Nina was having lunch with her girlfriend when she started to feel a little self-conscious. Her neck was itching and though she’d scratched a couple times it wouldn’t quit. She tried to ignore it but the itch continued until she had to scratch again, harder this time.
Her girlfriend asked if she was okay, and Nina’s cheeks flushed. It was embarrassing. What could she do about this itchy skin?
What is Itchy Skin?
Doctors called it “pruritus,” and define it as an unpleasant sensation in the skin that provokes the urge to scratch. It can be localized—centered in one area—or generalized, where you feel itchy all over. It usually lasts for just a short time, but in some cases it can become chronic, to where you’re battling itch for weeks or longer.
Itch varies in intensity, too. Usually it’s just mildly annoying, but for some people, it can be so severe that it causes a disabling condition. It all depends on what’s causing the itch in the first place.
6 Causes of Itchy Skin
Figuring out how you can stop the itch usually starts with figuring out started it. Below are five possible reasons why you’re feeling itchy, and what you can do to get some relief.
1. Your Skin is Dry
This is by far the most common reason for itchy skin, and it tends to get worse in the winter, when the cold air draws more moisture out of the skin. If you start to feel itchy just as the weather turns colder, take it as a warning that your skin needs attention right away. If you don’t step up your skin care immediately, you’ll end up with rough, flaky patches later on—perhaps even cracking and bleeding.
What to do: First, if you’re not using a gentle cleanser, get one. Regular soap is very drying, and itch skin is common on the body and hands during the winter. Choose a body wash that is moisturizing as well as cleansing. Then find a moisturizer that will penetrate into the skin and truly moisturize it. Most over-the-counter products are filled with petrolatum and silicones that provide only a temporary coating over the skin.
Our CV Skinlabs Body Repair Lotion is full of natural oils and triglycerides that help reverse dry skin, as well as oat extract to help soothe the itch. If your face is itching, try our Calming Moisture, which also has calming oat extract and natural moisturizing oils.
2. You Have Eczema/Dermatitis
If you have eczema, you know that it can cause itching. Though the condition often develops in childhood, sometimes it comes on later in life. If you notice dry patches of rough, inflamed skin, with blisters that cause itching and bleeding, you probably have eczema. (Always check with your dermatologist.)
Dermatitis is a similar skin condition, and means “skin inflammation.” Eczema is a type of dermatitis, as the skin is inflamed, but it’s also frequently itchy. Dermatitis is rarely itchy. The two terms are frequently used interchangeably, however.
Inflammatory skin conditions like these can be caused by a number of things, including allergies, genetics, and defects in the skin barrier. Flare-ups may be triggered by a variety of elements in the environment.
What to do: First, try to find out what’s causing your flare-ups. Things that can worsen inflammatory skin conditions include soaps, detergents, dust, pollen, stress, and sweat. Once you identify your triggers, do your best to avoid them.
Next, calm the inflammation. Try soaking in a bath with ground oatmeal, apply cool compresses to the skin, and use anti-itch products recommended by your dermatologist.
Finally, keep skin hydrated. Both our Calming Moisture and Body Repair Lotion work wonderfully as daily moisturizers—we made them specifically for skin that needs help!—and our Restorative Skin Balm is wonderful for blisters and red, itchy areas that need extra care.
3. You Have Psoriasis.
If you experience red patches of skin covered with thick, silvery scales, or dry skin that cracks and bleeds along with itching, burning, or soreness, you may have psoriasis. This skin condition causes skin cells to build up rapidly on the surface of the skin, forming those scales and patches that are often itchy and sometimes painful.
The condition is believed to be caused by a malfunctioning immune system. Certain triggers can cause flare-ups, including stress, smoking, a vitamin D deficiency, infections, and injuries to the skin.
What to do: First, be sure you see a dermatologist, who can help you better manage the disease long-term. A dermatologist can also provide creams and ointments that can help. Make sure you’re getting enough vitamin D, and consider light therapy, which uses artificial light to help reduce flare-ups. Exfoliate your skin regularly to help slough off those dead skin cells, and moisturize with a quality moisturizer to keep the skin as healthy as possible.
4. You’re Experiencing an Allergic Reaction
Anytime you come into contact with something you’re allergic to, your body releases histamines, which can cause itchy eyes, sneezing, and yes, itchy skin and hives. Hives are raised skin bumps caused by inflammation.
The reaction could be to anything—pollen, pet dander, a particular food or medication, jewelry (particularly if it’s made of nickel), a soap or detergent, a fiber material in your clothing, a type of plant, or even a period of exercise. If you take an antihistamine and the hives calm down, you know that it was an allergic reaction causing your skin to itch.
What to do: Talk to your allergy doctor to try to discover your triggers. Knowing what you’re allergic to can help you avoid experiencing more hives and itch in the future. Then look at the products you’re using, and start choosing fragrance-free not only in your skin care products, but your clothing detergents, makeup, and household cleansers.
Then try using some anti-inflammatory products like those in the CV Skinlabs line to help keep your skin calm on a regular basis. You can also eat more anti-inflammatory foods—we have a great list in our previous post, “7 Anti-Inflammatory Foods that Improve the Appearance of Your Skin.”
5. You’ve Suffered A Bug Bite
There are a lot of little critters out there that can bite you and cause your skin to itch. Mosquitoes, spiders, bed bugs, wasps and hornets, fleas, lice, and ticks can all leave behind skin that is inflamed and itchy. If you happen to suffer an allergic reaction too, your skin may swell up or you may develop hives, too.
Keep in mind that some bug bites can be serious—if yours doesn’t heal within a few days, check with your doctor just to be safe.
What to do: First, try to avoid bug bites in the first place by wearing protective clothing when you go outside, using bug repellant, and keeping your home well vacuumed and dusted. Once you get a bug bite, apply an ice pack to help tame the inflammation, and then try an over-the-counter anti-itch cream like hydrocortisone.
If you think you’re having an allergic reaction to the bite, take an antihistamine right away. (If you’re having trouble breathing, seek immediate medical attention.) If you experience body aches, fever, or a rash afterwards, see your doctor.
To stop the itch, try an oatmeal paste, a baking soda paste, or apple cider vinegar.
6. You May Have an Internal Disease
In rare cases, an itch can be a sign of an internal disease. Diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease, iron deficiency anemia, thyroid problems, leukemia, and other conditions can lead to itchy skin. Some nerve conditions, including multiple sclerosis and shingles can also cause itchy skin.
What to do: If you notice that your skin itches on a chronic basis (lasting for longer than three months), be sure to see your doctor to rule out any serious conditions.
Do you have itchy skin?