Whether it's from environmental elements, like ultraviolet (UV) rays, smoke, and pollution, or from lifestyle factors, like skin care products, clothing, and masks, your skin faces several irritants every single day. So, if you notice your skin getting red or itchy, don't panic. Knowing how to get rid of irritated skin starts with taking note of your symptoms and pinning down the cause.

Irritated skin isn't a diagnosis; it just describes visible skin damage, which can present itself in many different ways. Whenever your skin gets red, itchy, flaky, or a combination of these things, it's a sign of a compromised skin barrier. Itchy skin can be a nuisance, causing discomfort or unsightly rashes and bumps, but the good news is that irritated skin is common and easily treatable.

Once you identify the problem, you can learn how to soothe irritated skin, treat it appropriately, and take steps to prevent it from happening again.

Identify the Root of the Problem

Figuring out the cause of your skin reaction can be tricky. It's not always obvious, and the truth is there are countless ways for skin to get irritated. You should be able to describe your symptoms and determine if your skin is experiencing common irritations, like the following:

  • Red, itchy rash: You may have contact dermatitis. According to the Mayo Clinic, contact dermatitis is caused by direct contact with or an allergic reaction to a substance. The rash isn't contagious or life-threatening, but in more severe cases, it can result in blisters, burning, and tenderness. Skin care products, makeup, fragrances, plants, and jewelry can all cause contact dermatitis.
  • Dry patches: When your skin is feeling raw and looking red and extra dry, this can be a sign of atopic dermatitis, or eczema. It is caused by things like hot showers, cold weather, or rubbing and washing your skin too roughly.
  • Scales, red skin, and dandruff: This is often a sign of seborrheic dermatitis, a form of eczema. This will usually appear where oil is produced on your skin, like your back, scalp, and nose, and it can be caused by dry weather, harsh detergents, some medications, stress, and hormonal changes.

Soothe and Treat Irritated Skin

Now that you've figured out what's causing your skin irritation, you can treat it accordingly. Here are tips on how to get rid of irritated skin:

  • Contact dermatitis: If you've noticed your skin change when touching a certain substance or using a specific product, stop using it immediately. The rash should go away within two to four weeks, and cool compresses and anti-itch creams can relieve some of the discomfort. If your face is sensitive, you can also try overnight sleep masks like EltaMD's Skin Recovery System Night Mask, which is powered by the AAComplex blend of amino acids and innovative chronobiology technology to encourage skin's nighttime repair and renewal process. Paired with the Skin Recovery System, you can strengthen your skin barrier, visibly reduce the appearance of redness, revitalize dull skin, and soothe symptoms of contact dermatitis.
  • Atopic dermatitis: It's pretty simple to treat dry skin. First, avoid getting stuck in the itch-scratch cycle. Scratching can feel good in the moment, but too much scratching can lead to worse symptoms and even infections. You'll also want to use products with nourishing hydrating ingredients that are known to moisturize skin and reduce inflammation, like ceramides and glycerin. To try: EltaMD PM Therapy Facial Moisturizer and EltaMD Skin Restore Body Cream.
  • Seborrheic dermatitis: Focus on removing the scales and reducing inflammation by exfoliating and moisturizing. The National Eczema Association recommends looking for a cleanser with zinc to control symptoms. If you're experiencing seborrheic dermatitis on your scalp, you'll want to use dandruff shampoos or a prescribed anti-fungal shampoo. If the condition is severe, talk to your Dermatologist about a topical corticosteroid.

If you try all these methods and still don't find relief, visit a healthcare professional to see if there's a more serious problem at hand.

Prevent Irritation and Protect Skin

Once you pinpoint what bothers your skin, preventing irritation can be easy. The American Academy of Dermatology Association recommends bathing in lukewarm water; finding ways to manage stress; getting enough sleep; wearing loose-fitting, cotton clothing; and using fragance-free skin care products.

Irritated skin can often be treated at home, but you don't want to make it worse. Your skin deserves to be protected and cared for, just like the rest of you. If you think your skin irritation is caused by something else or isn't getting any better, make sure to see a board-certified Dermatologist for a professional diagnosis.


  • Audrey Noble

    Audrey Noble is a New York City-based reporter specializing in features, celebrity profiles, and beauty topics. Her work has appeared in Vogue, Harper's BAZAAR, Allure, Vanity Fair, Refinery29, and more. She is a University of Southern California alumna with bachelor's degrees in print journalism and creative writing.

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