Ask the Pharmacist: What to do for chronically itchy skin

Suzy Cohen
Itching is one of those symptoms that will drive you mad unless you get to the root cause and treat it.

The average person is estimated to scratch an itch on their body about a hundred times a day, and that is considered normal. But what if you have a chronic itch? The scratching could be nonstop, and you could scratch yourself to the point of bleeding! I can help you today. 

Itching is one of those symptoms that will drive you mad unless you get to the root cause and treat it. This can be the most difficult part. Unfortunately, digging deep isn’t what happens at first when you show up at the doctor’s office with an itchy rash. You will have to go to the pharmacy to pick up a with steroid like a Medrol Dose pack, and some Benadryl. If you’re among the lucky, the itchy sensation will clear up with those.

But what if it doesn’t? 

The misery of chronic itchy sensations, and an accompanying painful rash could baffle you and your practitioners for weeks, sometimes months and years! Today I’ll cover a few conditions that cause itch, along with my suggestions for treatment. Please ask your doctor about what’s right for you. 

Itching is one of those symptoms that will drive you mad unless you get to the root cause and treat it.

Tinea versicolor

This common fungal infection results in discolored patches of skin that are lighter or darker than surrounding skin. Since this is caused by a fungus, you will need to eliminate refined sugar in your diet because that feeds fungus. You could rub some coconut oil on the area since that is an easily accessible natural anti-fungal.  If it’s all over, you could take a shower and use a Selenium Sulfide body wash (like Selsun Blue) or buy a soap containing zinc pyrithione.

Hot tub folliculitis

This is sometimes also called Pool Folliculitis and the rash can cause itchy, red and tender bumps that contain pus. You can get this from a swimming pool or whirlpool that looks like it has perfectly, clean water because the causative bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa will survive in water that’s been chlorinated!  Treatments usually include silver-containing creams or gels. Some people try compresses with distilled vinegar. In serious cases, an antibiotic will be prescribed.

Progesterone dermatitis

This is an immune-driven condition that causes itchiness in a recurring fashion due to the rise in progesterone with every menstrual cycle. Managing hormones and suppressing the immune response may help this.

Neuropathic itch

This type of itch is a difficult one to diagnose because there is no presentation of a rash or bump, or scaly skin or anything! It’s your word basically, and nothing to show for it. You can change your shampoo, soap, laundry detergent, bedding and clothing and the itch will stay with you. One of the most promising treatments for neuropathic itch are the JAK inhibitor drugs. One in particular is Xelganz (tofacitinib).  I researched like crazy to find a natural JAK inhibitor and it appears that thymoquinone might be helpful.  Black Seed oil supplements are rich in that compound. 

In closing, I will refer you to the work of Dr. Brian S. Kim who can be found on twitter as @itchdoctor. Dr. Kim has done pioneering research on the topic of itch. If you’re interested in the longer version of my article which includes more causes for chronic itch, I can email it to you if you’re part of my online community. Just sign up for my newsletter at 

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Suzy Cohen is a registered pharmacist. The information presented here is not intended to treat, cure or diagnose any condition. Visit