The good news is that in many cases, there’s an easy fix for whatever is causing the itch. While there are many options for alleviating the issue, it’s important to first identify what the cause is in the first place so you can treat it accordingly. The culprits can be anything from harsh products to the temperature and length of your showers, but there are also many other possible, lesser-known causes for feeling itchy that may require specialized treatment. And if you experience persistent and uncontrollable itching after a shower, it’s always a good idea to consult with a dermatologist who can determine the best treatment for you.
- Erum Ilyas, MD, MBE, FAAD, board-certified dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group
- Hadley King, MD, FAAD, board-certified dermatologist and clinical instructor of dermatology at Weill Medical College of Cornell University
- Josh Axe, DNM, DC, CNS, doctor of natural medicine, chiropractor, and clinical nutritionist
- Marisa Garshick, MD, FAAD, board-certified dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology and assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Weill Cornell Medicine
- Orit Markowitz, MD, dermatologist and founder of OptiSkin
- Purvisha Patel, MD, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Visha Skincare
- Rachel Nazarian, MD, FAAD, board-certified dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York
- Sandra Lee, MD, dermatologist and founder of SLMD Skincare
- Sonia Batra, MD, MSc, MPH, board-certified dermatologist and co-host of The Doctors
While experiencing itchiness after a shower doesn’t necessarily favor one particular skin type, according to Rachel Nazarian, MD, FAAD, board-certified dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group, it’s typically more common among people with dry or sensitive skin. However, she says that it can happen to anyone, and more so as we age. “Your body starts to make oil and becomes less hydrated so the tendency to have the post-shower itch actually increases as we get older,” she says.
With all that said, we turned to board-certified dermatologists for their expert opinions on common causes for itchy skin after a shower and how you can stop your itching after showering once and for all.
What causes itchy skin after a shower?
Cause: harsh products and cleansers
According to Sandra Lee, MD, board-certified dermatologist and founder of SLMD Skincare, using harsh products and cleansers can cause itchy skin after a shower. “Heavy use of [these] soaps and cleansers strip the natural oils that moisturize our skin from our bodies,” she says. “This leads to more dryness, and dryness leads to itchiness, which can lead to redness and scaling.”
Certain products may also dry skin out, and thus cause it to itch or feel tight. Erum Ilyas, MD, MBE, FAAD, board-certified dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group, points to bar soap as one example. “Bar soap isn’t necessarily bad, but it does have a higher pH that regular liquid does, so it can dry out the skin quite a bit,” she says.
Possible solution: Consider using products that are specifically made for dry and sensitive skin, says Sonia Batra, MD, MSc, MPH, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Batra Dermatology. Conversely, she says to avoid options that contain excess fragrance, colors, or dyes as these ingredients can cause or exacerbate dryness. Dr. Ilyas also recommends using a liquid cleanser or a moisturizing soap. “They have added oils and other ingredients that are meant to be left behind on your skin so that you can hydrate while you’re cleaning,” she says.
Cause: irritating products
Products containing potentially irritating ingredients can also cause you itchy skin after a shower, says Dr. Nazarian—and fragrance, in particular, is a common irritant. “Perfumes or fragrances or even essential oils, for example, can set off an inflammatory reaction, and if you have more sensitive skin, you are more likely to be irritated by those ingredients than somebody else,” she says.
Possible solution: If experiencing post-shower itchiness whether or not you have any known irritants, you might want to consider switching over to unscented or if you have sensitive skin, fragrance-free products to see if it helps. The Dove Bar Soap for Sensitive Skin ($8) has Dr. Nazarian’s stamp of approval. It is unscented and formulated with moisturizing ingredients. Plus, it’s sold as a body wash, too.
“If you’re looking in your shower and you see scrubs and buffs and things like that, know that those are not tools that are necessary for most people and they tend to get people into trouble when it comes to post-shower itching,” says Dr. Nazarin. “You’re stripping a lot of the [skin] surface,” says Dr. Nazarian, which in turn, can result in dryness and irritation.
Possible solution: According to Dr. Nazarian, “most people don’t really need to be exfoliating routinely and doing it once a week is plenty,” with the caveat: “If you’re somebody that suffers from post-shower itching, then exfoliation should be the first to stop.” She adds, “You don’t need a lot of scrubbing and rubbing and additional tools—a gentle cleanser is all one needs to get clean.”
Shaving can too often result in that itchy, irritable feeling that just won’t go away—which explains why you might have, say, itchy armpits or legs after a shower shave routine. According to Purvisha Patel, MD, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Visha Skincare in a previous interview with Well+Good, those who are prone to to razor burn, bumps, or ingrown hairs, or generally have sensitive skin, are often most susceptible to shave-related itchiness.
Possible solution: To steer clear of all this, it helps to avoid common shaving mistakes, whether you have sensitive skin or not.
