Have Itchy Summer Skin? 4 Reasons You Can't Stop Scratching This Season
Every single summer, I become a woman possessed, and all of my waking hours are consumed by the desire to scratch at my incredibly itchy skin. For a long time, I kept this a secret because, well, it's bizarre — of all the classic well-established ailments of summer (heat stroke, sunburn, broken foot after getting wasted while attending a butter carving contest at the state fair), "painfully itchy summer skin" is not on there. And so, I kept scratching in silence, occasionally going so hard that I drew blood. It was gross, it was painful, and as far as I could tell, it made no sense. Isn't winter the dry skin season?
Of course, in all those years of silent, shameful itching, it never occurred to me to, oh, I don't know, maybe look on the Internet and see if anyone else has ever had this problem? So when I finally did, I was wildly relieved — because for many folks besides myself, summer is a season of dry skin, weird itches, and lying about a non-existent cat when people ask why your legs are so scratched up. In addition to obvious culprits, like poison ivy, bug bites, and sunburn, there are a few subtle reasons that you might just be danged itchy in the summer.
Are you ready to learn the truth about itchy summer skin? Then read on. Also, would you maybe spray me with one of those water bottles you use on misbehaving cats every time you see me scratch my skin? I'd do the same for you!
1. Heat Rash/Prickly Heat
"Prickly Heat" kinda sounds like an old West folk legend or really crappy Silver Age comic book hero, right? Well, you're wrong on both counts: it's just a fanciful name for heat rash, one of the primary reasons you might be feeling itchy in the summer. Heat rash occurs when you sweat ducts become clogged, preventing your sweat from evaporating. Instead, you sweat gets trapped beneath your skin, leaving you the proud of owner of tiny, itchy bumps — often at your joints, folds, or other parts of your body that may also be currently experiencing the fun summer activity of chafing.
How Can You Fix It?: Most of the time, heat rash will heal on its own after a few days, and you don't need to smear it with any special goops or what-have-you. In fact, you'll want to avoid heavy goos of any sort while your heat rash heals, even though you may want to smear it with your thickest moisturizer. if the itching is unbearable, rying dabbing that shizz in calamine lotion instead.
2. Air Conditioning
Yes, it's true — the one thing that makes summer bearable also can mess your skin up real good. Cooled air has low humidity, which can potentially dry your skin out and leave it itchy as all hell. As Angelina Jolie's tattoo once said, "What nourishes me destroys me."
How Can You Fix It?: Luckily, this is an easy one — just avoid all air conditioning all summer! Kidding, kidding, I'm not Satan, calm down (really, though, you should have seen your face). But if you spent a lot of time in an air conditioned environment (like an office, restaurant, or other place of business where they consistently keep the thermostat at sub-meat locker temperatures), do take extra efforts to stay hydrated by drinking extra water and not drinking extra iced coffee, which will totally dehydrate you. Also, keep moisturizing during the summer! You may think it feels gross, or that you don't need moisturizer because you are constantly damp with sweat, but it can help you effectively ward off the itches.
Are you constantly hosing down over the summer, in order to cope with crotch sweat, armpit stank, or just to have something to do? Hey, everyone needs a hobby, and this one is probably better than getting into online gambling or writing Two And A Half Men fan fiction. But the non-stop showers that are required to feel like a functional human during the summer months can strip your skin's essential oils, drying your skin out something awful.
How Can You Fix It?: This problem started in your bathroom, but you can also end it in your bathroom — by applying lightweight moisturizer all over your body (especially your arms, legs, and other itchable parts) after you get out of the shower. Or you could shower less (pro tip, though: if you're thinking something right now like, "I usually smell pretty good in the summer, I could definitely shower less!" you are almost definitely wrong).
You may also want to check the ingredients on your soaps and shampoos — some heavily scented bath products can dry out sensitive skin. Try some non-scented shampoo. Hell, try some groovy organic shampoo from the health food store. Buy some crystal deodorant while you're at it, maybe. You know the official motto of the summer time: "No rules, just right" (that is the motto of summer, right?).
When it's super hot out, it's easy to get dehydrated, even if you're still doing all the things that keep you hydrated during the rest of the year. But it's worth it to pay attention; even mild dehydration can create some serious, summer fun-curbing havoc in your life, like constipation and exhaustion — as well as dry skin.
How Can I Fix It?: There are a lot of small steps you can take here, like not lying out in the sun and making sure you don't overheat. But we both know that there's only one real cure here, and also one way to prevent this sad, dry state of affairs — drinking a sh*t-ton of water.
If you're one of those people who hates the taste of water, I'm sorry for what you're about to have to do. But according to experts, you should be drinking nine glasses of water a day just as a baseline, plus one-and-a-half to two-and-a-half extra glasses following even light exercise. Maybe you could get one of those thermoses with the little section in the bottom for fruit? Seltzer water? I hear those are supposed to make water taste less, uh, water-y. But you may just have to suck it up, literally, and drink a ton of water — or suffer through yet another summer spent scratching at your gams as if they were lotto tickets. The choice is yours, cowgirl.