Essential oils are derived from botanicals through a distillation process using steam or water. They are highly concentrated and richly scented. Many essential oils provide therapeutic or medicinal benefits. Certain essential oils are effective at relieving itchy skin and are safe for most people when used correctly.
Itchy skin can be caused by a wide range of conditions, including dryness, dandruff, bug bites, rashes, and allergies. Skin that itches uncontrollably or is accompanied by swelling should be examined by a doctor or dermatologist.
Essential oils for itching and how to use them
There are several essential oils that are effective at reducing or relieving itchy skin. Some have antimicrobial properties, which makes them effective against infections that might result from scratching. Others have anti-inflammatory properties, making them effective at calming down irritated skin and alleviating itchy bug bites.
Any type of essential oil you use should be mixed with a carrier oil prior to using on skin. Also, make sure to choose a pure, high-quality oil from a manufacturer you trust. Organic oils may be best.
Peppermint oil’s cooling properties can help reduce itching caused by bug bites, poison ivy, and hives. It can also be used to calm itching related to diabetes, liver disease, and kidney disease. In a 2016 study, participants experienced itch relief when using peppermint oil combined with petrolatum. The study participants were advised to hydrate their skin prior to applying the peppermint oil mixture. A guar gum-based gel containing peppermint oil was also shown to be effective at reducing severe itching (pruritus) caused by burn-induced hypertrophic scars.
Distinctly scented and soothing to the skin, chamomile essential oil can be used topically to reduce itching caused by eczema, hemorrhoids, and diaper rash. It’s also safe to use on the scalp for itching associated with dandruff or dry skin. You can massage a combination of chamomile oil and a carrier oil directly into your scalp prior to shampooing. You can also add 5 to 10 drops of chamomile oil directly into your shampoo bottle, and wash your hair as you usually would.
Tea tree oil can safely be used on the scalp. It helps to provide relief from dandruff and itching associated with head lice. Diluted tea tree oil can also be used directly on the skin to control hives or to calm down itching associated with eczema. An antifungal, tea tree oil is also effective for treating athlete’s foot. Tea tree oil has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties.
Lavender essential oil’s antifungal properties make it effective for conditions such as jock itch, athlete’s foot, and ringworm. It can also help diminish the stinging and itching of bug bites. Lavender oil’s soft, soothing scent makes it a good choice for all-over dry skin moisturizing. Use a combination of lavender essential oil and carrier oil on damp skin directly after a shower or bath.
Rose geranium essential oil smells like an English garden and is used extensively in folk medicine for its antifungal and antibacterial properties. An animal study indicated that rose geranium oil also has anti-inflammatory properties. It can be used to alleviate itching caused by eczema and dry skin. You can use rose geranium oil with a carrier oil or mix it with other essential oils, such as lavender or chamomile.
Side effects and risks of using essential oils for itch relief
Always opt for a pure, high-quality organic oil. Adulterated oils may be mixed with unknown ingredients or chemicals. These may be more likely to cause an adverse reaction.
Never put essential oil directly on the skin without first mixing it with a carrier oil. Essential oils are highly condensed and very potent. Used full strength, they can cause skin irritation and rash. Typically, a few drops of essential oil are enough. Strive to create a solution that is around 5 percent essential oil in strength.
Do a patch test before using it on a large area of skin. Do not use any essential oil derived from a plant you are allergic or sensitive to. If your itching worsens or a rash develops, wash off the essential oil solution and call your doctor.
You shouldn’t use essential oil on a baby or child without their doctor’s approval. Never put peppermint oil on a child’s face or chest because the menthol vapors may cause serious side effects, such as trouble breathing or headaches, if inhaled.
If you are pregnant, do not use essential oils without your doctor’s approval.
What the research says
Essential oils have been used for centuries. They are currently being studied for their effects on skin conditions and other medical conditions. Multiple studies looking at the effectiveness of various essential oils in treating skin conditions have found them to be safe for most people when used correctly.
Another study reported that essential oils and other wild plant derivatives were an inexpensive and effective treatment for multiple skin conditions, and caused fewer side effects than conventional medications.
There are many essential oils that can be effective for itchy skin. Most people can use essential oils on skin safely, provided they dilute the oils with a carrier oil or other substance. Essential oils can help to reduce or eliminate itching caused by multiple conditions, including bug bites, eczema, and dandruff. However, they should not be used by children, babies, or pregnant women without a doctor’s OK.