An itch can occur anytime anywhere and leave you almost powerless against it. No matter how busy you may be with your chores, you just cannot resist scratching your skin and sometimes turning it into a bleeding wound the longer you scratch it.
Itch (aka pruritus) is the unpleasant sensation which evokes the desire to scratch. It is also one of your body’s defense mechanisms against irritants.
The most common reason for pruritus is excessively dry skin, however there are a host of other reasons that can cause inflammation & itching of the skin. (2)
Read further to learn what might be causing the itching in your case and what symptoms you should look out for.
- Causes of Itchy Skin
- Symptoms of Itchy Skin
- Preventing Itchy Skin
- Home Remedies to Get Rid of Itchy Skin
- Method 1: Aloe Vera
- Method 2: Oatmeal
- Method 3: Baking Soda
- Method 4: Coconut Oil
- Method 5: Apple Cider Vinegar
- Method 6: Manuka Honey
- Method 7: Ice Water or Cold Compress
- Method 8: Vicks
- Method 9: Calamine Lotion
- Method 10: Peppermint Oil
- Method 11: Vitamin E
- Tips to keep in mind
Causes of Itchy Skin
- Dry skin: The most common cause of itching is dry skin, which is very common in the elderly also called xerosis, due to thinning of the skin & loss of water retained in the skin, causing dryness & inflammation. The dryness can be exacerbated by external factors such as cold and dry weather, using harsh soaps or detergents, excessive or continuous use of air conditioners or heaters. (1)
- Skin disorders: Localized itching is a prominent symptom of a number of skin disorders, such as eczema, psoriasis, scabies, hives, chicken pox or lice. However, some disorders would also cause other symptoms, such as a rash, red bumps or inflamed skin.
- Internal diseases and disorders: Any internal illness can also lead to itching all over the body. These include a thyroid abnormality, kidney failure, diabetes, liver-related diseases, anemia, HIV/AIDS or cancer (leukemia or lymphoma). Itching could also be a sign of nerve disorders. (3)
- Allergic reactions: Itching can also result from an allergic reaction to certain foods, cosmetics, drugs, fabrics or substances found in plants (poison ivy). (13)
- Pregnancy: A number of women report increased itching in the abdominal region as the skin stretches to make space for the fetus. If the woman already suffers from a skin condition, it can worsen during pregnancy and aggravate itching sensations. (2)
Symptoms of Itchy Skin
Itching may be localized or affect the whole body. Depending on the cause, it may or may not be accompanied by the following symptoms: (6)
- Redness in the affected area.
- Red bumps.
- Cracked or flaky skin.
Preventing Itchy Skin
A handful of preventive measures can help you prevent future bouts of itchy skin.
- Moisturize daily (8)
- Frequently moisturizing throughout the day can help make the skin softer, smoother, and less likely to crack.
- Body moisturizers come in a few forms - ointments, creams, lotions, and oils.
- Avoid things which aggravate itch like:
- heat and wool
- hot water for baths
- immersing your hands in water all day/frequent hand washing
- Avoid using heavily scented body wash or other products that can irritate the skin.
- Opt for homemade skin care products with few ingredients.
- Use a humidifier at home to add moisture to the indoor air.
- Wear gloves or apply a special moisturizer throughout the day.
- Use sunscreen with SPF of 30 or greater when going out in the sun.
Home Remedies to Get Rid of Itchy Skin
Since itching can be due to a multitude of factors, identifying the underlying cause is of utmost importance to getting relief. It’s best to see a board-certified dermatologist to find out why your skin itches. There could be more than one reason for your itchy skin.
Mild to moderate itching can be controlled using simple home remedies. However, if the itching does not resolve and/or increases after 3-5days, a visit to the dermatologist is required.
Read on to learn the 11 popular home remedies for itchy skin.
Method 1: Aloe Vera
The thick, gooey fluid extracted from the leaves of the aloe vera plant is the best go-to remedy for itchy skin. Aloe vera has been hailed as a potent healer, due to its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. It is loaded with essential minerals, amino acids and antioxidants that not only replenish parched skin but also heal skin disorders, sunburns, minor burns, rashes and more. (8)
You can even make your own aloe vera gel to use in this remedy.
