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Pruritus or itchy skin can be quite a discomforting condition. It can affect the whole body or large areas of the body in a generalized manner or can be localized to specific body parts such as the foot or feet.
Itchiness is generally the result of skin dryness and inflammation, which can be caused by a variety of factors and conditions.
The treatment for a foot itch will depend on the underlying cause. But most cases of itchy feet are caused by benign factors that can be treated at home with some OTC medication, foot care measures, and remedies.
In case of a severe, stubborn itch that is accompanied by other symptoms, it is important to consult your doctor for a proper diagnosis and treatment.
Home Remedies for Foot Itch
Here are a few natural remedies that can help soothe your itchy feet:
Disclaimer: If your feet are itchy due to infection, dermatitis, or allergy, consult a dermatologist before trying any of these remedies as some of the ingredients used may end up exacerbating your condition.
1. Use cold therapy
Applying cool moisture to the itchy skin will relieve the underlying inflammation and provide dampness.
How to use:
- Soak a clean cloth in icy-cold water and wring out the excess liquid. You can also wrap a few ice cubes in a thin cloth.
- Apply this cold compress to the itchy skin.
- Keep the cool compress on for at least 10 minutes or until the itch subsides.
The cold will numb the area so that you don’t feel the itch, but this desensitization only lasts for a while. (1)
2. Soak in an oatmeal or saltwater bath
Oatmeal exhibits strong moisturizing and anti-inflammatory properties that can help with itch control. Salt is another healing ingredient credited with significant anti-inflammatory effects that can help relieve a mild itch.
It’s best to use powdered or colloidal oatmeal for this remedy as it dissolves easily in the water. (2)
How to use:
- Mix either of these ingredients in your warm bathwater and soak your body in it for a while.
- You can also do this at a smaller scale such as in a bucket or a tub if you just want to dip your feet.
3. Moisturize with coconut oil
Coconut oil not only is deeply lubricating but also exhibits potent antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. Plus, it is readily absorbed into the thick skin of the feet. All these are reasons to use virgin coconut oil to moisturize your itchy feet.
This single ingredient can help combat dryness, inflammation, and infections. (3)
How to use:
- Before going to bed, massage coconut oil onto your feet.
- Wear socks to avoid drippage, staining your bed linen, or product transfer.
4. Apply plain yogurt
Yogurt is recognized as a good source of probiotics or good bacteria that help keep the harmful microbes in check. One such strain of infection-fighting live bacteria is Acidophilus, which is especially efficient against athlete’s foot.
These favorable bacteria help kill the fungal growth responsible for this foot infection. As the infection subsides, so does the itch.
How to use:
- Apply some plain yogurt to the infected skin.
- Let it dry, and then rinse it off.
5. Apply tea tree oil
Tea tree oil is a potent essential oil derived from medicinal plants. It possesses strong antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties that can help fight foot infections and curb the associated itch.
Take note that tea tree oil is very strong at its original potency and needs to be diluted before application, or else it’ll further damage or irritate your skin.
This remedy also uses aloe vera gel, which is an amazing skin salve.
How to use:
- Mix three parts tea tree oil (4) and one part aloe gel.
- Apply this gel to the infected area two times daily.
6. Use Indian lilac (neem)
Indian lilac is a medicinal plant known to exhibit skin healing, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory properties. No wonder it makes for such a good remedy for reducing the itch caused by foot infections.
How to use:
- Wash a handful of Indian lilac (neem) leaves.
- Pour 4 cups of water into a heating pan and throw in the washed leaves.
- Turn on the heat until the water comes to a boil.
- Strain the liquid and let it cool down to room temperature.
- Wash your feet with this disinfecting solution twice or thrice daily. (5)
- Fill a large bowl, bucket, or tub with lukewarm water.
- Pour in 5–6 drops of neem oil and give it a swirl.
- Immerse your itchy feet in the water for 20–30 minutes every day until the infection heals.
Self-Care Tips to Keep Your Feet Itch-Free
Here are a few useful measures to keep your feet clean, healthy, and itch-free:
- Avoid scratching the skin as it will only give momentary relief. The itch will come back with greater intensity, and, you will again be prompted to scratch with the same results, reinforcing a harmful cycle that will end up damaging your skin. Rubbing with your sharp nails can tear the skin. You can transfer germs from your hands or nails to the ruptured skin, triggering an infection.
- Scented skin and bath products contain fragrant chemical compounds that are too harsh on the skin and leave it dry and irritated after regular use. Thus, always go through the ingredient list before buying your creams, lotions, soaps, and detergents. Many products are labelled unscented or fragrance-free but still contain chemicals, so be mindful of that. This will help minimize skin irritation that can trigger itching. (6)
- First, apply your foot medication and then the moisturizer, unless your dermatologist suggests otherwise. (6)
- Exposure to drastic temperature changes can also irritate the skin and cause itchiness. So, maintain a stable and relatively cool temperature within your living space along with neutral humidity levels. If you suffer from severely dry skin or eczema, it’s highly recommended to install a humidifier inside your home/room during the cold arid winter months. The humidifier will impart moisture to the air and thereby soothe the irritated, itchy skin. (6)
- Stress triggers the production of cortisol hormone in the body. High cortisol levels are associated with increased inflammation that can make your itch worse. So, try to manage your stress by adopting relaxation therapies, yoga, deep breathing, and other activities that can help calm your mind. (6)
- Wear socks and shoes that are made from natural, breathable fabrics that allow proper airflow to keep your feet ventilated.
- Keep your skin hydrated from within by meeting your daily fluid intake. Water is the most hydrating liquid, but you can consume fresh fruit juices and nutritious broths for added skin healing. At the same time, limit your consumption of alcohol and caffeinated beverages since both are diuretics that increase urine output but can also dehydrate the body if taken in excess. A dehydrated body means drier skin, leading to more itchiness.
- Always dry your feet properly after washing them and before putting on socks or shoes. Pay special attention to the skin between the toes. If you have naturally sweaty feet, sprinkle some antiperspirant powder in your socks or shoes to soak in the excess perspiration. Change out of damp socks or shoes as soon as possible. This is because moist or sweaty feet inside the closed confines of socks or shoes provide an ideal breeding environment for infection-causing germs. If you catch a foot infection, the itching will follow.
- Consume a well-balanced, nutritious diet that is especially rich in vitamins A, B, and E, all of which are essential for skin health. A deficiency of these vitamins can make your skin extremely dry and pave the way for itchiness.
The skin contains oil glands that secrete a lipid called sebum. Thus, your skin keeps itself naturally moisturized through sebum production. But since there are no oil glands in the feet, the skin in these areas is drier than that of the rest of the body. Dry skin tends to be itchy, which makes itchy feet a common phenomenon.
Plus, your feet carry the brunt of your body and regularly face friction, irritants, and injuries. This wear and tear can also make your feet ultra-dry, rough, and itchy. In such cases, taking care of your feet through proper moisturization, protection, and comfort is essential.
However, other conditions can trigger a foot itch too, such as foot infections, inflammatory skin disorders like dermatitis, and allergies. In all these cases, it is the underlying inflammation that manifests in the form of skin dryness and itching. So, the treatment will aim to curb the inflammation to relieve the itch. (7)
Whatever the cause, the tried-and-tested home remedies mentioned above can help soothe your itchy feet. You can use them as adjuncts to your main treatment for better symptom management and faster results. However, do consult your doctor before trying any of them to rule out any adverse reactions.
If the foot itch does not subside or worsens after 2 weeks of home treatment, consult your doctor for a proper diagnosis and the necessary treatment.