Copied to Clipboard
There’s a nearly endless list of reasons you might have itchy skin. Whether it’s the dry winter weather or bug bites, we know you just want relief.
But why do you itch in the first place? What drives you to scratch your skin when there’s nothing actually there?
This sudden sensation is caused by the stimulation of nerve cells. Scratching serves as a distraction and releases serotonin in the brain, but this relief is only temporary. If there’s an underlying problem, the itch will likely come back.
In this article, we’ll discuss some of the most common causes of itchy skin and how you can manage your skin when you’re dealing with certain skin concerns.
Table Of Contents
12 Potential Causes Of Itchy Skin
To help you figure out why your skin is itching, let’s explore several possible causes of this irritating sensation.
One of the most common things causing you to itch is dry skin. Dry skin can be the result of several factors: cold weather, chemical irritation, age, dehydration, and many others.
We’re quick to scratch our skin once it gets dry because of microfractures on the skin barrier. These microfractures stimulate the release of kinins and histamine, which irritates nerves and tells us it’s time to get those fingernails ready for action.
As you scratch the dry and itchy areas of your skin, you’ll notice it might get even itchier. This itch-scratch cycle isn’t easy to stop once you get started — we’ve all been there.
If you feel the need to bathe in anti-itch cream once spring is in full bloom, then you might attribute your itchy skin to allergies. Being allergic to pollen, pet dander, dust, and other allergens can create irritation within your body and lead to itching.
You might also be putting your allergies closer to your skin than you think. Chemical ingredients, such as parabens, hydantoin, and phenoxyethanol, can be found in many bath products and are commonly linked to allergic reactions.
When your body comes into contact with an allergen, it releases histamine, which then binds to histamine receptors and causes itching.
If you are prone to reactions, be sure to check the ingredients list on skin products before using them.
3) Skin Conditions
Skin conditions ranging from mild to severe can cause uncontrollable itching. Shingles, acne, psoriasis, eczema, and even sunburn may have you scratching for relief.
Let’s look at some of the most common skin conditions that can cause itching.
The varicella-zoster virus (VZV), which is also responsible for chickenpox, causes shingles. A few days before the tell-tale rash appears, people typically experience pain, itching, or tingling in the area.
Other symptoms include fever, headache, and chills. Some patients also report an upset stomach.
Acne occurs when your pores become blocked with bacteria, sebum (oil), and dead skin cells. This may lead to redness and itching. However, if you scratch or pop the pimples, you risk further irritation and infection, so keeping your hands away is important.
Psoriasis is an autoimmune disorder that causes your body to produce too many skin cells. Since the cells are created faster than you can shed, they pile up in patches of itchy, scaly skin.
Plaque psoriasis is the most common form of this condition.
The most common symptom of eczema is itchy skin. You may also notice dry or scaly skin, redness, and oozing. Eczema can appear on different body parts — including the face, feet, hands, arms, legs, and stomach.
Genetics, environmental factors, and skin irritants from skincare products all contribute to eczema symptoms.
If you’ve spent too much time in the sun without proper protection, you know what it feels like to experience a sunburn. Your skin will feel tight and hot, and you’ll also experience itching.
Remember to apply sunscreen before heading outdoors, even during the winter months. A broad-spectrum formula will protect you from both UVA and UVB rays.
We all know that life can be cruel, but just how far does that old adage go? Let’s talk about skin irritants and find out.
When you think of things that irritate your skin, you might think of harsh chemicals or that unfortunate run-in with poison ivy you had at summer camp.
The truth is that the most common skin irritants are the products we’re using every day. Soap, clothing, fabric dryer sheets, certain medications, and even latex can make your skin crawl.
If you suspect that one of the products you use each day is causing you to itch, try taking it out of your routine to see if the itching stops.
5) Bug Bites
Once the dead of winter hits and your skin is at its driest, we know you can’t wait for summer. Warm temperatures, nourishing sunlight, and — mosquitoes?
Sure, there’s not a lot of detective work involved when trying to figure out if your itching is caused by a mosquito bite. One night around the bonfire is enough to collect a dozen or so bumps.
But not all bug bites are easy to spot. Bed bugs, for example, are hard to detect and usually live in the place you’re most vulnerable. If you start waking up to red, itchy welts, then you might want to check your mattress.
