Itchy Skin After Shower: Causes And Tips For Care

Written by Reevan Vishwas Rego , Certified Skin Care Coach

Taking a nice shower after a long day at work or a quick shower after hitting the gym is one of the little joys of life. But, what about that pesky itching that comes afterward? Itchy skin after shower is more common than you might think and has many possible causes. Read on to know all about them and find out how to remedy it as well.

What Is Itching?

Itching is a sensation that occurs when certain things touch your skin. It triggers you to move your hands to the area and scratch it. While this seems to be a very basic and spontaneous reaction, it is actually your body’s way of protecting you from insects and other foreign bodies.

Not everything that touches your skin requires you to itch it away. For instance, your clothes are in constant contact with your skin and you don’t feel the need to itch. This is because your brain does not perceive clothes to be a threat to your skin. A special group of cells called inhibitory spinal neurons helps in differentiating what is and what is not a threat. These neurons transmit signals between your brain and skin and help to determine what is a potential threat (1).

Now that you know the science behind the simple itch, let us look at why do you feel itchy after shower and what are some of the potential causes?

What Causes Itchy Skin After Showering Or Bathing?

Feeling Itchy after shower can be caused by something as benign as loss of moisture after a shower or it could be a sign of something much more serious. Let us find out further.

  • Dry Skin

Studies show that soap strips the skin of its essential oils and has a disruptive effect on the barrier function of the skin. Soaps also tend to have sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) which is known to be a potential skin irritant and may cause dermatitis. The same study also showed that using soap to wash the skin and using a towel to dry yourself may further increase the dryness of your skin (2).

  • Xerosis

Long hot showers or baths during the winter may cause Xerosis, making the skin dry and itchy. It is a condition that decreases the sebum levels in the skin. Sebum is an oily substance produced by the sebaceous glands that keep the skin moisturized. In some cases, xerosis can also cause painful cracks on the skin (3), (4).

  • Aquagenic Pruritus

This is a very rare skin condition that causes intense itching when your skin comes in contact with water. The itching can begin immediately and can last for up to an hour or more. Legs, arms, chest, back, and abdomen are the most commonly affected areas (5).

Taking a shower or a bath is inevitable and it is a part of your hygiene routine. Hence, it may be extremely difficult if you have to deal with itching after shower every time you take a bath. So, how do you manage this? Find out in the next section.

How To Manage Itchy Skin After A Shower?

After your shower, if you feel itchy all over, here are a few tips from the American Academy of Dermatology that could help relieve your itching.

  • Apply a cold wet cloth or ice pack to the itchy area for 5-10 minutes or till the itch subsides.
  • Take an oatmeal bath.
  • Apply a moisturizer without fragrance and perfumes.
  • Use creams that contain menthol or calamine.

You should also try to avoid scratching your skin as this may further irritate it and cause an infection.
Managing the feeling of itching after shower is more of a temporary fix. Is there a way to prevent this?

How To Prevent Itchy Skin After Shower?

Here are a few ways to try and prevent feeling itchy after shower.

  • Apply Moisturizer On Wet Skin

Apply a non-fragrant and non-perfume-based moisturizer on your skin while it is still damp. This may help lock the moisture on your skin. Use an oil-free moisturizer if you are acne-prone.

  • Consider Switching Your Soap

If you find yourself constantly itchy after showering, it may have something to do with your soap. Should consider changing your soap to a moisturizing soap. Studies suggest that using a moisturizing soap may reduce the symptoms of dry skin that cause itching (6).

  • Modifying Your Shower Routine

Avoid taking hot water showers more than once a day. Increased frequency and hot water strip the skin of its essential oils and make it dry and itchy. Use cold or lukewarm water to take a shower and keep your bath time short. Ideally, you should spend less than 10 minutes in the shower (7).

  • Using Essential Bath Oils

Studies show that using essential bath oils when taking a shower helps protect the skin’s barrier function and may help in preventing dry skin (8). Make sure you dilute these essential oils with soothing carrier oils like jojoba oil before applying them to your skin.

  • Using Anti-itch Creams

Using an anti-itch cream that contains lactic acid may help in relieving itchy skin and retaining its moisture. You can also consider using creams with pramoxine hydrochloride as they may help in preventing itchy dry skin (9).

  • Staying Hydrated

Dehydration can cause your skin to dry up and feel itchy. It is important that you drink enough water to stay hydrated and avoid your skin becoming itchy and dry.

Follow these simple steps and you may be able to prevent itchy skin after shower.

In the next section let us understand how cold showers vs hot showers affect your skin.

Cold Shower Vs Hot Shower

Hot showers and cold showers benefit you in their own distinct ways. Whether you prefer a hot shower to a cold shower, it’s really up to you.

  • Hot Shower

Hot showers are great after a long hard day of work or after an intense workout. They help relax and soothe the muscles. They help in lowering blood pressure and put you in a relaxed state. Studies show that hot water baths dilate your blood vessels and supply more oxygen and help in relieving stress and anxiety (10).

