Ever had the feeling there are tiny insects scurrying around on or under your skin? Or felt incredibly itchy, but scratching doesn’t help? If the answer is yes, you’re probably suffering from an abnormal skin sensation called formication. “Itchycoo Park”… This classic Small Faces song reminds us of another lesser-known perimenopause symptom.
Falling oestrogen levels during perimenopause hit the body’s ability to produce natural skin oils and retain moisture, making it dry, flaky and itchy. Itchy skin, medically known as pruritis, can be linked to a type of abnormal skin sensation, which causes this crazy, ant crawling feeling, formication. Your skin may also be bumpy, lumpy, and red.
And the good news is… Understanding what’s causing the itching may help you to deal with and tolerate it better. As oestrogen levels stabilise, formication should settle down a year or so after you hit menopause.
The best ways to deal with itchy menopause skin Making tweaks to diet, skincare and lifestyle can go some way to relieving this niggling symptom.
What to eat for menopause and itchy skin
VITAMINS THAT HELP ITCHY SKIN IN MENOPAUSE
Omega-3 fatty acids: Oily fish is packed with Omega-3’s, DHA and EPA, natural moisturisers that revive dry skin. Eat more: walnuts, fortified eggs, sardines, milled linseed and all those dark, leafy greens like spinach, kale and cabbage.
B vitamins contain the nutrient, biotin, which forms the basis of nails, skin, and hair cells. Eat more: (B2) Eggs, dark green vegetables, fish, grains, lean meat, mushrooms
(B3) Sunflower seeds, tuna, chicken, potato, cottage cheese,
(B5) Avocados, broccoli and mushrooms
(B6) Green beans, whole grains, spinach, fish and bananas
Vitamin C, an anti-oxidant, key to the production of collagen. Eat more: strawberries, oranges, kiwis and limes.
Vitamin E is another antioxidant which protects and repairs your skin. Eat more: almonds, hazelnuts, and sunflower seeds.
What to avoid for menopause and itchy skin
CIGARETTES AND ALCOHOL Cut back on nicotine and alcohol, which both age and dehydrate your skin. Reducing your intake will also have a beneficial impact on other menopausal symptoms and your overall health. We’re just saying!
Lifestyle & wellbeing to help with Itchy Skin
Bathing for menopause and itchy skin
Long, hot showers not only wash away your cares but also essential oils. To avoid aggravating your formication, turn down the thermostat and take a shorter shower for a more forgiving skin experience. Oats with their lubricating fats and sugars help to combat dry and itchy skin. Proteins in oats help cool and calm itchy skin. Grind oats to a fine powder (whole flakes will sink to the bottom of the bath) or put whole flakes in a muslin bag and add to slightly cooling, rather than hot, bathwater; you’re not looking to make porridge! Aveeno does a range of products using natural active ingredients formulated for dry sensitive skin.
Lavender and rosemary oils added to a lukewarm bath may calm the skin and reduce stress and irritability.
Keep it simple with shower gels and soaps. Fragranced and anti-bacterial products strip skin of essential oils aggravating that itch.
If ever a moisturiser was needed, it’s now. After a bath or shower, apply lashings of a moisturiser loaded with hyaluronic acid, a moisture-retaining ingredient that keeps skin hydrated and firm. Make sure you get the loofah out regularly removing thousands of dead skin cells so that the rich creams penetrate.
Sunscreen Use a high quality sunscreen to protect skin from further damage, and a facial or tinted moisturiser that contains at least SPF 30 or 50+, to protect your skin from the ageing effects of UVA rays even on cloudy days.
Exercise Regular exercise can also help itchy skin by boosting the endocrine (hormonal) system. It increases blood flow, helping nutrients to reach the skin more efficiently. Exercise - especially Pilates and yoga - also helps in stress relief.
Alternative help for Itchy & Irritable Skin (Formication)
Almond oil is believed to have anti-inflammatory, moisturising properties to help skin tone and relieve dryness. Apply two drops to each clean cheek, massage gently.
Sandalwood oil is useful when mixed with a base oil to treat dry skin.
Aloe Vera applied to the affected area may be cooling and soothing.
Supplements worth trying for Itchy & Irritable Skin (Formication)
Supplements may help to balance out your hormone levels
As Formication is a consequence of depleting hormone levels, Black Cohosh, contains phytoestrogens which may help top up levels.
Omega-3: Take fish oils, rich in polyunsaturated fats containing EPA and DHA, to help restore fats lost in the skin. It’s advised not take more than 3 grams daily from capsules without the supervision of a health advisor, due to increased risks of bleeding.
Vitamin C to help with skin elasticity. The American Academy of Dermatology suggest up to 500 to 1,000 milligrams per day.
Borage (Starflower), flaxseed or evening primrose oil: all good sources of gamma linolenic fatty acid, (deficiency leads to dry skin and irritation), take as capsules.
Supplements may cause side effects beyond what is intended (especially in combination with other conditions you may have). Supplements come in different strengths and can interact with other medications and/or have limits on how long they can be taken safely.
When to see your doctor about Itchy & Irritable Skin (Formication)
Not before you’ve been to a pharmacy! Over the counter antihistamines may help to deal with itchiness. They work by blocking the cell receptors that react to the falling oestrogen levels causing the itching. However, Itchy skin (if it affects the whole body and is accompanied by other symptoms) can also be a sign of an underlying illness, consult your doctor if you’re worried.
And then there’s always HRT...
HRT addresses the hormone imbalance responsible for the itchy, crawling sensation. The usual caveat, there are pros and cons to taking HRT.