Lice and fleas are other examples of hard-to-spot bugs with an appetite for your skin. While their bites may be overall harmless, that doesn’t make them any less annoying.
6) Neuropathic Itch
Not every itch is caused by itchy skin. Confusing, right? But it actually makes a lot of sense when we think back to why we get the urge to scratch in the first place.
Since the stimulation of nerve cells in the skin is what makes us itch, what happens if our nerves are damaged?
Damage to the nervous system can cause what’s known as a neuropathic itch. This type of itch can feel completely unlike a “normal” one because scratching probably won’t give you any relief.
Instead of your brain telling you exactly where there’s an itch on your skin, a damaged nervous system means your brain might be communicating an itch that isn’t actually there.
Beyond this phantom itch, neuropathic itch brought on by nerve damage might cause further symptoms, including burning, numbness, and other types of pain.
From shingles and stroke to diabetes and vitamin deficiencies, many diseases and conditions can cause neuropathic itch.
7) Internal Disease
Although it’s likely a rarer cause of itchy skin, an underlying illness might be what’s making your body beg to be scratched.
Some diseases known to cause itching include diabetes, blood disease, kidney disease, liver disease, lymphoma, and thyroid problems.
The itching caused by disease sometimes takes place around specific parts of the body. Liver disease, for example, often causes the palms and soles of your feet to itch before spreading elsewhere. Kidney diseases may cause intense itching on your arms, legs, and back.
If you suspect a disease is causing your itching, see your doctor as soon as possible. They’ll help you identify what’s causing it and create the best treatment plan for your situation.
When you're growing another person, hormones flood your body. These lead to all sorts of unusual symptoms, including itching. They can also lead to dryness, exacerbating the itchy feeling.
In addition, your enlarged uterus stretches your skin and can cause stretch marks. These areas of thinner skin may be itchy and uncomfortable.
Itching during pregnancy is often harmless and nothing to worry about. However, there is a serious condition called intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP) that can cause intense itching. Other symptoms include dark urine, jaundice, and pale bowel movements.
If you experience severe and widespread itching, let your doctor know. They can test for ICP and help you manage the condition.
The human body's ability to heal itself is impressive. But sometimes, scars from injuries or surgeries can cause itching as the skin works to repair itself.
The itch is a sign that your body is doing its job and healing correctly. However, it can be very uncomfortable and distracting, especially if it is located in a sensitive area.
Stress can have a significant impact on your physical health. It can cause headaches, muscle tension, and digestive issues — which may even be why you’re dealing with a constant itch.
When stress hormones get out of whack, they can disrupt the natural balance of oil and moisture in your skin, leading to itching and other skin issues.
Some medications, especially antibiotics, pain medication, and antipsychotics, can cause itching as a side effect. If you’re taking new medications and develop an itchy rash or hives, let your doctor know immediately.
They may be able to switch you to another medication that won’t have the same reaction. In some cases, your doctor may be able to prescribe an antihistamine or other medication to help relieve the itching.
12) Mental Health Struggles
Itching can often indicate an underlying mental health issue, such as depression or anxiety. Psychosis and obsessive-compulsive disorders can also cause itching.
If you’re experiencing chronic itching and don’t have any discernible physical ailments, it may be a good idea to talk to your doctor about your mental health as well as your physical symptoms.
Your doctor can work with you to develop an effective treatment plan for both the physical and psychological causes of your itching.
How To Relieve Itchy Skin
When dealing with an itch, you want it gone as soon as possible. To help you get relief, here are a few things you can do.
The cure for your itchy skin mostly depends on what’s causing it, but there are countless ways to get relief that goes beyond a temporary scratch.
Moisturizing your skin works best for itching caused by dry skin. But it can also be extremely effective in preventing irritation, soothing bug bites, and keeping rashes or other conditions from getting worse.
Choose a thick, creamy moisturizer and apply it regularly. This viscosity can penetrate deep into your skin and help reduce redness, dryness, and itchiness.
Try Colloidal Oatmeal
Colloidal oatmeal works to lock moisture into your skin and allow it to rehydrate. If you live with a skin condition like eczema, this helps reduce symptoms and calm itching while softening skin.
It’s why we use colloidal oatmeal in our Eczema Daily Calming Cream. The combination of its anti-irritation properties and our proprietary blend of botanicals relieves eczema and helps improve the appearance of skin over time.
