What Causes Itching Legs?

N. Madison
N. Madison

There are many things that may cause itching legs, including rashes. For example, if a person starts using a new detergent or soap, he may develop a contact rash on his legs that causes him to itch. An individual may also develop itchy legs after touching an irritant such as poison ivy. Other causes include allergies to ingredients in perfumed lotions; hot, frequent showers; and folliculitis. Another condition called restless leg syndrome also can cause the legs to itch.

Exposure to poison ivy may cause itching legs.
Exposure to poison ivy may cause itching legs.

Dry skin is a common cause of itching legs. Often, a person has dry skin because of genetics, but sometimes a person's behavior or actions may cause it to develop. For example, some people shower or bathe too frequently while others may bathe in water that is too hot or use harsh soaps and body washes that contribute to dry skin. Sometimes a person may use perfumed lotions that are supposed to moisturize his skin but only seem to make matters worse. In addition, poor nutrition, lack of adequate hydration, aging, exposure to wind, and some chronic skin conditions may also lead to the development of itchy legs.

Taking frequent hot showers may cause itching legs.
Taking frequent hot showers may cause itching legs.

Sometimes itching legs are caused by a condition called restless leg syndrome. Scientist are not sure what causes restless leg syndrome, but some believe it may be the result of imbalances in a chemical called dopamine in a person’s brain. When an individual has restless leg syndrome, his legs feel itchy and twitchy when he sits or lies down. He typically feels an urge to get up and move his legs, which often results in temporary relief. In addition to itching, a person with restless leg syndrome may have achy, crawling feelings that affect his legs, or he may feel a burning sensation in them.

Inadequate hydration may cause itching legs.
Inadequate hydration may cause itching legs.

An individual may also have itching legs that develop because because of a condition called folliculitis. Folliculitis is an infection of the hair follicles. It can cause bumps, swelling, blisters filled with pus, and redness. Itchiness is one of the main symptoms of folliculitis, but the condition may also cause pain. In some cases, folliculitis may leave scarring behind when the infection is over.

Itching legs may occur as a result of the aging process.
Itching legs may occur as a result of the aging process.

While an individual may develop itchy skin on any part of his body, leg itching can sometimes be among the hardest to ignore. This may be due to the fact that wearing pants often causes friction that serves to make the itching worse. Additionally, irritants in the pants, such as detergent residue, may aggravate the problem.

Body wash products can sometimes cause itching legs.
Body wash products can sometimes cause itching legs.
Infection of the hair follicles can cause itching and redness in the legs.
Infection of the hair follicles can cause itching and redness in the legs.
Rashes can be a cause of itching legs.
Rashes can be a cause of itching legs.
Itching legs may be the result of imbalances in a chemical called dopamine in a person’s brain.
Itching legs may be the result of imbalances in a chemical called dopamine in a person’s brain.
N. Madison
N. Madison

Nicole’s thirst for knowledge inspired her to become a wiseGEEK writer, and she focuses primarily on topics such as homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. When not writing or spending time with her four children, Nicole enjoys reading, camping, and going to the beach.

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Discussion Comments


@manykitties2: Best thing to do is have it checked with a dermatologist. I'll tell you what I experienced, but your skin problem might not be the same as mine.

I also have spots on my lower legs that are reddish and brownish, and they look like goosebumps! They are not going away so I visited a dermatologist. She said that the itchy spots are caused by very dry skin. Odd, because my face is always oily. She told me to make a paste out of 1 tsp colloidal oatmeal and 2 tsp water, and apply to the affected areas before bathing (leave on 5-10 minutes). She said I should only use very mild soap like "Dove - sensitive skin".

After bathing, I apply either a prescribed ointment to soothe the red itchy spots (I choose not to name it because I read it can be harmful if used on a different skin condition) --or-- when the red itchy spots are gone, moisturizing lotion made from colloidal oatmeal is what I apply. And every morning I take some kind of anti-allergy tablet, also as prescribed. It's my second day of doing this regimen and I think it has started to improve a bit.


