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If you suffer from dry, itchy skin, it can be exhausting, annoying, and uncomfortable. Nobody wants to live their life constantly scratching away at their skin. You’re probably longing for better, itch-free skin days.
In this article, our experts at Bodewell discuss what causes this common skin problem, what at-home treatments you can use, and what things might aggravate your symptoms.
Table Of Contents
- What Causes Dry, Itchy Skin?
- Common Symptoms Of Dry, Itchy Skin
- 12 Tips To Help Soothe Dry, Itchy Skin
- When To See Your Doctor
What Causes Dry, Itchy Skin?
Many things can cause dry, itchy skin. It’s important to take a look at these potential root causes before discussing any treatment options. Once you have a better understanding of what might be causing your skin trouble, you can properly care for your skin.
It’s worth noting that you may get dry skin if you suffer from certain skin conditions, like eczema or psoriasis. In addition, other illnesses, such as kidney disease and diabetes, can also contribute to dry skin that feels itchy.
Eczema and psoriasis can be treated with many over-the-counter medications, treatments, ointments, or creams (more on this a little later).
However, if you’ve been diagnosed with a more severe health problem, like kidney disease or diabetes, it’s best to seek guidance from a medical professional about the best treatment option.
Mental Health Struggles
The association between your mental health and your skin is astonishing. Many studies have found that stress, depression, anxiety, and other mental health struggles may exacerbate skin conditions, such as eczema, psoriasis, acne, and rosacea.
Psychodermatologists address both your mental health and your skin care needs. So, if you feel like a mind-body connection impacts your skin’s state, it couldn’t hurt to visit one of these specialists for some insight.
This one on our list shouldn’t come as a surprise: The climate in which you live can affect your skin.
More specifically, if you live in a cold or dry climate, you’re likely to develop dry skin that can become itchy. This is because these climates usually have less moisture or humidity in the air.
In addition, winter is tough on your skin in most locations. The cold winds can suck the moisture out of any exposed skin. In addition, using an indoor heater to warm your home in the winter dries your skin out. Wood stoves, space heaters, and furnaces are all problematic.
But winter isn’t the only season that can cause issues. The intense heat from the sun can also cause your skin to dry out. And if you are out in the sun too long and get a burn, that often itches, too.
If you live in an area with extreme weather patterns, moving to a more temperate climate may improve your skin.
But since most of us aren’t packing up and moving to a new state, we’ll share an effective tip later on to help soothe your skin.
It could be dandruff if you’re dealing with dry, itchy skin on your scalp. This condition causes dry, itchy patches on the top of your head that can flake off, leaving the telltale sign of white flakes in your hair.
While the weather can certainly affect our skin, sometimes the soaps, detergents, or shampoos we use contain lots of harsh, irritating chemicals.
Some common ingredients that can dry out your skin include:
- Sodium chloride
- Benzoyl peroxide
- Willow bark
- Retinol and retinoids
When we use these products every day, they strip our skin of its protective natural oils. This stripping of natural moisture leads to dryness and itchiness on the scalp and other parts of the body.
On top of everything else age brings with it, it is also a contributing factor to developing dry skin. This is because, as we get older, our oil and sweat glands begin to dry up, our skin loses its elasticity and fat, and our skin eventually becomes thinner.
By the time we reach 65, our skin is significantly thinner than it used to be with much less moisture. And, as you know by now, dry skin can lead to itchy skin.
Unfortunately, some people are genetically predisposed to having dry skin. Some gene variations can cause a weaker natural skin barrier. Others keep your body from making enough oils to keep it moisturized.
If one or both of your parents have dry skin, it’s more likely that you will as well. The same gene variations can be passed down from generation to generation.
Too Much Hot Water
Many of us love hot, relaxing showers or baths. They can help ease muscle tension and even clear our nasal passages.
But taking long baths or showers can also dry out and irritate your skin. This is because the hot water can damage the cells on the outer layer of your skin, preventing them from being able to lock in moisture.
If you’re spending too much time bathing or showering in hot water, we recommend changing this habit. It will make a big difference in your skin!
The best option is to take shorter baths and showers (around 10 minutes long). And, instead of hot water, opt for lukewarm water.
Any allergy, including seasonal allergies, can impact your skin’s health. Allergies cause your body to release histamines, chemicals that signal an immune response.
The more often you come into contact with your allergens, the drier your skin becomes.
Common Symptoms Of Dry, Itchy Skin
Aside from the obvious signs, dry, itchy skin often has some combination of the following symptoms:
- Scaly patches
- Bumps or spots (and sometimes blisters)
You could have all or some of these symptoms, but it’s important to watch for these skin irritations so they don’t develop into deeper infections.
