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Medication for Itchy Skin: What Should You Choose?

Medically reviewed by Jezreel Esguerra, MD · General Practitioner

Written by Hello Sehat · Updated Jan 31, 2023

Medication for Itchy Skin: What Should You Choose?

In most cases, itchiness is only a mild, short-lived concern. Perhaps, you had an insect bite here or a minor skin irritation there. However, skin itching can be so intense that it affects your daily activities and sleep at night. For this reason, it’s crucial that you know about the types of medication for itchy skin. 

Types of Medication for Itchy Skin

Like mentioned earlier, skin itching is often only temporary; in most cases, it goes away without any treatment. However, some cases result in excruciating itchiness that forces  you to scratch your skin harshly.

If this skin problem does not go away despite home remedies, like cold compress or warm shower, you might need medication for itchy skin.

However, before choosing an anti-itch medication, you must know if there is an underlying condition that causes your itch. For instance, eczema, kidney and liver diseases, and anemia, may cause skin itching. If you suspect a pathological condition — or have symptoms pointing to another health concern – it’s best to get in touch with your doctor. Strictly do not self-medicate. 

For mild itch unrelated to another health condition, you may consider topical medication for itchy skin.

Topical Medicine

Topical treatment is often chosen to reduce the intensity of itching. This medication for itchy skin is only for external use. Common forms are creams, lotions, and powders.

The common ingredients in these drugs are as follows: 

  • Menthol and Calamine: Menthol has a cooling effect that can relieve itching. Calamine, on the other hand, can reduce itching due to insect stings or bites.
  • Diphenhydramine: If the itching occurs due to an allergic reaction, diphenhydramine may be the solution. This substance is an antihistamine, which inhibits histamine compounds produced by the skin during an allergic reaction.
  • Hydrocortisone: This substance relieves itching by reducing inflammation. Usually, mild-strength hydrocortisone can help treat eczema , psoriasis, or allergies to cleaning products and jewelry.
  • Urea and Lauromacrogols: These two active ingredients can relieve itching while keeping the skin moist. You can use this ingredient to treat or prevent scaly , dry, rough, and itchy skin. 
  • Doxepin: Included in the class of antipruritic drugs, doxepin works by blocking histamine, a substance in the body that causes certain symptoms associated with allergic reactions (like hives). Doxepin can also be used to treat eczema.
  • Calcineurin Inhibitors: These drugs inhibit the activity of T-cells that cause inflammation. 

medication for itchy skin

Oral Medication for Itchy Skin

For severe itchiness that interferes with your daily activities and sleep, the doctor might prescribe some oral medications. Here are some medications that are usually given by doctors.

  • Antihistamines: Antihistamines prevent the action of histamine, a chemical in the body that causes allergy symptoms. Antihistamines are prescribed for itching caused by allergies.
  • Tetracyclic Antidepressants: For example, mirtazapine or reuptake inhibitors, such as paroxetine and sertraline, can help relieve severe itching in patients who have T-cell lymphoma and cholestasis.
  • Doxepin and Amitriptyline: Work as antipruritic that help relieve itching.

Tips for Choosing Itch Medication

“Choosing the right product to treat itchy skin can make treatment more effective. Side effects may also be lower, as long as you use the product correctly and choose it properly,” says Gil Yosipovitch, MD, a lecturer in skin health at the Miller School of Medicine at the University of Miami, as reported by Consumer Reports.

In addition to consulting a doctor for your medication for itchy skin, consider the following tips, too.

1. Consider convenience

Anti-itch medicines are available in various forms, ranging from creams and ointments to powders and gels. As much as possible, choose a form you’re most comfortable with.

Many people prefer creams because they do not stain clothes the way powder does. They are also not too sticky like gels. Choosing a product you’re comfortable with is important because you’ll be more inclined to use it. 

2. Choose fragrance-free products

Did you ever wonder why most anti-itch medications smell bad or don’t have a scent at all? Apparently, products with fragrance are not suited for problematic skin conditions.

When your skin itches, your skin becomes sensitive. Chemicals that produce odors can increase the risk of allergies and skin irritation . You certainly don’t want itchy skin conditions to get worse. So, it is better to choose a medication for itchy skin that is free of added fragrances.

3. Find out how effective the itching medicine is

Each medication for itchy skin features different ingredients, so the level of effectiveness in each person varies. In other words, there’s a chance that your preferred product isn’t as effective as you liked it to be. 

That’s why, when purchasing a new product, choose the smallest available size. Do a patch test, then check if it’s effective. If it doesn’t give relief, consult your doctor for another medicine. 

Learn more about Skin Health here


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Jezreel Esguerra, MD

General Practitioner

Written by Hello Sehat · Updated Jan 31, 2023

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