Single-Step Treatment: Apply aloe vera gel on the itchy skin 3 times daily
- Smear some fresh aloe vera gel all over the itchy skin.
- Let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Rinse it off with cool water.
- Apply a light, unscented moisturizer afterward.
Aloe vera gel will provide immediate relief from itching, that is why it is considered to be one of the most effective home remedies for itchy skin. However, continue to apply it 3 times daily for 4 to 5 days to get complete relief from itchy skin.
Method 2: Oatmeal
Oatmeal is an age-old remedy that calms inflamed skin and reduces itching. The polyphenols called avenanthramides present in oats have anti-inflammatory properties that curb the itching sensation. Oats also are good for treating skin allergies and other conditions, such as a poison ivy rash, eczema, chicken pox and more.
According to a 2015 study published in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, use of colloidal oatmeal as a skin-protectant lotion led to reduced itching and significant improvement in the skin condition in females who had mild to moderate itching and dry skin on their lower legs. (12)
Oatmeal can be used in a bath for controlling itching that affects large areas of the skin or as a poultice for a limited area.
Step 1. Make a paste of ground oats and water
- Put 1 tablespoon of ground oats in a bowl.
- Add enough water to make a thick paste.
- Mix them well.
- Let it sit for 1 to 2 minutes to allow the oats to fully soak up the water.
Step 2. Apply the paste on your itchy skin 2 or 3 times daily
- Apply a thick layer of the paste on the affected skin.
- Let it sit for 20 minutes, then rinse it off with cool water.
- Pat dry with a clean towel.
This oatmeal remedy will soothe your skin and reduce the itching after just one use. Reapply the paste 2 or 3 times daily for 4 to 5 days or until you get relief. The duration of recovery will depend on the cause of itching.
To use it in a bath: Mix 2 cups of oatmeal in a bathtub filled with cool water. Soak in it for 20 minutes. Rinse off and pat dry.
Method 3: Baking Soda
This inexpensive ingredient can be used in a number of ways for your skin and hair. In the case of itchy skin, baking soda works as a neutralizing agent on your skin’s natural acids and relieves the itching sensation.
Baking soda also works as a disinfectant, in case the skin irritation is caused by some type of microbe or a bug bite. It is one of the most popular home remedies for itchy skin used in many households. (11)
Single-Step Treatment: Apply a baking soda paste once daily
- Add 1 tablespoon of water to 3 teaspoons of baking soda.
- Stir well to form a thick paste.
- Slather the paste on the itchy areas of your skin.
- Leave it on until the paste dries.
- Rinse off the residue with water and pat dry your skin.
Repeat the remedy once daily for 4 to 5 days or until you get rid of the itchy skin.
To use it in a bath: Mix 1 cup of baking soda into warm bathwater. Soak in it for 10 minutes. Rinse off with plain water and let your skin air-dry.
Method 4: Coconut Oil
Coconut oil has rightly been called a panacea for healthy skin and hair, due to its nourishing and antimicrobial properties. The healthy fatty acids present in the oil are easily absorbed into the skin and leave it extremely hydrated and supple.
Coconut oil is extremely gentle on the skin and can be used by people of all ages and all skin types. It is especially effective if you have itchy skin due to dry and cold weather in the winter.
According to a study published in 2015 in the International Journal of Dermatology, topical application of virgin coconut oil reaped better results than mineral oil in children suffering from atopic dermatitis. (5)
Single-Step Treatment: Rub extra-virgin coconut oil on the itchy skin 3 times daily
- Rub extra-virgin coconut oil directly on the itchy area until it is completely absorbed into the skin.
- If the itching is due to dry winter weather, soak your body in tepid water for 10 minutes. Pat your skin dry and slather coconut oil all over your damp skin. Wear warm comfortable clothing and go off to a peaceful itch-free sleep.
Apply coconut oil 3 times daily. Your skin condition will surely improve after the very first day. Continue using it for 1 week to get rid of the itchiness completely.
