Why is my skin itchy? You’re in the right place to find out! We take a closer look at what causes itchy skin and how to bring soothing relief to stop the scratch!
Causes of Itchy Skin
Dry Skin (Type or temporary condition)
One of the most common answers to the question “what causes itchy skin?” is dryness.
You may have a dry skin type or be experiencing temporary dryness - both can cause itchy skin plus general sensitivity and irritation.
Seasonal dryness, when the temperature and humidity drop, can lead to itchiness. Indoor heating, long hot showers, and harsh soaps can also cause skin to feel tight and itchy.
Eczema, the umbrella term for chronic, is an inflammatory condition of the skin that can manifest as scaly, flaky, and itchy patches of red skin.
A frustrating condition, eczema can cause itchy bumps on the skin, blisters, cracks and even bleeding in extreme cases.
Two of the most common forms of eczema are atopic dermatitis and contact dermatitis.
Contact dermatitis is an allergic reaction. Symptoms manifest and flare when the skin comes into contact with an allergen but fade with time. Common triggers include fragrances, detergents and certain metals.
Atopic dermatitis is a persisting form of eczema that is thought to be hereditary but made worse by external factors such as fragrances, certain preservatives, synthetic fabrics and more.
Psoriasis Australia reports that 1.6 million Australians struggle with this autoimmune condition which presents on areas of the skin that are dry or red, that have silvery-white scales. Those with psoriasis often describe the itch as burning, biting and painful.
Scratching at midnight? If you struggle with itchy skin at night you may have what’s known as nocturnal pruritus. Studies show this condition is often linked with dermatological conditions or other medical issues where itching is exacerbated by a change in body temperature during the night. It can make it incredibly hard to get a good night's sleep.
“Hell's itch” is the extreme reaction that accompanies serious sunburn. Just like the term suggests, it’s not a fun time! In some cases, severe sunburn can cause damage to the nerves which results in itching so intense it can keep you up at night.
A less hellish type of itchy skin common with a moderate sunburn too. As tempting as it is, avoid scratching sunburn - the skin is extremely compromised and the bacteria under your fingernails can spark an infection.
We’ve all experienced the itchy bumps on skin that follow a bite from a mosquito or some other creepy crawly. This type of itch is localised to the area, unless you’ve experienced an allergic reaction, and usually the quickest relief is from over-the-counter medicated cream or ointment.
Itchy skin can also be a symptom of a serious medical condition. This may include:
liver disease, kidney disease, iron deficiency (anaemia) or thyroid disorders.
If your itchy skin persists and the cause isn’t obvious (for example, you got roasted at the beach!) seek professional guidance from a health care practitioner.
What other symptoms can accompany itchy skin?
Itchy skin driving you crazy? You might be experiencing other symptoms too.
- A raised, bumpy or scaly rash.
- Dry, flaky skin
- Swelling and blisters
- Crusting of the skin which is also a characteristic of psoriasis
If your itchy skin is accompanied by other symptoms such as fever, joint pain, or difficulty breathing, seek medical attention quickly for any underlying health issues.
Itchy skin treatment
Depending on the itchy skin causes, treatment can vary.
- Mild itchiness, sunburn or itchy skin with no rash can usually be managed with skincare for itchy skin including gentle moisturising and soothing products.
- Insect bites and mild allergic reactions generally require over the counter medicated creams for itchy skin.
- Skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis might be managed under the guidance of your GP or dermatologist with a combination of prescription medication and gentle skin care products.
- Underlying medical issues causing itchy skin should be addressed by a health practitioner.
Skincare ingredients best for itchy skin
Oils and creams for itchy skin are formulated soothing, calming ingredients that aim to add hydration and repair the barrier.
Hemp Seed Oil
Hemp seed oil, devericed from the seeds of the hemp plant, is rich in essential fatty acids, including omega-3 and omega-6. These fatty acids are incredibly moisture preserving and nourishing - just what itchy skin caused by dryness needs!
Not only is this hardworking oil brimming with essential fatty acids, its anti-inflammatory properties help reduce redness and inflammation associated with itchy skin.