If you’re experiencing itchiness as a result of razor burn, prevention is typically the best course of action. Since razor burn is typically caused by aggressive or inappropriate shaving techniques, opt to use a sharp, clean razor to minimize tugging on the hair follicles, and moisturizing pre- and post-shaving products to serve as a protective barrier between your skin and the razor.
If itchiness and razor bumps or ingrown hairs go hand-in-hand for you, consider applying essential oils to the affected area. One good option to start with is tea tree oil due to its antibacterial properties and its ability to soothe itching. (Just be sure to dilute it with a carrier oil or lotion if your skin is especially sensitive.)
Cause: showers that are too hot—and too long
Sometimes, nothing feels as good as taking a hot shower. However, your skin might not love it as much as you do, resulting in itching after a too-hot shower. “Long or frequent baths and showers, particularly in hot water, can dry out the skin because they remove protective oils naturally produced by the skin,” board-certified dermatologist Hadley King, MD, FAAD, told Well+Good. And as mentioned, itchiness can accompany dry skin.
What’s more, according to Lee? “When you finish your shower or bath, the water that is left on your skin evaporates, and as it does, it sucks moisture from your skin,” she says, adding, “This dryness is exacerbated by taking hot showers because heat causes more evaporation.”
Possible solution: Given this, you might want to consider taking short, cooler showers, says Josh Axe, DMN, DC, CNS, doctor of natural medicine and founder of the website Dr. Axe. Dr. Nazarian echoes this sentiment, adding that you may want to limit your showers to 10 minutes. In other words, she says, “A shower really should be more tepid and short—you know, business and not pleasure.”
Cause: environmental factors
Environmental factors like heat, wind, or low humidity can also cause dry, itchy skin after a shower. “Maybe their skin is dry because of the climate they’re in, or maybe it’s wintertime,” says Dr. Ilyas. These environmental factors are often out of our control, but she says that people can take precautions to reduce the adverse effects that they can have on our skin.
Possible solution: In this case, your post-shower routine is as important as your in-shower one, which typically comes down to how you towel off and proper moisturization, according to Dr. Ilyas, Dr. Nazarian, and Dr. Lee. You want to gently pat the water off your skin instead of rubbing it dry, the latter of which can be irritating for your skin, says Dr. Nazarian. They also recommend using moisturizer or lotion immediately after a shower, while your skin is still damp, which can “seal in hydration” and prevent evaporation of moisture into the environment,” she says. Dr. Ilyas adds, “When you replace the barrier that your skin needs to protect it from the environment, then it’ll be less apt to become so dried out so quickly given the climate that you live in.”
Those with already-itchy skin may also want to choose a fragrance-free moisturizer or lotion. Dr. Axe typically recommends looking for products with natural moisturizers like aloe vera, coconut and jojoba oils, as well as cocoa and Shea butter, while Dr. Nazarian recommends ceramides and hyaluronic acid to lock moisture into the skin. If you need something more heavy-duty, Dr. Lee suggests spot-treating dry patches with a thick, occlusive ointment.
Additionally, Dr. Ilyas says that you may want to consider using a filtered shower head if you live in an area with hard water, which can further dry out skin and hair.
Cause: underlying conditions
If you experience chronic and uncontrollable itching after a shower, Dr. Axe says that your post-shower itchiness may be a symptom of a larger issue. For instance, several inflammatory skin conditions can lead to dry, itchy skin, such as psoriasis, eczema, or an allergic reaction.
Possible solution: While many post-shower itchiness causes can be treated at home, others may require the help of a professional and prescription treatments to resolve. And if you’ve switched to cooler showers, swapped out your in-shower products, or made changes to your routine but are still dealing with persistent itchy skin after showering, it’s best to consult a dermatologist for an expert opinion.
What are common causes of chronic itchy skin?
If you’re dealing with chronic itchy skin, whether in general or after a shower, we consulted our experts for probable causes. Ahead, they outline common causes of chronic itchy skin, as well as offer tips on how you can address them.
Board-certified dermatologist Orit Markowitz, MD, and founder of OptiSkin Medical, says that eczema—or atopic dermatitis—can be a big culprit, and it can typically be characterized by itchy, red, and scaly skin, Dr. King told Well+Good.
Possible solution: “It’s important when treating eczema to break the itch-scratch cycle—rubbing the skin makes it more inflamed and itchier,” says Dr. Markowitz. “This can be achieved with sealant moisturizers like Aquaphor Advanced Therapy Ointment Body Spray ($13) and the avoidance of scrubs and harsh soaps or detergents.” She adds, “Also, eczema or dry, itchy skin is common in the colder winter months. Taking a warm, not hot, shower or bath for approximately five to 10 minutes while washing with a gentle cleansing bar will help as well as oatmeal baths.”
