Please help my itchy friend.
June 2, 2017 10:52 AM   Subscribe

A friend of mine gets unbearably itchy every time she takes a shower. It lasts for about half an hour and then subsides. The most obvious culprit would be something in the soap. Can you recommend a brand of hypoallergenic, additive-free body wash that might help her out? Or alternatively, what else could be causing this? Her roommate does not report the same symptoms, as far as I know.
posted by Faint of Butt to Health & Fitness (23 answers total)
It seems like she would want to try taking a shower without using any soap, scrubbing with a new washcloth only (or whatever she uses) and see if the itching still occurs.
posted by XMLicious at 10:58 AM on June 2, 2017 [8 favorites]

Do they have really hard water or well water? I got a weird rash when I was house sitting for a friend who had well water and used their shower.
posted by Aquifer at 11:00 AM on June 2, 2017 [3 favorites]

And it could be mold or mildew.

Or she could just have very dry skin, and showers exacerbate it when she showers daily.
posted by mochapickle at 11:01 AM on June 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

Does she take a very hot shower? It could be causing her skin to dry out. I would suggest taking a cooler shower and applying moisturizer as soon as she gets out.
posted by zoetrope at 11:09 AM on June 2, 2017 [7 favorites]

Cetaphil is a common soap for people with skin problems, I have eczema issues and use one of the Dr. Bronner's line for soap needs. This one of their has nothing else added to it. Seconding turning the water temperature down to lukewarm.
posted by foxfirefey at 11:16 AM on June 2, 2017 [4 favorites]

Could be the soap, could be the water, could be dry skin. I'd try a short, lukewarm shower without any soap, then use oil to moisturize immediately afterward (while skin is still damp). The purpose of using oil instead of lotion is that she's less likely to react to a single-ingredient oil. If she's still itchy, it's probably the water - she might be able to install a shower water filter. If she isn't itchy, she can experiment with different soaps, lotions, hotter showers, etc.
posted by insectosaurus at 11:26 AM on June 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

A low PH body wash might help. My skin has been much happier since using one. Mine is from Germany, but people seem to like this Sebamed one as well. I've also heard that using 'feminine wash' is a cheaper way to get a low-PH body wash, with 45 oz. for $13 or so, but I haven't tried it.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 11:31 AM on June 2, 2017

Two thoughts come to mind:

1. I get quite itchy for a short time after a shower if it is a big temperature difference. For example, taking a hot shower after coming in from a winter storm.

2. If it's itchy skin, though, I used to get this a lot from dry air and whatever junk they put in body wash. Then I discovered hypoallergenic soaps, and I've never gone back. The one I use most is the children's one from Suave that has a whale on it.
posted by SpacemanStix at 11:31 AM on June 2, 2017

It may be how the source water is being treated. She could add a water filter to the shower head.
posted by vignettist at 11:31 AM on June 2, 2017

I had a similar problem recently (very itchy for variable periods of time, worse on days I showered than on days I didn't, though in my case it would start several hours after the shower). Went to a dermatologist, whose most useful suggestions were to stop taking hot showers, use Cetaphil (which I only use on my face; bar soap otherwise), and take Benadryl if the itching starts up regardless.

He also recommended moisturizing after showers, but I swear that actually made it worse.

The itching didn't completely vanish, but it improved a lot. I think water temperature was the bulk of the problem, because I occasionally take a hot shower anyway just because, and the itching usually comes right back a few hours later.
posted by Spathe Cadet at 11:36 AM on June 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

This used to happen to me, and it was high blood pressure. The itching was intense, mostly from about the ribs down and worst on my legs and feet, and I would get sort of flushy but just kind of in a hot watery way so I didn't really make the connection. I was unhealthy and unfit at the time, and even though I am as heavy now as I was then I still got a really quick turnaround from improving my diet and doing a little exercise. It's never come back.

Just a data point to consider as you're ruling out external factors. Also, try slightly cooler showers.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:42 AM on June 2, 2017 [3 favorites]

Yeah, most likely differentiating variable between friend and roommate is water temperature, if they're using similar soap and such. Hot showers feel great while you're in them, but they're so bad for the skin. Keep showers shorter and cooler, and it's likely to help. (Might not be the only thing, but it's an easy thing to change and is free.)
posted by asperity at 11:43 AM on June 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

Has she considered cleaning the showerhead?
posted by quiet coyote at 12:15 PM on June 2, 2017

I'm allergic to propylene glycol, which is in a _lot_ of soaps, conditioners, and shampoos. It's a more recognized allergy in Europe, I'm told, but it's pretty common, partly because it's such a common ingredient. It's even in Neutrogena glycerin soap.

It makes things more slippery and more emulsified, and also acts as a preservative (it's in a lot of foods, too, most surprisingly in cake mixes - it makes them moist).

I believe JASON brand and Stony Brook brand have shampoos/conditioners without fragrance and without propylene glycol. I've also found unscented glycerin soap at Whole Foods that works for me.

Good luck to your friend.

Oh - be careful with using washcloths. That can irritate skin more if you're not careful.
posted by amtho at 12:17 PM on June 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

Propylene glycol is also _very_ common in lotions, deodorants, toothpaste, eyedrops, eardrops, cough syrup, and topical medications.

Oh, and mixed drinks.
posted by amtho at 12:19 PM on June 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

This happens to me if I shower every day even if I use a really gentle soap like Pears soap. If I shower every other day and don't use super hot water, and then moisturize right afterwards, it's not a problem.
posted by colfax at 12:31 PM on June 2, 2017

Some people have a histamine/ allergic reaction to hot water. Try cooler water. Try using mild soap and only on face, breasts, underarms, groin, feet. Most of your body really stays clean and doesn't really need direct application of soap; running water does a fine job of rinsing off dirt and sweat, and leaves some skin oils intact.
posted by theora55 at 12:40 PM on June 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

Unfortunately, aquagenic urticaria is a thing. Hopefully it's not what she's got.
posted by glasseyes at 1:19 PM on June 2, 2017

Cholinergic urticaria is also a thing. Does she ever get itchy at all when she's really hot, such as after exercise, or during a really stressful situation? I've had it for over a decade now, and typically break out in itchy red bumps on my arms and legs for an hour or so after a shower. Keeping the water as cool as possible helps. Haven't found anything else that helps, but by now I'm pretty used to it and have learned to tune out the itching.
posted by storminator7 at 1:30 PM on June 2, 2017 [2 favorites]

Does she have eczema, by chance? I sometimes get it on my hands, which feels AWFUL whenever they get wet. Once they're dry, I don't really notice it anymore.
posted by anderjen at 1:49 PM on June 2, 2017

I had this (badly enough that the unpleasantness of taking a shower was making it hard to get out of bed) and I have hard water, but for me the fix was as simple as changing to a moisturising body wash rather than soap.
posted by ambrosen at 4:10 PM on June 2, 2017

cooler water. Also, get one of those foaming handsoap dispensers, use up the handsoap, and make your own bodywash with Dr. Bronner's or some other no-additives liquid soap or shampoo, about a quarter-inch of soap in the bottom and the rest water. Shake to combine, et voila. Foaming soap dispensers last forever and save you $$$ and much irritation. You don't really need to wash every single limb with soap every single time; just a rinse'll do for most of the body.
posted by Don Pepino at 10:31 AM on June 3, 2017

This sounds like something a dermatologist could help with for sure.

I do agree that trying cooler water can help. Also different soaps/body washes. Cetaphil is great. I use Cetaphil on my face and Aveeno unscented on my body.
posted by radioamy at 12:47 PM on June 4, 2017

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