Mositusiers and botanical oil blends formulated with ceramides help repair the barrier and strengthen the skin's natural defence, which can help to soothe itchy skin.
Famed for its cooling and soothing properties, aloe vera is a hero for itchy skin. It delivers hydration, antibacterial, and antiseptic benefits and speeds up the healing of damaged skin. If you're looking for a remedy for itchy skin at night after a long day at the beach, aloe vera is your go-to.
Heavier oils can suffocate itchy skin and make it feel worse. Jojoba is a brilliant choice for moisturising and banishing the itch as it is light and quickly absorbed by the skin.
Rich in vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, E, and D, Jojoba’s anti-inflammatory properties also do a great job at reducing redness and inflammation associated with itchy skin.
Colloidal oatmeal (finely ground oatmeal) has been used for centuries to ease itchiness, dryness, scaling, and roughness thanks to its potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory action.
An excellent choice for sealing moisture into the skin, allantoin is particularly good for skin that is easily dehydrated and flushed. Its soothing effects work to prevent the skin from becoming hypersensitive.
Why moisturising is a key to relieve itchy skin
Topping up your skin’s hydration and locking in water is the best way to combat an itch caused by the most common culprit - dryness. Moisturising must be part of an itchy skin routine. But how does it actually help relieve the itch?
At the heart of a dry skin / itchy skin issue is a compromised skin barrier. When our skin barrier (the stratum corneum) gets weak it is more susceptible to water loss and irritation - including itchiness.
The skin barrier (also known as the lipid barrier) is made up of lipids that are naturally present in the skin, such as ceramides, cholesterol, and fatty acids.
On a microscopic level, tiny cracks appear in the barrier when the skin doesn’t have enough of these elements to stay resilient and keep moisture locked in.
These cracks speeds up the rate of water evaporation from the skin and allows external irritants easy access to spark itchy, scratching frenzies.
Choosing a moisturiser formulated with effective moisturising and hydrating agents (such as ceramides, fatty acids, and humectant ingredients) delivers water to the skin cells and seals it in by replenishing the protective layer.
Skincare for itchy skin: Gentle and fragrance-free
Gentle, fragrance-free skincare for your body and face is best for itchy skin for several reasons:
Fragrances can further aggravate the skin
Fragrances are common allergens and can cause irritation, redness, and itching. Exposing already itchy skin to more fragrance might be inviting trouble!
Gentle products preserve the moisture barrier
Gentle products are formulated with mild, yet effective, ingredients that promote and maintain the all-important moisture barrier. They don't have fragrances, dyes, sulphates, or other harsh chemicals that take away the skin’s natural oils.
Sensitive skin friendly
Itchy skin and sensitive skin often go hand in hand. Gentle, fragrance-free products are the go-to for skincare routine that won’t exacerbate symptoms.
Explore the range of Vela Days sensitive skin friendly products to help pacify and relieve dry, itchy skin.
Extra tips for dealing with itchy skin
It’s tricky but avoid scratching
Continuous itching breaks the skin which can then easily become infected.
It’s easy to scratch an itch without even realising! Keeping nails short can minimise damage done by scratching.
Enjoy a cool bath
Cool baths and showers can provide immediate relief from itchy skin on your body.
Adding colloidal oatmeal to a bath will double down on itch elimination. Just be sure to moisturise your body within a minute or so of leaving the water to prevent skin drying out. You don’t want to make the itchy skin cycle worse.
Review your wardrobe
Opt for loose-fitting clothes made from fabrics that won’t further irritate itchy skin.
This is a key tip if you struggle with eczema or psoriasis; both these skin conditions flare up if clothing is tight and fabric doesn’t allow the skin to breathe. Cotton, or fabrics that are as close to 100 percent cotton as possible, are ideal.
It’s best to avoid materials like nylon, rayon and polyester, which are commonly used in synthetic fabrics. They tend to trap heat and can worsen eczema symptoms such as itchiness.
When drying your face and body after cleansing, be gentle! Roughly towel drying your skin can irritate itchy skin more.
Have questions about Vela Days products? Reach out to our team - we’re here to help!