Relieve Itch

Edited by Timbuktu, Charmed, Ephraim, Eng and 6 others

Stop Your Itch With Home Remedies, Ointment, and Creams


Isn't it annoying to feel itchy all over especially when you cannot seem to control the urge to scratch at the most inconvenient times? Yes, it's certainly an embarrassing scenario if the sudden itch happens when you are out on a date or right in the middle of an important business presentation. The itch might come and go or occur frequently depending primarily on what is causing the itch, and there are many reasons to experience this frustration condition. Allergies are a big issue when it comes to your skin being itchy. Allergies to dust or other systemic and skin ailments that you might have, but are unaware of. In fact, chronic itch or itching that happens on frequently, or at regular intervals, can interfere with a person's regular routine and turn every important event into awkward and frustrating moments.

Sometimes itchiness lasts a long time and can be intense. As you rub or scratch the affected area, it gets itchier. And the more it itches, the more you scratch. Breaking this itch-scratch cycle can be difficult, but continued scratching can damage your skin or cause infections and other adverse complications.

There are different ways to relieve itch. Some known remedies can temporarily provide relief, while there are also available treatments that can completely eradicate the itch depending on the underlying causes and nature of your itch problem. There are many avenues to explore when seeking a treatment for itch, from, Naturopathic treatments to home remedies that include herbs, as well as the basic ointments and creams that are readily procured over the counter through conventional medicine.

Overview on Pruritis or Itchy Skin

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"Pruritis" is a medical term specifically pertaining to an unpleasant and uncomfortable sensation that incites an individual to compulsively scratch the affected areas of the skin. This is more commonly referred to and understood by many people as "itch". That troublesome, awkward, and irritating "itchy" feeling can be felt generally in isolated locations, or throughout the entire body. Interestingly, scratching an affected part of the skin has been traditionally linked to providing both pleasure and relief from itch. The so-called "scratch reflex" is said to help get rid of insects that could be hovering at your back or some other areas of your body. However, scratching too hard for an extended period of time is not advised, especially for people who have severe cases of itch, such as chronic dermatitis, which can leave your skin painful, red, bruised, damaged, and inflamed. Pruritus exists in an itch-scratch cycle in which varied harmful pathogens or allergens can cause irritation and trigger itch and inflammation to set off a scratch reflex. Itch is known to vary in intensity as it can range from a mild itch to a debilitating health condition that warrants immediate medical help.

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Studies show that only the topmost layers of the skin - dermis and epidermis - are dubbed as itch receptors - able to respond with sensitivity to itch triggers. This proves that there are no itch receptors embedded in the muscles or joint fibers of our body. Itch can be categorized as:

  1. 1
    The itch is set off by certain trigger factors and usually only lasts for a short duration.
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  2. 2
    Itch that is experienced on a regular basis, and for a prolonged period of time, as when it persists longer than 6 weeks.
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Also, the itchy sensation can be either:

  1. 1
    Originating from the central nervous system.
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  2. 2
    Linked to the peripheral nervous system.
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Pruritus can be brought about by a myriad of causative factors:

  • Allergic reactions. Most frequently wool, chemicals in products like soap, shampoo, cosmetics and laundry detergent.
  • Environmental allergens.
  • Dry skin.
  • Brought about by eating certain foods.
  • Extremely dry skin.
  • Systemic diseases, including liver disease, iron deficiency (anemia), kidney failure, thyroid problems and several cancers including lymphoma and leukemia. These usually affect the entire body.
  • Skin ailments, including Psoriasis, eczema, lice, scabies, and chickenpox.
  • Pregnancy. Experience by some expecting mothers - most frequently the affected areas are the abdomen and thighs. If there is an existing cause for pruritus, it could worsen during pregnancy.
  • Nerve disorders including multiple sclerosis, pinched nerves, shingles (herpes zoster) and diabetes.
  • Contact dermatitis. When something touches your skin and causes the itch. This includes poison ivy.
  • Drug reaction. The most common culprits are narcotic pain medications, antibiotics, and antifungal drugs.
  • Pregnancy. During pregnancy, some women experience itchy skin, especially on the abdomen and thighs. Also, itchy skin conditions, such as dermatitis, can worsen during pregnancy.
  • Psychological issues. Certain mental illnesses can cause itchy skin, whether real or psychosomatic.

