Menopause can bring some pretty dramatic physical changes. As estrogen production slows and the ovaries stop producing eggs, periods become erratic and then stop. Dwindling estrogen levels contribute to symptoms that include:
- hot flashes
- night sweats
- mood swings
- vaginal dryness
Estrogen doesn’t only affect your body’s menstrual cycles. By stimulating the production of substances like collagen and oil, estrogen also helps your skin stay healthy and youthful looking.
While menopause can dry out and wrinkle your skin, it doesn’t directly cause skin rashes. However, shifts in estrogen levels before and during menopause may leave your skin more vulnerable to redness, bumps, and other signs of irritation.
Estrogen and skin health
During your reproductive years, the hormone estrogen helped keep your skin healthy and supple. Once estrogen production slows down, your skin thins and dries out, especially in sensitive areas like your face.
The loss of estrogen can show on your skin starting in perimenopause, which is the period leading up to menopause when hormone levels start to decline. During this time, your body becomes more sensitive to temperature. You may have episodes in which you suddenly feel hot and sweaty, and your face gets red and flushed. This common menopause symptom is called a hot flash.
A lack of estrogen can also make your skin itch or cause it to be more sensitive than usual. This sensitivity makes you more likely to get a rash or hives when you’re exposed to irritating substances like itchy fabrics, perfumes, and dyes. A lack of estrogen also prevents your skin from as it used to when it does get irritated.
Your symptoms will depend on how menopause affects your skin. During hot flashes, you may notice a red flush spreading across your skin. This flush will be most noticeable on your face, neck, and at the top of your chest. Skin sensitivity may cause red bumps or hives to form when you come into contact with irritating substances.
What other conditions could cause the rash?
Even if your rash coincides with menopause, the two aren’t necessarily connected. Many different conditions can cause rashes.
People with atopic dermatitis, which is also known as eczema, develop red, itchy patches on the:
- upper body
Eczema is caused by exposure to irritating chemicals in soaps, detergents, and other products.
Contact dermatitis causes an allergic rash. The rash appears when your skin comes in contact with certain chemicals or substances, like latex or metals like nickel.
Symptoms of lichen planus include shiny, reddish-purple bumps that you might find inside your wrists and ankles. An immune response triggers the rash. In some cases, it may be related to an autoimmune disorder.
Psoriasis is a disease caused by an overactive immune response. The immune response causes dead skin cells to build up on the surface of your skin and form red, itchy scales.
Redness and bumps that form on the face may be a sign of rosacea. This is a chronic skin condition, and rash flare-ups can last for a several weeks or months.
Shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. If you’ve previously had chickenpox, you are at risk for developing shingles. Shingles causes a painful, blistering rash on one side of the face or body.
Other skin conditions linked to menopause
Menopause isn’t directly linked to any skin conditions. But you may be more vulnerable to some skin issues during the menopausal year. These include:
- dry, thinning skin
Seeing a doctor
If you’re concerned about any changes to your skin, see a dermatologist for a checkup. Your doctor will start by asking about the rash, including questions like these:
- When did the rash start?
- What, if anything, seemed to trigger the rash?
- Does the rash itch, burn, or hurt?
- Where on your body did the rash start?
- Has the rash spread?
- What have you done to treat the rash? Did the treatment help?
Your doctor will also ask about your health history, and whether you currently take any medicines. Then your doctor will examine the rash. They might take a sample from your skin to test in a lab. You might also need blood tests to check for skin allergies.
See a doctor as soon as you can if:
- you have a fever with the rash
- the rash spreads quickly, or it’s all over your body
- the rash is leaking yellow or green fluid, or it feels hot to the touch, which are symptoms of infection
If you think contact with an irritating substance, like laundry detergent or metal jewelry, caused the rash, stop using that product right away. To relieve itching and pain until the rash fades, you can try an over-the-counter antihistamine or hydrocortisone cream. Depending on the cause of the rash, your doctor might prescribe a hydrocortisone or antifungal medicine.
You can also try these techniques to soothe the itch:
- Apply cool compresses to the rash a few times a day.
- Take baths in lukewarm water and colloidal oatmeal.
- Switch to gentle, fragrance-free detergents and soaps.
- Moisturize your skin to prevent it from drying out.
If the rash is itchy, try not to scratch it. You could leave scars on your skin. To avoid irritating your skin even more, wear clothes made from soft, natural fibers like cotton.
Though menopause-related hormonal changes can show on your skin, they aren’t likely to cause a rash. Flushed skin should clear up quickly, although it might return with the next hot flash.
If you have splotches, bumps, or scaly spots on your skin and they don’t improve in a few days, see a dermatologist for a skin check. You likely have a skin condition that might need treatment.