Eczema is often referred to as “the itch that you can’t scratch” but a more accurate statement should be “the itch you SHOULDN’T scratch”!
When you scratch your eczema, you tear open nerve endings and sensitive skin that can lead to bacterial infections, more inflamed patches of skin, and an increased risk of large scarring when your eczema does heal over. We want to avoid that!
When I went through the Flawless Program to heal my eczema, I noticed that a lot of the itchiness subsided as my gut and immune system began to heal.
However, there were still times at night that I found it hard to stop scratching, and I noticed that other people, including children, also had the same issue.
We all deserve to get a good night’s sleep, so let me share with you a few of my tricks that I used when my eczema was the itchiest–particularly at night. It has to do with a bit of science and learning how to trick your brain! 😉
First things first, let’s ask ourselves this question:
Why do we itch?
Itching usually starts with a outside stimulus, think of an insect bite, dust, or prickly clothing for example. (In the case of most eczema, it’s when our body pushes toxins out through our skin, irritating the outer skin layers.)
When our body feels an element that annoys the outer skin, receptors in the skin become irritated and they immediately send a super fast itching signal (we talk more about this signal later) up to the cerebral cortex in our brain.
This signal says something like, “Hello brain! There’s something irritating the skin!”
As soon as our brain receives this signal it communicates to our body to get rid of it. Hence, our first instinctive response is to scratch the itch immediately to remove the irritation.
Once the irritation is gone, (and you’ve scratched it away!) the signal to your brain is interrupted, and you no longer feel the itchiness.
Why does eczema itching feel so good?
Let me ask you a question. Have you ever felt that pleasure from scratching at in itch?
You know, that pain-pleasure feeling when you just can’t stop scratching? If you have, did you ever wonder why it felt so good, to the point where you just can’t stop?
Well, it has to do with two things: Pain, and the itching signal I previously mentioned.
The itching signal (when something is irritating your skin) is transmitted to your brain by the body’s smallest C-fiber nerves. These C-fiber nerves are essentially the itching signal’s transportation method: destination, your brain.
Right next to these C-fiber nerve lines, are some other C-fiber nerves, but they’re not carrying an itching signal.
These other C-fiber nerve lines are carrying something different, another feeling called pain. Actually because they’re so close together, in the past scientists mistakenly thought that pain and the feeling of itchiness traveled on the same C-fiber nerves—but this was dispelled by further research showing that pain and itching elicit opposite responses.
Pain causes a withdrawal response (making us back away) and itching causes a towards response (making us want to go nearer).
Scientists also discovered that the brain only processes one kind of sensation from a particular location of your body at a time. This means that when your body feels intense pain, it will shut off the feeling of itching until the pain goes away. This also works vice-versa: no pain = intense itchiness. This is why taking pain killers can actually make your eczema feel more itchy.
That’s why scratching feels so good!—at least temporarily. Scratching generates another sensation (of pain and heat) that suppresses the feelings of itchiness—at least for a while. The problem is that once the other sensation subsides, the itch returns and you feel like scratching again to relieve yourself.
At this stage you might find it difficult to stop scratching because it’s very satisfying. Suppressing the itch (through scratching and pain) gives an intense amount of pleasure, and can release endorphins that give you a natural high. This is something naturally hardwired into our brain, and what is commonly referred to as the itch-scratch cycle.
How to reduce eczema itchiness
One way to reduce itchiness is to suppress the C-fiber nerve endings that give our brain the itch signal, and we can do this using different sensations.
Here are a few methods:
Ice, ice, baby.
Icing the area can numb the tiny C-fibers from transmitting itchy signals to the brain. If your eczema is itching at night, try holding an ice pack over the itchy area for 5-10 minutes or until it’s numb. You can also take an ice-bath or a really cold shower. This will make the fibers slow and they won’t transmit itching signals as fast to the brain.
Get a massage.
Massages are a mix of pain and pleasure, which really distracts the brain. If the itchiness is bad at night, try massaging another body part to create a sensation away from the part that itches. If you have a child who scratches themselves for long periods at night, try to put them to sleep with a massage, away from the eczema-infected area.
Focus on another sensation.
If your leg is itching, try to create another sensation on a different part of your body: like your arm for example. Doing an exercise, going for a walk, or creating a kind of strain on another part of your body will take your brain off the itchiness.
Blow or pat the skin.
Blowing or patting the itchy part of your skin creates a sensation that can disrupt the itching signal. If you have a child who is itchy at night, you can have them try to pat or blow their skin instead of scratching.
Try the Itch-stopper.
The Itch stopper is a tool that distributes heat (a type of pain) gently onto your skin, turning off your brain’s itching receptors and releasing histamines that cause your skin to become itchy. It’s talked more about in this article , and you can check out some of the reviews here. If you’re suffering a lot from itchiness, it’s worth a try!
Whenever you start to feel the need to scratch, try to do something else that requires a lot of brain concentration as opposed to just waiting for the sensation to go away (it usually won’t!). Playing a video game, cooking, or cleaning can disrupt the itching signal to your brain and make the urge to scratch go away. (Sometimes at night I would play a phone memory game or fold laundry to take my mind off scratching.)
Count to 10.
You can try to create a habit around scratching, by telling your brain (and yourself) that you won’t itch after a certain amount of time. If you really can’t resist the urge to scratch, try to pat or blow on your skin for 10 seconds, then move on to do something else. By making this a habit, you reinforce the idea to your brain that after a certain amount of time the itching signal is no longer necessary.
Epsom Salt Baths
For itchiness, try soaking in Epsom salts. Epsom salts help by acting as an alkalizing agent–balancing your body’s pH, and drawing toxins from the body. This can help to soothe your skin and balance your pH levels.Here’s a link to one i’ve used in the past when my skin was inflamed: Epsom bath salts.
Don’t soak in it more than 3 times a week, as they are a heavy detox!
Soaking 1-2x a week is enough.
(Soak a small eczema part first, to test on your skin.)
Fight fire with water
If your eczema is red, inflamed, and burning, you need to “put the fire out”, so to speak.
Use a water-based moisturizer such as 100% cold pressed Aloe Vera Gel.
Aloe vera’s anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal properties help to soothe the skin, and reduce stinging and burning.
Put some clay on it!
Clay has been used since the early times, to treat burns or skin issues, and even to heal venomous stings and bites, like from bees, wasps and spiders!
Clays works by drawing the venom out of the skin, relieving the pain and allowing the sting to heal more easily. Because of this, it’s often used for extreme itching or burning.
Use virgin, untreated clay, such green clay, such as Living Clay. It’s called montmorillonite or bentonite clay and is the most powerful type.
Attacking the problem by the roots
If you still find yourself itching constantly, then you might want to consider getting to the core problem. After all, it makes more sense to understand and attack the source of the itch, doesn’t it?
Eczema breakouts are a big part of what causes this itchiness. Whenever you break out in eczema or have a flare-up, that particular area becomes extremely itchy.
The first thing you’ll want to do is to get to the root of the problem: stop the breakouts! Eczema is a symptom of something wrong inside our bodies, and taking steps to heal the root problem will stop the itchy breakouts from happening in the first place.
If you want to find out what’s really causing your eczema, watch my free training series. I’ll help you get started!
I hope I’ve helped you on your way to becoming itch-free! Did these methods work for you? Leave a reply!
PS: Don't know where to start? Sign up to my free series The Clear Skin Plan !