Natural Itchy Skin Care
Outdoor summer activities can sometimes leave us itchy. Yesterday I got a hit with a double whammy- mosquito stings on my legs and arms and ant bites on my feet. Twenty four hours later I still feel like scratching. While this may bring temporary satisfaction, it has the potential to start an itch-scratch cycle that can injure the skin and make it more prone to infection.
What causes us to feel itchy, anyways?
Itchiness, pruritus (proo-RIE-tus) in the medical world, is simply caused by some sort of stimuli irritating the skin. Irritated, itchy skin has many causes including insect bites, allergic reactions to plants (poison ivy) or chemicals, sunburns, soaps, detergents, medications, dry weather, pregnancy and even aging. More serious conditions such as psoriasis and dermatitis typically cause itchy skin, too. When something is bothering our skin, that itchy feeling is the body’s defense mechanism alerting us to unhealthy contact and telling us to remove the irritant.
How to deal with itchy skin?
- Don’t scratch! I know, easier said than done. Instead of clawing at your already irritated skin, try applying direct pressure instead. This will momentarily cause blood to rush to the affected area and reduce the pain.
- Head to the kitchen for some gentle and effective home remedies:
- For all over body itch add a cup of baking soda to a tub of warm (not hot) water and soak for 30 minutes. Localized itches can be treated with baking soda paste made from 3 parts baking soda to 1 part water. Do not apply this paste if the skin is broken.
- Another soothing bath remedy is adding 1-2 cups of finely ground oatmeal to a warm bath.
- Many American folk remedies for skin problems call for lemon. The anesthetic (numbing) and anti-inflammatory (reduces swelling) properties in lemon juice can lessen the urge to itch, and the acidity in lemon juice can counteract the acids left behind from some insect bites. Apply lemon juice directly to the affected area. If your skin is dry, mix lemon juice with virgin coconut oil.
- Mint is a favorite treatment for itchy skin and hives in Chinese folk medicine. The menthol and rosmarinic acid in mint leaves have anesthetic and anti-inflammatory properties and are readily absorbed into the skin. Make a mint rinse by placing 1 ounce of dried mint leaves (peppermint is stronger than spearmint) in 1 pint of boiling water. Cover and allow to cool. Dip a clean cloth into the tea and apply to itchy skin as necessary. For dry, itchy skin try Just Coco’s peppermint aromatherapy essential body oil which contains 3% pure peppermint essential oil.
- Basil tastes great in spaghetti sauce and it can also help relieve itching. Basil leaves contain high amounts of eugenol, a natural topical anesthetic. Put ½ counce of dried basil leaves in a 1 pint jar of boiling water and cover it to create a tea. Allow to cool. Dip a clean cloth into the tea and apply to itchy skin as necessary. If you have fresh basil and some time to relax, crumple leaves and then smooth out again, apply virgin coconut oil to the affected area then stick a basil leaf on top.
- You can also combine thyme and dandelion root to stop the itch. Thyme contains thymol with anesthetic and anti-inflammatory properties to numb the irritated skin and reduce any further inflammation caused by scratching. For an added punch, Chinese folk medicine adds dandelion root to this rinse. Place ½ ounce dried thyme leaves and 1 ounce dried dandelion root (from your yard if in season) in a pint jar of boiling water. Cover and allow to cool. Strain and dip a clean cloth into the tea, then apply to affected areas.
- Banana peels! You can use a ripe banana as a gentle exfoliant and the inside of the peel can be rubbed on an itchy rash or insect bite for relief.
As with any health issue, it is important to figure out what is causing the problem. If the cause of your itching is unknown and the problem persists, see a doctor.