Dry skin actually results from the decreasing estrogen levels in the bloodstream at the onset of menopause. Estrogen stimulates the body’s production of collagen and oils, which keep the skin naturally moisturized through most of a woman’s life. When the estrogen levels decline, the skin has a harder time nourishing itself and becomes dry and itchy.
You might start to notice your skin drying out on the elbows and the T-zone – the area of your face covered by a capital T, which includes the forehead, nose, and chin. However, dry patches can appear anywhere, including your chest and back, arms, legs, and even genitals.
What Can I Do to Treat Dry, Itchy Skin?
Unfortunately, dry skin can start early in perimenopause and remain a problem for the rest of your life, but the symptoms are easily managed with some simple, at-home skin care practices.
Eat and drink smart
Getting enough omega-3 fatty acids in your diet will help your skin to produce the protective oils it needs to keep itself hydrated. Look for omega-3s in eggs, salmon, sardines, soy, walnuts, flax, and many other foods. Of course, drinking lots of water is also essential to staying hydrated.
Exercise is a great way to circulate oxygen and nutrients to all parts of your body, including your skin. Exercise can also increase collagen, one of your skin’s natural moisturizers.
Use SPF 15 or higher for the most effective protection. You should apply sunscreen even on cold or cloudy days; UV rays can easily penetrate clouds and cause damage to your skin.
Take cooler showers
Hot, steamy showers and baths feel great at the time, but they can really dry out your skin. Hot water actually strips the skin of its natural oils. Turn down the temperature and spend less time in the shower to protect your skin.
Use mild soap
Fancy scented or antibacterial soaps can actually work too well, stripping healthy oils off your skin and drying it out. Stick to unscented, gentle soaps formulated for dry or delicate skin. Exfoliate with a loofah to slough off the itchy, dead layers of skin.
Lotion up right after you shower. You don’t need anything special here: it turns out that expensive lotions moisturize just as well as the ones you pick up at a corner store. Even petroleum jelly can work just fine – it can go on pretty thick, so use a towel to dab off the excess.
These harmful chemicals can also dry out your skin.
If you’ve been taking good care of yourself by following the steps above and are still suffering from itchy skin, you are welcome to make an appointment to discuss your concerns. Some skin problems indicate a more serious condition, like hypothyroidism, vitamin deficiencies, or fungal infections. You may need to seek the help of a dermatologist.
As always, when you make your appointment, come prepared with specific concerns and questions. It might be helpful to keep a diary of symptoms or create a list of questions you have for me.