What Is Itch Cream?

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison

The term itch cream is a bit of a misnomer, as it sounds a bit like a cream intended to cause itching. In fact, itch cream is meant to stop itching, so it is more suited to the term anti-itch cream. No matter what it is called, however, it is intended to treat itching and irritation. Some creams also treat inflammation.

A tube of itch cream.
A tube of itch cream.

There are many types and brands of itch cream, and some are sold over the counter (OTC) while others require a doctor’s prescription. One type of cream contains hydrocortisone, a type of steroid. This type may be used in treating skin conditions that cause itching, such as eczema. These creams may also help in treating seborrhea, which is marked by scaly, reddened patches of skin. However, most OTC creams that contain hydrocortisone only include a small amount of it, which may cause them to be less effective than a cream a doctor can prescribe.

Itch cream can be useful to people suffering from eczema.
Itch cream can be useful to people suffering from eczema.

OTC hydrocortisone itch creams typically contain one percent or less hydrocortisone. In fact, even those products labeled as maximum strength only have one percent of this substance. As such, some experts recommend skipping these products altogether in favor of a different type of OTC cream or one that has been prescribed by a doctor. For example, a doctor may prescribe a cream with more than one percent hydrocortisone, which may be more efficient at fighting itching.

Anti-itch cream may be applied to a person's hands.
Anti-itch cream may be applied to a person's hands.

A person may attempt to use hydrocortisone itch cream on insect bites, such as those inflicted by mosquitoes, fleas, and other pests. Unfortunately, hydrocortisone may not provide much relief in such cases. Instead, many people opt for calamine lotion. Some people forgo store-bought creams altogether in favor of pastes they make at home using water and baking soda; others use hemorrhoid cream to stop itching. Topical antihistamine creams, such as those containing diphenhydramine, may work as well, especially for itchy contact rashes and irritating insect bites.

Prescription hydrocortisone might alleviate itching better than OTC products.
Prescription hydrocortisone might alleviate itching better than OTC products.

Some creams are used for relieving itching caused by fungal infections. For example, a man with jock itch may purchase a tube of OTC cream that contains miconazole, clotrimazole, and tolnaftate. These creams help to kill the fungus that causes jock itch and relieve the itching as a matter of course. When jock itch is severe, however, it may be necessary to visit a doctor for something stronger. In such a case, a doctor may prescribe a prescription-strength topical medication, and in some cases, an oral medication may be prescribed as well.

Itch cream can help people with mosquito bites.
Itch cream can help people with mosquito bites.
Hydrocortisone cream that can be bought over-the-counter usually contains less than one percent of the steroid hydrocortisone.
Hydrocortisone cream that can be bought over-the-counter usually contains less than one percent of the steroid hydrocortisone.
Some itch creams can be used to treat seborrhea, which is characterized by scaly, reddened patches on the skin.
Some itch creams can be used to treat seborrhea, which is characterized by scaly, reddened patches on the skin.
Nicole Madison
Nicole 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


I have had a vaginal discharge for more than seven years, and I've seen many doctors, They gave me medicine, but it is still there. I am worried so much I don't know what I'm going to do.


@bluespirit - I am not usually a fan of posting name brands as I think you can usually use knock off brand and because it has the same active ingredients you will do just fine. However, when it comes to the super-itchy yeast infections - I go name brand all the way!

So I have to say I do not know if the off brands work, so do not take my word the wrong way (they might just work). I use Monistat. They used to have a seven-day treatment and now they have a one day and three day treatment for yeast infections.

The one-day treatment seemed too good to be true, so I used the three-day treatment and it worked like a charm. I did not use additional itch cream because the treatment itself seemed to do the trick, but I have seen in the same section a Monistat anti-itch cream as well.


@speechie - Ah yes, the pink calamine lotion, I remember it well (as well). It does make me feel old to think of the calamine lotion as well because it also makes me think of my childhood, but now I do not have to worry about poison ivy as much as...

..vaginal itch cream! Which needless to say makes me feel somewhat older. Seriously what is the deal with yeast infections? They are like the common cold they are so common.

Which at least makes me feel better about having my first one; however the itching is driving me crazy! What feminine itch cream should I check into for this annoyance??


When I think of itch cream I think of the days of yore (meaning my childhood days). I had a fantastic ability at finding poison ivy that would leave me with all of those fun red bumps.

Luckily I could find relief in that pink lotion called calamine lotion! I would be half-pink but I would find my skin much less irritated. I did find it hard not to get the pink lotion, as it would flake off on other things!

Now I have seen that this lotion, which I thought was the best itch cream ever for poison ivy; is clear! It is pink no longer. While I am sure that is better for all involved (no unsightly pink mess for the kid, and no pink flakes to clean up for the parent); I feel that the lotion is not the same without the pinkness!

It’s like clear Pepto-Bismol! Just would not be the same!


There is nothing more aggravating than a bug bite that won't stop itching. It seems like the more you scratch at it, the more it itches.

The best thing I have found is something called Caladryl lotion. You can find this at any drug store, and it is a light pink colored lotion.

As soon as I get any kind of bite I apply a little bit of this with a cotton ball and let it dry. The itching stops immediately. Sometimes I will apply it more than once, but it doesn't take very many applications to notice a big difference.

A bottle of this lasts me a long time, but I always try to keep some on hand because I have not found anything else that is as effective for me.


@tigers88 - I'm glad you found something that works for you. I have the same problem and it can drive you nuts. Ironically, I found relief in pretty much the exact opposite of the way that you did.