Method 5: Apple Cider Vinegar
If the itching is due to an infection, apple cider vinegar may bring some relief. The anti-microbial properties of vinegar have shown positive effects on the treatment of jelly fish sting. However further research is needed on validating the use of apple cider vinegar in a number of ailments. (7)
You can either apply it directly on the affected skin if the itching is localized or add it to bathwater and soak in it to aid healing.
Single-Step Treatment: Apply apple cider vinegar directly on the itchy skin twice daily
- Pour raw apple cider vinegar on a cotton ball.
- Dab the soaked cotton on the itchy skin.
- Remove the cotton and leave the vinegar on for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
- Rinse the area with lukewarm water and pat dry.
- Follow it with a light moisturizer.
Repeat the application twice a day. Apple cider vinegar should help you get rid of itchy skin within 1 week, depending on the severity.
Method 6: Manuka Honey
This golden liquid can also come to the rescue in case of severe itching. Manuka honey, in particular, has strong antibacterial properties due to the presence of a compound called methylglyoxal.
Honey also acts a humectant, drawing in moisture to the skin and keeping it hydrated. Furthermore, honey helps in skin cell renewal by releasing hydrogen peroxide into the skin. (14)
Single-Step Application: Apply Manuka honey on the affected skin twice daily
- Coat the itchy skin with Manuka honey.
- Let it sit for 2 to 3 hours, then rinse it off with lukewarm water.
Repeat 2 times daily for 1 week to get rid of itchy skin.
Method 7: Ice Water or Cold Compress
The temporary numbing effect of ice water can be extremely comforting when suffering from uncontrollable itching. However, the effects can be short-lived so this remedy can be used in conjunction with any of the other remedies for more permanent relief.
Single-Step Treatment: Dip the itchy area in ice water as needed
- Drop a handful of ice cubes in a large bowl and add cold water.
- Submerge the itchy skin completely in the water.
- Hold it until the cold feels uncomfortable. Take a break for 1 minute, then dip it in again.
- Soak your skin for 15 to 20 minutes.
- If soaking is not feasible, you can use a cold compress to numb the itching area.
Use ice water or a cold compress as needed to soothe itchy skin.
Method 8: Vicks
That small tub of Vicks VapoRub can do more than relieve symptoms of a cold or the flu. The petroleum-based cream relieves itchy skin by providing a cooling effect due to the presence of menthol and eucalyptus oil; while the petrolatum helps seal in moisture in dry skin.
Moreover, Vicks also has antifungal properties that may help kill any microbe causing the itching.
Single-Step Treatment: Rub Vicks on the affected skin as needed
- Gently rub Vicks on the itchy area and let it completely absorb into the skin.
Soon you’ll feel the cooling sensation, and the itching will subside. Use Vicks as needed to provide fast relief.
Method 9: Calamine Lotion
The lotion leaves a cooling effect on the skin, thus soothing irritated and itchy skin. You can also use it on your baby to treat diaper rash.
Single-Step Treatment: Apply calamine lotion on the itchy skin as needed
- Simply apply the calamine lotion on the itchy skin for a cooling effect.
Use it as needed to alleviate itching.
Method 10: Peppermint Oil
The cooling peppermint oil can be used to relieve itchy skin caused by dermatitis, owing to its anesthetic, anti-inflammatory, and antiseptic properties.
According to a 2016 study published in Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology, peppermint oil showed positive results when used topically to treat chronic pruritus, without any toxic side effects. (4)
You can either apply it directly on the skin or mix it in a carrier oil for easier absorption.
Things you’ll need:
- Peppermint essential oil (anesthetic, anti-inflammatory and antiseptic) – 3 or 4 drops
- Coconut oil (or olive or almond oil) – 1 tablespoon
Single-Step Treatment: Mix peppermint and coconut oils and apply it on your skin
- Mix 3 or 4 drops of peppermint oil in 1 tablespoon of coconut oil.
- Massage the oil blend over the irritated and itchy skin.
Repeat twice daily until you get rid of the itchy skin.
