It’s no secret that our body changes as we begin to age. When menopause hits, women are prepared for the big changes – hot flashes, difficulty sleeping, mood swings, and even weight fluctuations. But what about the changes to your skin and scalp? For many women, it leads to increased scalp irritation, dry skin, eczema, and can even be linked to dandruff, which can be just as challenging. Why does menopause lead to dandruff, and what can you do if you experience it? Read on to learn more.
What is dandruff and what causes it?
Have you ever noticed flakes on your scalp or the collar of your shirt? They may be small and white or larger and yellowish in color. That is dandruff, an incredibly common condition that can lead to flaking, redness, and irritation of your scalp. While harmless, it can become a nuisance, causing itchy discomfort, visible flaking, and even pain. Moreover, dandruff doesn’t only occur on the scalp. You may also notice it in your eyebrows and even in men’s facial hair.
But why does dandruff occur?
Though the underlying cause may vary, scientists believe dandruff is linked to Malassezia, a fungus commonly found on the skin. It is often found on or near the sebaceous glands on the face and scalp. When the fungus grows too rapidly, you may see dandruff flakes appear or experience itchiness. A more severe form of dandruff called seborrheic dermatitis can cause scaly patches or red skin on the scalp. Dandruff can also be the result of lifestyle factors including your diet, changes in climate, stress, and exercise.
Dandruff is not a symptom of hygiene or how often you wash your hair. It can occur to just about anyone at any time, including during menopause.
What kinds of changes happen to the skin during menopause?
Menopause has very tangible physical effects on the body, including many hair and skin conditions. While it’s true your skin naturally changes as you age, menopause can accelerate or even hijack that process, giving you new and different issues to contend with, like fungal infections. It’s important to understand these changes and why they may occur to better understand how you can adjust your hair and skincare routine to combat any issues.
Most of the changes to your skin and hair during menopause relate to the reduction of estrogen. Here are some of the most common changes your skin may start to experience during menopause:
- Wrinkles. A decrease in estrogen leads to decreased production of collagen and elastin.These are both crucial components to keeping skin plump and firm. Menopause can increase the frequency and appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
- Dry skin. Reduction in estrogen production affects the body’s ability to produce oils, and reduces the skin’s ability to absorb and retain moisture from these oils. You may start to notice small dry or flaky patches of skin on your elbows or legs, and on your scalp as well.
- Thinning Skin. Estrogen increases the production of blood flow through your capillaries, including those on your face and scalp. As estrogen production declines in menopause, you may experience decreased blood flow in your dermal capillaries. This means fewer nutrients are carried by the blood and slower cell regeneration. In addition to weakening and thinning the skin, you may bruise more easily and heal more slowly.
- Increased Skin Sensitivity. Without the higher levels of elasticity, moisture retention, and even collagen production, your skin is likely to become more sensitive during menopause. This can increase the possibility of damage from the sun or other environmental elements, making it more important than ever to invest in a good sunscreen.
- Acne. As the balance between estrogen and testosterone begins to shift, acne breakouts become a common side-effect. If you were prone to acne during puberty you have an even higher chance of experiencing it once again.
Menopause has very tangible physical effects on the body, including many that directly affect your skin and hair.
How can menopausal changes to your skin affect your scalp?
As changes in hormones begin to impact your skin, including the skin on your scalp, you may notice a change in your scalp microbiome. This in turn can increase the likelihood of dandruff.
Because our skin becomes thinner, it weakens the skin’s natural protective barriers. This can increase the possibility of an overproduction of Malassezia on your scalp and compromises the body’s ability to regulate the production of oils which can lead to white flakes and irritation.
Additionally, the decrease in estrogen and increased sensitivity and dryness often aggravates skin prone to conditions like psoriasis and dryness. Dry skin, weakened defenses, and an overall reduction in the ability to retain moisture can also increase the occurrence of flaking skin cells, itching, and irritation.
What can you do about dandruff during menopause?
While dandruff may be a natural part of aging, there are lots of things you can do to help curb flakes and scalp discomfort. With the right products and scalp care routine you can increase the health of your skin, scalp, and hair.
It's In Your Diet
What you eat and drink can be an important component in your skin’s appearance, and can impact your scalp health. Make sure your diet includes essential fatty acids (like the omega-3s found in fish, eggs, soy products, and many nuts) to help boost your skin’s natural oil barrier. Staying hydrated will also help keep flakes and dryness at bay. Reduce alcohol consumption and increase your daily water intake. Your skin and scalp will thank you.
Change up your wash & styling routine
While it may feel good, taking hot showers can negatively affect your skin and scalp. It can make already damaged skin further dried out and lead to itching and redness on the scalp. Instead of a hot shower, try a cool scalp rinse to lock in moisture and avoid dryness.
Ingredients in hair care products like Zinc Pyrithione, ketoconazole, salicylic acid, coal tar, selenium sulfide, and tea tree oil may be prescribed by your dermatologist to help control dandruff and treat the symptoms of dandruff like flaky skin, hair loss, and itchy scalp. Shampooing with an over-the-counter medicated shampoo and other hair care can help scalp conditions as well, but make sure to do your research to determine which shampoo and ingredients are right for you. Sensitivity to certain hair care products can cause contact dermatitis, which may also lead to dandruff.
Another change to your routine - limit heat styling on your hair when possible. Picking up that hair dryer or curling iron less frequently can help keep your scalp from drying out.
Lastly, remember that consistency is key when it comes to treatment for dandruff. If you’re experiencing menopause-related dandruff, take our quiz to find the personalized set of products for your scalp and find a routine that works for you.
Invest In The Right Shampoo
The easiest way to treat menopause-related dandruff is to introduce the right antifungalproducts and lifestyle choices into your routine. It’s important to use a dandruff shampoo formulated with Zinc Pyrithione (ZPT), an active ingredient in hair carethat has been proven in clinical healthcare studies to help stop fungal growth associated with flaking and scalp discomfort.
At Jupiter, our Balancing Shampoo and Restoring Serum are scientifically-formulated with ZPT to easily manage dandruff. Paired with our nourishing scalp care products, you’ll be flake-free and refreshed. Learn more about Jupiter’s holistic set of scalp care products here.