Skin itching can be bothersome, and not everything we try will work effectively. The most common response to the problem is scratching, but that usually further irritates the skin and increases your chances of infection.
Instead of furiously digging your nails on the body’s largest organ, the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD) recommends an ice pack to soothe itchy skin. Drawing an oatmeal bath and applying skin moisturizers. (1)
But what if these home remedies don’t always work? When these natural remedies fail to provide the relief you’re seeking, topical products like Dermeleve can also help. But with so many types of skin remedies available today, it can be difficult to know the right product for you.
Here are a few tips to help you choose the right itch relief product for your skin.
- Know the source of skin problem
Itchy skin is medically known as pruritus, and is often caused by dry skin. Hence, adults and the elderly are more vulnerable to skin itching, although it can affect people of all ages. In most cases, the skin will show signs of irritation such as bumps, redness, and rough spots.
Of course, there are several reasons why your skin may itch apart from dry skin. These include eczema or dermatitis, hives, insect bites, fungal infections, scars, scabies, psoriasis, and other skin issues. Allergies and other health issues can cause itching, such as anemia, diabetes, liver and kidney diseases, lymphoma, and thyroid problems. Multiple sclerosis, shingles, and pinched nerves can also cause irritation of the skin. So are particular mental health issues, including obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, and depression. (2) (3)
Your doctor will request several tests to determine the cause of your pruritus, including X-rays and blood chemistry testing. Only then will they be able to address the issue more effectively.
- Ask your doctor
It’s necessary to seek your dermatologist’s advice before trying out a new medical product. In addition, medical intervention may be required in cases where natural remedies fail to relieve your skin problem. The same is true if you’ve been using over-the-counter cream, gel, or lotion products for more than two weeks with no signs of improvement, or if the itching has spread or intensified.
By seeking an appointment, your doctor can provide valuable insights on the cause of any persistent skin problem and how it can be effectively addressed or managed. More importantly, it provides you with more options that would otherwise be unavailable without a prescription.
- Understand how each option works
Now that you know the reason for your skin woes, choosing the right product will be much easier. You can use three main types of topical products to relieve itchy skin. Let’s understand how each one works:
- Topical anesthetics: These products block the nerves that send out nerve signals to the brain. They’re used mainly as a pain reliever. If skin itching is accompanied by pain primarily caused by poison ivy, minor burn cases, and insect bites, this can be the ideal product.
Potential side effect: Some products may trigger contact dermatitis or an itchy rash. (3)
- Topical antihistamines: These products interfere with the body’s chemical process to minimize allergic reactions and reduce itching. Allergies occur when your body’s defense system reacts against an allergen by releasing histamine.
Potential side effect: Long-term use of topical cream, ointment, or lotion may result in skin irritation, rashes, and light sensitivity. (3)
- Topical steroids: Steroids work by easing skin inflammation, and those with skin conditions such as psoriasis, dermatitis, and eczema may be familiar with these topical solutions, including hydrocortisone.
Potential side-effect: Caution should be taken when using steroids, and it’s recommended that they only be used with healthcare staff guidance, especially on young children. Overusing this topical solution may lead to enlarged blood vessels, skin thinning, and stretch marks. (3)
- Identify the active ingredients and learn how they may impact you
Depending on the type of skin condition you have and the reason for skin itching, your dermatologist may recommend topical products with the following active ingredients:
Calamine: Anyone with skin allergies growing up is likely familiar with this ingredient. Calamine, produced when mixing ferric oxide and zinc oxide, has been tested to combat itchiness and relieve rashes and blisters caused by insect bites. It works by cooling your skin as it evaporates.
Diphenhydramine: Some cough and cold medicines are infused with this ingredient to relieve symptoms such as rashes, itchy skin, watery eyes and runny nose. Topical gels, creams, and lotions with diphenhydramine are classified as antihistamines and best used for allergies. Some people may be allergic to this compound, so care must be practiced before applying. Experts also caution users from using antihistamines for more than one week and advised to seek professional help if the itching hasn’t subsided by then.
Hydrocortisone: Most topical itch relievers contain this active ingredient, which usually contains one percent steroid. As such, topical products with this content also fight inflammation. Products with this active ingredient could also help relieve discomfort from allergies, eczema, and psoriasis. Avoid this ingredient if you are suffering from a fungal infection, as this can actually make the problem worse.
Pramoxine: Topical products containing this compound are considered anesthetics, and most also have hydrocortisone to relieve skin pain, itching, and inflammation. (4)
Shea butter: Shea butter is known for having multiple skin-friendly properties. Besides being highly moisturizing, it’s also packed with antioxidants, vitamins, and fatty acids. Shea butter has antibacterial and anti-fungal properties besides soaking your skin with the proper nutrients. It also triggers cytokines which can fight inflammation and prevent dry and itchy skin.
Vitamin C, D, E & K: Some natural topical products boast natural ingredients and vitamin infusions in their anti-itch creams. These skin vitamins have been proven in various research to be skin-friendly and show promising results when used on particular skin conditions.
Vitamin D may help address psoriasis, while vitamin C is effective in repairing and restoring your skin by stimulating collagen production. This antioxidant also eliminates dry and aging skin. Vitamin E is a well-known antioxidant that helps address dehydrated and inflamed skin. Last but not least, vitamin K is used in topical applications to prevent swelling and bruising, allowing the skin to heal much faster. (6)
Few things can be as annoying as skin itching. However, it’s easier to get rid of the itch if you know what skin product will work best for you. Keep these four tips in mind and you should be able to narrow down your choices that not only helps you relieve the itch, but also treat the cause of it.
- “How to Relieve Itchy Skin”, source: https://www.aad.org/public/everyday-care/itchy-skin/itch-relief/relieve-itchy-skin
- ” Itchy skin (pruritus)” https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/itchy-skin/symptoms-causes/syc-20355006
- Anti-Itch Creams to Soothe Itchy Skin
- “Pick the Right Products to Stop Itchy Skin”, Source: https://www.consumerreports.org/medical-conditions/right-products-to-stop-itchy-skin/
- “What Is Shea Butter? 22 Reasons to Add It to Your Routine”, Source: https://www.healthline.com/health/beauty-skin-care/what-is-shea-butter
- “The 4 Best Vitamins for Your Skin”, Source: https://www.healthline.com/health/4-best-vitamins-for-skin