We scratch an itch tens of times a day and barely give it any thought.
But those itches can take on a life of their own in the high heat and humidity of summer.
In an earlier post, I unpacked a handful of skin problems that are particularly common during the summer months. If you read it, you may have noticed a common thread that ran throughout many of them: itchy skin.
Sometimes, like in the case of heat rash, where sweat builds up under the skin, that can mean an unsettling prickling sensation that spreads across large parts of your body and makes it difficult to do or think about anything else until it subsides. Other times, an itch is much more localized, but even more intense, as with poison ivy.
Scratching it can bring fleeting but euphoric relief. Scratching it can also make matters worse. You can tear open the skin in the process and expose yourself to infection—all while doing nothing to relieve the source of the itch. What can you do, then? Follow these tips.
- For a quick fix, apply a cold, wet cloth or even an icepack directly to the spots that itch for a few minutes at a time.
- If you have a bit more time on your hands, take an oatmeal bath. It can be especially soothing to blisters and oozing skin. Just be conscious of the water’s temperature. It should be cool to lukewarm. Anything more than that and you’ll run the risk of further irritating your skin.
- Immediately after your bath, don’t dry off completely. Leave your skin a little damp and apply a cooling agent, like calamine, to your itchy spots. (You could also just refrigerate your moisturizer. It’ll have the same effect.) If your itching is particularly intense, skip the cooling agent and apply a topical anesthetic that contains pramoxine instead. Then slather a fragrance-free moisturizer all over your body. Give it a few minutes to be absorbed before getting dressed.
The combination of extreme heat and humidity outside and cool, dry air inside can leave our skin feeling dry and sensitive most of the time.
So it’s a good idea to add a couple preventative steps for itchy skin to your skincare regimen until fall arrives.
- Limit your showers or baths to 10 minutes. It’s counterintuitive, I know, but the longer you spend under or in the water, the more it dries out your skin.
- Wear light, loose-fitting clothes. Cotton is good, but once it becomes damp, it can take a long time to dry. In the meantime, it can irritate your skin in a number of ways. Modern, combination fabrics are better because they’ll wick sweat from your skin and dry fairly quickly.
- And, of course, always apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 before heading outside (and then again at regular intervals throughout the day).