matter the season.


It won't replace the moisture your skin needs, but it can shield your skin from the sun, which can dry it out more.


Don't forget to supplement with vitamin D if you are being sunsmart.


Keep the air around you moist:


During winter, the air tends to be dry, making your skin feel even drier, especially if you're using heaters.


Using a humidifier in your home can add moisture to the air and make it more comfortable for your skin, although this can be challenging if your home accumulates mould.


Don't scratch your itchy skin, even though it feels good:


Scratching can hurt your skin, especially if it's already sensitive or red. Instead, try putting something cool on it to make it feel better.


Wear loose and soft clothes:


Wear clothes made of soft, loose materials like cotton. These are less likely to irritate your skin than clothes made of wool or synthetic fabrics.


Avoid alcohol or smoking:


Did you know that tobacco smoking and over-intake of alcohol cause dryness of the skin and lead to itchy skin? Smoking also causes constriction of small blood vessels, reducing good blood flow to the skin. Avoid smoking and drink alcohol according to recommendations to reduce skin itching.


Treatments for itching skin in Perimenopause


If you have severe skin itching, home remedies might not be enough, and you may need medications.


Here's are some medications that can help reduce your skin itching:


Mild Steroid Cream:

Skin creams or ointments with hydrocortisone help with inflamed skin and itching.


Stronger Steroid Creams:

Sometimes, the itching is so bad that you need stronger medicine. Your doctor might prescribe a special cream with corticosteroids. These creams come in different strengths and forms, such as gel or lotion.


Precaution!
Use steroid creams only for a short time. Using them for too long can make your skin thin, red, and steroid dependent.

Antihistamines:


Some people with perimenopause itching find relief by taking allergy medications. You can either put use an antihistamine cream on your skin or take tablets.


Phytoestrogens:


These compounds, called phytoestrogens, are found in plants. They're not exactly like our bodies' estrogen, but they can do some of the same things. You can find them in soy products, flaxseed, and some herbs like red clover.


Scientists are still studying if phytoestrogens help with perimenopause symptoms. However, some research says they might help, like HRT, but with fewer side effects.


Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT):


For women going through perimenopause or menopause, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can be of great help.


Research indicates that estrogen does not improve collagen production in sun-damaged skin. So,  again, always use sunscreen to protect your skin and estrogen therapy will help only if your itching skin is not sun-damaged.



Benefits of HRT for skin health in Perimenopause


Numerous studies show that topical estrogen increases skin thickness, increases collagen production, increases water content of skin and therefore reduces dryness (Estrogen-deficient skin 2019) .


Oral estrogen therapy, interestingly does not appear to have as beneficial effects as topical estrogen on the skin (Systemic HRT in postmenopausal women 2000).


Also it appears that the maximal prevention of skin aging changes that result in itching skin, occurs for women who use HRT during perimenopause and into menopause rather than starting to use it after they have had low estrogen levels for some time postmenopause (Skincare and aging 2003).


Don't forget vaginal itching!


Many women going through perimenopause might be unaware of the fact that itching is common in the vaginal area as well. Itching could be due to hormonal changes due to menopause. Some women experience cyclical vaginal dryness in perimenopause especially in the late luteal phase (week before the period) as hormone shifts occur and estrogen drops low.


vaginal itching represented by  2 hands clasping a rose

Vaginal itching responds best to topical estrogen cream or DHEA (the precursor hormone that is converted in tissues to both estrogen and testosterone) rather than systemic hormone replacement therapy. It is a simple way to keep the vaginal skin healthy.


Vaginal itching can also be due to infection or other causes so get this checked out by your health professional.

 

Why Is It Important For a Perimenopausal Woman To Have  Skin Care Routine?

 

Skin care is important, no matter your age.


Skin is your very significant barrier against pathogens, allergens and toxins and your skin's integrity is essential for a healthy body.


Having a skin care routine at perimenopause is crucial as the hormonal changes during this time can affect the skin adversely. Perimenopause and itching skin go hand in hand. Additionally, skin becomes drier, thinner, and more prone to wrinkles and acne during this time.


A good skin care routine can improve skin hydration, elasticity, and overall appearance, reducing signs of aging and promoting confidence and well-being during this transitional phase.

 

Final Words

 

A woman's life mostly depends on hormonal changes, be it menarche, periods, pregnancy, perimenopause, or menopause. Everything is under the influence of these hormones, for example estrogen, progesterone.


A decrease in estrogen during perimenopause causes dryness and skin itching. Following a healthy diet and a good skin care routine can prevent your skin from itchiness and dryness that come with menopause.


Remember,

"Healthy skin is not a luxury, it's a necessity for your wellbeing."

 

Join our Menothrive Program, to feel great and love your life during peri and menopause.


Book an appointment with Dr Deborah Brunt at Otepoti Integrative Health.

 

References


  1. Rzepecki A, Murase J, Juran R, et al (2019). Estrogen-deficient skin: The role of topical therapy. International journal of women's dermatology, 5(2), 85–90.

  2. Thornton M. J. (2013). Estrogens and aging skin. Dermato-endocrinology, 5(2), 264–270. https://doi.org/10.4161/derm.23872

  3. Cerio, R., Dohil, M., Jeanine, D., et al. (2010). Mechanism of action and clinical benefits of colloidal oatmeal for dermatologic practice. Journal of drugs in dermatology : JDD, 9(9), 1116–1120.

  4. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; Health and Medicine Division; Division on Earth and Life Studies; Board on Health Sciences Policy; Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology; Ocean Studies Board; Committee on Environmental Impact of Currently Marketed Sunscreens and Potential Human Impacts of Changes in Sunscreen Usage. Review of Fate, Exposure, and Effects of Sunscreens in Aquatic Environments and Implications for Sunscreen Usage and Human Health. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2022 Aug 9. 7, Sunscreen, Preventive Health Behaviors, and Implications of Changes in Sunscreen Use for Public Health. Available from:

  5. Lipa, K., Zając, N., Owczarek, W., et al. (2021). Does smoking affect your skin?. Postepy dermatologii i alergologii, 38(3), 371–376.

  6. Lahiji, A. P., Mortazavi, M., Tirani, S. A., et al. (2018). Omega-3 Supplementation Improves Pruritus in Continuous Ambulatory Peritoneal Dialysis Patients: A Crossover Randomized Pilot Clinical Trial. Journal of research in pharmacy practice, 7(4), 195–199. https://doi.org/10.4103/jrpp.JRPP_18_64

  7. Desmawati, D., & Sulastri, D. (2019). Phytoestrogens and Their Health Effect. Open access Macedonian journal of medical sciences, 7(3), 495–499. https://doi.org/10.3889/oamjms.2019.044

  8. ScienceDaily. (2008, September 16). A study found that sun-damaged skin does not improve with estrogen treatments. ScienceDaily. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/09/080915165828.htm 

  9. Piérard GE, Humbert P, Berardesca E, et al. Revisiting the cutaneous impact of oral hormone replacement therapy. Biomed Res Int. 2013;2013:971760. 

  10. Sauerbronn AV, Fonseca AM, Bagnoli VR, et al. The effects of systemic hormonal replacement therapy on the skin of postmenopausal women. Int J Gynaecol Obstet. 2000 Jan;68(1):35-41.

  11. Raine-Fenning NJ, Brincat MP, Muscat-Baron Y. Skin aging and menopause : implications for treatment. Am J Clin Dermatol. 2003;4(6):371-8.

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