Use A Cool Compress
Itching caused by inflammation and allergic reactions can be relieved by a cool compress. This easy method of providing relief helps restrict blood flow in the targeted part of your body to reduce swelling, pain, and itchiness.
For a simple compress, dampen a cloth with cold water and place it over the affected area for about 10 to 15 minutes. If the itching persists, wait an hour and repeat as needed.
Run A Humidifier
Your skin thrives in moist air. So if dry skin plays a role in your itchiness, check the humidity level in your home. Ideally, it’ll be in the 30-50% range. If it’s lower than that, use a humidifier to add moisture back into the air.
Hydrocortisone is an over-the-counter medication that comes in a variety of sprays and lotions to help treat a wide range of skin conditions. Symptoms caused by allergic reactions, rashes, eczema, irritation, bug bites, and more can be relieved by applying this medication.
Although there are plenty of hydrocortisone options available, we recommend talking to your doctor about which one is right for your specific condition.
Note: Always follow the directions on the label when using hydrocortisone.
Treat Your Underlying Conditions
Itching is often a symptom of another condition, so if you’re dealing with chronic itching, it may be time to talk to your doctor about potential underlying causes.
If you have eczema, our Eczema Daily Calming Cream On-the-Go can provide deep hydration without a greasy feeling, no matter where you are when an eczema itch strikes.
When dealing with another internal disease, such as diabetes or a kidney disorder, mention your itchy skin to your doctor. Then, work with them to find the best treatments for your specific condition. They may be able to prescribe medication or suggest lifestyle changes that can help.
If you’re prone to itchy skin, be extra cautious about what products come in contact with your skin.
Look carefully at the ingredients in any soaps, lotions, and other skincare products before you apply them to your body. We recommend avoiding anything that’s been known to irritate your skin in the past.
Other factors in your environment can also trigger itching. Try pinpointing potential allergens or irritants, like pollen, pet dander, dust mites, and more that may worsen your itching.
If you’re struggling to find a specific allergen causing trouble, visiting an allergist may be helpful. They can do a test to help identify any allergies and provide helpful treatment advice.
Wear Loose-Fitting, Breathable Clothes
Tight-fitting clothing can aggravate your skin, so opt for clothes made from natural fibers, like cotton or linen. These fabrics are softer on the skin and allow air to circulate better than synthetic materials.
Be sure to choose clothing that won’t cause more irritation. For example, consider avoiding wool or other scratchy materials.
Take Care Of Your Mental Health
As we mentioned above, many mental health challenges lead to a physical manifestation of symptoms. A holistic approach to your well-being can help you find relief.
When you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed, take a break from your usual routine and focus on activities that nourish your soul. Engage in calming exercises, like yoga and meditation, to help balance your emotions, reduce stress, and promote relaxation.
Consider talking to a therapist or counselor if you’re struggling with mental health issues.
It can be very tempting to scratch when dealing with an itchy sensation, but resist the urge! Not only will scratching worsen the problem, but it can also cause skin damage and lead to potential infections.
Instead of scratching, try these strategies to help soothe your skin:
- Take a cool shower
- Gently rub your skin with a damp cloth
- Apply a damp chamomile tea bag
- Tap the itchy spot instead of digging in with your fingernails
If you find yourself scratching no matter how hard you try not to, consider wearing gloves for a while. Putting on the gloves can help remind you not to scratch, and the fabric barrier will prevent you from doing too much damage.
See A Professional
Keep in mind that not every itch should be treated with home remedies. If your itching persists or becomes severe, then visit your doctor or dermatologist as soon as you can.
They can examine your skin and run any necessary tests to determine the root cause of your itchy skin. With an accurate diagnosis, you can get the relief you need to enjoy life more comfortably.
Try Bodewell For Relief From Eczema And Psoriasis Itching
Itchy skin is frustrating, to say the least. But with a little extra TLC, you don’t have to let it get the best of you.
Bodewell skincare products can help care for your skin without compromising its natural beauty. With clinically tested ingredients, our products deliver results for unique skin conditions.
For a lightweight, oil-free solution to your itchy skin caused by psoriasis, try our Psoriasis Soothing Spray — a unique formula with a proprietary blend of botanicals.
When you want to relieve itchiness and irritation caused by eczema or psoriasis, you’re sure to find exactly what you need to enjoy more good skin days with Bodewell.