Here's how to get rid of the itch.
Itchy breasts can be such a predicament. Of course, one of the universal truths of having skin is that it’s going to get itchy at some point. And that's usually no big deal—if you have an itch on your arm, you scratch it. Ditto for your leg. But when it comes to itchy boobs? Sure, you could scratch them, but given the body part in question, you’ll probably wonder, Uh, why are my boobs itchy in the first place?
While itchy breasts (and itchy nipples) are usually nothing to majorly worry about, it could be a sign that something is up with your health. Here are some common reasons you have itchy boobs, plus when you should discuss the issue with your doctor.
Itchy Breast Symptoms
FWIW: Having itchy boobs can be totally normal. It’s even not unheard-of to feel itchy enough to see a doctor about it. “I see a few patients every month with this complaint,” Gary Goldenberg, M.D., assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, tells SELF.
There are no official set-in-stone symptoms of itchy boobs (other than the obvious), but Dr. Goldenberg says his patients have mentioned experiencing the following:
- Itchy nipples
- Irritation under the breasts
- Skin irritation
- A burning sensation
Itchy Breast Causes
There are actually a lot of different things that can cause itchy boobs, and they range from NBD to more serious causes (although the latter is definitely rarer).
1. You last washed your bra…uh…you actually can’t quite remember.
You probably have a go-to bra or two that you wear more often than you'd care to admit, and you probably wash them close to never. Unfortunately, this can cause issues with your boobs. “Dirty clothes, including underclothes, often have bacteria that can…irritate the skin,” Dr. Goldenberg says. If the circumstances are exactly right—like if you have a cut in your skin and bacteria from a dirty bra get into a crack in your skin—this can even cause an infection.
2. You got a sunburn.
If you’ve been topless outdoors recently, whether it was on a beach or in your backyard, this could be your issue. Your breast skin is sensitive and can easily get burned, especially since it's not typically exposed to sunlight. Along with delightful side effects like peeling, sunburns can cause intense itching thanks to skin irritation.
3. You have a heat rash.
Along those same lines, getting a heat rash on your chest can also cause itchy breasts, Sherry A. Ross, M.D., a women's health expert and author of She-ology: The Definitive Guide to Women's Intimate Health. Period, tells SELF. “When breasts get overheated and start to perspire, the skin of the breasts can become irritated, red, and itchy,” she explains. Indeed, heat rash typically happens when sweat gets trapped under your skin, blocking your pores, according to the Mayo Clinic.
4. Your soap, laundry detergent, or dryer sheets aren’t agreeing with you.
Contact dermatitis is an allergic reaction that can happen when your skin is exposed to something it doesn’t like, and itchiness is one of its major giveaways, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) says. If you wash your bras with regular detergent or dry them with dryer sheets, it’s possible your boobs will riot and become itchy. (Same goes for towels, sheets if you sleep in the nude, and basically anything else that can come into contact with your chest, including your body wash.) Fragrance in particular is often a culprit behind allergic contact dermatitis, especially if you have sensitive skin.
5. You have eczema.
Eczema is a chronic skin condition that causes dry, itchy inflammation that can show up as a scaly rash, per the AAD. While it typically affects areas like the backs of the knees and crooks of the elbows, it can affect your breasts too. If you’ve had itchy breasts for a while and you can’t pinpoint why, eczema could be the cause, Jack Jacoub, M.D., a medical oncologist and medical director of MemorialCare Cancer Institute at Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California, tells SELF.
6. You have psoriasis.
There are many different types of psoriasis, but plaque psoriasis is most common, the Mayo Clinic says. With this condition, skin cells build up and form dry, scaly, itchy patches called plaques, typically on areas like the elbows, knees, lower back, and scalp. Unfortunately, much like eczema, psoriasis can also show up on or under your boobs. On top of both being frustrating, that can make these conditions easy to confuse. Here’s some helpful information on how to tell the difference between psoriasis and eczema.
7. Your boobs hate your bra.
Bras are made with all different types of fabric, and some versions can be seriously irritating to your breasts. "Synthetic fabrics are the biggest problem," Dr. Goldenberg says, calling out polyester and latex as some of the top potential irritants. This is another potential culprit to pay special attention to if you have sensitive skin that protests at the slightest hint of certain fabrics.
8. You have a yeast infection under your boobs.
You probably associate yeast infections with your vagina. You wouldn’t be wrong, since they can certainly afflict vaginas and cause all sorts of symptoms like wonky discharge and swelling. But yeast infections are actually pretty common under the breasts too, Dr. Goldenberg says. Moisture can get trapped under there, creating an environment that’s perfect for yeast to grow, which can result in itchy boobs.
9. You have dry skin.
We’d be remiss not to mention this one. Yep, good old-fashioned dry skin could be the reason you have itchy boobs. “Dry skin anywhere on the body can cause itching,” notes Dr. Ross. If you’re prone to dry skin, be sure to keep your breasts moisturized.
10. You are pregnant, recently gave birth, or are breastfeeding.
Pregnancy, having a baby, and breastfeeding can all set off a pretty major breast change that can contribute to itchy boobs and itchy nipples: Your breasts can go way up in size, says Dr. Ross. Which, you knew that already, but it bears repeating here because that change can lead to stretch marks, which Dr. Ross notes can cause itching in some people as they form. And the breastfeeding process specifically may cause your nipples to become dry and irritated from all that contact.