There is a popular notion that itch can be considered contagious. To some extent, it could be somewhat similar to "contagious yawning" as itch is also said to be precipitated by visual stimuli such as when your professor is having a discussion regarding itch or if there are a number of people scratching in a group which could trigger "mirroring" that can make you fell itchy and respond by scratching all over. The easiest way to understand this - indubitably, if someone in the room says their child has lice, your head is immediately itchy.

Common Signs and Symptoms of Itchy Skin

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  1. 1
    Itchiness.The itchy sensation may be felt over a localized region such as one arm or leg, or it may be experienced throughout the entire body
    This generally appears as the only symptom or may be accompanied by associated symptoms.
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  • 2
    The affected area may appear red, inflamed, and warm to touch.
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  • 3
    Cracked skin or flakiness is the first indication of dryness and irritation, which can lead to further itching, soreness, and increased irritation.
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  • 4
    Scaly skin
    The skin may appear leathery in texture, which is usually accompanied by dry skin.
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  • 5
    Rashes or Bumps
    With increased inflammation and irritation brought about by scratching and infection - rashes, blisters, or bumps tend to appear on the affected site which may increase in severity or could lead to further complications depending on the medical condition you have.
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  • 6
    Increased Sensitivity
    The skin may appear tender and is sensitivity to the touch.
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  • 7
    Many of the causes of itchiness, also cause pain in the same area, or the area is sore from too much scratching. Numbness and tingling may also be felt on the affected parts of the body.
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  • 8
    The affected skin area may bleed due to infection, inflammation, or severe scratching.
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  • Risk Factors and Causes of Itchy Skin

    Basically, everyone will experience the itchy sensation, but for some, it's a common occurrence. There are certain risk factors that make some people more predisposed than others for contracting this condition.


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    People who are at a mature age in their lives, tend to have dry and wrinkled skin, which makes them highly susceptible to a number of skin diseases. This makes them more at risk for developing itchy skin than younger individuals. They also have a more compromised and lowered immune system, which makes elderly people more susceptible to a number of systemic diseases that can trigger itchy sensation.


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    Hormonal changes that occur in pregnant women, and even women during menopause, can exhibit itchiness in different parts of the body. More so, a number of systemic and skin diseases can be brought about by pregnancy:

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      Interhepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy (ICP)
      This is characterized by extreme itch felt in the soles of the feet as well as on the palms which comes on much stronger at night. The itch becomes more prominent in the third trimester, which can also be felt in other regions of the body. Cholestasis is said to be the most common culprit for jaundice in pregnancy.
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    2. 2
      Gestational Pemphigoid
      This is an autoimmune skin illness, common in expectant mothers. It produces itchy lesions or rashes that become more apparent during the second and third trimesters.
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    3. 3
      Pruritic Urticaria Papules and Plaques of Pregnancy (PUPPP)
      This is characterized by papules that form alongside the stretch marks, which can be uncomfortable because of the itchy sensation. Although annoying, they are not risky for expectant mothers. This usually starts spreading in the abdomen and into the extremities (excluding the face). Recent studies show that moms who are pregnant with boys are more susceptible to contracting this medical condition, rather than those who are having girls.
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    HIV and AIDS

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    People who are suffering from Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) are prone to experiencing itchy skin because of certain associated diseases triggered by the virus which includes herpes simplex type 1 and 2, which usually appear as cold sores near the mouth or in and around the oral cavities. It can also appear in the genital area or commonly called "genital herpes", a sexually transmitted disease. Another illness called "shingles" or commonly referred to as "herpes zoster" is described to appear with rashes or blisters which are focused one side of the body with associated numbness, tingling, pain and discomfort, itching, and inflammation that can persist and increase in severity for several weeks. Other diseases linked to HIV which can trigger itchy skin are psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis which are both characterized by redness, inflammation, flaking or scaling of the skin, and itchiness which can be found in varied parts of the body (even in the fingernails).