I have restless leg syndrome, I have shown all the positive results for this, but can someone tell me if it's that harmful. I really can't help myself with this shaking of my leg. It's like a part of my life.


@manykitties2 - Have you tried using aloe vera gel? It always gets rid of my itching.

I have used it on everything from sunburn to bug bites, and it instantly soothes the irritation. You can put it on several times a day if necessary, but I would definitely recommend putting it on your legs as soon as you get out of the shower.

I sometimes use it instead of lotion after shaving my legs. It has a cooling effect that takes away the sting of the razor, and it can also prevent itching before it begins. Aloe vera is a natural healer, so you don’t have to worry about harsh chemicals causing an allergic reaction.


In the winter, I can’t help but take hot showers. I hate being cold and wet, so I drench myself in warmth to avoid getting chill bumps in the shower.

This dries my skin out a lot. My legs are especially sensitive to it, because I shave them every other day, and that dries them out even more.

I absolutely have to use lotion when I get out of the shower. If I don’t, then I won’t be able to bear the itching and flaking.

I use an ultra-moisturizing lotion formulated for dry skin. It covers my legs in a protective coating, and it stops the itch before it has a chance to progress.


I got folliculitis from shaving my bikini line, and it was no fun! Within a few minutes of using the razor there, big red bumps appeared over the entire area.

The next day, they had filled up with pus. I tried to squeeze them, but it hurt so bad! It even hurt to wear underwear, because it sat right on top of the area where the bumps started.

I was about to go on vacation, and I had to wear a swimsuit bottom with a skirt attached to cover the area. I didn’t even get to wear the swimsuit I had bought just for the occasion.

Also, the chlorine from the hotel pool burned like crazy. Salt water from the ocean didn’t help, either.

I will never shave there with a regular disposable razor again! I hear that electric razors are much more gentle.


@wander - It is so common to get folliculitis from hot tubs that doctors have actually termed it “hot tub folliculitis.” If the water isn’t filtered thoroughly enough, dead skin can build up in there and cause the infection.

I had it after sitting in a hotel hot tub. I used silver sulfadiazine cream, and that helped it go away quicker.

Still, it took over a week to disappear completely. My friend also got it, and she had to go get antibiotics for hers.

I guess it all depends on how sensitive your skin is. Some people get over it without drugs, but others have to have help.


Is it true that you can get folliculitis from soaking in a hot tub?

I recently was at a hotel that had a public hot tub and now I have red bumps along my legs that really itch. On top of that there are also a few on my lower back and buttocks.

The itching is driving me nuts and it looks pretty bad too. I have tried bathing in salt water and that seems to have helped a bit, but I am thinking I may need to see a doctor before long, as the bumps aren't going away. Do you think that I should go to the clinic about the rash? Or is there an at home remedy that might work?


@manykitties2 - There may be a chance that you will have to replace the blade you are using to shave your legs. Last year I got some itchy bumps on my legs and I found some skin rash pictures on line that looked exactly like what I had. It could be something as simple as razor burn.

Another thing it might be is very dry skin. Dry skin can itch and leave bumps as well. If using lotion and changing your razor doesn't help you may want to go and see a dermatologist about your problem. The feeling of itchy skin all over, especially on you legs can be really uncomfortable.


There is nothing I hate more than skin rashes that itch. Right now I have itchy skin bumps on my legs and I am not sure what to do to get rid of them. I don't think they are an allergic reaction, as I pretty careful about not getting too close to anything that I know is an allergen. I also haven't made any changes to the soaps I use.

The bumps themselves are almost like goosebumps, except that they're not going away. I have tried rubbing them with cream and that hasn't helped at all. Does anyone have any suggestions about how to stop the itching on my legs and the itchy bumps on my skin I am experiencing?

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