Why might you have itchy skin?
Itchy skin is common and can usually be treated by yourself.
It tends to be caused by irritated, cracked, and dry skin. Or it may be the result of insect bites, as well as contact with plants (such as poison ivy).
Itchy skin can also be a symptom of an existing skin condition, particularly if you find a rash when scratching. In which case, you should contact your doctor or local GP for further consultation.
Here are some possible causes of itchy skin:
Our skin can have allergic reactions to a range of different things. Some common allergies include fragrances, shampoos and latex-based products. You’ll likely experience a rash, alongside an uncontrollable itching sensation, commonly known as atopic dermatitis — an itchy rash caused by something touching your skin. To effectively treat itchiness in relation to allergies, you need to use topical antihistamines or tablets (like Piriton).
Long-term and chronic conditions
This category includes skin conditions such as eczema and atopic dermatitis. These conditions tend to show themselves as a dry, scaly patch or bumpy rash. They can be treated in several ways, including over the counter moisturisers and more potent steroid creams. Children are more likely to develop these conditions if their family has a history of asthma and allergies.
Fungal skin infections
Otherwise known as mycosis, this skin disease is caused by a fungus. It often appears as athlete's foot, jock itch or ringworm. Typical symptoms include irritation, blisters, swelling, redness, and intense itching. This can usually be treated over the counter using antifungal creams and medicines, but you should seek further medical advice from a healthcare provider if the problem worsens or persists.
Parasites, bugs, and insects
Bites from bed bugs and mites can be hard to diagnose as they look like rashes. Mosquito bites, spider bites or any other bug bite will tend to be more obvious. Itching can also be caused by scabies, which is an infestation of mites that burrow and lays eggs in the outer layer of your skin — this requires separate treatment.
Other potential reasons for itchy skin
If you’re experiencing itching beneath the surface of your skin, then it might also be a symptom of hives or psoriasis. The former (hives) is caused by stress, heat, sweat or exposure to the sun. The latter (psoriasis) is a result of an overactive immune system where your body overproduces skin cells.
In much rarer cases, itchy skin can also be a symptom of conditions such as thyroid, liver, and kidney problems. It can even be a sign of skin cancer if accompanied by a new skin growth or lesion. If you’re concerned itchy and irritated skin might be symptomatic of a more serious underlying condition, contact your GP and seek immediate medical attention.
Keep in mind when you’re suffering from itchy skin, don’t do the following:
- Wear tight clothes or those made from wool and synthetic fabric
- Spend extended periods in the bath or shower
- Use perfumed soap, deodorants or moisturiser
Doing any of the above may cause further skin irritation and exacerbate your skin condition.
Good anti-itch creams for sensitive skin (over the counter)
In this section, we’ve listed the best anti-itch creams you can buy over the counter (without a prescription) to treat your condition.
These creams are often used daily to moisturise your skin and prevent flare-ups from chronic skin conditions like eczema and dermatitis.
Note that some emollient creams contain preservatives that may make symptoms of eczema worse. Before using any cream, it’s recommended to check with a medical professional first to ensure the cream won’t interfere with any existing health conditions.
Aveeno Cream gently and deeply nourishes dry and sensitive skin, particularly if you’re prone to eczema. Its soothing relief leaves your skin feeling more comfortable.
This cream contains the active ingredient colloidal oatmeal. Made using ground oat grains, colloidal oatmeal is used as an emollient (an unperfumed moisturiser that softens sensitive skin) to lock in moisture and soothe itchy skin.
Colloidal oatmeal is credited for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which reduces redness and irritation while also protecting skin from infection and damage caused by cracking around open sores.
Cetraben Cream & Ointment
Perhaps the most popular skin treatment in the Cetraben range, this lotion is an effective treatment against a myriad of skin conditions — dermatitis, eczema, and psoriasis included — and can help you find relief from the intensely itchy symptoms.
This emollient is particularly effective against extreme dryness when applied to the affected area. Why? Because as an ointment, it has greasy properties that hydrate and soothe the skin. It’s often recommended you use Cetraben Cream & Ointment overnight to promote skin repair during sleep.
Cetraben Cream & Ointment can be purchased over the counter or prescribed as a daily therapy treatment to prevent flare-ups of chronic skin conditions.
Balneum Plus Cream
Balneum Plus is also an emollient and works similarly to standard Balneum Cream, which removes dead skin and builds up the skin’s barrier function. The big difference is Balneum Plus contains a local anaesthetic, which works to provide greater relief from the itchiness associated with irritated skin when applied to the affected area.
