The Best Anti-Itch Creams, According to Dermatologists

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Constant itching is torturous. There’s a lot that can bring on the ol’ itch — 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 ailments. She explained that more often than not, persistently itchy skin with no other visual signifiers (i.e a rash, hives, etc.) is no more than a bad bout of dry skin.

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

Dry skin is not only far less worrisome than other conditions that require ointments, it’s also fairly easy to treat.

“Hydrating ingredients such as humectants that draw moisture into the skin, as well as emollients that support and reinforce the skin barrier are helpful in addressing the root cause of itching,” said Marcus.

Marcus offered ceramides, petrolatum, and shea butter as examples of moisturizing ingredients that can help calm and treat itchy skin by repairing a compromised skin barrier. Many of these are ingredients in everyday lotions and creams used on dry skin.

However, if psoriasis, contact allergies, fungus or yeast infections are causing itchy skin, moisturizing agents will help but more active ingredients may be necessary to treat the problem most efficiently.

“If itching is due to a particular assault 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 can also be helpful,” said Dr. Marcus.

Dr. Peter Young, a DC-based dermatologist and Medical Director of Nurx Dermatology said that camphor, menthol, lidocaine and benzocaine are also common and effective anti-itch cream ingredients.

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

curel anti itch lotion


Curél Itch Defense Calming Body Lotion

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

For slightly itchy skin caused by dryness this everyday lotion is a great preventative measure with minimal junky ingredients. It’s formulated to be minimally irritating and is a very affordable pick as well.

Eucerin Itch Relief Calming Lotion against white background


Eucerin Itch Relief Intensive Calming Lotion

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Key Ingredients: Menthol, Ceramides for strengthening and repairing the skin.

How It Works: Eucerin sensitive skin lotion immediately soothes itchiness caused by dry skin for up to 12 hours. It’s formulated to be minimally irritating for those with super sensitive skin, and it can be used as needed to prevent itchiness.

There’s More: Fragrance-free, dye-free and paraben free, this lotion isn’t greasy and absorbs quickly into the skin.

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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 skin itches.

How It Works: It requires a bit of commitment, however, as hydrocortisone creams are typically used up to four times per day for two weeks.

There’s More: Helpful to relieve 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 additional comfort.

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After Bite Xtra Insect Bite Treatment with Antihistamine

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Key Ingredients: Sodium Bicarbonate to reduce itching and irritation.

How It Works: After Bite includes topical medications that reduce histamines — a chemical created by the immune system that overreacts to allergens including bug bites.

There’s More: Named among the top pharmacist-recommended brand for insect bite treatment by Pharmacy Times and US News & World Report, After Bite Xtra is packaged in a tidy tube, making it the perfect cream to stash away for picnics, camping trips, fishing excursions, and other outdoor adventures that put you at risk for various bug bites.

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Aveeno Anti-itch Concentrated Lotion with Triple Oat Complex

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Key Ingredients: Calamine and Pramoxine HCl

How It Works: The effective one-two punch of calamine to reduce itching and Pramoxine HCl to take the edge off minor pain.

There’s More: Back in the day, calamine lotion had a distinctive smell and an even more distinctive pink tone that never managed to totally rub into the skin. Aveeno’s updated formula rectifies both of those things, while still slowing oozing and weeping rashes from nuisances like poison ivy and poison oak.

Gold Bond Anti-itch cream against white background


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 It Works: Menthol helps ease and reduce minor pain from bug bites and burns thanks to the cooling sensation it provides, while the pramoxine HCl does the anti-itch heavy lifting.

There’s More: Also includes seven moisturizers, aloe, and vitamins E and B5, all while remaining fragrance-free.

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,” said Marcus. ” Itching that is caused by internal causes such as allergies, reaction to medication, or a medical diagnosis such as anemia. [Symptoms associated with] Thyroid disease or lymphoma tend to not respond as well to topical creams.”

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

If itching is severe and is unable to be controlled by over-the-counter products, it’s wise to seek out professional medical advice. There are many potential causes for itching, and in some cases, itching may be caused by a potentially serious underlying medical condition as is the case with liver disease and diabetes.

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

It’s 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 issues as opposed to simply addressing the symptom.

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