Chronic itchiness can also be a symptom of psoriasis, a common skin condition. “The classic version is represented by a well-demarcated red rash with a very characteristic silvery scaling,” Dr. Nazarian told Well+Good, and though it isn’t clear what officially causes it, common triggers include weather, stress, and infections.
Possible solution: While there is no cure for psoriasis, there are ways to manage flare-ups—and the most effective treatments for this skin condition are ones prescribed by a dermatologist. A dermatologist can determine if a prescription-strength solution is best for you, and these treatments can include topicals or injections to inhibit inflammation, or oral retinoids to slow cell growth. However, you can do your part in preventing flare-ups from occurring, like avoiding excessive alcohol intake and smoking, and in addition, according to Dr. Ilyas, too much heat including in the shower.
Cause: contact dermatitis
In-shower skin- and hair-care products can lead to allergic contact dermatitis, “a type of eczema that results form the skin coming into contact with something that can trigger a reaction, which can either be an allergy or an irritation,” Marisa Garshick, MD, FAAD, board-certified dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology, told Well+Good. She adds that it typically presents as dry, red, flaky, and itchy skin, but it can also manifest as blisters.
Possible solution: If you suspect one of your in-shower products is to blame for your post-shower itchiness, you may want to take note of when you experience a reaction, says Dr. Ilyas. She adds that you may even want to look more closely at the shampoos and conditioners that you use because when you rinse them off in the shower, they interact with your skin too. She notes that a reaction may occur from certain hair-dye chemicals as well, and they can trigger a reaction when the dye is washed down the drain with your hair products.
Alternatively, you can opt to do a patch test with your allergist or dermatologist to find out which hygiene products or ingredients you may be allergic to, says Dr. Nazarian.
Cause: cholinergic urticaria
Cholinergic urticaria or heat hives are typically caused by any exposure to heat, says Dr. Ilyas, adding that these hives can appear even after a shower in hot or warm water. As their name implies, they surface as red blotches on the skin, and while they only last for up to about an hour, Dr. Ilyas says that they can be uncomfortably itchy when they arise.
Possible solution: “In these cases, sometimes what we have to do is try to keep their body temperature and skin a little cooler than the surrounding environment,” says Dr. Ilyas. She adds that keeping the temperature of the water as cool as possible can prevent hives after a shower, and if this condition occurs when a person perspires, by having a cooling mechanism, like a fan, pointed at them. To keep any itchiness at bay, she also sometimes recommends people take antihistamines.
Cause: aquagenic urticaria
Aquagenic urticaria is another condition in which hives appear on the skin after the skin comes in contact with water like when showering, swimming, or perspiring, regardless of the temperature, though Dr. Nazarian says this is uncommon.
Possible solution: When it comes to conditions like aquagenic urticaria, Dr. Nazarian says they can typically be treated with antihistamines or long-standing medications to help “stabilize the cells in the skin.” She adds that steroids can be helpful as well, and they can work similarly to antihistamines in that they can offset a hypersensitive immune response, which is what typically triggers the reaction.
For some individuals, chronic itching can also accompany menopause. “Menopause can cause the skin to itch as estrogen levels move from a dynamic cycle to stagnant low levels. When this happens, our hormones have increased levels of cortisol which leads to drying and weathering of the skin which can cause [itchiness],” says Dr. Markowitz.
Possible solution: Dr. Markowitz says using anti-itch creams isone way to alleviate menopause-related itching. “Applying a cortisone cream can help the itching,” she says, with the caveat: “But in the overall picture, everyone has their own unique symptoms during menopause, dry, itchy skin can just be one of them.”
Frequently asked questions
How can I stop itchy skin after a shower?
If you’ve ruled out that post-shower itchiness isn’t a symptom of a larger issue, there are a few ways that you can stop itching after a shower. One of the most common methods is moisturization. Experts agree that you’ll typically want to apply moisturizer or lotion while your skin is still damp to help seal in hydration.
Why do I start to itch when I stay in the shower for too long?
Long showers, particularly in hot water, can strip your skin of natural oils that keep your skin moisturized, and thus dry out your skin. According to experts, dryness is often accompanied by itchiness, which may be why you get the urge to scratch when you’re in the shower for too long.
Why does my skin itch after being in water?
There are many reasons why your skin can feel itchy after being in water—and if it isn’t because you’re aggravating your skin’s moisture barrier, it may be due to an underlying condition. If, for instance, you typically experience itchy skin, in addition to hives after a shower in hot water, this could be symptomatic of cholinergic urticaria, which is typically caused by any exposure to heat. Conversely, if you are itchy after being in water regardless of the temperature, it could be aquagenic urticaria, which is another reaction that can cause hives. Regardless of the cause, it’s important to consult a trusted dermatologist if chronic itching persists after showering.
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