Why Does My Body Itch? Dermatologists Explain All the Possibilities

Updated 04/25/19
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You know when you get a stuffy nose, and you sit and think about all of the times you didn't have a stuffy nose and how you took it for granted? That's how we feel when it comes to irritated, inflamed, and itchy skin. A couple of hard-to-reach mosquito bites is all it takes for us to think back fondly on all the times that our skin was calm and cool and comfortable.

What's more annoying is when your skin itches for what seems like no reason. One day all is well, and the next you're ceaselessly scratching your arms and legs, trying to pinpoint a culprit to no avail. As it turns out, the sources of skin itchiness are varied, but there are a few that are most prevalent. First off, it's important to distinguish general itchiness from a rash. "The first question one should ask is whether there is an itch that rashes or a rash that itches," says dermatologist Adam Friedman.

"Many inflammatory skin diseases are itchy, ranging from eczema to hives to lichen planus. Treating the underlying disease is an important part of addressing the itch." That's why he recommends always checking in with an expert if itchiness is a chronic issue for you. "I think when you are dealing with itch without a rash, seeing a dermatologist is central to proper care. In many cases, generalized or focal itch may be due to overactive nerve signaling, but it could be associated with something more nefarious. A proper workup is key."

Beyond that, if it is, in fact, general and occasional itchiness you're concerned with, and there's no irritation that's obvious to the naked eye, know that there a few easy things you can do to prevent and treat that dreaded prickling sensation. Read on to hear all about the most widespread causes of skin itchiness, along with the most effective ways to soothe it, straight from a couple of leading dermatologists.

Why Does My Body Itch?
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According to dermatologist Yoon-Soo Cindy Bae, widespread itching can be a sign of dry and dehydrated skin. If that's the case, apply a moisturizing body lotion or oil, which will help the skin retain moisture. Beyond mild, dry skin, though, she says that "it can be a sign of more serious skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis." For these conditions, she recommends heading to a dermatologist's office, as "you may need a prescription medication" to treat it.

For all general dryness concerns, try a body lotion like European Wax Center's Graceful Strut Body Lotion, which is a part of the brand's new body collection. It's ultra-hydrating and fast-absorbing and even works to slow hair regrowth, too. You can find it, along with the rest of the collection (which includes body polishes and washes), at your local brick-and-mortar location. It's one of those do-it-all products your vanity deserves.

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Beyond dry skin, widespread itchiness could be seasonal. If you find that it happens only in the summer months, "it can be your skin healing from a mild sunburn you didn't know you had," Bae says. In this case, preventing it is as easy as applying sunscreen every day. Not only will it keep sun damage and premature aging at bay, but it will also protect your skin from irritation and inflammation that can lead to itchiness. (We like La Roche-Posay Anthelios SPF 60 Ultra Light Sunscreen, $24).

If itchiness and summer go hand in hand, also take stock of how much you perspire. "Perhaps you're sweating profusely and that is irritating your skin," Bae says. If that's the case, make sure you're wearing an effective antiperspirant and showering each and every day. If it's still a problem despite these measures, schedule an appointment with a doctor. They can go over other options with you that will keep your skin dry and comfortable despite the heavy July and August heat. (Take Los Angeles, for example, where the thermostat is currently registering at a balmy 104º).

Another possibility is that you're using a body or personal care product that's irritating your skin. "It can be a new product," Bae says, like a "detergent, lotion, or sunscreen." If you suspect it's something like this, try to keep note of when the itchiness comes. Does it arise after you apply your new body lotion or maybe after a spritz of perfume? Ruling out the aggressor will stop itchiness at its source. Not to be a broken record, but it's possible you're actually allergic to a certain ingredient, which is where a visit to the doctor comes in handy. Dermatologists have the knowledge and testing abilities necessary to pinpoint the exact ingredient that may be irritating your skin. Once you know what it is, you can better avoid it. Long story short: It never hurts to visit a derm.

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If the itch is localized—like on your legs, underarms, or bikini area, for example—it could be the result of hair removal. Dragging a dull blade over sensitive skin is the quickest way to irritation and itchiness, so make sure you're caring for your skin correctly, which includes using a sharp, clean razor when shaving. If shaving isn't your thing or you find it grows back too quickly or irritates your skin too much, opt for a wax, which pulls hair out at the root, helping to keep the skin clear and hairless for much longer.

In that case, seek a professional, like those at European Wax Center. They will keep any irritation and pain to a minimum while providing the right products for post-wax care (like these ingrown-eliminating pads). Just like the chemical exfoliation pads you use on your face, these pads are soaked with effective ingrown-eliminating ingredients that will loosen the blocked hair. Simply swipe them over the affected area to alleviate redness, irritation, and bumpiness.

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When we said European Wax Center has post-wax care products handy, we weren't kidding. It also offers this Slow It Body Wash, which contains active ingredients that prevent ingrown hair, all the while slowing the rate of hair regrowth. It leaves skin feeling soft, clean, and smooth. In other words, it's just like your traditional body wash but better. 

If you're using high-quality and hydrating products like this and the itchiness remains, schedule an appointment with your dermatologist because incessant itching could be damaging your skin is worse ways than you know. "I've had patients that scratch to the point that they bleed," Bae says. "But in any case, if you take an object with an edge like your nails and you rake it over your skin over and over again, there will be wear and tear even if it is small. If your skin is itching, rinse it first with a gentle soap to make sure any irritants are removed.

Then moisturize with the most basic moisturizer you can find." 

Friedman agrees: "Scratching both disrupts the skin barrier (our army to the outside nasty world) and induces more inflammation as it is a physical injury. Scratching also leaves its mark through discoloration and scarring even after the cause has been identified and managed." So to avoid the damage of itching, along with identifying the possible causes of it in the first place, a dermatologist appointment is key. So take our word for it: Just do it. Book an appointment. Your skin will thank you for it.

 

European Wax Center Slow It Body Lotion $20
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Consider this lotion a botanical cocktail. Not only is it infused with antioxidants that detoxify and protect skin, but vitamins A, C, and E nourish and clarify, while sugarcane, lemon, apple, and green tea extracts revitalize skin. The real kicker, though, is that it’s formulated with plant enzymes that act as a hair minimizer, so it softens body hair and reduces its density and length.

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