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6 Reasons Your Breasts Might Itch and What to Do to Get Relief

If you’ve ever had to deal with itchy breasts, you know how uncomfortable it can be. There may be times when you feel awkward or embarrassed about scratching that part of your body. You may find yourself squirming or stretching, hoping that shifting your bra or changing your position puts an end to the itch.

While sometimes it’s normal for breasts to be itchy, some things can make the itchiness stronger or more likely. “Many factors can cause breast itchiness,” said Amy Snell, a women’s health nurse practitioner with Banner Health. Some aren’t anything to worry about, but others may be signs of a problem.

Here’s what might be behind the itchiness and what you can do about it. 

1. Dry skin

When your skin doesn’t have enough moisture, it’s more likely to be red, irritated and itchy. Breasts can get dry due to hot showers and harsh soaps as well. 

How to stop the itch: Choose a soap that is unscented and helps moisturize the skin while bathing.  Apply a fragrance-free, hypoallergenic moisturizer right after you shower or bathe, but only if needed. Keep your shower or bath water warm (not hot) and don’t stay in the water for too long. Pat your skin to dry it — don’t rub it harshly with a towel.

2. Allergies and irritants

Allergic reactions or irritants could be behind that itchy feeling in or around your breast. “The skin on the breasts is the same as the skin on the rest of the body. It can react to chemicals, lotions or perfumes. If your skin reacts somewhere else to a chemical, most likely the breast tissue will as well,” Snell said.

You could be allergic to or irritated by:

  • Fragrances or chemicals in laundry detergent or fabric softener
  • Wool
  • Synthetic fabrics (like polyester and nylon) which can trap heat and moisture
  • Fabrics treated with chemicals or dyes
  • Tight-fitting clothing
  • Metals like nickel in bra clasps or underwire supports
  • Perfumes, lotions or deodorants

How to stop the itch: The following tips may help.   

  • Keep a list of the products you use and the clothing you wear to spot patterns and triggers.
  • Choose fragrance-free, hypoallergenic products for your skin and clothing. 
  • Test new personal care products on a small area of your skin before using them on your body. 
  • Don’t put perfume on your breasts.
  • Wash new clothes and bras with a mild detergent before you wear them.
  • Choose loose-fitting clothing and bras in breathable fabrics like cotton.
  • Wear bras with hypoallergenic clasps and underwire – or no underwire, if you think you are allergic to metal.

3. Hormonal changes

Common changes in estrogen and progesterone levels can affect how elastic and hydrated your skin is, altering how much oil your skin produces and making your skin more sensitive and reactive. Your body’s hormone levels change during puberty, your menstrual cycles, when you are pregnant and during menopause.

“It is not uncommon to have breast itching one to two weeks before your period starts, typically close to the nipples on both breasts,” Snell said.

How to stop the itch: If you think hormonal changes are causing your itchy breasts and moisturizer isn’t helping, it’s best to talk with a health care provider. 

4. Skin conditions

Conditions like eczema and psoriasis can cause itchiness on your breasts and other parts of your body, as well as redness and discomfort. Allergies, stress, autoimmune factors and genetics can make you more likely to have these skin conditions.

How to stop the itch: If you see changes in your skin or think you may have eczema or psoriasis, talk to a health care provider. Your provider can diagnose the problem and recommend creams or medications.

5. Infections

Fungal or bacterial infections can cause itchy breasts. They may also cause redness, swelling or pain. You might be more prone to these infections if your bra area is moist, you have small breaks in your skin or you have a weak immune system or other health conditions. 

“Bacterial infections are relatively uncommon. They might be associated with recent surgery, breastfeeding, prior infection or trauma,” Snell said. “However, fungal infections are common. They can develop when the yeast that lives naturally on the skin overgrows in a dark, moist environment.”

How to stop the itch: “Practice good hygiene. Bacteria and fungi love wet, dark, moist environments. Dry your breasts completely after showering. If you tend to stay wet under the breasts, put a towel under them and leave it in place for a few minutes to soak up any moisture after showering or exercising,” Snell said.

See a health care provider if you think you might have an infection. They can diagnose your condition and recommend antifungals or antibiotics. See a provider right away if you have discharge, changes in skin color or a foul odor.

6. Pregnancy and breastfeeding

Hormonal changes when you’re pregnant or breastfeeding can lead to itchy breasts. Your hormones can change your skin’s elasticity and hydration and make your breasts more tender and sensitive. 

How to stop the itch: Wear a supportive bra that fits well. Talk to a health care provider about recommended fragrance-free, hypoallergenic moisturizers and other skin care products, especially if itching is persistent or uncomfortable. “Lanolin ointment can be very helpful with breastfeeding for nipple pain and itch. Use a thin film of the ointment — it is OK for the baby to breastfeed with lanolin ointment on the nipples,” Snell said. However, if you have a sensitivity to wool, check with your health care provider before using lanolin. 

When to see an expert for care

If your breasts are itchy once in a while, you can probably treat them on your own. But there are times you should see a health care provider:

  • Changes in the color, texture or thickness of the skin on the breasts
  • Itching that isn’t going away or is uncomfortable
  • No obvious cause for the itch, especially if it’s only on one side
  • Unexplained sores or breakouts
  • Discharge or bleeding from the nipples
  • Lumps or masses in the breast
  • Persistent pain
  • Symptoms that are getting worse
  • A family history of breast cancer or Paget’s disease, a family history of ovarian cancer or a BRCA gene mutation in yourself or a family member

“If you have any concerns, it’s better to be safe and check,” Snell said.

The bottom line

Lots of different things can make your breasts itch, from dry skin to fungal infections to more serious conditions. Many times, you can figure out the cause and treat the itch yourself. But sometimes, breast itchiness needs expert care.

Reach out to Banner Health if you would like to connect with a provider who can diagnose and treat breast itchiness or other breast issues.

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