Method 11: Vitamin E
Tocopheryl acetate, a form of vitamin E, is a natural skin-conditioning agent and antioxidant often used in dermatological products such as skin creams.
Vitamin E Oil (A-tocopherol acetate), has been shown to be very beneficial in clinical practice in dermatology for management of xerosis, and other inflammatory skin conditions such as hyperkeratosis, eczema, superficial burns, ulcers, etc. (10)
Single-Step Treatment: Apply Vitamin E oil on the itchy skin
- Pour a teaspoon of vitamin E oil to coconut or olive oil, whichever suits your skin.
- Mix and apply it to the affected area.
Tips to keep in mind
- Regular application of vitamin E oil, mixed in coconut or olive oil, can help keep the skin healthy and reduce the chance of itching.
- Witch Hazel is another beneficial topical oil. Simply dabbing witch hazel on the itchy area can also provide immediate relief. The liquid is antibacterial and has a cooling effect on the skin.
- If you do not have peppermint oil, you can use tea tree essential oil to get rid of itchy skin.
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- Cunningham FG, al. et. Dermatological Disorders | Williams Obstetrics, 24edition. The McGraw-Hill Companies. https://accessmedicine.mhmedical.com/content.aspx?sectionid=59789207. Published 2014.
- Carstens E, Akiyama T. Itch: Mechanisms and Treatment. CRC Press. https://www.crcpress.com/Itch-Mechanisms-and-Treatment/Carstens-Akiyama/p/book/9781466505438. Published February 25, 2014.
- Elsaie LT, Mohsen AME, Ibrahim IM, Mohey-Eddin MH, Elsaie ML. The effectiveness of topical peppermint oil on symptomatic treatment of ch | CCID. Journal of Pain Research. https://www.dovepress.com/effectiveness-of-topical-peppermint-oil-on-symptomatic-treatment-of-ch-peer-reviewed-article-CCID. Published October 11, 2016.
- Evangelista MT, Abad-Casintahan F, Lopez-Villafuerte L. The effect of topical virgin coconut oil on SCORAD index, transepidermal water loss, and skin capacitance in mild to moderate pediatric atopic dermatitis: a randomized, double-blind, clinical trial. International Journal of Dermatology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24320105. Published January 2014.
- Yosipovitch G, Patel TS. Chapter 103. Pathophysiology and Clinical Aspects of Pruritus. Pathophysiology and Clinical Aspects of Pruritus. https://accessmedicine.mhmedical.com/content.aspx?bookid=392&Sectionid=41138815.
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- Kraft JN, Lynde CW. Moisturizers: What They Are and a Practical Approach to Product Selection. Skin Therapy Letter. https://www.skintherapyletter.com/eczema/moisturizers-selection/. Published September 27, 2018.
- Mak MF, Li W, Mahadev A. Calamine lotion to reduce skin irritation in children with cast immobilization. Journal of Orthopedic Surgery. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24014789. Published August 2013.
- PANIN GIORGIO, STRUMIA RENATA, URSINI FULVIO. Topical α-Tocopherol Acetate in the Bulk Phase: Eight ... Annals of the New York Academy of Science. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1196/annals.1331.069/abstract. Published January 12, 2006.
- Quandt, SA, Sandberg, JC, Grzywacz, JG, Altizer, KP, Arcury, TA. Home Remedy Use Among African American and White Older Adults. HHS Public Access. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4631220/. Published June 2015.
- Reynertson KA, Garay M, Nebus J, et al. Anti-inflammatory activities of colloidal oatmeal (Avena sativa) contribute to the effectiveness of oats in treatment of itch associated with dry, irritated skin. Journal of Drugs in Dermatology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25607907. Published January 2015.
- Schwartz J, Friedman AJ. Exogenous Factors in Skin Barrier Repair. Journal of drugs in dermatology: JDD. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28095538. Published November 1, 2016.
- Shi K, Lio PA. Alternative Treatments for Atopic Dermatitis: An Update. American Journal of Clinical Dermatology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30511123. Published December 3, 2018.