Symptoms of intimate dryness include burning, itching and irritation in the vaginal mucosa. The symptoms are usually due to decreased production of oestrogen in the ovaries. Menopause is the most common cause of low oestrogen levels, which leads to the dryness and thinning of vaginal mucosa, known as atrophy (1). However, vaginal dryness can occur in women of all ages.
Oestrogen levels may decrease when breastfeeding
The most common cause of decreased oestrogen levels in women of reproductive age is breastfeeding (2). The amount of oestrogen decreases after giving birth and further decreases during breastfeeding to a level that causes dryness in the vaginal mucosa (2, 3). The decreased oestrogen levels, in fact, explain why vaginal dryness is more than seven times more common in women who breastfeed than in women who use infant formula (2).
Intimate dryness is also caused by certain medications and medical procedures that cause a hormonal imbalance.
Endometriosis medication, chemotherapy used to treat cancer, and ovary removal surgery can lower the oestrogen levels in the body and lead to symptoms of intimate dryness (4).
Hormonal contraceptives are also used to regulate the levels of hormones produced by the ovaries, namely oestrogen, progesterone and androgen. Birth control pills typically lower circulating oestrogen levels, and a connection has been found between the use of birth control pills and vaginal dryness (5, 6). Dryness may also be caused by a decrease in androgen content due to birth control pills, as androgen is both a precursor to oestrogen and a necessary component of mucus secretion in the body (6).
In addition to medical procedures that regulate oestrogen levels, acne medication containing isotretinoin can also cause dryness of the mucous membranes (7).
Relief from mucosal symptoms
The use of moisturising creams is the primary treatment for intimate dryness (4, 6). Topical creams containing small amounts of oestrogen are one option (4, 6), however, non-hormonal therapies may be more appropriate for some women. For example, in some patients with breast cancer, non-hormonal therapy may be more appropriate, because oestrogen has been found to be used by some cancer cells to grown and spread (8).
Sea buckthorn oil is a non-hormonal treatment solution that promotes the normal functioning of mucous membranes (9). In clinical trials, topical sea buckthorn oil cream (Membrasin® Vaginal Vitality cream) has been shown to improve the vaginal mucosa health index score in menopausal women (10). In addition, sea buckthorn oil cream relieves the symptoms of intimate dryness and irritation and tenderness in the vaginal area in both menopausal and younger women (10). The healing effect that sea buckthorn oil cream has on mucous membranes is likely due to the combination of the sea buckthorn oil’s protective effect and the hyaluronic acid’s moisturising effect.
SBA24® sea buckthorn oil capsules (Membrasin® Feminine Moisturizer supplement)* contain plenty of essential omega fatty acids, vitamin E, and carotenoids, which are precursors to vitamin A. Vitamin A promotes the well-being of mucous membranes, and vitamin E protects the cells from oxidative stress (11). Sea buckthorn oil taken as a dietary supplement has effects that strengthen the mucosa, which are likely due to the combined effect of all the above components (8).
*Dietary supplement: contains beta-carotene, a source of vitamin A that supports the maintenance of normal vision and skin. Vitamin E supports the protection of cells from oxidative stress.