Taking a soothing shower to kick-start the day is one of life's little luxuries, right? Well, not necessarily, epecially if your skin itches after you get out of the water and dry off. Sure, a shower may leave your skin feeling clean, but it can also cause irritation that stays with you for hours.
How you ease this irritating itch depends on what causes it. If you're prone to allergies, your itchy skin might result from your soap, your perspiration or even the water itself. An overly hot shower that dries your skin could also leave you scratching. The list of possible culprits is long, but there are a few that seem to cause the most itching.
It may seem contradictory that you can develop dry skin from standing under a blast of water, but a hot shower parches your skin as the water evaporates. Your skin naturally produces oil that acts as a barrier between skin and the harsh environment of the outside world.
Hot water cleanses this oil from your skin, stripping it of its protection and leaving it feeling dry, tight and itchy. If you take long, hot showers and your itching is most severe on your lower legs and forearms, dry skin is the likely culprit for your discomfort. Scale back the heat, take a shorter shower and try a moisturizer on affected skin to ease the itch.
Skin is your body's largest organ, so it comes as no surprise that it takes a beating from the elements. Your shower brings you into contact with everything from the chemicals that comprise your soap and shampoo to the cleaning products you use on your shower enclosure.
All of these things potentially cause contact dermatitis, a general name for temporary skin irritation in response to a stimulus.
Your first line of defense is to check out the products you use on your skin, as they are often the worst offenders. If you experience itching from bathing products, it's a good idea to switch to a soap and shampoo that is free of harsh chemicals and fragrance. A good rule of thumb is the simpler, the better.
Depending on how damp your shower becomes, you might also encounter mildew. Your towel bears traces of detergent and fabric softener. If you noticed itching only after making a recent change to your shower routine, you might have a mild case of contact dermatitis. Try your old products that didn't cause itching to discover if a new product is responsible.
An allergic reaction on the skin raises itchy welt-like hives. If hives accompany your post-shower itching, you probably have an allergy to something you're finding in your shower. While some of the symptoms may be similar, an allergy is different than contact dermatitis.
Typically, the welts are your first indication that you're dealing with an allergy. Organic materials such as mold and mildew that may be lurking in your shower can cause an allergic reaction. If you develop hives from exercise or on very hot days, you could have cholinergic urticaria, the technical term for heat-related hives.
This reaction happens when your body has an allergic reaction to your own perspiration. Although heat-related hives are rare, the solution is simple: lower the temperature of your shower to stop the itching.
Water itself may cause itching for people with the rare condition dermatologists call aquagenic pruritus. The term literally means water-caused itching, and it happens when your body's defense mechanisms trigger in the presence of water.
If you have this rare condition, you likely feel the itch deep within the skin. You may also notice itching on humid days or during exercise. However, unlike heat-related hives, aquagenic pruritus leaves no visible sign of the itch such as redness or raised welts. Your dermatologist can help you decide on a course of treatment if you have this skin condition.
Bathing and Grooming Habits
Itching after a shower doesn't just happen to people who have dermatitis or are allergic to water, it can also happen as a result of your bathing habits. Not drying your skin properly after bathing, vigorously scrubbing with a loofah or brush, showering in water that is too hot and showering too often can all cause your skin to itch after taking a shower. The good news: You can make changes to your daily bathing habits and reduce the amount of itching you experience.