Am I allergic to water?!!!
September 28, 2006 3:39 AM   Subscribe

Please help me with my itchy and painful skin after a shower - it's driving me crazy!!

After a shower, (and interestingly, rarely after a bath) my skin becomes incredibly itchy and painful, usually lasting about half an hour until it subsides.
When I get out of the shower I dry my skin and apply an emollient moisturiser quickly. I get the itching regardless of whether or not I apply the moisturiser, and whether I let my skin air-dry or use a towel. The itch is all over my body, but worst on my legs. I call it an itch, but it's also very painful - it feels like someone stabbing my legs all over with pins, or sometimes as if my legs are on fire! It drives me absolutely mad - it's painful and uncomfortable, and adds about half an hour to the time it takes me to get ready in the mornings!!

I googled around a bit a few months ago, and followed some suggestions I found, including
-using a soap-free body wash
-using sensitive skin washing powder
-having cooler showers.

I do suffer from eczema, and have very sensitive skin, but have only had this particluar priblem for the last couple of years or so. I went to see my doctor about it about a year ago, and he was pretty unhelpful - he just indicated that I was an unfortunate person with sensitive skin, and prescribed some anti-histamines, which did not work.

Does anyone experience this too? Any advice/suggestions? Any ideas why it doesn't happen after a bath?! (and yes, the obvious solution would be to have baths instead of showers, but unfortunately I don't have time for that every morning!).

Thanks for your help!
posted by schmoo to Health & Fitness (28 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I have something similiar, mostly on my legs.

I've found taking a cooler shower, as you mentioned above, helps. I also use Vitamin E oil all over the affected areas to moisturize to help with the dryness and itching.

I also started using a moisturizer called Olay Quench Therapy for Extremely Dry & Itchy Skin and it seems to help although I have to use it several times during the day.

You probably should see a dermatologist though, as it seems to be affecting you greatly.
posted by wilde at 3:58 AM on September 28, 2006

Are you on anything like Claritin? I used to itch a lot - went to the cooler showers, moisturizer w/shea butter, and Claritin, and the problem has (mostly) gone away. I do have a few days of misery in January, when the heat is blasting and the house is dry. Never took baths, so I don't know about bath vs. shower.
posted by clarkstonian at 4:18 AM on September 28, 2006

I have this. It drives me crazy. I don't know what causes it, except that I think it has something to do with open pores. I don't get it after baths either.

What helps for me is: pure cotton, and very clean, very dry towels. If I stand dry, I'll itch. If I use a damp towel, or a towel I used the day before and hung up to dry, I'll itch. If I use a new towel and immediately put on a cotton shirt, I won't, or it won't be bad.

In the winter months, when it's at it's worst I use cocoa butter, then put on a shirt. It helps immensely.

If you find anything else, please post it here!
posted by bonaldi at 4:26 AM on September 28, 2006

(I should mention that the towel has to be warm, for some reason).
posted by bonaldi at 4:28 AM on September 28, 2006

This stuff, while completely useless against the pain of bikini waxing, is miraculous on itchy skin.
posted by pieoverdone at 5:05 AM on September 28, 2006

Is the problem possibly related to dry skin? When I get out of a warm shower I itch unless I use a rougher towel to rub really, really hard and get the dead skin off my arms and legs. Then I follow up with moisturizer. If I don't do this at least every other day I feel like things are crawling under my skin.
posted by dpx.mfx at 5:10 AM on September 28, 2006

Did you happen to move in the past two years? I'm wondering if the hardness of the water might have an effect, ie, very akaline water may be irritating your skin, or you moved from a well to a municipal system? Then again, you'd get it in the bath, too.

Chlorine? Again, you'd think you'd get a bigger dose in the bath.

You can buy shower heads that "purify" the water, it might be worth a shot, it can't hurt other than lightening your wallet a bit and might help.

Are your showers typically hotter than your bath? When you take a bath is it using the same fixture as your shower (ie, soaking tub vs. shower stall or all-in-one unit)? Does this happen in ANY shower, or just at home?

