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Best cream for itchy skin rash: Blitz the itch of rashes and bites, from £2.38

Jane Hoskyn
24 May 2022
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When you’ve got an itch that just won’t scratch, our recommended best creams for itchy skin rashes are ready to deliver speedy relief

Itchy skin rashes can drive you mad. Allergic rashes, bug bites, nettle stings and extreme weather can all bring itchy despair to even the healthiest skin. Itchy skin can also be a symptom of a long-term skin condition such as eczema or dermatitis, which may flare up in response to anything from sunshine to stress, truly making life a misery.

The best creams for itchy skin rashes bring relief in different ways, by targeting the itch itself and the causes of the itch. Antihistamine creams fight your body’s response to bites and allergens; steroid creams fight inflammation; and local anaesthetic creams block the pain and discomfort of itching almost instantly. Then there are thick emollient moisturisers that soothe itchy dry skin and create a barrier to prevent chafing and break the dreaded cycle of itching and scratching.

Read on for our guide to choosing and buying the best anti-itch cream for you. Or to go straight to our recommended best creams for itchy skin rashes of different types, skip down the page.

How to choose the best cream for your itchy skin rash

What causes itchy skin rash?

Eczema and atopic (contact) dermatitis are chronic skin conditions that cause dry, scaly patches and bumpy rashes. Potent steroid creams can combat the itching fast, but an emollient or humectant moisturiser (such as shea butter) is recommended for longer-term use.

Allergies to substances such as pollen, detergent and latex can cause itchy rashes, and may trigger an attack of atopic dermatitis.

Bites from mosquitoes can also prompt an allergic reaction from your body. Your immune system is more likely to overreact to bites if you have other allergies, eczema or hay fever. Bites from bed bugs and mites look more like rashes, so they can be harder to diagnose but just as easy to treat with pain-killing steroid creams and antihistamine creams.

Hives and psoriasis cause itching beneath the surface of your skin. Hives are particularly common in summer because the condition is exacerbated by sweat, so keep your skin dry, your clothes loose, and your anti-itch cream close at hand.

Fungal skin infections such as athlete’s foot, jock itch and ringworm are best treated using antifungal creams and medicines. See our roundup of the best cream for fungal infections for recommended treatments.

What are the active ingredients in creams for itchy skin rashes?

The best creams for skin rashes target the pain of itching (for example, an anaesthetic cream) or the cause of rash (for example, an antihistamine cream). For the best results, go for a belt-and-braces approach and use both. Indeed, a couple of our recommended creams contain both local anaesthetics and antihistamines.

Here are some of the specific ingredients you’ll see listed in anti-itch creams.

Benzocaine is a local anaesthetic that soothes pain and itching really fast. It’s gentle enough to use on all kinds of itchy skin rash, but as with most active ingredients you’ll want to avoid getting benzocaine on skin that you’ve damaged by scratching.

Mepyramine maleate is a topical antihistamine that fights your body’s itchy reaction to allergens such as bug bites and certain plants. It appears in numerous itch-killing creams, sometimes alongside an anaesthetic.

Hydrocortisone is a type of steroid that reduces inflammation, stopping itching and discomfort quickly. It’s especially effective on insect bites. Only use it for seven days maximum, though, because it can cause your skin to thin and weaken, making it more susceptible to bleeding and infection.

Crotamiton is a powerful itch-reliever that combats skin irritation caused by dermatitis and allergic rashes. It can provide relief from itching for several hours after each application, and can be used long-term, unlike hydrocortisone. It doesn’t stop the itch quite as fast as a steroid, though, so you can buy creams (such as Eurax HC) that combine crotamiton with hydrocortisone for fast and long-acting relief.

Emollients (protective moisturisers) such as shea butter lock in moisture, helping to relieve rashes and itching caused by dryness. Shea butter in particular has also been found to have anti-inflammatory properties that help to calm itchiness.

Menthol and camphor both have an instant cooling effect, and are often found in creams and balms designed to combat the itch of rashes such as prickly heat.

Clotrimazole and terbinafine hydrochloride are antifungal medicines that kill the fungus that causes jock itch, athlete’s foot and ringworm.

READ NEXT: Best cream for fungal infections

The best creams for itchy skin rash to buy now

1. Anthisan Bite and Sting: Best antihistamine for itchy skin rash

Price: £2.38 for 20g | Buy now from Amazon

If you’re having an itchy reaction to an allergen – bug bite, pet hair, poison ivy and so on – or you suffer from contact dermatitis, then an antihistamine cream applied directly to the site of the rash will blitz the itching much faster than a tablet. You shouldn’t put it on broken skin, but you can massage it in to increase blood flow to the area and promote healing.

