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Dry Skin & Menopause

Dry Skin & Menopause

Overview

The physiological transformations affecting a woman's body during menopause include the largest organ, the skin. Significant hormonal changes influence the skin's ability to regenerate cells and produce moisturizing oils. These changes may cause skin to become dry and itchy. As the skin changes during menopause, skin-care regimens will need drastic adjustments to fight dryness.

Skin

Skin is a complicated organ with three layers: the epidermis, dermis and fatty layer. Each layer plays a part in skin's function. The outer epidermis produces skin cells, which protect the body from harmful substances. The dermis includes the blood vessels, lymph vessels, hair follicles and glands. While the epidermis protects the skin from dehydration, and replaces the dead cells, the dermis supplies skin with nutrients and oils. The fatty layer conserves body heat and acts as a shock absorber. Menopause affects all layers of the skin.

Estrogen

As a woman reaches menopause, ovarian functioning declines. Because the ovaries produce 60 percent of the body's estrogen, the body's systems must adjust to the hormonal changes. The skin contains large numbers of estrogen receptors involved in collagen production and cellular division. As cellular division declines, the number of cells produced by the sebaceous glands, or oil glands, declines as well. Such oil lubricates the skin and prevents dryness.

Multiple Causes

Multiple reasons, beyond hormone levels, exist to cause dry skin during menopause. Nutritional deficiencies cause skin dryness. Low amounts of essential fatty acids, EFAs, contribute to dry skin by failing to provide proper cellular nutrients. The best EFAs comprise omega-3 and omega-6, which are found in nuts, seeds and oily fish. Decreasing collagen leads to thinner skin layers and blood-vessel reduction. Thin skin loses moisture, and lower numbers of blood vessels reduce nutritional supply to the cells.

Moisture Therapy

Both nutritional and topical moisture therapy protects aging skin. Increasing water intake keeps thin, dry, postmenopausal skin hydrated. Eliminate hot showers, and decrease dehydrating substances, such as caffeine and alcohol. Foods high in EFAs boost cellular nutrition, and proper amounts of vitamins A, C and E promote healthy skin. Use moisturizers with antioxidants, emollients and ultraviolet light protection. Antioxidants prevent skin collagen breakdown. Emollients protect the skin from dehydration and UV protection eliminates cellular damage.

Hormonal Therapy

Replacing lost estrogen relieves symptoms of menopause. Either ingested estrogen or topical estrogen can be used to replace declining ovarian levels. Also, dietary plant estrogens, or phytoestrogens, can result in estrogen-like compounds in the body. Plants high in phytoestrogens include soybeans, peanuts, chickpeas and alfalfa sprouts. Pharmaceutical hormonal replacement therapy has been linked to increased cancer and cardiac arrest, thus its declining popularity. Estrogen creams applied to the skin can decrease dryness and wrinkling without the harsh side effects.

Prevention/Solution

Prevention and treatment of dry skin after menopause has many options. Proper nutrition promotes healthy cellular growth, oils and hydration. Lotions providing UV protection, moisture retention and cellular repair diminish environmental damage, thus reducing dryness. Hormone replacement gives skin cells estrogens, which enhance collagen production and reduce skin thinning. Reduced thinning helps skin retain moisture and elasticity.

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