With the arrival of perimenopause and menopause, a woman’s skin can undergo many changes. Among the conditions that can develop or worsen are eczema, psoriasis, and rosacea. Here are some things you should know about them and how to manage them.
What are eczema, psoriasis, and rosacea?
One thing all three of these skin conditions have in common is immune system involvement—either an overactive system or an autoimmune response. Now for some particulars.
Let’s begin with rosacea, which is most common in middle-aged white women. It’s characterized by visible blood vessels in the face, blushing, and often by pus-filled bumps that resemble acne. The exact cause is uncertain, but heredity, an overactive immune system, and environmental factors are suspect. Triggers can include emotional stress, spicy or hot foods, alcoholic beverages, exposure to wind or sun, and exercise.
Some people believe eczema and psoriasis are the same, but while similar, they have some significant differences. Eczema is characterized by itchy, rough, swollen, and sometimes broken skin. It is also known as atopic dermatitis and can be caused by a variety of factors, including genetics, stress, environmental triggers (e.g., pollution, heat and humidity, harsh soaps and cosmetics, fabrics), and an overreaction by your immune system to irritants or allergens.
Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune condition, which means the body attacks itself. In this case, skin cell growth is accelerated. Psoriasis is characterized by patches of thick red skin and silvery scales that are usually found on the elbows, knees, palms, soles of the feet, scalp, and lower back. The most common type of psoriasis is called plaque psoriasis.
How are eczema, psoriasis, and rosacea associated with menopause?
Estrogen is intimately involved in the development of natural skin oils and collagen, which help keep skin strong and resilient. As levels of estrogen decline, skin becomes dry, thin, and sensitive, making it more prone to skin disorders.
Eczema is common during menopause, and most cases are mild. Research has shown that declining estrogen is likely responsible for the appearance or worsening of psoriasis during menopause. Stress is also known to trigger flare-ups of psoriasis and eczema.
Rosacea is most common among women age 30 to 60, and it often appears during menopause. Hot flashes can exacerbate the symptoms. The condition tends to affect fair-skinned women more than those with a darker complexion.
How to manage eczema, psoriasis, and rosacea naturally
Lifestyle and dietary changes can often help alleviate the symptoms of these immune-system related skin challenges. Try one or more of these tips.
Moisturize. If your skin is dry, we can’t stress the importance of keeping your skin well hydrated with natural moisturizers, such as aloe vera gel, coconut oil, and hemp seed oil. Avoid products with fragrances or other harmful chemicals that can further irritate your skin. Always moisturize after bathing or showering and whenever else your skin feels dry.
Stay hydrated. While applying a moisturizer to your skin does wonders from the outside, it’s also important to “moisturize” from the inside by staying well hydrated. Bring an earth-friendly water container with you at all times.
Cool down. Sometimes the itchiness that can accompany eczema and psoriasis can be unbearable. Use a cold, wet towel or an ice bag wrapped in a cloth on the itchy areas. For nighttime itchiness, keep an ice bag next to your bed.
Lower the temp. Turn down the hot water to luke warm when you bathe or shower. Hot water can strip moisturizing oils from your skin.
Destress. Stress can exacerbate all three of these skin conditions, so incorporate stress-reducing activities in your daily routine. Regular practice of meditation, deep breathing, tai chi, yoga, and progressive relaxation may help control symptoms.
Choose comfortable clothes. The fabric you put next to your skin can make a big difference in the health of your skin. Cotton and silk are soothing while wool and synthetic fabrics can cause irritation. Also avoid tight clothing.
Don’t scratch. That may sound easier said than done, but scratching can damage your skin even further. Wear gloves at night to prevent scratching in your sleep.
Use sunscreen. This is especially important if you have rosacea. Apply it every day and also use a hat or scarf to protect your face year round.
Bathe in oatmeal. You can use regular oatmeal or finely ground oatmeal (colloidal oatmeal) to add to your bath to ease itching. An oatmeal bath can also help keep your skin moist and relieve inflammation. Use about 1 cup of oatmeal in lukewarm water and soak for 10 to 15 minutes.
Seize the C. Foods rich in vitamin C and vitamin C supplements can help boost collagen production in your skin and help prevent itchiness and dryness. Citrus, broccoli, bell peppers, tomatoes, berries, and papayas are great sources of this nutrient.
Try essential oils. A mixture of German chamomile essential oil with a carrier oil (e.g., coconut, hemp, almond, avocado), when applied to the skin, can help relieve symptoms of eczema and psoriasis. A calendula essential oil combination can help reduce inflammation. For rosacea, try rosehip, tea tree, rosemary, or lavender, along with a carrier oil.
When to see your doctor
If your efforts at natural remedies don’t bring satisfactory results, contact your dermatologist or healthcare provider. Call your doctor immediately if you experience a fever or if rosacea bumps become inflamed.
Skin changes are very common in perimenopause and menopause. If you experience eczema, psoriasis, or rosacea, there are several natural techniques you can adopt to help manage these conditions.