It’s okay to quickly scratch your arm or back on the go. But an itchy nipple? Not as much. The thing is, the area can be surprisingly prone to irritation. So if you’re dealing with an itch or dryness that won’t go away, you should find a way to solve the problem.
“It’s not uncommon for nipples to cause skin inflammation,” says Beth Goldstein, MD, a dermatologist from Durham, North Carolina, and founder of Modern Ritual. “Skin is thin and vulnerable to dryness, low humidity and irritants. Stress in any form can trigger itching.”
Also, like any part of your body, nipples can be itchy for a variety of reasons. Here’s a look at some of the most common itchy nipple triggers and what you can do to find relief:
Dry skin can be generally itchy, tight, scaly, or scaly. And because the nipple skin is so thin, it can be particularly prone to dryness, says Dr. gold stone
Sometimes dry skin can be related to an underlying condition like eczema (more on that later), but other times it’s just a matter of a dry environment. Cold, windy conditions can dry out your skin, as can central heating and space heaters because they strip moisture from the air, according to the Mayo Clinic. Overzealous bathing is another culprit, as hot water can strip skin of its natural moisturizing oils.
Fix it:Try common remedies for dry skin, e.g. B. Avoid long, hot showers, run a humidifier, and use lotion.
You are dealing with chafing
Rubbing rough fabrics, especially when you’re active, can cause the skin on your nipples to become chafed and irritated, notes Dr. gold stone solid. For some people, this pain can lead to itching.
Fix it: Look for bras or tops made of soft, smooth fabric like 100% cotton, or if you’re active, choose bras or tops that are designed for your specific sport, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends. You can also apply petroleum jelly or baby powder to chafed nipples while they heal — both act as a barrier to minimize irritation.
You are having an allergic reaction
Recently started using a new detergent, soap, lotion or even started wearing a different type of fabric? If the skin around your nipples is red, itchy, swollen, scaly, or burning, you could be dealing with a case of contact dermatitis, according to the Cleveland Clinic. These allergic reactions can occur when the skin comes into contact with an irritant.
Fix it: Although these allergic reactions can be uncomfortable, they usually go away within a week or two as long as you stay away from what caused the rash. If you’ve tried a new body product or cleanser, see if the itching goes away when you stop using it.
About 20 percent of itchy, rash-prone nipples are caused by underlying eczema, notes Dr. gold stone solid. When you have an eczema flare-up, your nipples may feel dry, inflamed, itchy or painful, or have a discharge. It’s also common to develop a patchy or crusty rash, or small bumps that ooze fluid, notes the Cleveland Clinic.
Fix it: While eczema is an incurable condition, there are some strategies that can help relieve itchy nipples. These include moisturizing, taking corticosteroids (either topically or orally), avoiding triggers, and phototherapy (aka light therapy), according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Her nipple piercing is irritated
It’s not uncommon for a new nipple piercing to be itchy while your skin is healing, says Dr. gold stone
But if the problem doesn’t seem to go away or you notice the itchiness starting after trying a new piece of jewelry, you’re probably dealing with an allergic reaction to the jewelry’s metal, she notes. Nickel is known to make skin red and itchy, but chromium, copper, and cobalt can also cause problems.
Fix it: According to the Association of Professional Piercers (APP), some itching during the healing process is normal. That means you might just have to wait and see. If you are allergic to the material of the jewelry, you may need to remove the nipple ring. Contact a professional to exchange jewelry according to the APP. If you have signs of an allergic reaction, such as hives or swelling, or have a fever, swelling, or other signs of infection, you should contact your doctor, according to Peace Health.
Hormone shifts and skin stretching during pregnancy can make you more prone to itchy, sensitive skin. And your nipples are no exception, says Kimberly Langdon, MD, a gynecologist and medical consultant for Ohio-based Medzino. While mild itching during pregnancy isn’t usually a cause for concern, according to the Mayo Clinic, be aware if your itching becomes intense, especially when you’re trying to sleep. These could be signs of pregnancy cholestasis, a serious complication that requires medical attention.
Fix it: Try to avoid soap on your nipples, which can dry them out, according to Sutter Health. Using unscented lotion and avoiding prolonged contact with hot water can also help relieve itching, according to Sutter Health.