For example, if your skin turns an angry red color, produces a red line, or develops a fever, it’s best to seek medical attention in case of an infection.
12 Tips To Help Soothe Dry, Itchy Skin
Now that you understand a bit more about what dry, itchy skin is and what causes it, let’s discuss the 12 top tips that will help you look and feel better in no time.
1) Moisturize Often
The right moisturizer helps soften and smooth dry skin to prevent it from cracking and itching. Whether you choose a cream, lotion, ointment, or oil, remember to go with one that is hypoallergenic or formulated with natural ingredients, like colloidal oatmeal.
One of the best ways to lock in moisture is to apply moisturizer to slightly damp skin after a shower or bath. Simply pat your skin dry with a soft towel and follow with your moisturizer of choice.
Also, remember to moisturize your hands throughout the day as well, especially if you tend to wash them frequently.
To make this easier, keep travel-sized containers of your favorite moisturizing product in your purse or car. That way, no matter where you are, you can keep your hands moist. If you have eczema, our Eczema Daily Calming Cream: On-the-Go is an excellent choice.
2) Use The Right Product
If a serious medical condition is causing you to have dry, itchy skin, then it’s essential to use the proper skin treatment recommended by your healthcare provider.
As highlighted above, you can also find many over-the-counter creams and ointments to help relieve dry skin symptoms.
Whether you have psoriasis, eczema, or another skin ailment, make sure to use body washes, shampoos, soaps, and creams that give your skin the relief it needs instead of drying it out even further.
Some products are formulated with a specific condition in mind. For example, the Bodewell Psoriasis Calming Cream has a unique blend of ingredients to help relieve the itching, irritation, redness, and other symptoms associated with psoriasis.
And the Bodewell Dry Scalp Daily Shampoo can help reduce the scalp's flaking, itchiness, and dryness related to dandruff.
By selecting the right products, you can treat your condition more effectively.
3) Boost Humidity In Your Home
Above, we mentioned how living in colder climates can have an adverse effect on your skin. But this is something most people can’t change.
If you find that your climate is the reason behind your dry, itchy skin, we recommend boosting the humidity in your home by using a humidifier. This adds moisture to the air in your home, which can be a skin-saver when you spend more time inside during the colder months.
Keep your indoor humidity level in the 30-50% range. If it’s too much higher than this, you might discover mold and mildew grow more rapidly, which is not good.
To check the humidity level in your home, use a hygrometer. Then, if it’s too low, use a humidifier to add moisture to the air. If you don’t want to invest in a whole-house humidifier, start with smaller ones in the rooms where you spend the most time.
4) Protect Your Skin From The Sun
During the hot summer months, your skin also needs some extra love due to higher sun exposure.
While the sun is essential for our overall health (it’s the main source of Vitamin D), too much heat and too many UV rays can also harm your skin. We often see this via sunburn or long-term damage to our skin’s structure (such as cancer).
To prevent this from happening to you, use sun protection (with SPF 15 or higher) daily on your face, neck, hands, and other exposed areas.
Also, wear protective clothing, like a wide-brimmed hat that covers your face and neck, sunglasses, and long sleeves or pants whenever possible. These items will keep the sun’s rays from harming your skin.
Another great tip is to avoid direct sunlight during peak daylight hours. You’ll have to check your location for specific times, but in the summer, it’s usually best to stay inside from about 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. when the sun is at its highest. Then, in the morning or evening, you can head outside.
5) Protect Your Skin From The Cold
Cold air is also brutal on your skin. To protect it, bundle up whenever you go out in the wind or cold.
Wear items like a scarf, gloves, and a winter hat to keep yourself warm. And remember that if your skin does get too cold, it can lead to chapping and cracking or more serious problems (such as frostbite). Always dress appropriately for the weather conditions.
In addition, when you know it will be windy, apply a thick, non-greasy moisturizer before you head outside. This will create a wind-resistant barrier to help keep your dry, itchy skin from getting worse.
6) Take An Oatmeal Bath
Oatmeal can do wonders for your skin. The starches in oats act like a natural moisturizer that can help soothe your itchy, dry skin. Oats have also been reported to have anti-inflammatory properties to reduce redness and swelling associated with skin irritation.
To reap the benefits, draw a warm bath and add 1 cup of colloidal oatmeal (oats that you’ve ground into a fine powder). Then, soak for about 10 minutes and rinse off with lukewarm water.
By keeping the water on the cooler side and limiting your time in the water, you can make sure your oatmeal bath is beneficial and doesn’t cause more damage.
When you get out of the water, pat yourself dry with a gentle towel and apply moisturizer as directed above.
7) Try A Cold Compress
A cold compress can provide some welcome relief if you’re suffering from an itchy flare-up. Simply fill a bowl with ice water and soak a towel in it for a few minutes. Then, wring out the excess and place it on your skin. Leave it in place for five or 10 minutes.