While a hot bath does have benefits, it also has a few drawbacks when it comes to your skin. A prolonged hot water bath can remove the essential oils and moisture from your skin and cause it to become dry and itchy (4).

  • Cold Shower

Cold showers may not be the most pleasurable experience, but they do help improve blood circulation, relieve pain, decrease inflammation, and improve your metabolism (11). Studies also suggest that regular exposure to cold water may have positive effects on skin health and help reduce cortisol levels (12).

If you are wondering whether you should take a hot shower or a cold shower to help you with itchy skin, the answer is a cold shower.

In the next section let us look at a few tips you can follow if you have sensitive skin.

Amazing Shower Tips For Sensitive Skin

If you have itchy or sensitive skin, here are some tips that may help you.

  • Keep your bath times short. Don’t spend more than 10 minutes in the shower. This may help you retain moisture in your skin.
  • Avoid using harsh soaps or scented products that contain sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) as that may irritate your skin.
  • Try taking a cold or lukewarm bath as it is better for your skin.
  • Avoid using excessive force when drying your skin. Gently pat dry your skin.
  • Apply a moisturizer after bath.

There may be times when you end up with uncontrollable itching skin after shower despite good shower practices. In the next section let us look at some home remedies that may bring you some relief.

Best Home Remedies To Treat Itching After Shower

  • Applying Menthol

A study on pregnant women revealed that the cooling effects of menthol may help in relieving itchy skin (13). Further studies with larger sample sizes need to be conducted to ascertain the effectiveness.

  • Using A Cold Pack

Using an ice pack or cold pack may help reduce the inflammation of the skin that may be responsible for causing the itch.

  • Using Oatmeal

Studies show that using colloidal oatmeal(oat meat that is finely ground and made especially for baths) may help reduce dryness and itching of the skin (14).

  • Using Apple Cider Vinegar

Diluting 1 part apple cider vinegar with 1 part water and applying it to the affected area may help reduce itchiness. Avoid using apple cider vinegar if you have cuts and open wounds as it may cause a painful burning sensation (15).

If these home remedies help with alleviating your itchy skin, then great. If not, then what is the next course of action? In the next section, let us understand when medical assistance may be required.

When Is It Necessary To Visit A Doctor?

Generally, feeling itchy after shower can be dealt with by following some simple techniques. However, in some cases, excessive itching may be more than just dry skin. Conditions like multiple sclerosis may trigger the nerves in the skin to be overactive and cause itching (16).

Psychogenic pruritus (itching not caused by dermatological, but psychological reasons) which may be a symptom of mental health issues is another possibility. A person dealing with mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and OCD may have itchy skin (17).

In conclusion, itchy skin after shower is a common issue that most of us face. It may be caused due to many reasons including loss of moisture in the skin and harsh chemicals in soaps. The easiest way to avoid this is by moisturizing your skin and having lukewarm or cold showers. There are a few home remedies that you can try to alleviate itching. In case the itching does not reduce with home remedies and care tips, you should consult a doctor.

Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions

Why do I get hives after the shower?

Hives or cholinergic urticaria may be caused due to overheating of your body. If you take a hot shower, the skin reacts with the hot water and your body temperature rises causing hives (18).

What stops itching fast?

Applying an ice pack or cold pack on the affected area may quickly stop the itching.

What soap do dermatologists recommend?

Dermatologists may recommend a medicated soap or a soap with moisturizer for itchy skin.

Can I wash my body with just water?

Yes, you can wash your body with just water. Preferable lukewarm water or cold water.

Why do my legs itch after I shower?

It is probably due to a loss of moisture after your shower since your legs are mostly in contact with the water and soap residue on the bathroom floor. There may also be other medical reasons like hives or multiple sclerosis which will require you to consult the doctor(16) (18).

Why does hot water make my skin itch?

Hot water strips the skin of your natural essential oils and makes your skin dry and itchy.

References:

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  2. The Effect of Washing and Drying Practices on Skin Barrier Function
    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/5651479_The_Effect_of_Washing_and_Drying_Practices_on_Skin_Barrier_Function
  3. Oily Skin: A review of Treatment Options
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  4. Diagnosis and Treatment of Xerosis Cutis – A Position Paper
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  9. An Evaluation of The Moisturizing and Anti-Itch Effects of A Lactic Acid and Pramoxine Hydrochloride Cream
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  10. Physical and Mental Effects of Bathing: A Randomized Intervention Study
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  11. Human Physiological Responses To Immersion Into Water Of Different Temperatures
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  13. The Effect of Peppermint Oil on Symptomatic Treatment of Pruritus in Pregnant Women
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  14. Anti-Inflammatory Activities Of Colloidal Oatmeal (Avena Sativa) Contribute To The Effectiveness Of Oats In Treatment Of Itch Associated With Dry Irritated Skin
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  15. Apple Cider Vinegar Baths
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