Itchy nipples can persist after pregnancy if you are breastfeeding. “Breastfeeding can make your nipples itchy as the milk dries on them,” says Dr. Langdon. Dry, cracked nipple skin — which is common in the early days of breastfeeding — can also contribute to itching.
Fix it:If the skin on your nipples becomes flaky and flaky and itchy, Mount Sinai says it could be a sign of infection. Your doctor can recommend treatment options for you. If you don’t have these symptoms, try avoiding soaps and putting breast milk on your nipples after breastfeeding to care for your nipples while breastfeeding, according to Mount Sinai. If the nipples are cracked, you can rub lanolin on them after feeding, according to Mount Sinai.
You – or your baby – have a yeast infection
If you are breastfeeding, itchy or cracked nipples accompanied by a deep, stabbing pain in your breast can be a sign of a nipple yeast infection. Cracked or broken skin around the nipples can make them more susceptible to infection, as can warm, humid environments (like a milk-soaked bra), the Cleveland Clinic notes. If your baby has an oral yeast infection called thrush, the fungus from the mouth can also spread to your nipples.
Fix it: Try applying a topical antifungal to your nipples, according to the Cleveland Clinic. If your baby has oral thrush, they’ll also need treatment, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Your doctor can recommend appropriate treatment.
You’re going through menopause
Menopause can also make your nipples itchy, says Dr. Langdon. When levels of the hormone estrogen in your body fall, your skin becomes drier and thinner. This can make it more prone to itching and irritation.
Fix it: The home remedies that are known for dry skin – such. B. Moisturizing and avoiding harsh soaps – can help relieve this itch.
Serious causes of itchy nipples
Itchy nipples are not usually a sign of a major health problem. But it’s possible that an itchy or scaly breast rash could be a sign of certain types of breast cancer, including inflammatory breast cancer or Paget’s disease, notes Dr. gold stone These cancers are rare, but if your nipple or breast symptoms don’t go away, it’s important to get them checked out.
How to treat itchy nipples
You can often treat itchy, irritated nipples the same way you treat other types of dry skin. Depending on what’s causing your discomfort, these calming strategies may help.
- Apply an anti-itch cream.Applying an anti-itch ointment containing 1 percent hydrocortisone can quickly relieve itching. Try Aveeno 1% Hydrocortisone Anti-itch Cream ($10.84, Amazon) or one of these picks. Hydrocortisone is safe to use in small amounts if you’re breastfeeding, but be sure to clean your nipples thoroughly before actually breastfeeding so your baby doesn’t ingest the ointment, according to the US National Library of Medicine.
- Try a cool, damp cloth.If you don’t have an anti-itch ointment on hand, or prefer not to use one, this can also relieve itching.
- Use a nipple balm if you are breastfeeding.A moisturizing balm can keep the skin of the nipples supple and hydrated, reducing the risk of dryness, cracking and irritation. Try Earth Mama Organics Organic Nipple Butter ($12.59, Amazon).
- Keep baths or showers short.Just dealing with a case of dry skin? Limit your baths and showers to 5 to 10 minutes or less and stick to warm rather than hot water, the Mayo Clinic recommends.
- Apply a strong moisturizer.A thick ointment or cream will seal in moisture after a bath and protect your skin from the elements. Choose a fragrance-free option if you’re prone to irritation, like CeraVe Daily Moisturizing Lotion ($12.10, Amazon).
- Run a humidifier.A humidifier adds moisture to the indoor air to combat dryness, especially in winter. Try one of these expert-recommended tips.
- Take a look at your personal care products and detergents.Do you suspect that a new soap, lotion, fragrance or detergent makes you itch? Stop using it and see how your skin reacts. If the itch goes away, you’ve found your culprit.
- Stick to natural fabrics.If possible, avoid bras and tops made of synthetic materials. Cotton is gentle and breathable, making it less likely to irritate sensitive skin or cause itching.
There’s a good chance your itchy nipples will subside with at-home measures. But if these changes aren’t enough, let your doctor or dermatologist know. Also, contact your doctor if itchy nipples are accompanied by signs of a possible infection, such as a rash, oozing, crusting, or fever.