Will menopause make my eczema worse?
Menopause and eczema treatments and tips
If you’ve noticed your skin changing during the perimenopause and menopause then you’re not alone.
Falling levels of the hormone estrogen means your skin is often less able to retain moisture leading to skin that is drier and flakier.
But if you already have a dry skin condition such as eczema, then you may find your skin becomes particularly dry and more irritated as your hormones change during the perimenopause and menopause.
How common is eczema?
Eczema is a common and sometimes distressing condition suffered by about one in 10 adults in the UK ,which often leaves your skin dry, red, scaly, sore and itchy .
The experience of eczema, like your menopause, can vary widely.
RELATED: Skin changes during the menopause
The relationship between menopause and eczema
Consultant Dermatologist and balance+ guru Dr Sajjad Rajpar says that in most cases small changes can soothe your eczema flare-ups prompted by the menopause.
For everyone, estrogen stimulates the production of oils and other hydrating substances that protect and moisturise your skin, such as ceramides, sebum and hyaluronic acid.
Falling levels of the hormone means your skin is less able to retain moisture, while the integrity of your skin’s barrier becomes compromised, leading to irritation.
If you have eczema, the barrier of your skin is already likely to be weaker and levels of protective oils and ceramides lower, leaving your skin more vulnerable.
‘I see some women whose eczema has flared up around the menopause after being well controlled and women who may have had it as a child, when eczema is very common, and it returns around the menopause,’ says Dr Rajpar.
Hot flushes and dry skin
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‘Your skin is already vulnerable, and then the drop in natural moisturising factors in your skin as estrogen falls can make your eczema flare, which will make your skin itchy and sore.’
Your skin may be particularly sensitive to heat so hot flushes may have an impact, Dr Rajpar says.
What steps can I take to help my skin?
Dr Rajpar recommends:
- Don’t use soap at all. Avoid all foaming products like soap, shower wash and bubble bath as these strip the already limited oils that form the protective barrier on your skin. When that barrier breaks down, irritants can get into the deeper layers of your skin and moisture loss increase. Use soap substitutes which are easily and cheaply available in high-street chemists and which clean gently without disrupting your skin’s barrier.
- Replenish your skin by moisturising. Moisturise a lot and generously, you may find you need to do this two or three times a day.
- Find the best product for you. The right moisturiser is the one you will use most. The most intensive are ointments, but some people find these too heavy and greasy. Creams offer a medium level of moisture, and lotions are the lightest. Try a few and see which work best. These don’t need to be expensive, just look for products that contain urea or hyaluronic acid, as they help retain water in the skin, and that aren’t scented, as this can irritate fragile skin.
- See a healthcare professional if your eczema remains sore or problematic after trying these changes. They will consider if you need steroids creams or other stronger treatment, which mainly needs a prescription.
- Don’t change your diet. Some people swear avoiding something like dairy improves their skin, but in most cases we find that diet does not have much impact on eczema and can be disruptively restrictive.
- HRT is the first-line treatment for menopausal symptoms . While there is not much evidence on how HRT affects eczema, it does help make skin less dry, which could help soothe your eczema.
RELATED: Do you really need a menopause moisturiser?
1. National Eczema Society, ‘What is eczema?’
2. NICE (2015), ‘Menopause: diagnosis and management’