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    Itching is considered to be one of the common symptoms of cancer, which can manifest in any part of your body. The itchy sensation with cancer patients occurs for different reasons:

    • Certain chemicals released by cancer of the blood.
    • Dry skin.
    • Reaction or side effects of certain cancer medications especially painkillers like diamorphine and morphine.
    • Side-effects of chemotherapy radiation.
    • Developing jaundice.
    • Developing allergies.

    Some cancers that can trigger pruritus in patients are the following:

    • Brain cancer.
    • Leukemia
    • Prostate cancer.
    • Lung cancer.
    • Adenocarcinoma.
    • Polycythemia vera.
    • Pancreatic cancer.
    • Hodgkin lymphoma.
    • Melanoma.
    • Breast cancer.
    • Stomach cancer.

    Often times, medical treatments for unrelated illnesses, can cause itching. A few are:

    1. 1
      Certain chemotherapy drugs such as Cytarabine and Paclitaxel can cause allergies to the patient, which results in itchy skin at the needle site
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    2. 2
      Radiation therapy can deplete skin cells which result in extreme dryness and peeling of the skin with associated itching and burning sensation felt on the affected area
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    3. 3
      Bone marrow transplant performed in patients suffering from leukemia and other blood disorders can cause graft-versus-host-disease (GVHD) which precipitates dryness of the skin and the formation of a rash which can be very itchy
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    4. 4
      Certain supportive medications for cancer can also cause itching such as antibiotics, painkillers, hormones, corticosteroids, and drugs for relief of nausea and vomiting
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    Psychological Factors

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    There are some cases of patients who have "delusional bug syndrome" or "delusional itching". They frequent dermatology clinics in an effort to find solutions to their itching problem, which they imagine is triggered by a bug infestation. Skin experts cannot find any potential parasitic cause and conclude the itch is psychosomatic caused by psychological or emotional factors. In addition to that, these patients are fully convinced that there are bugs causing the itchy feeling and they tend to seek more skin experts just to find some relief. More people are now experiencing an itchy sensation as a response to stressful situations or a symptom alongside panic or anxiety attacks as well as when facing intense emotional issues. The bottom line here, whether real or imagined, the itch is real for the person.

    Some psychological or psychiatric ailments that manifest continuous scratching movements due to imagined itch are:

    • Schizophrenia.
    • Multiple Personality Disorder (Dissociative Identity Disorder)
    • Associative obsessive states.
    • Dermatitis artefacta.
    • Body Dysmorphic Disorder.
    • Depression.

    "Xerosis" or Dry Skin

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    This is one of the most common or typical causes of itching. Dry skin can cause hypersensitivity, flakiness, scaly skin, and extreme itching of the affected areas. Certain weather conditions or temperature changes can also affect the moisture content of the skin, which can make it dry, especially during the winter or cold months of the year. Staying in an air-conditioned room for a prolonged period of time can also cause extreme or dryness of the skin, which can lead to itching. A skin condition called "prickly heat" characterized by red and itchy rash formation can manifest during extremely humid or hot seasons.


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    Allergic reactions to certain foods and medications can contribute to an itchy skin. The immune system acts as a defense mechanism against harmful pathogens and toxins that can wreak havoc to the body's equilibrium and cause severe allergic reactions. In fact, even harmless materials can cause hypersensitivity or allergic reactions in some patients. Allergic reactions can manifest instantly or can take some time for symptoms to manifest. This is often a hereditary condition, passed on from one generation to the next. There are a number of food groups that are considered usual allergens. Urticaria is one of the most common skin problems associated with consumption of certain foods and medications. This condition is characterized by redness, inflammation, and itching or raised bumps on the skin. Some of the most common food allergens include:

    • Shrimp.
    • Shellfish.
    • Soy.
    • Wheat.
    • Milk, eggs, and other dairy products.
    • Strawberries.
    • Peanuts.

