Although itchy skin is typically not a life-threatening condition, it can drive you a bit mad depending on the severity. The causes can include insects bites, blisters, a brush with poison ivy, or more persistent skin diseases such as eczema and psoriasis. While a wide variety of creams and medications are available to treat the itch, a good old-fashioned salt treatment often works wonders. However, the best salts to use are not the ones sitting on your kitchen table.
Epsom Salt versus Sea Salt
The salt that many doctors and health providers recommend for use in skin treatments is Epsom salt. This salt, available at drug stores and general retailers, is made of magnesium sulfate. According to Dr. Craig A. Maxwell, this ingredient soothes irritated skin and draws out toxins as well. It works by drying out oozing itches and insect bites, while leaving the remaining healthy skin cleansed and soothed. Epsom salts are safe for most people, but pregnant women, people with diabetes, and those with a known allergy to sulfur should not use Epsom salts. These individuals can safely and effectively substitute large-grained sea salt to achieve the same skin-soothing results.
Soothing Salt Soaks
A bath soak is the best option for larger areas of dry skin experienced by people who have pervasive skin disorders. A bath soak is also effective for treating large areas of insect bites, or a case of poison ivy. Fill a tub with warm -- not hot -- water, and add 1 to 2 cups of Epsom salt or sea salt. Stir the water with your hand to gently dissolve most of the granules, and then soak in the water for up to 20 minutes. Gently pat your skin dry after getting out. Repeat the salt soak once per week.
Concentrated Treatment with Compresses
For smaller areas of itchy skin -- such as bug bites or contained areas of poison ivy -- a compress can concentrate the treatment. Fill a large bowl with 2 cups of cold water and add 4 tablespoons of Epsom or sea salt. Stir the solution well to dissolve the granules. Insert a clean washcloth into the salt mixture, saturating it. Wring the cloth out and fold it in half or quarters, depending on the size of the affected area. Lie or sit down, and place the washcloth onto the affected area of your skin, leaving it in place for up to 20 minutes.
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Salt Paste Stays in Place
If you need to move around while treating your itchiness, a salt paste may work better than a compress. Fill a bowl with 1 cup of hot water, and add 1 teaspoon of Epsom or sea salt. Mix the solution until dissolved, then place it into a refrigerator for 20 minutes. Wash and dry your skin well while you are waiting for the solution to chill. Remove the mixture from the fridge, and use a clean makeup brush to apply the paste to the affected areas. Cover the paste with a gauze pad and medical tape. Remove the dressing at night, and wash the skin clean.
Kimberly Johnson is a freelance writer whose articles have appeared in various online publications including eHow, Suite101 and Examiner. She has a degree in journalism from the University of Georgia and began writing professionally in 2001.