The itch relief you get from this thick cream, which does take a little while to absorb, isn’t quite as fast as with a steroid or local anaesthetic cream. However, it lasts longer because it’s targeting your body’s response (“histamine” chemicals) to the allergen rather than just masking the itch itself. Also, if you put this cream on as soon as you’ve been bitten, it may prevent the itch and rash from appearing at all.

Key specs – Size: 20g; Cream type: Antihistamine; Active ingredient: Mepyramine maleate 2%


2. Lanacane Creme: Best anaesthetic cream to stop all types of itching fast

Price: £4 for 30g | Buy now from Amazon

When you can’t hang around waiting for an antihistamine to work and you need to stop the itching right now, Lanacane is the cream to reach for. Its active ingredient, benzocaine, is a local anaesthetic that numbs your skin’s pain receptors, providing cooling relief and curbing the urge to scratch. And because it targets the itch itself rather than whatever caused it, it’s suitable for all kinds of itchy rash, from heat rash to genital itching.

We’ve found that Lanacane numbs itching for longer than hydrocortisone steroid creams, and apparently this is because it doesn’t “confuse” your body’s pain receptors. It also creates a protective barrier, and is safe to use in super-sensitive places and on open sores, although it may sting a bit at first.

Key specs – Size: 30g; Cream type: Anaesthetic; Active ingredient: Benzocaine 3%


3. Eurax Cream: Best anti-itch cream for dermatitis and eczema

Price: £5 for 100g | Buy now from Amazon

Crotamiton is a topical painkiller that numbs the receptors in your skin; it breaks the vicious circle of itching and scratching that makes conditions such as eczema and contact dermatitis a living nightmare.

Unlike many itch-blockers it can safely be used for as long as you need to, so it’s ideal for tackling chronic conditions, but it also works really well against all kinds of itchy rash, from nettle stings to heat rash and sunburn. Eurax smells rather nice but is on the thick side, so if your skin is sensitive you may want to mix the cream with a little baby oil to make it easier to spread.

You can also buy Eurax HC cream, which adds a small dose of hydrocortisone (0.25%) to quickly tackle the acute itchy inflammation you get from an insect bite. For long-term use, though, the crotamiton-only formula is your best bet.

Key specs – Size: 100g; Cream type: Anaesthetic; Active ingredient: Crotamiton 10%


4. Cytolax Barrier Cream: Best cream to stop chafing and scratching

Price: £8.54 for 120g | Buy now from Amazon

Chafing is a prime cause of itchy skin rashes, and the best way to soothe and prevent it is to create a soft, smooth barrier with a rich emollient moisturiser. Cytolax contains shea butter and aloe vera but no harsh chemical additives, so it’s hypoallergenic and safe to use on your most sensitive bits. Its long-lasting soothing properties mean you’ll be less inclined to scratch and make things worse, and it will even help to heal damaged skin.

The cream is magnificently soft and rich, but it absorbs well and doesn’t feel at all greasy. Bodily fluids (yep, all of them) won’t get through this barrier, so it’s ideal for protecting your skin while cycling, hiking and sun-seeking, even if you suffer from conditions such as eczema. A good buy at under a tenner for 120g, too.

Key specs – Size: 120g; Cream type: Emollient; Active ingredients: Aloe vera, shea butter


5. HC45 Hydrocortisone Cream: Best anti-itch cream for insect bites

Price: £4.50 for 15g | Buy now from Boots

HC45’s active ingredient is 1% hydrocortisone, a topical steroid that fights inflammation and can dramatically shrink swollen bites within a couple of days. It can be used safely in conjunction with antihistamine and anaesthetic creams if you want to kill your itch with maximum power.

HC45 is the most expensive cream on our list, at £4.50 for just 15g, but a tiny bit goes a long way. You’re only meant to put it on the site of the itching, and it’s not suitable for open wounds. And even though it feels quite soothing at first, it will make your skin thinner (hence short-term use only) and make it more susceptible to bleeding or infection if you scratch.

Key specs – Size: 15g; Cream type: Steroid; Active ingredient: Hydrocortisone 1%

Buy now from Boots


6. Aveeno Dermexa Emollient Cream: Best natural cream for itchy skin rash

Price: £10.50 for 200ml | Buy now from Boots

This intensely moisturising cream from Aveeno contains no anaesthetic or antihistamine chemicals, just a wealth of skin-softening emollient ingredients including a prebiotic complex of oatmeal and oat oil.

Dermexa is ideal for treating very dry skin and eczema (the cream is National Eczema Association approved), and will help to strengthen your skin's natural defences if you use it long-term.

It is a little too thick to use on your face and won't go well under makeup, but it does a great job of soothing dry, sore, itchy patches on your arms, chest and legs without feeling greasy.

Key specs – Size: 200ml; Cream type: Emollient; Active ingredient: Prebiotic Triple Oat Complex, ceramides

Buy now from Boots


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