Many people enjoy taking a shower as part of their hygiene routine. However, if a person has uncomfortable, itchy skin after a shower, it can be anything but refreshing. Dry skin is often the cause of itching after taking a shower. The water from the shower can strip away the skin’s natural oils, causing dryness and itching.
Treatment may not always be as simple as applying a lotion or a moisturizer. Sometimes, dry, sensitive skin needs additional care to alleviate the irritation and dryness that causes the itch. It is also important to watch for other symptoms — such as peeling, scaling, or rashes — that may indicate a condition that needs treatment.
Causes of itching after a shower
Many things can cause the skin to feel itchy after taking a shower or bathing. Here are some of the most common reasons for itching after a shower:
Dry skin lacks moisture and may feel tight or itchy, especially after a shower. Cleansers, soap, and water can remove the skin’s natural oils that keep it supple and prevent dryness. When a person takes a hot shower, the soap and water will strip away the skin’s oils. This can cause the skin to feel tight and itchy. In extreme cases, the skin may even crack or bleed.
The best way to prevent itchy skin after taking a shower is to apply moisturizer immediately after toweling off. Using a heavy moisturizer such as a cream, oil, or ointment while the skin is still slightly damp can help seal in moisture. People with very dry or sensitive skin should read product labels before using a moisturizer. This is because some products can make itching worse, as they contain ingredients that are irritating or cause allergic reactions. Avoid products that contain fragrance, menthol, and alcohol, as these can cause further dryness, irritation, and itching.
Eczema refers to inflammation of the skin that can lead to itching and excessive dryness. It is a chronic condition that can also cause a red rash or bumps on the skin. Eczema may feel even more itchy and uncomfortable after bathing or showering, when the skin lacks its natural oils. Scented body washes, soaps, and the hot water from the shower may also trigger itching.
People with eczema may need to use hypoallergenic products and apply moisturizers throughout the day. A dermatologist may be able to provide recommendations on which products to use.
Reactions to skin care products
Many people enjoy using scented cleansers, soaps, and hair products in the shower. However, these types of products can trigger allergic reactions in some people, leading to itching and other symptoms. This is known as contact dermatitis. The National Eczema Association explain that fragrance is one of the most common ingredients that can cause a skin reaction.
If a person finds that moisturizing alone does not take care of itching, they may need to switch shower products. Try fragrance-free cleansers and moisturizers to see if the itching goes away.
Reaction to laundry products
Scented laundry products could also lead to post-shower itching, especially if a person uses scented products on their towels. Toweling off after bathing could transfer some of the fragrances from laundry soap or fabric softener to the skin. This can lead to itching and irritation if a person has an allergy or sensitivity to them.
People with sensitive or itchy skin may wish to avoid using laundry products that contain fragrance or dye on their towels or clothes.
Treatment and remedies
People who notice itching after taking a shower may find relief by following the steps below:
- Keep showers as short and as cool as possible: Avoid very hot water and very long showers. Use cooler water for shorter periods of time to avoid stripping the skin of its natural protective oils.
- Avoid showering more than once per day: More showers mean more chances to strip the skin’s natural oils. If possible, limit showering to once daily. Children may be able to shower less frequently than adults, about once or twice per week, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.
- Avoid long, hot baths: For the same reason as avoiding long, hot showers, avoid taking long, hot baths. Also, when taking a bath, consider adding colloidal oatmeal or bath oils to help moisturize the skin.
- Do not scratch the skin: Scratching the skin can irritate and injure it, and it can make the itching worse.
- Avoid using washcloths, scrubs, or harsh sponges: These may irritate the skin in the same way as scratching.
- Use fragrance-free moisturizing cleansers or soaps: Avoid using products that contain fragrances or alcohol. Look for hypoallergenic products or those designed for people with eczema and sensitive skin. Also, avoid products with lather or strong detergents.
- Gently pat the skin dry: Do not rub the skin with towels, as this can also cause irritation and remove the skin’s natural oils.
- Apply a heavy, fragrance-free moisturizer or ointment: Be sure to do this immediately after patting the skin dry.
- Do not apply large amounts of soaps or cleansers for lather: The lathering agents can make dry skin worse and are not necessary for cleaning the skin effectively.
- Use a humidifier: This can be especially helpful in dry climates or throughout the winter months. Low humidity can exacerbate dry skin.
- Avoid fragrances in laundry detergent and fabric softener: These ingredients may get on towels and clothing and cause itching after a shower.
- Avoid using products that contain retinoids: Retinoids regulate epithelial cell growth, but they can be an irritant and worsen dry skin. Retinoids include retinol, adapalene, and tretinoin. Unless a doctor has prescribed them, people should avoid using retinoids.
- Avoid or limit products that contain alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA): AHA is an ingredient that may cause burning or itching on dry or sensitive skin.
If, after following these steps, there is no sign of improvement or relief from itching after a shower, it is best to see a healthcare provider.
When to see a doctor
Usually, a person can treat mild itching after taking a shower by following the steps above and taking care to keep the skin moisturized. In some cases, however, itching is not related to the skin itself. Health conditions such as nerve damage and multiple sclerosis may cause the nerves in the skin to be overactive. This can cause itching without a rash or other obvious cause. Itching from nerve-related health conditions may lead to excessive scratching, which can irritate the skin and make itching worse. It may also cause an infection.
Sometimes, a mental health condition can cause a person to scratch their skin excessively. Some mental health conditions that may cause this include:
- obsessive-compulsive disorder
- excoriation (skin picking disorder)
If a person suspects that they have a nerve-related or mental health condition, they should speak with a healthcare provider.
Most people will be able to treat post-shower itching by using moisturizers, lotions, and other home remedies. However, if the itching persists after trying these remedies, a person may wish to see their healthcare provider to rule out other, more serious health conditions.
Medically reviewed by Debra Sullivan, PhD, MSN, RN, CNE, COI
Written by Jennifer Berry
SOURCE: MEDICAL NEWS TODAY