I'm trying to eliminate your showering environment from the equation, you're almost certainly ahead of me in that regard.
posted by maxwelton at 5:33 AM on September 28, 2006

Only soap up in the key areas. The runoff from your shampoo will take care of your back, torso, legs, etc.
posted by saffron at 5:34 AM on September 28, 2006

what bonaldi said is true for me as well. I get very itchy an uncomfortable unless I use a clean cotton towel and put pure cotton clothes on afterwards. Beause of this, I started showering at night so I could put some clean cotton pajamas & a t-shirt on that are nicer on my skin than my work / day clothes.
posted by tastybrains at 5:51 AM on September 28, 2006

my mom has had some serious skin problems - some of which were aggravated by showers to the point she had her water tested thinking it had something in it she was allergic to.

she switched to Arbonne skin and hair care (no mineral oil!) and all natural no perfumes laundry soap and it did wonders for her. if the moisturizer you use has mineral oil, your skin doesn't absorb it as well as it could. both she and my daughter cannot handle anything on their skin with perfume added. natural scents seem to be ok.

the natural fabrics, not only cotton but silk, thing helps too.

she no longer even takes allergy medicine.
posted by domino at 6:30 AM on September 28, 2006

Are you using a different soap when you take a bath? Is there anything that you do differently when you take a bath rather than a shower?
posted by witchstone at 6:40 AM on September 28, 2006

I used to have this problem and I suspect it was circulatory. That and a number of other issues went away when I made some dietary changes, mostly giving up sugar. It was bad in my legs and horrible (almost panic-inducing) in my feet, and the only thing that shortened the itching time was laying down with my legs elevated. There was never any textural change in my skin (except when I'd scratch until I bled), and oral and topical antihistamines did nothing.

I think I probably was pre-diabetic at the time, but I also think I was suffering from a systemic fungal infection that was ravaging my sinuses and might have also contributed to the problem. I wasn't at all healthy, definitely, but my skin itself was fine.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:44 AM on September 28, 2006

If it is chlorine (and it could well be - Mrs Flabdablet gets itchy after swimming), I'd expect you would indeed get more chlorine exposure in the shower than in the bath.

Gases dissolve best in colder water; they come out of solution pretty damn quick when the water is hot. Leave warm water sitting in a bathtub for a few minutes, and most of the chlorine would dissipate. In the shower, there are only a few tens of milliseconds between water exiting the closed pipework and contacting your skin.

Run a bath, leave it sit for a couple of minutes and then sniff it, then turn on your shower and smell the steam from that. If I'm right, the shower steam will smell more chlorinated than the bath. Do the tests in that order, or odor desensitization may cause a false negative on chlorine from the bath.

Something else to think about: those times when baths do make you itchy - are those the times you've jumped into the tub while the water's still running?

If chlorine is indeed your problem, your friendly local plumber might be able to do something clever with an activated charcoal filter.
posted by flabdablet at 6:55 AM on September 28, 2006

What kind of body wash or soap are you using? I was on a health kick and tried using Kiss My Face olive oil moisturizing soap, and that stuff made me itch like crazy. I switched to Tom's of Maine moisturizing bar and haven't had the itchy problem since.

(This probably won't solve your problem completely, but it's something to keep in mind)
posted by cadge at 7:11 AM on September 28, 2006

Shot in the dark-- are you allergic to cold?
posted by orangemiles at 7:17 AM on September 28, 2006 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for your responses - definately lots to think about.

witchstone - No, I don't think I'm doing anything differently in the bath!
maxwelton - Yes, the bath and shower are the same fixture, and it happens in other showers too - well, when I went to stay at my mum's the other week. I like the idea of the purifying shower head!
flabadablet - You may be on to something there - whenever I run a bath I always leave it stand a few minutes before I get in. Maybe it has something to do with chlorine, although thinking about it, I seem to be fine after swimming in a (chlorinated) swimming pool. Interesting!

I'm going to try all your ideas -clarkstonian's Claratin suggestion, wilde's vitamin E oil sounds good, elevating my legs as Lyn Never suggested, and the clean towels might be a factor as bonaldi suggested - I am quite naughty about using slightly wet towels!

Thanks all. One other thing that I thought about - I am on the birth control pill, started again roughly a couple of years ago, maybe I could be allergic to an ingredient in that? Although I am thinking as suggested by many of you it is probably more likely to be hard/alkaline/chlorinated water.

posted by schmoo at 7:42 AM on September 28, 2006

Response by poster: Wow just checked out orangemiles' link and some of what they said rang true - I especially remember last time I went surfing (in freezing British waters!) and my whole body went red and itchy, I presume because I was so cold!
posted by schmoo at 7:48 AM on September 28, 2006

My skin is pretty sensitive and is frequently a little bit angry after a shower, although not as bad as yours. This won't solve your problem, but it may narrow down the cause:

Try taking a shower just to get wet. I.e., get in the shower, go through the motions of cleaning but don't use soap or shampoo. Get out of the shower, don't use anything on your skin, just pat (don't rub) yourself dry with a clean towel. See what happens. This will tell you whether it's showering or something you use during your showering ritual that irritates your skin.
posted by justkevin at 8:04 AM on September 28, 2006

I adore Dr Bronner's All-One soap, Baby-Mild.

