Prickly Skin Menopause Guide - Weird Sensations | Stella
Dryness & itchiness
6 mins

Prickly skin and menopause: A guide to managing weird skin sensations

byEmily Turner

Prickling and skin-crawling sensations during perimenopause have made me flail my legs and arms so much at night, I’ve often wondered if someone was stabbing a voodoo doll! For a long time, I had no idea that skin irritations can be linked to menopause. Find out more about menopause and prickly skin conditions in this guide and the things that have worked for me.

I first experienced weird sensations of my skin, and especially my feet, during my mid-20s, just when I had changed jobs and industries. I went to my healthcare provider, and they ran some tests and nothing was unusual. After a couple of months, the sensation went away as quickly as it arrived and it seemed related to stress related to my job change. I didn’t think about it again. 

It was only when I reached my 40s that the prickly skin sensations came back with a vengeance during perimenopause. It changed and spread from my feet to all over my body. I would find it hard to get to sleep and often woke up in the middle of the night. Over the last couple of years, I’ve gathered a go-to list of things to do when the prickly skin sensation demon strikes.

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Can menopause cause prickly skin?

I’ve always had great skin, not too dry or oily. It doesn’t get irritated easily unless I wear costume jewelry, such as earrings made of nickel. It is highly tolerant of cold winds, central heating, late nights, lotions, make-up, and perfume. I have been super lucky.

Yet, I am not infallible to weird skin sensations across my feet, legs, back, and neck. They feel like sharp, electrical shocks as if someone is pricking me with a pin. Or I will be unable to sleep because I am so itchy and nothing satisfies it. I’ve even had a weird feeling that there is something on me and turned on the lights looking for invisible bugs. 

Is it a coincidence that I am in my late 40s and this is happening? No. Welcome to the world of menopausal skin sensations.

As you can imagine, it’s like sleeping next to someone playing a game of nocturnal Twister by themselves.”

How collagen keeps skin healthy

Hormones fluctuate during menopause with a gradual and non-linear decline in estrogen, a key hormone to the production of collagen and our skin’s natural oils. Healthy joints, skin elasticity, and plumpness rely on collagen, which is in our bones, muscles, and skin. 

With the double whammy of general aging and estrogen decline, collagen starts to break down and can cause skin thinning. Declining estrogen levels also lead to dryness. These are the perfect conditions for itching, skin-crawling, and prickly skin during menopause.

Read more about itchy skin in menopause.

What weird skin sensations can happen during menopause?

Every woman’s experience is different and you might be lucky and escape this annoying symptom (I am jealous if this is you!) or you may experience a few different types, even in combination. Common menopause skin sensations can include: 

  • Itching 
  • Skin crawling, known as formication
  • Pins and needles
  • Numbness
  • Tingling, known as paresthesia
  • Prickling
  • Burning
  • Electrical impulses or shocks

What does prickly skin in menopause feel like?

I will lie in bed and suddenly the skin pricking will start in one place, usually my feet, and then move all over my body. A right thigh, a left butt cheek, my shoulder, an arm or inner thigh – it could be anywhere. It can happen rapidly as if you are being stung by an invisible jellyfish.

Skin pricking can feel similar to an itch but you cannot scratch it away as the sensation is deep below the skin. It can feel similar to an electric shock, jerking your legs or arms and happening without warning.

It’s not always skin pricking, sometimes it can be an unbearable itch or skin-crawling, feeling like there is something on my leg, like a fly or an ant. If I touch the area (or slap!) I can usually get rid of the feeling but then it returns somewhere else pretty quickly. If I can’t reach the affected area, I will have to wake my husband to scratch it. As you can imagine, it’s like sleeping next to someone playing a game of nocturnal Twister by themselves. 

It is random and doesn’t happen every night, week, or month. It comes and goes and is pretty hard to pin down a pattern or a trigger.

Take a look at our symptoms library for more information on skin changes.

What works to treat prickling skin during menopause?

  • Walking helps and gets me off to sleep quickly with a deeper sleep
  • I avoid extreme temperatures on my feet before bed. Cold or hot feet can trigger it. I try to keep them at room temperature
  • I make sure I don’t overheat in bed by keeping my feet out of the sheets or having a fan aimed towards me
  • I keep my skin moisturized as it is worse when my skin is dry. Try simple, oil-based moisturizers where possible, as the oil helps your skin to retain moisture – products designed for the extra-dry skin seen in eczema are a good place to start. Common brand names include Cetaphil, Eucerin, and Aveeno. If you aren’t sure where to start, ask your local pharmacist for advice
  • I use a cooling spray and gel at the first sign of weird skin sensations – sometimes just doing this has helped me fall asleep and stay asleep
  • I try not to get angry when it happens. I accept that it comes and goes
  • Speak to your healthcare provider if you are still struggling despite taking these sensible measures – they may be able to recommend medications to help

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Does HT help prickly skin?

Hormone therapy (HT) can help ease many menopause symptoms, including prickly skin. If you’re having a really tough time, talk to your healthcare provider to decide if HT is right for you. Read more about HT risks and benefits.

How to avoid prickly skin during menopause

  • Try not to scratch – I know just how hard that is! If you have long nails you may tear the skin and make it worse
  • Try patting the area – I’ve often found myself lightly patting the affected skin
  • Avoid perfumed bath products
  • Wear loose clothes and natural fibers but avoid wool or any other fabrics that make you itch
  • Stick to cool or warm baths or showers but keep them short
  • Buy detergents that are kind to sensitive skin. Look for ‘hypoallergenic’ on the label

 When to see your healthcare provider

If this is a new symptom or it is keeping you awake at night so much you cannot function the next day, talk to your healthcare provider.

There are other possible causes of prickly skin besides menopause, and your healthcare provider will be able to help you rule these out. They may want to do some blood tests (to check your iron levels, liver, and kidneys among others) or to examine you in person (to check for other skin conditions). Occasionally, itching and prickly skin can be a symptom of something more serious. Consult a healthcare provider if you are concerned.  

Your healthcare provider may suggest over-the-counter anti-itch creams or prescription medications.

Final word on lifestyle

If you are experiencing prickly skin during menopause then it’s also a good idea to review your lifestyle choices:

  • A well-balanced diet with plenty of lean protein, vegetables, and healthy fats is essential to keeping skin healthy
  • Increase your exercise and get out walking
  • Drinking plenty of water can also help to keep skin moisturized
  • Reducing alcohol and smoking will help as they can dry out the skin
  • Consuming alcohol (without adequate hydration) can result in dehydration and this may contribute to dry skin  
  • Cigarette smoking is associated with lower skin hydration. The irritants in tobacco may also contribute to uncomfortable sensations  

Find out more about menopause on our blog or learn more with our symptoms library.

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