Containing two active ingredients, urea and lauromacrogols, Balneum Plus provides double action support against itchiness and dry skin. Urea is a natural substance found on the skin that absorbs water, helping rehydrate dry and scaly patches. Lauromacrogols has the same properties as a local anaesthetic and is effective for itch relief.
This treatment is especially adept at soothing symptoms of eczema and dermatitis, which are exacerbated when the skin is allowed to dry out. Use Balneum Plus regularly to experience the best results.
E45 Itch-Relief Cream
E45 Itch Relief Cream is a smooth, non-greasy moisturiser that provides immediate, long-acting relief from itchy and irritated skin caused by conditions such as eczema, dermatitis suitable for the whole family.
This cream contains two active ingredients, Urea and Lauromacrogols to help deeply moisturise the skin, while also relieving itching caused by dryness through its anaesthetic properties.
Suitable for adults and children over the age of 3 years. Eurax Cream contains the active ingredient crotamiton, which works quickly to ease itchy skin, offering up to 10 hours of relief.
Eurax Cream is particularly effective in soothing the itching sensation caused by skin conditions such as eczema and dermatitis, however, it is also a very effective treatment for itchy skin caused by insect bites or stings, nettle or heat rash, sunburn, chickenpox and scabies.
Best steroid creams for itchy skin
In this section, we’ve highlighted the best anti-itch steroid creams (both prescription and over-the-counter) you can buy to soothe your condition.
Topical corticosteroids contain steroids and are used to treat painful itching associated with chronic skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, and atopic dermatitis.
These steroids come in a range of strengths, from mild to very strong. Weaker corticosteroid creams may be available over the counter, but stronger formulations require a prescription from your doctor, who can provide medical advice when using the treatment.
These types of treatment are often recommended for use over the short term (typically up to ten days). This is because topical corticosteroids can cause thinning of the skin, resulting in further inflammation when used for extended periods. In this section, we list the best steroid creams for itchy skin in order from least to most potent.
Hc45 Hydrocortisone Cream
Hc45 Hydrocortisone Cream is an effective mild corticosteroid used to reduce skin inflammation and general itchiness caused by allergies or irritation. It’s available over the counter from The Independent Pharmacy to get fast skin relief.
Containing the steroid hydrocortisone acetate, this cream is produced by the skincare experts at E45 to combat itching and irritation of the skin in those aged ten and above.
It’s advised Hc45 Hydrocortisone Cream is used for up to ten days to avoid thinning of the skin. However, as this is a weaker steroid, you might be able to use it on sensitive areas. This includes treating eczema on the face or groin.
Eumovate Cream & Ointment
Eumovate Cream & Ointment belongs to a group of moderate-strength topical steroids, which are available from The Independent Pharmacy following an online consultation.
These anti-itch creams work by mimicking the body’s natural hormones, suppressing cell reactions to irritations and allergies. This alleviates symptoms of chronic skin conditions and insect bites. Eumovate can also be used as a preventive measure to stop eczema flare-ups.
Clobetasone is the active ingredient in Eumovate Cream & Ointment. It’s a topical steroid intended to be a short-term eczema remedy that reduces itchiness, inflammation, and swelling with very few side effects. Because clobetasone is more moderate than some other corticosteroid creams, Eumovate is suitable for use in children from ages twelve and above.
Betnovate Cream & Ointment
Betnovate Cream & Ointment is a potent corticosteroid cream. It’s strictly a prescription-only treatment used to combat serious cases of psoriasis, eczema, and atopic dermatitis, among other similar skin conditions. Unlike mild corticosteroids like Hc45 Hydrocortisone, Betnovate is not suitable for the face and groin. It should be applied to areas of thick skin only.
Typically a short course between seven and ten days is prescribed to those who require Betnovate Cream & Ointment to treat severe itchy skin and irritation. This is because the active ingredient is betamethasone valerate, which is a particularly potent corticosteroid that should be used when weaker steroids have proven ineffective.
Allergy tablets for itchy skin
If you’re looking to reduce itchiness as a result of bug bites, oral antihistamines such as cetirizine can also prove to be an effective treatment. These tablets are non-drowsy and treat allergies for a range of scenarios, including hay fever, dust mites, and pets. They work by blocking the production of histamine in your body, which causes allergic reactions.
Regardless of whether your itchy skin is a result of bugs, allergies, fungal infections, or a chronic skin condition — there is an anti-itch cream suitable for every eventuality at The Independent Pharmacy.