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Constant itching is tortuous. There’s a lot that can lead to an allergic reaction, dry skin, a suspicious AirBnb pool, but there are also plenty of over-the-counter creams that can soothe inflamed epidermal layers.

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Dr. Rebecca Marcus is a Texas-based dermatologist with nearly two decades of experience treating a variety of skin disorders. She explained that more often than not, persistently itchy skin with no other visual signifiers (e.g. a rash, hives, etc.) is nothing more than a nasty bout of dry skin.

It’s a disruption in the skin barrier, which can lead to inflammation, itching and flaking, Marcus said.

Not only is dry skin much less of a concern than other conditions that require ointments, it’s also quite easy to treat.

Moisturizing ingredients like humectants that draw moisture into the skin, as well as emollients that support and strengthen the skin barrier are helpful in addressing the root cause of the itch, Marcus said.

Marcus offered ceramides, petroleum jelly, and shea butter as examples of moisturizing ingredients that can help calm and heal itching by repairing a compromised skin barrier. Many of these are ingredients in lotions and creams used daily on dry skin.

However, if psoriasis, contact allergies, fungal or yeast infections are causing itchiness, moisturizing agents may help, but more active ingredients may be needed to treat the problem most efficiently.

If the itching is due to a particular attack such as an insect bite or sensitivity to something that has come into contact with the skin, anti-inflammatory ingredients such as hydrocortisone or anesthetic ingredients such as pramoxine may also help, said Dr. Marcus.

Dr. Peter Young, a DC-based dermatologist and medical director of Nurx Dermatology, said camphor, menthol, lidocaine and benzocaine are also common and effective ingredients for anti-itch creams.

Young stressed, not surprisingly, that seeing a doctor is the best next step if some over-the-counter (OTC) anti-itch remedies don’t fix the problem. Those chronic issues are best left to a professional who can write a prescription for something stronger.

CeraVe moisturizing lotion for itching relief on a white background

CeraVe moisturizing lotion for itching relief on a white background

BEST ANTI-ITCH CREAM FOR GENERAL USE

CeraVe moisturizing lotion to relieve itching

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Price: $16.99

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Any itchy skin can benefit from skin barrier support and deep hydration, said Dr. Marcus. Curel Itch Defense Lotion contains a ceramide complex specifically formulated to quickly soothe dry itchy skin and also prevent its recurrence by supporting and restoring the skin barrier. Importantly, Curel Itch Defense Lotion is fragrance-free, which is a must-have for itchy skin, and is even certified by the National Eczema Association.

For mildly itchy skin caused by dryness, this daily lotion is a great preventative measure with minimal harmful ingredients. It is formulated to be minimally irritating and is also a very affordable choice.

Eucerin Itch Relief Soothing Lotion on a white background

Eucerin Itch Relief Soothing Lotion on a white background

THE BEST ANTI-ITCH CREAM FOR SENSITIVE SKIN

Eucerin Intensive Soothing Itch Lotion

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Key ingredients: Menthol, Ceramides to strengthen and repair the skin.

How does it work: Eucerin lotion for sensitive skin immediately soothes itching caused by dry skin for up to 12 hours. It is formulated to be minimally irritating to those with super sensitive skin and can be used as needed to prevent itching.

There’s more: Fragrance-free, color-free and paraben-free, this lotion is non-greasy and absorbs quickly into the skin.

Cortizone 10 Maximum Strength Intensive Healing Cream on a white background

Cortizone 10 Maximum Strength Intensive Healing Cream on a white background

MAX STRENGTH ANTI-ITCH CREAM

Cortizone 10-Plus maximum strength intensive healing formula

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Key ingredients: Hydrocortisone, which is often used to relieve both chronic and sudden itchy skin.

How does it work: It takes some effort, however, as hydrocortisone creams are typically used up to four times a day for two weeks.

There’s more: Helpful for relieving skin irritation, inflammation and rashes from poison ivy, insect bites and eczema, psoriasis and contact dermatitis, this formula is also enriched with aloe and 10 moisturizers for added comfort.

After Bite Xtra Insect Bite Treatment on a white background

After Bite Xtra Insect Bite Treatment on a white background

ANTI-ITCHING CREAM FOR MOSQUITO BITES

After Bite Xtra Treatment against insect bites with antihistamine

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Key ingredients: Baking soda to reduce itching and irritation.

How does it work: After Bite includes topical medications that reduce histamine, a chemical created by the immune system that overreacts to allergens, including insect bites.

There’s more: Named among the top Pharmacist-recommended brands for treating insect bites by Pharmacy Times and US News & World Report, After Bite Xtra is packaged in a neat tube, making it the perfect cream to pack away for picnics, camping trips, , fishing excursions, and other outdoor adventures that put you at risk for various insect bites.

Aveeno concentrated anti-itch lotion on a white background

Aveeno concentrated anti-itch lotion on a white background

CALAMINE ANTI-ITCH CREAM

Aveeno Anti-Itch Lotion Concentrate with Triple Oat Complex

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Price: $9.37

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Key ingredients: Calamine and Pramoxine HCl

How does it work: The effective one-two punch of Calamine for reducing itching and Pramoxine HCl for minor pain relief.

There’s more: In the past, calamine lotion had a distinctive smell and an even more distinctive pink tone that could never fully penetrate the skin. Aveenos’ updated formula corrects both of these things, while slowing down oozing, weeping rashes from nuisances like poison ivy and poison oak.

Gold Bond Antipruritic Cream on a white background

Gold Bond Antipruritic Cream on a white background

MENTHOL ANTI-ITCH CREAM

Gold Bond anti-itch lotion

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Price: $8.98 $7.42

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Key ingredients: Menthol and Pramoxine HCl

How does it work: Menthol helps relieve and reduce minor pain from insect bites and burns due to the cooling sensation it provides, while Pramoxine HCl does the anti-itch heavy lifting.

There’s more: Also includes seven moisturizers, aloe and vitamins E and B5, all without fragrance.

Frequently asked questions about anti-itch cream

Are there specific causes of itching that creams work better or worse on?

Creams tend to work well for itching caused by dry skin and are often helpful for itching caused by inflammatory skin disorders such as atopic dermatitis, Marcus said. Itching caused by internal causes such as allergies, a reaction to medications, or a medical diagnosis such as anemia. [Symptoms associated with] Thyroid disease or lymphoma tend not to respond as well to topical creams.

Are there specific causes of itching that can’t be treated with anti-itch cream?

If the itching is severe and cannot be controlled by over-the-counter products, it is wise to seek professional medical advice. There are many potential causes of itching, and in some cases, itching may be caused by a potentially serious underlying medical condition, such as liver disease and diabetes.

Can I use anti-itch cream to treat jock itch?

It is not recommended to use anti-itch cream to treat jock itch. There are creams to treat jock itch, but they help heal the fungal infection at the heart of the problems instead of simply addressing the symptom.

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