Of all the symptoms of menopause that women report such as hot flushes and mood swings, one other crops up frequently and that is an increase in itchy skin or scalp. As usual, it is down to our hormone balance and although not an obvious response to menopause it happens more often than you would think. An itch is actually the body’s defense mechanism against an unpleasant contact to some irritant, but please do not scratch as the more you scratch, the more it itches so definitely not helpful. Also, continuous scratching can lead to a break in the skin and then infection can set in.
3 reasons why it happens
1 As you go through the menopause, levels of the both progesterone an oestrogen begin to drop and in this case it can be the dropping levels of oestrogen that are behind the itch. Oestrogen has a number of functions, including regulating the moisture levels of your tissues and stimulating the production of collagen, the fibre that improves the strength and elasticity of skin and when levels of it are low it can lead to the formation of wrinkles. So falling oestrogen levels means reduced amounts of collagen and skin-moistening oils are produced, leading to your skin becoming dry and irritated.
2 Another common factor is stress which can exacerbate itching by the release of histamine, which can cause flushing, itching and sometimes skin rashes. Menopause can be a stressful time as you adjust to the changes in your body and increased weight and hot flushes are enough to raise anyone’s stress levels.
3 Are you a great consumer of caffeinated drinks or do you simply not drink enough water? You might want to consider cutting down on caffeine as it causes the levels of uric acid to rise, as does dehydration from not drinking enough. The rise in uric acid brings discomfort and then the itching can worsen. This factor may also contribute to soreness in the joints, another one of the common menopause symptoms.
10 remedies for itching
If you need some additional oestrogen think about using a combination bioidentical hormone cream with both progesterone oestrogen to restore your hormone balance. There are also some natural solutions to help you reduce the itching when it starts:
1 Keeping your skin moisturised is one of the most effective means of relieving itchy skin. So no very hot baths which strip your skin of essential oils but warm water and only use mild unscented soap as perfumes can aggravate your skin.
2 Exfoliate and moisturise your skin as soon as you are out of the shower or bath and dried off.
3 Drinking plenty of plain, not carbonated, water will keep your skin hydrated. Both alcohol, fizzy drinks and nicotine prematurely age your skin and dry it out which will increase the chances of it becoming itchy.
4 Be kind to your skin and wear cotton and loose fitting clothes – that will also help with the hot flushes too. What you wear can affect how severe your itchiness can become and wool and some synthetic fibres can be an irritant. When washing your clothes avoid any perfumed washing detergents or fabric softeners.
5 Coconut oil rubbed directly onto the affected area cam relieve an itch. If it is widespread over your body then soak in a bath of lukewarm water; pat yourself dry and apply the oil all over.
6 Petroleum jelly is a good remedy for those who also have a sensitive skin as it does not contain any harmful chemicals and has a smoothening action on the skin.
7 Baking soda works if you have only a small area of itchy skin, but NOT if the skin is broken. Add 1 part of water to three parts of baking soda to make a paste and apply to the itchy area. For bigger areas add a cup of baking soda to a bath of lukewarm water and soak in it for half an hour; then dry in air, not with a towel.
8 Tulsi or Holy basil leaves are rich in thymol, eugenol and camphor and these have the ability to reduce irritation of the skin. You can get this as teabags in health stores and make a pot, let it cool, then use a cotton wool ball to apply to the itchy skin.
9 Apple cider vinegar has a good antiseptic and antifungal action and this makes it a good anti-itching agent so dab directly onto the skin or add a cupful into your bath water.
10 Aloe Vera is one of the most effective skin smoothening agents and when you rub the gel over an itchy spot it helps reduce the skin irritation in that area and provides quick relief. Either buy an unscented, additive free organic gel or if you have a plant then break a leaf off, cut it lengthwise using a knife and using a spoon, scoop out the jelly-like substance inside. Apply a little of this gel to the itchy area and leave it on for a few minutes.
If none of these suggestions is giving you relief, you may need to find out what is causing the itch. Allergy to certain clothing made of synthetic material or a food allergy may sometimes set off symptoms of itching. But if there is a change in colour of the itchy area or if you find the skin developing scars or a shiny surface, or if the itching is so severe it interferes with your sleep, then you would be advised to consult your doctor or therapist.