11. You have hypothyroidism.
Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) is when your thyroid gland doesn’t make enough hormones to keep your body running smoothly, according to the Mayo Clinic. Your thyroid is a small gland in your neck with a huge job: It essentially governs your body’s metabolism, meaning that thyroid issues can manifest in myriad ways. An underactive thyroid can cause dry skin that can lead to itchy breasts, in addition to many other symptoms like fatigue, constipation, thinning hair, and a slower heart rate, the Mayo Clinic says.
12. You’re taking a medication that causes itchy skin.
So many medications come with a long list of side effects, and itchy skin can be one of them. These can include things like blood pressure medications, says Dr. Ross, or even aspirin, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.
13. In extremely rare cases, itchy boobs can be a symptom of cancer.
If you have breast itchiness, it’s much more likely that it’s due to one of the above reasons and not breast cancer. With that said, there’s a small chance it could be inflammatory breast cancer, a rare but aggressive form of the disease that invades your skin’s dermis (the layer of skin that lies beneath your epidermis, the outer layer of skin), creating an inflammatory response, Dr. Jacoub explains. Inflammatory breast cancer also usually has other symptoms including a rash; orange-peel skin; and red, inflamed skin that’s hot to the touch, Dennis Holmes, M.D., a breast cancer surgeon and researcher and interim director of the Margie Petersen Breast Center at John Wayne Cancer Institute at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, tells SELF.
It could also be Paget’s disease of the breast, another rare form of breast cancer in which cancer cells go through the milk ducts and collect in or around the nipple, Dr. Holmes says. With Paget’s disease, you may also have flaky or scaly skin around your nipple, bloody nipple discharge, or a newly inverted nipple, per the Mayo Clinic.
14. You’re currently getting radiation for breast cancer.
Radiation is unpleasant for many reasons—and itchy boobs can be one of them. “Radiation received during treatment for breast cancer completely dries out…the skin of the affected breast, which can result in itching,” explains Dr. Ross. “Keeping the skin moisturized during treatment will help reduce this side effect from breast radiation.”
Treatments and Remedies for Itchy Breasts
The best way to treat your itchy boobs largely depends on what’s causing the issue in the first place. But, in general, these are some good steps to take to try to get relief:
1. Dab on a topical antibiotic: If you’re itchy, Dr. Goldenberg says that a topical antibiotic cream like Neosporin may help with the irritation.
2. Use an intense moisturizer: You can help soothe your itchy boobs with a moisturizer, Dr. Goldenberg says. The best moisturizer for your itchy breasts will depend on your preferences. Here’s some information about skin-care ingredients that actually help moisturize dry skin.
3. Soothe your sunburn: If a sunburn is your issue, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends cool baths or showers and aloe-vera-based moisturizers to calm your overheated skin. Here are some good tips for how to make your poor skin feel better after a sunburn.
4. Try a new bra: Wearing lightweight bras and undergarments can help keep the skin of your breasts cool, lowering your risk of developing a rash, Dr. Ross says. If you recently tried out a new bra and developed itching, Dr. Goldenberg recommends switching to something that uses a natural fabric such as cotton.
5. Slather on a topical steroid cream: An over-the-counter topical steroid cream can help with itchiness, Dr. Goldenberg says. The Mayo Clinic mentions that it may help to put a cool, wet cloth over the skin in question for some additional soothing action.
6. Opt for an anti-yeast cream: If you suspect your itchy breasts are due to a yeast infection, Dr. Goldenberg says you’ll need to keep the area dry and use a topical anti-yeast medication. This kind of medication is available over the counter, but since so many things can cause itchy breasts, it’s a good idea to check in with your doctor before taking this route. You’ll want to make sure you’re not treating a “yeast infection” under your boobs when the cause is actually something like eczema or psoriasis.
7. Check your medication: If you think your medication is causing itchy skin, it might be worth talking to your doctor, who may be able to adjust your dosage or switch up the medication you’re taking.
When to See a Doctor About Itchy Boobs
If you have itchy breasts or itchy nipples and it’s new, it’s probably due to something pretty harmless like a bad detergent. So trying something basic, like moisturizing your boobs more or using a specialized cream should help. But if it persists or comes with other symptoms, or you can’t think of a reason you’re so itchy, call your doctor just in case.
Preventing Itchy Breasts
Itchy breasts are sometimes just a fact of life, but they’re preventable in some cases. In general, washing your bra regularly—Dr. Goldenberg recommends at least once a week—and keeping scented products away from your boobs should help lower the odds itchy boobs will happen to you. Making sure you’re moisturizing your breasts along with the rest of your body and protecting any skin you’re exposing to the sun with sunscreen that has at least SPF 30—including on the special occasions you get to give your boobs some time alfresco—is also crucial. Beyond that, if you have a health condition that’s causing your itchy breasts, talking to your doctor may shed more light on ways to keep the itch to a minimum.
Original article appeared on SELF US | Author Korin Miller