A professional examines the bumpy, red skin on a young man's shoulder.

An itch isn’t always something you should ignore – even if you could! Let’s explore the causes of that mysterious, maddening sensation.

What Is Itching?

Itchiness happens to everyone sometimes and makes us all want to do the one thing we know will make it worse. It’s not exactly pain, but it’s unpleasant, and when it’s severe or chronic, it may be all you can think about. What is going on when we itch?

Science doesn’t yet have all the answers, but here’s what we do know… All vertebrates – even fish and reptiles – itch. But since scratching (or rubbing against a rock if you’re a lizard) can damage the skin and open the area to potentially dangerous infections, an itch isn’t always something you should ignore.

Think about how often you absently rub your fingertips over an itch even when you’re not dealing with an insect bite, an encounter with poison ivy, or an Eczema flare-up. It’s probably so often that you don’t even notice that you’re doing it.

If animals had no instinct to sweep these small tickling sensations away, they could be overrun by biting insects and parasites. Some researchers now think that even the minor skin damage of a light scratch has its positive side – provoking inflammation may prompt the immune system to react faster, helping to fight any potentially dangerous foreign substance that has already entered the skin.

Unfortunately, evolution didn’t grant us the ability to distinguish between skin sensations we can scratch away and those that would be better left alone.

The Itch-Scratch Cycle

Itching, also called pruritis, happens when something – a physical touch, a chemical substance, an electrical signal, or heat – activates specialized nerve fibers called pruriceptors, which fire signals to the brain and prompt a scratching reflex.

If you scratch, you stimulate pain and touch receptors in the area, which mask the itching sensation and provide temporary relief. But while the mild pain of scratching briefly cancels out the itch, it also causes your brain to release serotonin, which makes you more sensitive to itching. This vicious cycle is known as the “itch-scratch cycle.”

What Kinds of Things Make Your Skin Itch?

Insect Bites and Poisonous Plants

One of the substances that can activate the nerves involved in itching is histamine. It’s part of your body’s defense system and causes capillaries to swell, allowing increased blood flow – accelerating the body’s immune response.

That’s what causes the red bumps you see after a mosquito bites you, leaving behind a little of its saliva, or when you brush against poison ivy and the plant’s oils, which contain itch-inducing urushiol, are absorbed by your skin.

Sarna Calm + Cool Anti-Itch Lotion relieves itch and pain from insect bites, sunburn, and poison ivy with 1% Pramoxine Hydrochloride and 0.5% Menthol.


Skin Allergies

If you’re sensitive to certain substances in detergents, cosmetics, jewelry, and clothing, contact with them will cause you to break out in an itchy rash known as contact dermatitis. Rashes caused by allergic reactions can look and feel like insect bites or poison plant reactions, as the underlying process is the same – your body is releasing histamine in response to a perceived threat.

Of course, the most important step is to understand what’s causing your symptoms and avoid contact with the allergen. Consult your doctor about itches that you can’t explain and that don’t respond to home treatment.

Why Is Sarna Calm + Cool Anti-Itch Lotion Good for Itchy Skin?

Whether you’re dealing with bug bites from an adventurous hike or skin irritations from an unexpected encounter with poison ivy, Sarna Calm + Cool provides the soothing care your skin needs.

  • Relieve Discomfort: Formulated with 1% Pramoxine Hydrochloride, this lotion for bug bites also provides relief for the pain and itch associated with minor cuts, minor burns, minor skin irritations, and rashes due to poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac.
  • Soothing Ingredients: Infused with Witch Hazel Extract and Aloe, this soothing lotion cools with Menthol, providing comfort to itchy skin.
  • Free-From Formula: Sarna Calm + Cool is vegan and free from steroids, added fragrances, parabens, mineral oil, and hydroquinones.

Why Is Sarna Sensitive Anti-Itch Lotion Good for Itchy Skin?

Our lotion works in several ways to help deliver the soothing comfort you need.

  • Soothing Comfort: The moisturizing anti-itch lotion is formulated with soothing ingredients that help to minimize itchiness that can be distracting and even painful.
  • Steroid-Free Formula: Sarna Sensitive Anti-Itch lotion is steroid-free, so it’s a good option for people with sensitive skin who cannot tolerate products that contain steroids.
  • Fragrance-Free and Hypoallergenic: Recognizing that fragrances and certain ingredients can trigger reactions in sensitive skin, Sarna Sensitive Anti-Itch Lotion is formulated without fragrances, parabens, or other common allergens.