    Certain medications and vaccines can also cause severe allergic reactions depending on your overall health and medical condition. Medicines such as: #Aspirin, Ibuprofen, and other sulfa drugs can cause hypersensitivity.

    1. 1
      This also holds true for antibiotics like Amoxicillin or Penicillin
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    2. 2
      Some chemotherapy drugs can also harbor similar symptoms
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      Both general and local anesthetics are also known to cause allergic reactions in some patients
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    Adverse and sudden allergic reactions can be a life-threatening condition or that can result in "anaphylaxis" which could be fatal.

    Environmental Factors

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    Almost anything present in the environment can be considered an allergen. There are some people who have highly sensitive skin that can easily be irritated by common things found in homes, offices, streets, and practically everywhere:

    • Animal dander.
    • Pollen.
    • Smoke.
    • Dust.

    There are certain chemical compounds that can also cause severe itching and irritation when these come in close contact with our bodies. Such pollutants can be found in some soaps, lotions, makeup, detergent, hair dye, tattoo ink, and latex; to name a few.

    Lung or Nasal Infections

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    People who are suffering from certain respiratory conditions can exhibit itching of the nose and other parts of the body along with other recognizable symptoms such as fever, runny nose, cough, and malaise; among others. These include:

    • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
    • Asthma.
    • Allergic rhinitis.
    • Chronic sinusitis.
    • Hay fever.
    • Nasal polyps.

    Basic Home Remedies and Treatments for Itchy Skin

    There are many things you can try at home, before resorting to conventional medicines, which often come with their own side effects.

    Home Remedies

    1. 1
      Aloe Vera -
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      This plant coined by the Egyptians as the "plant of immortality" is very popular as a remedy for a number of skin and hair dilemmas as well as for treatment for burns
      This essentially helps promote hair growth, but is also an effective treatment for itchy and irritated skin. Experts do believe that Aloe Vera has, in fact, stronger properties that will alleviate itchy skin, compared to that of hydrocortisone. To use this as an itch remedy, all you need to do is cut a pulpy leaf from the plant, and slice down the leaf with a knife. Inside, you'll find a gel. Rub this gel directly on the affected area. It is the gel-like substance that contains the medicinal properties of Aloe Vera.
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    2. 2
      Petroleum Jelly
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      Apply petroleum jelly on dry areas of your skin such as the feet. This can even be placed on the genital area and mouth. This is proven to help soothe and reduce dryness, chapping, soreness, and itching on affected areas. Lotion can also be used alongside petroleum jelly, which helps to lock moisture in the skin to prevent extreme dryness and irritation.
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    3. 3
      Jewelweed -
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      This is a distinctive green plant that can also help relieve itch
      The jewelweed plant is said to be abundant mostly in the USA. The juice of the jewelweed is rubbed directly on the itchy part of your body.
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    4. 4
      Neem Leaves -
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      The oil of the Neem tree is the one that is most widely used remedies to relieve itch
      This is more popular in India. The leaves of the Neem tree do not just help eradicate itch, but also helps with scars and other skin problems.
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    5. 5
      Virtual.marian oatmeal rub.jpg
      This is not just a fiber-rich food that many dieters prefer, but oatmeal also nourishes the skin with its anti-inflammatory compounds (avenanthramides). For ages, oatmeal has been considered as an effective natural remedy for variety of skin problems such as chickenpox and eczema. This is applied directly on the affected spot as an oatmeal poultice (put a cup of oats into a blender with half cup of water), or mixed in with other essential oils for that lovely and soothing warm bath.
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    6. 6
      Baking Soda
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      This is known to relieve all sorts of body itches. You can prepare a baking soda paste by mixing 1 cup of water and 3 cups of baking soda, which you can apply to the itchy areas of the skin. You can also prepare a warm baking soda bath by adding 1 cup of baking soda to a full tub of a warm bath. You can try soaking for 30 minutes to an hour to make you feel revitalized and itch-free. NOTE: This is however not advisable to be used topically on damaged skin (scabs and broken skin).
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    7. 7
      Peppermint Leaves -
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      The use of peppermint leaves and other members of the mint family (spearmint, lemon balm, lavender, etc.), have been used as a remedy for itchy skin, hives, and bug bites due to its strong anti-inflammatory and antiseptic abilities
      Simply crush the fresh peppermint leaves and rub or massage them directly on the affected area of your skin. You can even try freezing the peppermint leaves as it can maximize the cooling effect of the mint herb and provide easy relief for itchiness, pain, and inflammation. Also, you can try making use of a mint tea rinse to soak the affected area of the skin. NOTE: Only use organic, as the pesticides used on plants can end up giving you contact dermatitis - leading to itchier skin than before.
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    8. 8
      Basil Leaves -
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      Basil leaves are rich in anti-itch and anti-inflammatory compounds namely thymol and camphor which work easily by simply crushing the leaves and rubbing it directly onto the itchy part of the skin
      NOTE: Only use organic, as the pesticides used on plants can end up giving you contact dermatitis - leading to itchier skin than before.
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    Chinese Medicine

