How to relieve itchy skin

There are many reasons for itchy skin. It could be the result of a skin condition, such as eczema, shingles, hives, or psoriasis, or it could be a sign of a contagious disease, like scabies or ringworm.

To help soothe itchy skin, dermatologists recommend the following tips:

  1. Apply a cold, wet cloth or ice pack to the skin that itches. Do this for about five to 10 minutes or until the itch subsides.

  2. Take an oatmeal bath. This can be very soothing, especially for blisters or oozing skin due to chickenpox, hives, poison ivy or sunburn.

  3. Moisturize your skin. Always choose a moisturizer free of additives, fragrances and perfumes.

  4. Apply topical anesthetics that contain pramoxine.

  5. Apply cooling agents, such as menthol or calamine. You could also place your moisturizer in the refrigerator to help achieve this cooling effect.

While treating your skin, avoid scratching, as this will further irritate your skin and could increase your risk for a skin infection. It’s also a good idea to take steps to help prevent your skin from itching.

To help prevent itching, dermatologists recommend the following tips:

  1. Bathe with lukewarm – not hot – water. Try to limit your bath or shower to just 10 minutes.

  2. Always use “fragrance-free” lotions, soaps and detergents to minimize irritation. Be wary of products labeled “unscented,” as they might still have chemicals that can irritate your skin.

  3. As directed by your dermatologist, apply medications before moisturizing. Then, apply your moisturizer to all areas of your skin, including areas treated with medication.

  4. Wear loose-fitting, cotton clothes. Wool and other rough-feeling fabrics can irritate your skin, causing intense itching.

  5. Avoid extreme temperature changes. Maintain a relatively cool, neutral humidity environment in your house. Use a humidifier during winter if you are prone to dry skin and eczema.

  6. Reduce stress, as stress can make your itch worse.

If your itch does not go away with home treatment, see a board-certified dermatologist. Some people have more than one reason to scratch, and a dermatologist can work with you to find the cause and relieve your itching.


Additional related resources

Diseases and treatments: Itchy skin
Eczema/dermatitis
Shingles
Hives
Psoriasis
Scabies
Ringworm