Image shows a figure whose hand has evolved into the bucket of a backhoe, and is about to dig into the eczema on her leg, which is surrounded by cautionary signage.

Fighting the Itch 101: Alternatives to Scratching

Picture this: You’re going about your day and minding your own business when out of nowhere, your skin is overcome with an intense itching sensation. What do you do? Your dermatologist has told you that scratching will only make things worse - a reality that you’ve become all too familiar with. There are many options out there but what seems to work best? Read on to find out.

Submerge your skin in water

This is a dealer’s choice type of situation. With that being said, cold or lukewarm water are probably better options for your skin. As wonderful as it feels to use hot water to soothe an itch, the heat will likely dry your skin out and make the problem worse. If you decide that hot water is the best option for you, I highly recommend applying a hefty amount of moisturizer afterward.

Moisturize your skin

Our skin often itches because it is dry. Applying a cream or an ointment to the affected area can help to minimize any discomfort that you may be experiencing. I normally apply a thick layer of moisturizer (which is usually CeraVe Moisturizing Cream) to my skin and let it sit there for a while. I rub it in only after it has had some time to absorb into my pores. If I work it in too soon, I feel like the bulk of the moisturizer makes its way onto the palms of my hands.

Apply your topicals

Whether you’ve been prescribed a steroid, calcineurin inhibitor, or a PDE4 inhibitor, make sure to use your medication as prescribed by your doctor. After all, these medications are designed to suppress inflammation and the need for you to scratch your skin.

Add pressure

Pressure can be applied in a variety of ways. I usually flick, poke, rub or blow on my skin. The trick is to provide your skin some comfort without actually harming it in any way. Out of these four options, rubbing has the highest potential to damage your skin. Please proceed carefully if you choose this course of action.

Wet wraps

Wet wraps may not be the most comfortable way to soothe an itch (especially if it’s a full body treatment), but they definitely work. This therapy typically works best after bathing, moisturizing, and applying a topical medication to your skin.

Keep your hands busy

When all else fails, keep your hands busy! This part may be easier said than done, but when I have a particularly aggressive itch, I find that this alternative works the best. The trick is to find an activity that will make it more challenging to scratch. For example, you can go on a bike ride. Scratching becomes a real challenge when both hands are on the handlebars. Not to mention, the sensation of a cool breeze dancing across your skin is always nice on a warm summer day.

What else can you do?

The suggestions above may not work for everybody, so I recommend testing out a few different methods to see what works best for you. If you happen to stumble upon some additional techniques on the way, please share them below!

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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