Fine lines and wrinkles aren’t the only changes that show up as you age. If you’re in perimenopause or menopause, you may be noticing that your skin is drier, flakier, more irritated, or itchier from head to toe. Here’s why these changes are happening, what exacerbates this problem, and what you can do about it.
Skin Issues Are Common in Menopause
Menopause and dry, itchy skin often go hand-in-hand. One 2018 study found that 72% of women who have reached menopause said that menopause impacted their skin1:
- 70% experienced a loss of skin elasticity
- 58% experienced skin dryness
- 46% experienced more fragile skin
- 39% experienced skin thinning
- 34% experience more irritated skin
If your symptoms have surprised you, you’re not alone—the same study found that half of women didn’t know before menopause that it would impact their skin, and two-thirds didn’t feel like they were sufficiently informed.
So, Why Does Menopause Cause Itchy and Dry Skin?
It comes down to hormones. The same hormonal changes that lead to symptoms like hot flashes, mood changes, and pain during sex can also impact skin—after all, your skin is your body’s largest organ.2
Your body’s estrogen levels decrease in menopause, and with that come changes to all of the skin-related processes that estrogen plays a role in. A decline in estrogen slows down your sebaceous glands’ production of oils that hydrate and protect skin.3 You also lose some of the molecules that keep your skin moisturized (like hyaluronic acid), leading to dry skin or itching.4 Some women experience just dryness, while some might experience itchier skin as a symptom of drier skin.
Estrogen decline also reduces collagen production—women can lose up to 30% of their skin’s collagen just in the first five years of menopause, leaving skin weaker and less elastic.5
Lifestyle Factors Also Play a Role
Everything from the weather to the wrong skincare products can exacerbate the effects of menopause on your skin, especially since its ability to repair and regenerate weakens and slows with age.
- Dry air during the winter — both outside and from indoor heating — zaps moisture from the upper layers of the skin, amplifying the effects of decreased estrogen.6
- Long, hot showers can further strip away your skin’s natural oils, leaving it even drier.7
- Harsh skincare ingredients can make dry skin or itchy skin worse, stripping out the beneficial oils.8
- Just stressing out about your skin can create a vicious cycle — studies have found that psychological stress aggravates itching for many people.9
You Can Manage and Prevent Dry, Itchy Skin During Menopause
Just because it’s common doesn’t mean you’re stuck with dry and itchy skin. Menopause doesn’t have the last word when you stay on top of your skincare routine and self-care:
- Try supplements that feed your skin. Some that have been shown to have benefits include collagen (which improves skin elasticity, collagen density, and hydration)10, vitamin C (which can help with collagen production and healing damaged skin), and vitamin E (which can help counteract the drop in oil production during menopause).11
- Use a humidifier during the winter and dry weather to add moisture to the air at home.12
- Switch up your products. Try fragrance-free and hypoallergenic moisturizers, which are less likely to bother sensitive skin. Oatmeal-based bath products may also soothe itchy skin (just don’t get the water too hot — it can further dry out skin).13
- Add a hyaluronic acid serum. The molecule holds 1,000 times its weight in water, and is one of the moisturizing molecules your skin loses during menopause.14
- Manage your daily stress in whatever way works best for you — meditation, exercise, therapy, and yoga can help.15