The coolness of the compress will provide an instant soothing effect to help reduce itching. Plus, cold water helps reduce inflammation.
Repeat this process as needed to get relief from your itchy skin.
8) Select Your Clothes Carefully
The fabrics you wear can affect your skin’s condition. For example, if your clothes are too tight or are made from non-breathable material, they can cause further irritation.
Instead, choose clothes made from natural fabrics, like cotton, silk, bamboo, or hemp. Breathable materials like these help your skin stay cool and comfortable.
In addition, wear loose-fitting styles as much as possible. This way, you don’t have fabric clinging to your already itchy skin.
Also, pay attention to how you launder your clothes. Fabric softeners, detergents, and other laundry products can strip away the natural oils in your skin. So stick to fragrance-free detergents or those made specifically for sensitive skin.
9) Tweak Your Diet
Your body uses the food you eat to build new skin cells, so you want to make sure you’re giving it the best fuel possible.
Load up on healthy fats, proteins, and antioxidants to give your skin an extra boost. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids (like fish and other seafood), vitamin C (such as oranges, strawberries, or broccoli), and zinc (like oysters, red meat, and blackberries) are all great for your skin health.
10) Reevaluate Your Skincare Routine
A skincare routine designed for dry skin can help. Here’s a simple three-step plan you can try in the evenings:
- Wash your face with a gentle cleanser
- Apply a toner formulated for dry skin
Keeping it simple makes you more likely to stay consistent with your skincare. Stick to the basics and use products suited to your skin type.
11) Stop Scratching
Once an itch strikes, it’s hard to ignore. All you want to do is scratch. But, unfortunately, that’s one of the worst things you can do for your skin.
When you scratch, it can irritate your skin and trigger more inflammation. Plus, if you scratch too hard, you can damage your skin, leaving it vulnerable to infection.
So, instead of rubbing or scratching the area, distract yourself with other activities. For example, practice mindful breathing or count backward from 100 until the urge passes.
12) Take Care Of Yourself
Try not to get so focused on your skin that you forget to take care of the rest of you. A holistic approach to skincare is essential for managing itchy skin.
Make sure you’re getting enough rest, exercising regularly, drinking enough water, and managing your stress levels. All of these factors are important in keeping your skin healthy.
Also, take time out each day to relax and enjoy life. Stress can worsen your symptoms, so find ways to de-stress whenever possible. Journaling can help. So can a hobby. The goal is to find things you enjoy doing and then do those things.
Finally, if you're struggling with your mental health, don't hesitate to ask for help. Talking to a therapist can make a huge difference in how you feel both physically and emotionally.
When To See Your Doctor
Practicing the tips we’ve discussed can help restore your skin’s moisture and rid your body of uncomfortable, dry, itchy skin. There are, however, instances when you may need to consult a medical professional to treat any underlying conditions.
For example, if you leave dry skin alone for too long without treating it, it can become infected. This may result in red and swollen skin that may ooze fluid. If this happens, a doctor will be your best option because you may need antibiotics to help treat the infection.
Reach out to your healthcare provider if you notice other concerning signs also, such as:
- Your dry, itchy skin isn’t improving, despite all your self-care measures.
- The problem has lasted longer than a week or goes away and returns.
- Your dry, itchy skin can’t be explained. For example, if you haven’t done anything outside of your regular routine but suddenly developed this problem, there may be a more serious underlying issue.
- When other signs accompany your dry, itchy skin. For example, you’re experiencing sudden weight loss or weight gain despite not changing your diet or having night sweats, fever, etc.
A medical professional can diagnose the root cause of your dry, itchy skin. To do this, they might ask you questions about your condition or examine the skin under a microscope.
Once a diagnosis is made, your doctor can create a customized treatment plan to get your skin feeling healthy again. For example, they may recommend applying hydrocortisone cream or trying light therapy.
Fall In Love With Your Skin Again
Dry, itchy skin doesn’t have to be a part of your everyday life. It is possible to have radiant, moisturized, itch-free skin with the right products, habits, and care.
The good news is the above tips can help you get there. Remember to love on your skin by applying the right moisturizers throughout the day and after bathing.
Our Eczema Daily Calming Cream is a great option for dry skin due to eczema and is safe for daily use. With colloidal oatmeal and a proprietary blend of botanicals, it can help soothe and heal irritated skin.
In addition to finding the right ways to keep your skin hydrated, it’s important to turn down the heat when showering or taking a bath and to protect your skin from the harsh sun’s rays with sunscreen and protective clothing.
With the tips above and skin care products from Bodewell, you can find the relief you’re looking for and fall in love with your skin all over again!