    1. 1
      Menthol Ointment -
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      Some ointments, specifically those mentholated Chinese ointments like Tiger Balm, Betet and Katinko, are highly effective for reducing itch and inflammation on different parts of the body
      This also helps relieve muscle tension and body pain. This type of ointment is popular for treating skin itch and body aches in Asia, especially in China, Taiwan, Philippines, and Malaysia.
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    Conventional Medicine

    1. 1
      Hydrocortisone Creams
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      You can use hydrocortisone creams which can help you temporarily alleviate or relieve your itchy skin condition. Be sure to use small amounts of hydrocortisone cream on your face and genital area where you have extremely sensitive skin. You can purchase these over the counter at any drugstore or order them securely online. You can opt for stronger formulations to combat severe itching. If you are to use the cream on large areas of your body like the extremities, then it is highly advisable to mix the cream with your choice of moisturizer. Follow the usage and dosage instructions as indicated.
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    2. 2
      Oral Antihistamines -
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      You can pop over-the-counter oral antihistamines for fast relief of itching
      Some popular choices of oral antihistamines include diphenhydramine (Benadryl) and loratadine (Claritin); to name some. These are not good for people with Glaucoma.
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    Tips, Suggestions, and Warnings

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    • As difficult as it is, try not to scratch - it only makes it worse and can lead to infections that can become very serious. You may try patting your skin or doing gentle strokes instead of scratching.
    • Always try the home remedies before resorting to conventional medicine, that has side effects that can be as annoying as the itch that made you use it in the first place. The above remedies are very helpful. Try to use and prepare all these to help you *No matter what remedy works for you to relieve the itching (creams, ointments, oils, et cetera.), remember that what is important is that you are not allergic to the substance.
    • Keep dry skin moisturized and avoid taking too many baths and showers.
    • If you are suffering from chronic itching, it's advisable to make sure you always trim your nails short and to wear protective gloves at night to prevent skin damage brought about by scratching while you sleep.
    • Make sure you keep your home clean and free from any potential allergens that can irritate and cause your skin to itch. Use hypoallergenic pillows, towels, and blankets to safeguard your family from environmental pathogens.
    • Wear light and comfortable clothing and fabric with natural fibers to avoid causing allergies or irritation to your skin.
    • Some food allergies aren't food allergies at all. Foods like strawberries and celery are very porous, and suck up a lot of pesticides. You may be reacting to the chemicals used on crops. Try organic before you rule out some foods.
    • Keep track of your food and medication allergies and watch what you eat to avoid further health complications.
    • Remember to keep oral antihistamines, hydrocortisone creams, and other necessary items in your first aid kit to be prepared for any sudden allergic reactions especially while traveling.
    • It is always deemed best to consult your physician to get the right treatment for your skin itch and medications that are appropriate for your skin condition.

    If you have problems with any of the steps in this article, please ask a question for more help, or post in the comments section below.


    Article Info

    Categories : Skin Care & Diseases

    Recent edits by: Nuance, jhesa, Doug Collins

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