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Menopause and Dry Skin: The Hormone Connection

Dealing with dry, itchy skin at menopause? Find out why -- and get simple tips for smoother skin.

5 Tips for Dry Skin Care During Menopause continued...

Also, preserve those natural oils by scrubbing with soap only in the spots you really need it, Tanzi suggests, like your underarms, feet, and groin. Because your legs, back, and arms don't usually get very dirty, skip the soap and stick to a warm-water wash for these areas.

  • Use a gentle soap: Scented, antibacterial, or deodorant soaps can be harsh, removing your body's essential oils, leaving skin even more itchy and dry. Instead, reach for an unscented or lightly scented bar.
  • Remember to moisturize: Within a few minutes after your warm shower, smooth on your favorite moisturizer. You may favor a pricey potion from the cosmetic counter, but humbler lotions like mineral oil and petroleum jelly help trap in much-needed moisture, too.

As moisturizers go, petroleum jelly is "one of the best," Tanzi tells WebMD. It does a good job of moisturizing even the driest skin. "Slather it on after bathing, then use a towel to gently pat off the excess."

For dry skin problems on the face, Cambio suggests topical antioxidants such as vitamin C or green tea. Other moisturizers recommended by the experts include shea butter, hyaluronic acid, and lactic acid.

To help moisturizers penetrate the skin, the pros also suggest exfoliating -- sloughing off the top layer of dead skin -- with a gentle scrubbing or by using products containing alpha- or beta-hydroxy acids.

And remember you can hydrate from the inside out by drinking water, says Valerie D. Callender, MD, a dermatologist practicing in Maryland. Equally important is reducing or eliminating alcohol and nicotine, both of which can prematurely age and dry your skin.

Exercise, which is important in menopause for heart and bone health, can keep skin healthy as well.  By increasing the amount of nutrients and oxygen that make it to your skin, exercise, like estrogen, can increases collagen, one of the key substances that keeps our skin youthful.

Dry, Itchy Skin: Still Scratching?

The hormone changes of menopause aren't the only causes of dry skin. Hypothyroidism, fungal infections, vitamin deficiencies, and other issues can also lead to skin care problems, too.

If you follow a careful skin care regimen and still have dry skin problems, it may be time to call a dermatologist.

"Perimenopause and menopause can lead to many changes, not just dry skin," says Tanzi. Acne, wrinkles, and thinning skin can all show up around this time, making it hard to figure out how to care for skin. A dermatologist can help you develop a regimen tailored to you particular skin care needs.

Check the American Academy of Dermatology's web site to locate board-certified dermatologists in your area, or ask your primary care physician for a recommendation.

Dry skin at menopause may take you by surprise, but fortunately you've got lots of choices to help you care for that beautiful skin you're in.

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Reviewed on August 23, 2010

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