The Link Between Dry, Itchy Skin and Menopause - Elektra Health

Get early access to our first-of-its-kind virtual menopause wellness community, currently in private beta. JOIN THE WAITLIST!

Dry, itchy skin

Get smarter together

SYMPTOM

Dry, itchy skin

Women commonly experience dry, itchy skin during menopause. Hormonal changes during this time affect the production of collagen, which serves as our skin’s building block. And while it’s impossible to retain the same skin we had in our 20s (if only!), there are effective interventions to keep short-term and long-term skin symptoms at bay.


Stay updated

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter with cutting edge science, stories & recommendations for the 21st century woman.

    The science

    Dry and/or itchy skin through the menopause transition is a frequent complaint of women.

    We know that it’s hard to accept, but our bodies are meant to evolve. What IS in our control, however, is how we respond to it. And that starts with education in order to understand the science behind WHY it even happens in the first place.

    First point, there are many, many factors that play into how our skin looks and feels at this point in our lives.

    And when we say many, we mean it: aging, past sun exposure (many of us are probably regretting using Coppertone Suntan Oil — SPF 2!!! — every summer in the 80s about now!), inflammatory diets, smoking, chronic stress, poor sleep, and hydration can all affect skin quality. But as you may have guessed, the menopause transition is involved as well.

    So let’s talk estrogen. As a reminder, this is the hormone that regulates the growth and physiology of our reproductive system. It also influences our nervous, endocrine (aka hormonal), skeletal, and cardiovascular systems. Because the skin has estrogen receptors, the hormone also has a direct effect on the physiology of our skin cells. It:

    • Provides skin elasticity and firmness
    • Maintains skin thickness through the production of collagen (the building block of our skin that helps it maintain thickness, produce natural oils, and retain moisture)
    • Helps skin maintain moisture through the production of sebum (an oily substance that forms a protective coating on our skin’s surface)
    • Helps with wound healing

    During the menopausal transition, the body’s production of estrogen begins to fluctuate and progressively decline. Lower estrogen levels mean less collagen and sebum production, which explains why many of us notice skin aging symptoms upon entering perimenopause:

    • Skin dryness (and itching, which is called pruritus in doctor-speak) on our face, limbs, neck, chest, and back
    • Decreased firmness
    • Reduced elasticity
    • Increased prominence of wrinkles
    • Slower wound healing
    • Worsening symptoms of eczema and rosacea
    • The development of teenage-like acne (WTF!?)
    • Growth of male-pattern facial hair along the upper lip, chin, and jawline (due to the impact of higher levels of testosterone relative to estrogen)

    Yes, hormone levels play a big role in how our skin looks and feels — but they don’t act alone.

    When managing dry skin during the menopause transition, lifestyle changes must be considered, and we’ll dive into in more detail below.

    SIOBHAN M. | COMMUNITY MEMBER

    “I don't think skin has to be perfect to look beautiful. If it's radiant and you are happy, then it shows up as beauty.”

    Read Siobhan's story

    We'd love to hear your story. Share yours with the Elektra community today!

    Share my story

    What you can do

    We’re all about equipping you with the know-how to understand your symptoms, and we especially emphasize the specific, tangible ways to manage them. Our goal is to empower YOU to take charge of your menopause journey, starting today.

    A quick note about product recommendations…Elektra Health is not paid to feature any products. We just like them and think you might too, though we can’t guarantee any results.


    Lifestyle

    Nutrition & Diet

    Some food leads to inflammation which, in turn, affects our skin health. When we say “inflammation,” we’re referring to our body’s normal response to infection or injury. It’s what causes damaged tissues to release chemicals that signal to white blood cells that it’s time to start repairing — which is totally a good thing and exactly what we want to happen when there’s an injury.

    What we DON’T want, however, is for the inflammation to become chronic and spread throughout the body, because then it can cause damage to your skin, in addition to increasing your risk of heart disease, stroke, cancers, diabetes, and more.

    There are certain tried-and-true nutritional tenets that our founding physician, Dr. Anna Barbieri, MD recommends to keep inflammation at bay and help mitigate the symptoms of dry, itchy skin during menopause:

    • Eliminate sugar, including high fructose corn syrup, and artificial sweeteners
    • Remove inflammatory foods such as conventionally raised meat, unhealthy fats (trans fats & processed vegetable oils), dairy, gluten — nightshade vegetables (eggplants and peppers) can be inflammatory too, so you may want to consider limiting those as well
    • Stick to the healthy oils: olive oil, flaxseed oil, walnut oil, hemp seed oil, and unrefined organic expeller-pressed canola and grapeseed oil
    • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! When our urine is pale and clear, that’s a sign we’re properly hydrating our skin from the inside

    For more on what foods raise the risk of inflammation and impact complexion, refer to our guide to acne during menopause, as well as our comprehensive nutrition guide.


