As if your sleep weren’t interrupted enough by anxiety and night sweats (and possibly anxiety about night sweats), now there’s a new irritant in town: itchy menopause skin. Which, for me at least, seems particularly noticeable at night.

So our April Symptom of the Month is what’s getting under your skin.

Is itchy skin a symptom of menopause?

If you’re over 40, you may have noticed parts of your body getting drier: eyes, hair, fingernails, vagina… As with most of the weirdness of aging, changes in hormones are responsible for making damp things dry (vagina, eyes) and dry things moist (underpants, business suits, pajamas – hello, incontinence, hot flashes, and night sweats!)

Dry, itchy skin is no different. According to WebMD, our reproductive hormone estrogen is responsible for triggering the body’s production of collagen and body oils. The hormone also makes it easier for our body to retain its natural moisture. As estrogen declines in perimenopause and menopause, so does our body’s moisture, resulting in dry, itchy skin, irritation, small bumps, and occasionally even a rash.

Unfortunately, your body never regains its ability to create and retain moisture the way it did in your youth. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to relieve the itch and moisturize your dry bits, or address those pesky menopause hives.

When is it maybe more than menopause?*

According to the Women’s Health Network, if your skin is not only dry but has a yellowish tinge and is cold to the touch, you might want to ask your doctor to check your thyroid. If you find you are often too cold or too hot, and you’re experiencing unexplained changes in body weight, these can also be indicators of a thyroid imbalance that may need medical care.

How can I treat my dry, itchy menopause skin?*

  1. Get fats. Not just any fats, though; you want the good kinds of fats that nourish your body and skin. You’ve lost natural oils, but essential fatty acids can help replace them and keep your skin better hydrated. Think Omega-3s: salmon, eggs, some nuts and seeds. SELFNutritionData provides an astonishingly comprehensive list of foods with Omega-3s.
  2. Slather on the sunscreen. It may not replace the moisture that’s lost, but it can help protect your skin from further sun damage. Go SPF 15 or higher to block out the bad rays, but remember you’re also blocking your body’s ability to produce Vitamin D, so if you’re fanatical about the sunscreen, consider a D supplement.
  3. Shower smart. Super hot water can be damaging, as can harsh soaps. Choose gentle cleansers designed for sensitive skin and learn to embrace the tepid.
  4. Moisturize. What nature hath taken away, you can giveth yourself back again. But there are a lot of choices out there – which one will really moisturize and protect? I asked Valeria Cole, founder and CEO of Teadora and expert on all things skin care, for her advice on managing menopause skin:

“I would say use an oil-based product with high fatty-acid content, so it absorbs quickly and provides deeper hydration, but also look for oils that have anti-inflammatory properties. Stay away from sulfates and toxic ingredients which tend to dry skin even further, causing increased menopausal itching and burning. Teadora’s Brazilian Glow Radiance and Renewal Oil contains a cocktail of 5 superfruit oils rich in vitamins, anti-oxidants and oileic and fatty acids, including Buriti, a Brazilian rainforest superfruit oil with great anti-inflammatory properties.” (Bonus: Teadora’s products are sustainably harvested, vegan, and all kinds of socially responsible.)

Like much of menopause, you don’t have to take the symptoms lying down. Good nutrition and the right soaps and moisturizers can help you get back some lost moisture so your skin keeps its elasticity and loses the itch. Doesn’t that sound lovely?

What’s worked for you? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter or Facebook!

*The information contained in our blogs is never intended to replace advice and treatment by a medical professional. If you feel your symptoms are severe or may be caused by something other than menopause, get ye to a doctor. Now, plz.