Finding long-lasting relief for itchy skin can be challenging. While creams and lotions can help reduce your symptoms temporarily, the itching may return, causing you to scratch your skin raw. Determining the underlying cause of your itch can help you choose the most appropriate lotion or treatment for your problem.
Itchy skin, also called pruritus, occurs when the nerve endings in your skin receive a signal from your brain to begin itching. If you have an allergic reaction, cells in your body release extra amounts of histamine, a chemical that can cause itching and other allergy symptoms. The causes of other types of itching aren’t known, although itching can be a part of faulty processing of the itch sensation within the nervous system or can occur if you have certain diseases or disorders. Itching is a common problem that can increase with age, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians.
Dry skin is a common cause of itching. The problem can occur at any time of the year but is more likely during the winter when moisture in the air decreases. Dry skin can also occur if you come in contact with an allergen such as poison ivy, poison oak, laundry detergents, strong chemicals or soaps, or if you eat a food that causes an allergic reaction. Some skin diseases and conditions, including chicken pox, hives and eczema, can cause itching. Infection with a parasite, such as lice or scabies, can trigger an itchy rash. If you have kidney failure, thyroid problems, certain blood disorders, hepatitis, lymphoma, a pinched nerve or post-herpetic neuralgia, you may develop itching.
Creams and Lotions
Moisturizing creams and lotions can be helpful in relieving itching due to dry skin. Applying these products soon after bathing will help your skin retain maximum moisture. If your skin is extremely dry, using baby oil will help seal in even more moisture.
Creams or ointments may be more effective than lotions in treating itching due to dry skin. The Cleveland Clinic reports that lotions have a high water content and require more frequent application to relieve dryness. Creams and ointments have a lower amount of water, contain more oil and keep skin moist longer.
Topical medications can help relieve itching that results from skin diseases or allergies. Topical anti-itch lotions and ointments that contain camphor or menthol can temporarily numb the area and reduce itching. If itching is accompanied by inflammation, lotions and creams that contain corticosteroids may be helpful, but these should be avoided if you don’t have an inflammation, according to the “Merck Manuals." Calamine lotion and oatmeal baths can help dry out inflamed skin due to poison ivy. If lotions or creams don’t help relieve itching or if you itch all over your body, an over-the-counter or prescription oral antihistamine may reduce your symptoms. Your doctor may recommend prescription-strength lotions to treat intense itching or skin diseases.