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The 10 Best Anti-Itch Creams, According to Dermatologists

Bug bites, dry skin, and sunburn are no match for these soothing formulas.
By Rebecca Deczynski
March 24, 2021
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Itchy, flakey skin can take a serious toll, both mentally and physically. Whether the pain stems from a bug bite, allergies, cold weather, a chronic skin condition like eczema, or any other factor, a good anti-itch cream will help soothe the inflammation and pain. But finding the best product for dry, irritated skin can sometimes feel overwhelming, so we reached out to a few dermatologists to learn their recommendations. 

These are the 10 best anti-itch creams, according to dermatologists: 

Not all itch-relief creams are made equally. Depending on their ingredients, some products are better suited for targeting a certain type of itch over others. For instance, if you're dealing with pesky bug bites, you might be better off with a steroid cream that can relieve occasional itchiness, while someone looking for a solution to their eczema would go with a steroid-free product that can be used long-term. 

According to dermatologist Hadley King, MD, if dry skin is your main issue, "humectants like hyaluronic acid or glycerin, emollients like ceramides and triglycerides, and occlusives like petrolatum or coconut oil" can help target the cause of your itchiness. Additionally, she recommends ingredients like menthol and camphor if you want an instant cooling effect, and hydrocortisone for reducing inflammation—although the latter should not be used regularly (so it's not the best choice for chronic conditions). Dermatologist Marie Hayag, MD, also suggests colloidal oatmeal, which has anti-inflammatory properties, and the topical version of diphenhydramine hydrochloride, an antihistamine. 

When applied topically in the form of a cream, gel, or lotion, these ingredients are effective in treating itchiness. "Itch is caused by over-firing of nerves in the skin. This is often aggravated when the skin barrier is disrupted, leading to microscopic cracks in the outer skin layer, loss of hydration and inflammation," explains dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD. "Anti-itch creams work in different ways, depending on the product."

If you're looking for relief, keep reading to learn more about the best anti-itch creams you can buy now, according to dermatologists.

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anti-itch creams lotions
Credit: Amazon

Best Spot Treatment: Cortizone-10 Plus Ultra Moisturizing Cream

Buy It, $8

"As far as over the counter itch creams go, hydrocortisone 1% is a workhorse," says dermatologist Susan Bard, MD. Dr. Hayag also recommends Cortizone-10 and says that it can be used up to twice a day, but warns not to use it for an extended period of time because it's a steroid. "It shouldn't be used on large areas of the body or broken skin, and you should avoid using it if you have allergies to corticosteroids like prednisone," she says. "If your skin condition doesn't improve within a week of using over-the-counter hydrocortisone, consult a doctor."

anti itch cream lotions
Credit: Walmart

Best Steroid-Free: Gold Bond Rapid Relief Anti-Itch Cream

Buy It, $4

Dermatologist Jaydeep Tripathy, MD, calls this non-prescription cream his top recommendation. "This cream contains aloe vera, vitamin E, and menthol, which helps to relieve itching quickly," he says. "It can also heal and protect the skin quickly, and you can feel the difference as you're applying it." The aloe vera and vitamin E in the steroid-free formula help to calm skin, while its other active ingredients—menthol and pramoxine hydrochloride—soothe itching from bug bites, poison ivy, and more.

anti-itch creams lotions
Credit: Amazon

Best for Dry Skin: Vaseline Pure Petroleum Jelly

Buy It, $4 (was $5)

If you're deeping with dryness, don't underestimate the effectiveness of good old petroleum jelly. "Triple purified petrolatum forms a protective seal over the skin to help repair, protect, and soothe inflammation and reduce itch," Dr. Zeichner tells Health. "It can be used for itches related to dry skin, conditions like eczema, or even healing burns. Apply a thin layer to the skin twice daily or more often as needed."

anti-itch creams lotions
Credit: Amazon

Most Versatile: Sarna Original Anti-Itch Lotion

Buy It, $10 (was $11)

Several dermatologists, including dermatologist Jeremy Fenton, MD, medical director at Schweiger Dermatology Group, recommend Sarna's anti-itch lotion as another steroid-free option.

"It contains ingredients like menthol and camphor that are designed to cool and soothe the skin as it's applied. This product is great because it treats dry skin, insect bites, sunburn, and poison ivy," says dermatologist Michele Green, MD. "This formula is gentle enough on skin that it can be used several times daily and it moisturizes the skin as it provides relief for the itch." 

Dr. King recommends storing it in the refrigerator to enhance its cooling effect.

anti-itch creams lotions
Credit: Amazon

Best Scented: Acure Calming Itch & Irritation Lotion

Buy It, $12

Colloidal oatmeal is the active ingredient in this steroid-free lotion, which comes highly recommended by plastic surgeon and skincare specialist Alexis Parcells, MD. "Colloidal oatmeal helps to ease dry skin, rashes, and general irritation," she says.

Dr. Fenton adds that, when combined with a thick moisturizer, colloidal oatmeal hydrates the skin, which in turn reduces itching. This vegan formula also contains soothing aloe vera and lavender oil, which has the bonus benefit of aromatherapy.

anti-itch creams lotions
Credit: Amazon

Best for Sensitive Skin: Sarna Sensitive Anti-Itch Moisturizing Lotion

Buy It, $10 (was $11)

If you have especially sensitive skin, then this alternative to Sarna's original lotion may be better suited to your needs, according to Dr. Bard. The steroid- and fragrance-free cream relieves dry and eczema-prone skin with the help of pramoxine hydrochloride. It's also approved by the National Eczema Association.

Aveeno Eczema Therapy Daily Moisturizing Cream for Sensitive Skin
Credit: Amazon

Best for Eczema: Aveeno Eczema Therapy Daily Moisturizing Cream

Buy It, $27

A daily moisturizing lotion is a must-have for anyone who suffers from chronically dry, itchy skin due to eczema, and Dr. Hayag recommends this one for everyday use. The fragrance-free cream contains colloidal oatmeal as its active ingredient and also contains petrolatum (a.k.a petroleum jelly) for an occlusive effect, which seals in moisture. Buying a three-pack saves money in the long run.

anti-itch creams lotions
Credit: Amazon

Best Body Lotion: CeraVe Moisturizing Lotion for Itch Relief

Buy It, $15 (was $16)

It's no secret that CeraVe is a favorite of many dermatologists (just look to TikTok for evidence). The brand's itch relief cream is approved by the National Eczema Association to be safe for those with eczema or sensitive skin. The fragrance-free lotion uses pramoxine hydrochloride to effectively treat itchiness without relying on steroids and also includes ceramides to keep skin hydrated. 

anti-itch creams lotions
Credit: Amazon

Best Multi-Benefit: Aveeno Maximum Strength 1% Hydrocortisone Anti-Itch Cream

Buy It, $10 (was $15)

If you prefer using hydrocortisone for spot-treating itchy bug bites, allergy flare-ups, or poison ivy, this is another great option from Aveeno. Recommended by Dr. Bard, it contains the brand's triple oat complex, aloe, and vitamin E for additional skin-soothing benefits, like relieving redness and irritation.

anti-itch creams lotions
Credit: Amazon

Best for an Active Lifestyle: Benadryl Extra Strength Cooling Relief Anti-Itch Gel

Buy It, $5

When you want to cover a large area of skin, Dr. Tripathy recommends choosing a product with diphenhydramine hydrochloride as the active ingredient over a hydrocortisone option. This topical gel by Benadryl is formulated to relieve all kinds of outdoor-related itches, like bug bites, poison ivy, sunburn, and minor cuts and scrapes.

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