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Caring for intimate skin through the menopause

It’s no secret that the perimenopause and menopause can cause a seemingly endless array of physical and emotional symptoms. While changes such as hot flushes and insomnia are well-publicised, you might be unfamiliar with the more intimate side effects of the menopause because unfortunately, speaking about women’s health issues remains a taboo. TENA are here to help change that.
The decline in oestrogen (the hormone responsible for maintaining the female reproductive system) during menopause can bring uncomfortable changes to the vulva. Rest assured, vulva changes in menopause are very common and something many women experience. Less oestrogen can thin the lining of your vagina, and tissues of the vulva can become drier, itchy and less flexible. 
Sounds like a nightmare, right? But don’t despair. If you are experiencing vulva dryness, a sore clitoris area, menopausal vulva irritation or postmenopausal vulva itching, you are absolutely not alone. Many strong women have battled through these symptoms, and you can too. 
Keep reading to discover how to care for intimate skin through the menopause and beyond.

Changes to the vulva during menopause

Lots of women experience changes to their vulva and intimate skin during the perimenopause and menopause. It is important to monitor and manage these changes to maintain your personal health and wellbeing. Yes – it is possible to feel great, even in the clutches of the menopause.
Throughout the menopause, your vaginal secretions and discharge reduce, which can result in less lubrication to the vagina and irritation to intimate skin. Lower oestrogen levels also correlate with an increase in vaginal pH, which makes the vagina less acidic.
During your fertile years before the menopause, your vagina is supplied with lots of oestrogen. It has a thicker lining and more folds, allowing it to stretch for sexual intercourse and childbirth. During and after the menopause, less oestrogen causes the vaginal lining and intimate skin to thin, making it less flexible and more susceptible to discomfort and injury.
Some women report uncomfortable symptoms including a sore clitoris area during the menopause, vulva irritation and dryness, and menopausal vulva itching. Fragile vulvovaginal tissues are highly vulnerable to tearing, bleeding and injury – not to mention the discomfort that can have a negative impact on day-to-day life! Vulva changes in menopause can also have a detrimental effect for women that want to maintain a healthy sex life after midlife.
All this might sound scary, but vulva changes are something many women have to navigate during the menopause. By arming yourself with information and tackling vulva discomfort and irritation head on, you can empower yourself to feel your best during this important life stage.

94% of women agree that TENA Lights Sensitive feels soft on their skin.

Result from consumer user test in France and UK 2021

Care for vulva irritation during menopause

The following tips can help alleviate vulva changes and discomfort during the menopause:

1. Use a gentle cleanser

Even before the menopause, many women find that common products such as washing detergents, fragranced soap, scented oils, bubble bath, talc, feminine spray and deodorants can irritate their vulva area. It goes without saying, but avoid these products like the plague during menopause!
You should also take extra care when cleaning your vulva, to prevent any unnecessary dryness or irritation. To minimise discomfort, use only warm water to cleanse the area. After a bath or shower, try not to rub the area dry vigorously with a towel or flannel, but pat dry gently to minimise menopausal vulva irritation.

2. Choose products for sensitive skin

To minimise any vulva sensitivity during the perimenopause and menopause, try using a mild detergent for washing your underwear, and choose 100 percent cotton underwear where possible. Avoid wearing nylon or other synthetic fibres, as these can make menopause vulva irritation worse.
When choosing products for incontinence, look for breathable incontinence pads that don’t contain fragrances or dyes, such as TENA Lights for Sensitive Skin. These should help maintain intimate skin health, preventing any menopausal or postmenopausal vulva itching and soreness.
Product image of TENA Lights Sensitive Ultra Mini and Ultra Normal pads

Dealing with incontinence

Bladder weakness is a common symptom of menopause. TENA Lights Sensitive is our most caring pad yet, made with a soft top layer that’s extra gentle on delicate menopausal skin. Now with at least 50% plant-based material, and our first ever paper packaging. 

3. Treat menopausal soreness and vulva irritation with topical products

Throughout the menopause, the vulva can feel much drier than normal, due to less vaginal secretions. Menopause-related dryness can often be managed with over-the-counter topical vaginal moisturisers or water-based lubricant gel, which you can apply locally to intimate skin to keep vulvovaginal tissues healthy. These fragrance-free eternal creams are usually comprised of ingredients such as glycerine, mineral oil, and sorbic acid, which are gentle on the skin, and help rejuvenate the vulva tissue to renew moisture.

4. Try hormone replacement therapy (HRT)

If you have a particularly acute case of vulva irritation, dryness or soreness, you may find a topical oestrogen cream or pessary helpful. This should restore oestrogen in the affected area, helping to improve elasticity and alleviate any vulva discomfort.
Menopause symptoms can also affect your bladder and urethra, causing you to urinate more often. You may feel the need to get to the toilet right away, or experience frequent urinary tract infections. Low-dose vaginal oestrogen creams or pessaries can also be effective for combatting this type of menopause symptom.

5. Speak to a doctor about vulva irritation during menopause

If menopause vulva irritation is getting you down and you are unable to get relief after using home treatments, don’t be afraid to speak to your doctor. Your doctor may refer you to a vulva dermatologist or gynaecologist for specialist treatment. While menopause vulva irritation is very common, you should always seek professional help if you experience symptoms including unusual vaginal discharge, abnormal bleeding between periods or after sex, or if you notice any rashes or redness on the vulva, as these could be a sign of something more serious. Even if you’re unsure, always seek the advice of your GP and prioritise your health above all else.

If you feel that you need more advice in tackling vaginal dryness or learning how to avoid sore skin when dealing with menopausal bladder leaks, TENA is here to help. For further support, don’t hesitate to contact a professional such as your nearest GP.

Further reading