My Top 5, All Natural Home Remedies to Soothe Chronically Itchy Skin
I have eczema, or chronic contact dermatitis, or I’m celiac and have the skin reaction called dermatitis herpetiformis. No one really knows, not even my doctor parents. But to be fair, I’ve never really been tested for anything. What I do know is that I’ve had small, embarrassing, itchy rash patches for my entire life, and after 30 years of it, I’ve developed some decent methods to calm the itch and heal my skin. I mentioned this on my social media accounts and the response was incredible; I was given so many interesting home remedies to try. There are a surprising amount of similarly afflicted people. Because of the response I got, I decided to do a little research using myself as a test subject, and wanted to share what has helped me soothe the flare ups.
When I was little I used to get small itchy bumps on my elbows and the backs of my knees every summer. Eczema and hay fever run in my family, so naturally it was assumed the problem was along those lines. I used over the counter cortisone cream to mitigate the symptoms and just dealt with it. Eventually it went away, so I figured I’d outgrown the problem. Unfortunately, about three years ago, I started getting symmetrical itchy rashes along my neck when I wore jewelry. Because they only popped up after I wore a necklace and/or collared shirts in the heat, it was assumed it was contact dermatitis. Maybe it was, maybe it was heat rash, maybe it was something entirely different...who knows. I just know that cortisone didn’t work, scratching spread it, but if I left it alone, it would fade after about a week. Fast forward to a few months ago. Symmetrical rashes began appearing on the backs of my knees, then then inside of my arms, then my neck, then my chest, then my stomach. These rashes were different. Cortisone did nothing to help, no amount of eczema lotion or allergy pills alone took out the burning, itching sensation. I wanted to rip my skin off!
Once again, doctors can’t tell me what my rash is. Unfortunately, my insurance doesn’t cover allergy testing or expensive dermatology visits so my regular doctor could only do so much. I couldn’t just ignore the problem anymore, and I knew I had to do something. Knowing that three members of my family are celiacs and that celiac can present itself in a similar rash, along with dairy and gluten sensitivities, I decided to cut gluten and dairy out of my diet in case my rash was food allergy related. It seemed to help, and until I find out the actual cause of my rashes, I’ll have to keep my diet this way (however if you can get allergy tested or see a dermatologist, do that first!!). Changing my diet has mitigated the spread and frequency of the flare ups, so far, but the itch…...and the burning…...I had to find a solution. What I found that helped immediately, is what I discovered with a little research.
1. Goodbye hot showers.
Hot showers are wonderful, but they dry your skin out and dry skin leads to itchy skin. Itchy skin leads to scratching which leads to more rash outbreaks, or scarring, or infection. Just don’t risk it! Lukewarm showers aren’t the best, I’ll admit it. But, they make a world of difference in the moisture content of your skin.
2. Goodbye fancy, fragrant soaps and lotions.
Seriously, the fancy, expensive stuff smells amazing. However, in reality, they don’t always do much to help your skin. Instead go for body washes and lotions that are approved for treatment of eczema. Or look into ones with colloidal oatmeal and/or aloe vera as these sooth the skin and help lock in moisture. Also, another tip is to moisturize as soon as you towel off after your shower or bath. Your skin is more absorbent then, and the lotion will be more effective..
3. Hello cold compresses.
Cold compresses are amazing and they will become your new best friend. If you are tempted to itch, slap, or rub your skin, put an ice pack on it. Not only will the ice help numb the pain, but also it will remove some of the redness and swelling. No ice? Use a soda can or cold bottle of water. Anything significantly below your body temperature will help.
4. Hello tea tree and coconut oils.
These two are my two new best friends. Both have soothing and antiseptic qualities and both are all natural. Tea tree oil is rather harsh, so if your skin is super sensitive, I’d recommend mixing it with your coconut oil or diluting it with water before applying it directly to the flare up. Give it a few minutes, and you should feel soothing tingles as the sting and itch fade. Personally, I cover my rash with tea tree oil in the morning, wait five minutes and then rub coconut oil all over myself. I do the same thing at night. Coconut oil can be used on its own to remove the itch and moisturize the skin and is safe to apply as often as needed. I carry a small jar around with me throughout the day and reapply whenever I can’t tolerate the itching anymore, or when my skin gets dry, or whenever I want to smell coconutty.
5. Don’t forget to keep it up.
When your flare ups fade, don’t forget to keep moisturizing. If your skin dries out and you start scratching, you might be back at step one before you know it!
I hope the above five tips help some of you out there dealing with skin problems. Effective at home remedies can be hard to find and differ for everyone. I recommend taking my above tips and doing some research on your own to find what best suits you. I am in no means a doctor or licensed medical professional, I’m simply sharing what works for me after dealing with a lifetime of itchy skin flare ups.
Here's some solid scientific research, and some more uses for both tea tree and coconut oil beyond what I mentioned above. :)
Melaleuca alternifolia (Tea Tree) Oil: a Review of Antimicrobial and Other Medicinal Properties: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1360273/
Top 10 Tea Tree Oil Uses and Benefits: http://draxe.com/tea-tree-oil-uses-benefits/
20 Coconut Oil Benefits & Side Effects: http://draxe.com/coconut-oil-benefits/
I'm Cheryl. I moved to Los Angeles from Vermont in late June of 2015, gave up the path I'd spent years planning for, and started down a road to a happier, more fulfilling life. Goodbye suits and courtrooms, hello bare feet and yoga mats. I know I don't have all the answers, but I'm slowly starting to get the hang of things. :) I'm just taking things one day at a time, trying to figure out how to live my best life and help others do the same.