Itchy Skin: Why Your Legs, Arms and Face Itch—and How to Stop It
Itchy arms, itchy legs or an itchy face can be due to several factors. Some may only lead to itching in specific areas while others may cause the urge to scratch from head to toe. Identifying the source can help you understand how to manage itchy skin.
If you’ve ever experienced itching on your arms, legs or face, you’re not alone. It’s different for everyone and can be caused by a range of factors unique to these parts of the body. Itching is a nuisance, but scratching can make the impacted area worse, as well as potentially injuring the skin.
The best way to start is to figure out what’s causing the itch. Here are the top reasons you could be experiencing itchy skin and the best ways to manage it.
Helpful Hints For Itchy Legs, Arms Or An Itchy Face
• Apply a gentle moisturiser regularly, especially after a shower or bath
• Limit time and reduce the water temperature in the shower or bath
• Avoid harsh soaps and detergents with fragrance or dyes
• Use a humidifier
• Wear soft fabrics like cotton and silk
• Drink plenty of water
Common Causes Of Itchy Skin
In addition to flaking and a feeling of tightness, skin that lacks moisture can lead to itchy legs (especially for those who shave).
If you ever experienced itchy legs during or after a jog, runner’s itch may be to blame. Experienced most often on the thighs and calves, this temporary itching is caused by the increase in body temperature and release of histamines during exercise.
Tight, fitted pants may be your attire of choice when working out, but excessive wear and not showering immediately after exercise can lead to folliculitis. This irritation of the hair follicles can lead to red bumps and itchy legs.
The redness, scaly skin and itching associated with eczema-prone skin commonly occurs on several areas of the body, including on the face, behind the knees and inside the elbows. Identifying (and avoiding) your eczema triggers and regular use of moisturisers alongside eczema treatment products that contain ingredients such as hydrocortisone can help keep symptoms under control.
If you have itching on your knees accompanied by redness and thick patches of scaly skin, psoriasis may be the culprit. Psoriasis often affects the elbows and may cause scaly patches of skin (and also itching) on the eyebrows, between the nose and upper lip, the upper forehead and along the hairline as well. Similar to eczema, psoriasis requires medical preventative measures and ongoing skincare to manage symptoms.
Commonly seen on the backs of the arms, keratosis pilaris is caused by the build-up of a skin protein called keratin that blocks the opening of the hair follicle—and it may be associated with itchy arms.
If you’re still unable to determine the cause or manage the itching at home, it’s best to seek advice from a general practitioner or a dermatologist.
1. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/side-effects/skin-nail-changes/pruritus-pdqBaumann, L. (2009) Cosmetic Dermatology: Principles and Practice (pp.83-91). New York: McGraw-Hill Medical
5. T. Ruzicka, B. Przybilla, J. Ring (2006) Handbook of Atopic Eczema; 2nd edition; Springer