I'm almost certain that Dr Bronner's is the most natural soap out there. The other scents are too harsh for me, especially the peppermint! The Baby-Mild is unscented, but it has this amazing scent of bright olive oil. I cut the bars of soap in half for hand washing, and I miss it when I'm at work, it makes my hands feel amazing. It's my spa.
posted by scazza at 8:34 AM on September 28, 2006

How old are you? There's a rumor that your body chemistry changes every seven years or so... I choose to believe it's true-ish as I suddenly became terribly allergic to my own cat right around age 28. Anyway, it's possible you became allergic to cold at some multiple of seven...?

I only heard about cold allergies because my financial planner is allergic to cold. One day when he came over to our Chicago apartment in the winter he was red and itchy and we had a nice little chat about it.

Good luck!
posted by orangemiles at 8:37 AM on September 28, 2006

Response by poster: justkevin - that's a good idea I never thought of that (duh!).
orangemiles - I'm 20 so I don't think the seven year theory applies in my case, but an interesting idea!

Thanks everyone - and all who gave recommendations for soaps/creams to try, I definately will experiment!
posted by schmoo at 9:29 AM on September 28, 2006

I had/have the same problem as you and here's what I do. I only shower every other day at my doctor's recommendation (M-W-F), I only lather up my armpits enough to shave them, I use Head and Shoulders shampoo and rinse it thoroughly, followed by Paul Mitchell Detangler and I use Suave Ocean Breeze body wash to lather up enough to shave my legs. This keeps the itching to a minimum, but I still get red spots on my face and have occasional excema breakouts. Note: we have pretty soft water where we live but I notice I itch more when I travel to places that have harder water.
posted by Lynsey at 10:46 AM on September 28, 2006

My dermatologist recommended against any fragrances or dyes– that means using free/clear laundry detergent and no dryer sheets that smell like any type of season or breeze.

I learned that "Unscented" Dove soap contains a "masking fragrance," which I thought was misleading. Now I make sure to get "Fragrance Free" soap.
posted by reeddavid at 11:45 AM on September 28, 2006

Was thinking about making a post to Ask Mefi along these lines myself.

This has just started for me, and only occasionally. I sometimes used to get an itchy chest after a long hot bath, but it was a minor irritation. Recently though, a couple of times after a shower, I've been fit for nothing but scratching for half an hour, and it's been really unpleasant. I've also had it a couple of times when I've gone to bed, and felt hot in bed - definitely something to do with temperature.

Strangely, the two worst episodes have come when I've taken a shower late morning, between ten and twelve. When I shower at half seven, like I usually do, it hasn't happened. I'm sure this tells me something, but I'm not sure what.

I've googled a bit on this and not found any advice better than that in the thread so far.
posted by reynir at 2:14 PM on September 28, 2006

I have a similar problem sometimes, but mostly on my face. It seems to come and go, which is strange, but I wonder if it might be caused by the hard water at my house. Could be the same for you, if you have hard water.
posted by flod logic at 2:23 PM on September 28, 2006

I had a similar problem for about four years, with patches of redness and itchiness on my face and chest immediately after showering. I saw a dermatologist recently and he diagnosed it as Seborrheic Dermatitis, which is the same thing that causes dandruff. He prescribed a very gentle milk-based cleanser and Elidel, the use of which has completely cleared up my problem.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 6:31 PM on September 28, 2006

I suspect you have hard water.

Seems it may dry out the sky?
posted by zaphod at 7:32 PM on September 28, 2006

The numbing spray idea isn't half-bad:

I've had similar problems on and off over the years. I currently use a filter attachment on the shower head, and it seems to help. I got mine from a mail-order company called MultiPure. Now that we have a baby, I need to find something similar for the kitchen sink since she has extremely itchy skin.

P.S. for those who like to tersely post "look here" one-liners, please consider the frustration when the link doesn't resolve. Just add a few extra words describing your intent. Thanks. </rant>
posted by markhu at 11:10 PM on April 9, 2007

« Older bicycling restoration clues   |   Sad lightboxes make me happy Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.