I had tried everything. I used prescription, OTC, cream, powder, you name it. Some of it worked, but the things that did were pretty expensive.

One day at the dollar store, I happened across a cream with all kinds of promises on the label about killing fungal infections and relieving the symptoms. I figured I had nothing to lose for a dollar, so I bought some and took it home.

It works great! Not only helps tremendously with the symptoms, but it actually kills the infection. It does eventually come back, but another dose sends it packing again.

Did I mention it's only a dollar? Best thing I ever stumbled across, let me tell you. I have no idea what it's called, but every time I'm at the dollar store I usually buy every one they have.


Every time I get any kind of mosquito or bug bite, I always swell up and the bite does not go away for a few weeks.

I have tried many different creams to help with the itching, and the best anti-itch cream for me has hydrocortisone in it. It doesn't seem to make much difference in how fast the bite goes away, but it helps a lot with the itching.

When I have used creams that don't have any steroids in them, I don't get much relief and the itching only stops for a few minutes.


@seag47 - My wife has problems with yeast infections occasionally. I have learned more than I want to know about that particular problem, I can assure you. We find the Monistat itch relief cream to be very helpful for the symptoms, but to treat the actual infection there is a very strange choice of medicine.

They have it in a one, three, or seven-day dosing. As far as I can tell, they do the same thing, only some work faster than others. Why would anyone buy the slower one? There is only a few dollars difference in the price. Is this really where you want to save money?


Is there anything worse in the whole world than an itch you can't fix? I had the chicken pox when I was a kid and I thought I was going to tear my skin off.

The best thing I found for it was a combination of Aveeno itch cream and their oatmeal bath. I hated taking baths when I was a little kid but I sure took a lot of them that week. It was the only thing that kept me sane. The cream worked really well too. Between the two, I still have some skin left on my body.

Different creams work better for different problems, so I always keep a couple of different kinds around the house.


I often get acne breakouts. They flare up under the skin and form a red lump before surfacing. These lumps usually itch a lot, and I use hydrocortisone to relieve them. This keeps me from scratching them, which really hurts and irritates them further.

In addition to easing the itch, hydrocortisone can also reduce swelling and redness. Sometimes, it even makes the bump go away before ever forming a head.

When I can’t resist popping a bump that is ready to burst, I often end up with a red, inflamed area. Hydrocortisone can relieve this, too. It makes the spot heal faster, and it helps me hide it under makeup by taking away some of the swelling and toning down the bright red color.


I have problems with fire ants in my yard. Anyone who has ever been bitten by them knows the pain and itching that follows. Once the pain subsides, the itching persists for days.

I was yanking up weeds once, and I did not know that ants were building a home under the grass. When I pulled the weeds up, ants went flying through the air and coated my arms and legs. Before I could swat them all off, they bit me several times.

I used calamine lotion, because it can be applied over a larger area than some itch creams. It dries out the area that you apply it to, and so it sucks out toxins and relieves the itch. Though I looked pink and crusty while wearing it, I felt so much better.


Last summer, I had a yeast infection that I treated with OTC tioconozole. I must have been allergic to the medicine, because the area swelled up. I went to the hospital, but all they told me was that I had experienced an allergic reaction. They gave me some powder for the itching, but it did not help much at all.

Luckily, my sister-in-law had experienced the same thing before. She brought me a tube of antihistamine anti-itch cream. It turned out to be the only thing that worked. I was so grateful, because I was in misery, and no doctor I visited seemed to know what to do with me.

I kept the cream in my purse and applied it several times a day. I especially needed it at night. Eventually, the problem went away, and I believe this cream had everything to do with my healing.


I have very sensitive skin and some fabrics cause an allergic reaction. I moved into a new apartment last week and I don't know what caused it but as I was cleaning, my legs began to itch and became very red.

I rushed to the closest store and picked up a hyrocortisone cream and applied it. Thankfully, the itch went away in half an hour. I don't know what I would have done otherwise because it happened so quickly.

Now I always keep a tube of this cream with me just in case it happens again at an unexpected time.


Hydrocortisone always helped lessen the itchiness of mosquito bites for me. Though it didn’t do much for stronger itches, it was plenty powerful to take the irritation out of these red bumps.

I often get tick bites, because I have four dogs and I live in an area surrounded by woods and tall grass. Hydrocortisone cannot stop the extreme itching caused by ticks. After I remove them, the itching persists for over a week.

I use an antihistamine itch cream for relief from tick bites. It is the only thing that will soothe it enough to let me get some sleep.


I played a lot of high school sports and I will admit that jock itch and athletes foot are pretty constant problems. For that reason I ended up trying a ton of different jock itch creams looking for something that would provide some relief.

At first I was not finding much that worked. All o them either failed to take away the itch or they did little to clear up the infection. But the best jock itch cream I ever found was this natural product they sold at a health food store buy my house. My mom always used to buy it an unfortunately the name escaped me.

Unlike traditional itch relief cream, this was made of all natural ingredients. It had an herby kind of smell and it came out in this thick paste. I can;t say it was the most pleasant substance but it did take the itch away fast. For anyone struggling with this problem you might consider looking to alternative treatments instead of relying entirely on the pharmacy.


I wish that there was one itch cream that worked really really well. It seems to me like almost all of them just take the itch away for a minute or two, or only dull the feeling of the itch. But as I'm sure we all know, when you want to to itch, when you are covered with bug bites or poison ivy, you are going to itch no matter how much cream you use.

That why I wish there was one really good, really reliable product. The drugstore is filled with different kinds of itch cream, but none of them works well! Lets hope that the magic bullet is out there somewhere.

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