As you get older, your skin will naturally lose collagen, which is a protein that the body produces. Collagen is responsible for helping the skin look youthful, smooth, and tight. In general, womens’ skin ages faster than men as their levels of collagen and elastin decrease with age. When you add menopause into the mix, your skin can age even faster.
Collagen decline doesn’t happen overnight and it doesn’t start during menopause. It happens over time and it starts at different ages. Some people experience collagen decline in their 20s while others start in their 30s. The decrease in collagen speeds up during and after menopause. With this process, skin becomes dry all over the body. Additionally, menopause dries out the eyes and mouth.
Learn more about how menopause can cause dryness on various parts of the body (not just the vagina!)
How does menopause cause vaginal dryness?
As we mentioned earlier, dry skin on the body can be the result of less collagen. Vaginal dryness, however, is caused by hormonal imbalances. As hormone production changes before and during menopause, the vaginal walls thin and become dry. There’s even a name for this group of symptoms — it’s called vaginal atrophy or genitourinary syndrome of menopause (GSM).
“After and around the time of menopause, your body makes less estrogen. Estrogen is a hormone that helps maintain the vagina’s lubrication, elasticity, and thickness. Low levels of estrogen can cause thinning, drying, and inflammation of vaginal walls,” according to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).
Unfortunately, vaginal dryness can cause irritation during intercourse. It can feel painful when you’re wiping with toilet paper or putting on underwear because dryness affects the vulva (the exterior of the vagina) too.
How does menopause cause eye and mouth dryness?
The production of tears decreases after age 50. And during the postmenopausal period, it’s especially likely to notice decreased tear production, which leads to dry eyes. The exact reason is unknown but researchers point to the decrease of sex hormones estrogen and androgens as the main cause for dry eyes after menopause.
Loss of estrogen also can lead to dry mouth because it’s responsible for the salivary glands. As a result, less saliva is produced (the proper term is called xerostomia). Saliva is important to ward off bacteria on the teeth and gums, so it’s important at this time to be diligent about dental hygiene. Dry mouth can be uncomfortable and can cause one to always be thirsty and feel hoarse.
Treatment for dryness
Treatment depends on where you’re dry on your body. Dry vulvas can benefit from removing soap and irritants from personal hygiene, trimming pubic hair instead of waxing/shaving, and moisturizing. Vaginas can benefit from lubricant or prescription creams, dry eyes can benefit from eye drops, and dry mouth can benefit from hydration. Hormone replacement pills that contain female hormones can help with these side effects too, though HRT is not a good option for everyone and carries major risks for some people. Speak with your provider about the best path for you.
Reviewed by the Ovia Health Clinical Team
Abraham, Cynthia M.D. “Experiencing Vaginal Dryness? Here’s What You Need to Know.” ACOG. ACOG. October 2020. https://www.acog.org/womens-health/experts-and-stories/the-latest/experiencing-vaginal-dryness-heres-what-you-need-to-know
Swick, Elizabeth MS, RDN. “What Age Do You Start Losing Collagen?” My Body Kitchen. My Body Kitchen. June 12, 2020. https://mybodykitchen.com/blogs/news/what-age-do-you-start-losing-collagen
Goudarzi, Sarah. “A Woman’s Skin Ages Faster.” Live Science. Live Science. October 3, 2006. https://www.livescience.com/1054-woman-skin-ages-faster