Eczema has many potential triggers. Some you can control, such as the foods you eat and the materials you wear. Other triggers you can’t control, like aging. During perimenopause (the transitional time before menopause) and after menopause, some people suddenly experience flare-ups after years of successfully managing eczema.
“I’ve had chronic eczema all my life (50 years),” wrote one member of MyEczemaTeam. “It has been under control for the last 10 to 15 years with the occasional flare. However, since perimenopause, my symptoms have worsened.”
Your eczema can change as you age due to hormonal shifts during menopause. Eczema is still manageable during menopause, but it may require making some adjustments to your treatment regimen.
Menopause is reached 12 months after your last menstrual period. The time before and after menopause can make eczema symptoms worse for some people.
Menstrual periods are regulated by hormones, including estrogen and progesterone. During menopause, hormone levels drop. Researchers aren’t sure how a drop in progesterone affects the skin, but lower estrogen levels affect your skin barrier’s function.
First, having less estrogen changes your skin’s microbiome, the naturally occurring microorganisms in your body, such as fungi, bacteria, and viruses. Lower estrogen levels can lead to more of these microorganisms residing on your skin. If you happen to be sensitive to these, you could end up with worsening eczema symptoms.
Second, less estrogen can worsen skin dryness. Without estrogen binding to the receptors in the skin, the sebaceous glands don’t produce as much oil. Since this oil helps your skin retain moisture, you may experience more dry skin during and after menopause. This can lead to more eczema, especially if dry skin is a trigger for you.
Many members of MyEczemaTeam have experienced changes in their eczema during menopause. “I was covered and not just itching — I’d wake out of dead sleep screaming like my ear or thigh or chest was lit on fire,” one member shared. “I had to cover myself in ice bags. Steroids would start to work, then the day after I stopped, it would flare even worse.”
Some people only start to develop eczema during menopause. “I was diagnosed with eczema a few months ago, and my menopause is in full swing,” a member shared. “It feels as though my body is in constant battle with itself.”
Several members shared that their treatments stopped working to control their eczema after they hit menopause. “I never had any problems until I was 50 and after menopause got worse, the meds and creams that I responded to stopped working,” one member shared.
Another added, “The skin on the face and body are dry and hot but using a moisturizer only helps a bit.”
Different people experience different changes in their eczema during menopause, and many find themselves looking for new treatments to keep it under control.
There are a wide variety of ways to manage eczema during menopause. Talk to your doctor or dermatologist to come up with a treatment plan that will work for you. You can also try nonmedicated or over-the-counter treatments.
Start by taking good overall care of your skin. This routine includes applying sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher to avoid sunburn, washing with a mild soap or cleanser, and moisturizing daily. Get your skin checked regularly so your doctor can remain updated on your eczema. You can check for other problems, like skin cancer, at the same time.
Eczema triggers come in many forms, both internal and external. Some people may be sensitive to light, dry air, cold temperatures, or certain foods. Others find stress worsens their eczema or that emotional upset causes flare-ups. Your triggers may change during menopause. Pay attention to triggers so you can limit exposure and, in turn, eczema flares.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) involves supplementing the hormones your body is no longer producing naturally. You can take these orally or use a cream infused with them. There isn’t much quality research showing that HRT can improve eczema or determine the best way to take hormones if you want skin changes. However, some doctors recommend HRT for people undergoing menopause, and according to the National Eczema Society, it’s worthwhile to speak with your health care provider about it.
Menopause itself can be stressful, and researchers have found that stress and anxiety contribute to eczema flares. In addition, getting out and socializing can become more difficult with age, which can also add to your stress. Figuring out how to lower these stress levels may improve your eczema.
If your eczema is worse because your skin is drier, adding moisture with an emollient may help. An emollient is a cream, lotion, or oil that forms a protective layer over the skin to help prevent water loss. Find a moisturizer without dyes and fragrances that works well with your skin, then use it regularly. Make sure to apply it after you bathe or shower, though you can also use it whenever your skin feels dry.
Bathing or showering regularly can also help to add moisture to your skin. When bathing or showering, keep the water lukewarm and limit bathing time to less than 15 minutes to avoid causing more dryness.
A wide variety of over-the-counter and prescription creams and other topical options are available for treating eczema, including gentle moisturizers and medicated creams. These products contain ingredients like petroleum jelly, natural oils and butter, or corticosteroids.
Learn how to get the best results from your topical treatment.
Before applying a new product to your entire body, test it on a small area to make sure it doesn’t cause any side effects. This advice applies not only to creams prescribed by your health care provider, but also soaps, cleansers, shampoos, conditioners, and even new clothing.
To test a product, apply a small amount to a patch of skin. For an article of clothing, rub it against the patch of skin. If your skin doesn’t react after a couple of days, apply the product or wear the clothing as you normally would. Your sensitivities may change during menopause, so you may need to retest previously safe items.
If other methods and treatments don’t work, your doctor may recommend light therapy, also called phototherapy. It exposes affected skin to ultraviolet (UV) light — including natural sunlight or artificial light — to slow down or suppress inflammation that causes eczema flares.
Your doctor may recommend different kinds of light based on your symptoms, their severity, and other factors. You’ll need to make sure you go to all of your appointments to get the most benefit from this treatment.
Prescription medications are another option to control eczema that’s severe or that can’t be controlled any other way. Many medications are available, including dupilumab (Dupixent), tralokinumab-ldrm (Adbry), and upadacitinib (Rinvoq). Depending on the medication, it may be applied topically, taken orally, or administered via an injection.
MyEczemaTeam is the social network for people with eczema and their loved ones. On MyEczemaTeam, more than 47,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with eczema.
Are you living with eczema during menopause? Do you have any tips for managing symptoms? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.