    Holistic Practices

    Healthy skin starts with a basic (but effective!) skincare regimen that’s, above all, sustainable. Here’s what we recommend:

    It goes without saying: sun protection is a MUST.

    If possible, avoid being outdoors during the peak midday hours, wear a wide-brimmed hat if you can, and always, always, always wear sunscreen with a 30+SPF.

    When looking for skin care products, keep an eye out for the following ingredients:

    Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)

    This potent antioxidant protects the skin from free radicals, which break down the skin cells and cause fine lines and wrinkles. It also acts as a shield to protect the skin from sun damage. Apply in the morning after washing your face.

    Hyaluronic Acid

    When it comes to hydration, hyaluronic acid takes the cake. It helps increase skin’s thickness while reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, speeding wound healing, and regulating levels of inflammation.

    Retinol

    Retinol is an antioxidant that works to naturally boost collagen production and, in turn, help the skin maintain thickness, produce oils, and retain moisture.

    Niacinamide

    Niacinamide, aka vitamin B3, is a potent antioxidant that helps reduce water loss in the skin, which may help improve its elasticity.

    Phytoestrogens

    Emerging research also suggests that, when applied topically, certain phytoestrogens mimic the effects of estrogen by supporting collagen synthesis. Further research and exploration are needed. we’re always keeping an eye out for new menopause-related science and will be sure to let you know if/when we hear more about topical phytoestrogens!


    Supplements & Over-the-Counter Solutions

    Supplements and over-the-counter supplements may be effective in supporting your skin health…if you choose wisely. We recommend consulting with your healthcare provider first to ensure you’re using something with optimal efficacy and safety (i.e. backed by clinical research) or consulting with Elektra’s providers. Here’s a quick primer from our team on how to go about selecting high-quality supplements.

    Curcumin

    Curcumin is a spice derived from the boiled, dried, and ground root of the Curcuma longa plant. It’s what constitutes turmeric, the anti-inflammatory, antioxidant-rich spice that’s fittingly referred to as “Indian gold.” Studies show that it may help reduce the signs of aging.

    coQ10

    coQ10 is an enzyme involved in the metabolism of our mitochondria (the powerhouse of the cell). It acts as an antioxidant to protect the cell from damage and may be helpful in reducing fine lines.

    Niacin

    Niacin, known more commonly as vitamin B3, is an antioxidant that helps reduce oxidative stress, which refers to a type of stress affecting the functioning of our cells. It can also help increase the number of healthy lipids in our skin called ceramides.

    Collagen

    As natural levels of collagen decline, some choose to take a supplement to boost skin health and reduce the signs of skin aging. There are data from several small studies that show collagen supplements may improve aging’s effect on skin, including decreasing wrinkles and improving elasticity and dryness.


    Prescription

    Hormonal

    Estrogen has a direct effect on the physiology of our skin cells. It can increase hydration and elasticity while reducing the appearance of wrinkles, which is why hormonal therapies are a viable option for the management and treatment of dry, itchy skin (known as estrogen-deficient skin, or EDS).

    However, studies on the use of hormonal estrogen for skin health have focused on topical applications only. With concerns around the safety of topical estradiol, more research is needed to support its use.

    For more information, refer to our complete guide to hormone replacement therapy (HRT).


    We’re always keeping an eye out on emerging research and the latest clinical studies. Subscribe to our weekly Elektra Digest for the latest, science-based info direct to your inbox. Something work well for you that’s not listed here? We want to hear it! Shoot us a note at [email protected] (We’re human, promise.)


    Disclaimer: This information is for general educational purposes, and should not be used as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment of any health condition or problem.

    As with anything you put into your body, taking dietary supplements can also involve health risks. You should consult a medical professional before taking supplements and inform your doctor about any supplements, as well as any medications you already take, since there may be interactions.

    References

    Expand to see more

    Learn more

    Hair loss SYMPTOM
    Hair loss
    Brittle nails SYMPTOM
    Brittle nails
    Acne SYMPTOM
    Acne

    Become a Founding Member of Meno-morphosis

    Sign up today for early access to our first-of-its-kind virtual menopause wellness community, currently in private beta.

    Join the waitlist