Is Your Skin Itchy After Applying Lotion? 6 Tips To Ease Itch With Lupus | MyLupusTeam

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Is Your Skin Itchy After Applying Lotion? 6 Tips To Ease Itch With Lupus

Medically reviewed by Florentina Negoi, M.D.
Posted on July 13, 2023

Applying lotion can moisturize dry skin that’s itchy, but it may not address the other causes of itching that can occur with different types of lupus, such as cutaneous lupus erythematosus or systemic lupus erythematosus. “I get itchy spells on my arms,” explained one MyLupusTeam member. “They feel dry, and sometimes my back itches really badly and feels dry, especially when I get out of the shower. I put on Aveeno lotion, but it doesn’t help.”

If lotion isn’t enough to stop the itch, you may need to adjust the products you use, the clothes you wear, or the medications you take. You can also help keep your skin hydrated from within by drinking plenty of water and not smoking.

Here are some facts about what may make your skin itchy, along with six ways to beat the itch that persists even after applying lotion.

1. Shower Less Often

Many people with lupus report itchy skin after showering, especially with hot showers. That’s because the heat from the shower can remove moisture from your skin, and if you don’t replace that moisture, itching may follow. “You may find that you cannot shower every day, as that is too drying, especially in colder weather,” a MyLupusTeam member said. “Just remember to apply moisturizer on the days when you skip showering. If you don’t, the itch will start again.”

Showering in lukewarm or cool water can help prevent your skin from drying out. Additionally, take shorter, less frequent showers, and use soap only on the parts of your body that need it. Patting your skin dry (rather than rubbing it with a towel) also helps preserve the skin’s protective barrier to avoid irritation and itching.

2. Try Allergy Medicine

“My skin gets very itchy. I solved the problem by taking loratadine (Claritin) in the morning and cetirizine (Zyrtec) in the evening. This combination helps tremendously!” said one MyLupusTeam member.

Using antihistamines like loratadine may help treat itchiness that stems from allergies. These medications are sometimes used to treat hives, which often cause itch. However, you need to keep a few considerations in mind when using these drugs. Loratidine reduces the itching associated with an allergic reaction, but it doesn’t prevent hives. You should stop taking this drug if it doesn’t stop the itch within three days or if the hives aren’t gone after six weeks.

Let your doctor know about any over-the-counter medications or supplements you take, especially if you’re using more than one antihistamine on the same day, as this can lead to an overdose or interaction with your other meds. You could also consider seeing an allergist for an allergy test to help identify specific triggers responsible for some of your skin symptoms.

3. Ask About Prescription Meds

Prescription medication, including oral drugs, injections, and topical corticosteroid creams, can be very effective in getting itching under control, particularly if it arises from the inflammation that occurs in people who have lupus.

“I’ve had burning pain on the scalp along with a crawling sensation and pins and needles in waves. … My neurologist prescribed an anticonvulsant, which has loosened my nerves and reduced the sensations,” explained a MyLupusTeam member.

Another shared, “Not only do I have the butterfly rash but also red itchy bumps on my body. The bumps clear up with topical prescriptions. But when it’s really bad, I have to take oral steroids.”

“I get rashes on my chest and legs, and they burn and itch horribly. I received a cream called clobetasol propionate 0.05 percent (Cormax or Temovate). You can only use it for two weeks and then two weeks off. It works very well,” said another MyLupusTeam member.

Others have found relief with injection medications. “I have injections monthly of omalizumab (Xolair) for the rashes and itching. I suffered for years, and this helps like a miracle,” shared another member.

Discuss different options with your health care provider to find the right treatment for your itchy skin. If the itch doesn’t go away with lotion, there could be an underlying issue that needs treatment aside from moisturizer. For instance, steroids and omalizumab reduce inflammation and regulate the immune response. Finding the right combination of temporary and long-term medications can help you control lupus symptoms and itchy skin.

4. Use Sun Protection

It’s no secret that lupus and the sun don’t mix, and excessive sun exposure can lead to itchy skin. “I am so sick of having these painful, itchy sore circles on my face, neck, legs, or arms. It’s worse after the sun. … I wear a huge hat outside and sunscreen,” said a MyLupusTeam member.

Lupus can make your skin more sensitive to ultraviolet (UV) light, both indoors and out. Avoid sun exposure and sunburns by staying inside or in the shade during the sun’s peak hours. Sun-protective clothing and a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 60 that blocks UVA and UVB rays can also help with photosensitivity, according to the Lupus Foundation. Just remember to give sunscreen at least 20 minutes to absorb before you head out and reapply it during the day.

Trading out fluorescent bulbs for LED lights and installing window shades that block UV light can reduce exposure indoors.

5. Address Your Triggers

If you can identify triggers that make your skin more itchy, you can take steps to avoid them. For instance, one member discovered that hard water was a problem: “I found that since I got a water softener, the itching and skin sensitivity have minimized greatly.”

Others find that certain brands of laundry detergent or types of clothing make itching worse. Opt for fragrance-free detergent and personal care products. Fabric softeners can irritate dry skin, so it may be best to skip them.

People with itchy skin often do better when they avoid synthetic fabrics and wool. You can try wearing more breathable natural fabrics like cotton and silk, as well as avoiding rough seams or buckles that pinch your skin.

6. Control Lupus Flare-Ups

Sometimes itchy skin rashes are simply a side effect of a lupus flare. “I get a hivelike rash that comes and goes with itching after severe flare-ups,” a MyLupusTeam member said. The right treatment plan can minimize the impact of lupus on your skin and overall health.

Your rheumatology provider may prescribe antimalarial medication, corticosteroids, immunosuppressants, and other maintenance treatments to help control your immune system and prevent flare-ups. Adding a dermatologist to your health care team will give you a skin specialist’s perspective on specific types of lupus rashes so you can reduce itchiness and improve your quality of life.

Although treatment is useful in controlling your lupus flares, some drugs, such as hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil), can cause itchy rashes. Pay attention if this symptom appears after starting a new drug, and talk to your rheumatologist to identify if the medication is causing the rash. This type of rash usually disappears once the treatment is stopped.

Talk With Others Who Understand

MyLupusTeam is the social network for people with lupus and their loved ones. On MyLupusTeam, over 223,000 people with lupus come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories.

Do you experience skin problems that don’t get better with use of lotion? Have you found help from a dermatologist for itchy lesions or hives? Post your thoughts in the comments below, or start a conversation by sharing one your Activities feed.

Posted on July 13, 2023
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Florentina Negoi, M.D. attended the Carol Davila University of Medicine and Pharmacy in Bucharest, Romania, and is currently enrolled in a rheumatology training program at St. Mary Clinical Hospital. Learn more about her here.
Anastasia Climan, RDN, CDN is a dietitian with over 10 years of experience in public health and medical writing. Learn more about her here.

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