The Reason Why Your Nipples Itch

There's nothing worse than having an itch you need to scratch but can't — especially if it's your nipples and you're not in a place where you can go digging around inside your bra. It can be made even worse by the fact that you can't think of any good reason as to why they're so itchy. You can breathe a sigh of relief, though, knowing that itchy nipples aren't uncommon, and although sometimes you might need to see a doctor if you have persistent problems, most of the time the issue resolves on its own or with a little moisturizer.

"I see a few patients every month with this complaint," Gary Goldenberg, M.D., assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, told SELF. Goldenberg believes there are an endless amount of reasons why your nipples itch, the most common being dirty clothes — particularly dirty bras. Goldenberg recommends washing your bra once a week to avoid irritation. Be sure to double-check what detergent or laundry soap you're using, as this can also cause itchiness if your skin is sensitive.

Another common reason why nipples itch is if you're pregnant or breastfeeding. "During pregnancy and breastfeeding, your breasts will double or triple in size," Sherry A. Ross, M.D. told SELF. "Stretch marks, which are genetic, may occur and cause itching." 

Other reasons your nipples might itch

If you're not pregnant or breastfeeding, other reasons your nipples are itchy could be sunburn, heat rash, dry skin, or a skin condition like psoriasis or eczema. "If you've had itchy breasts for a while and you can't pinpoint why, eczema could be the cause," Jack Jacoub, M.D., a medical oncologist and medical director of MemorialCare Cancer Institute at Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California, told SELF

If you do have dry skin or eczema, there are ways to help your itchy nipples. "Using moisturizing creams, topical steroids, extra virgin coconut oil, petroleum jelly, and Aveeno baths can help treat itchy breasts," said Ross.

In extremely rare cases, itchy nipples could be a sign of inflammatory breast cancer. However, if this is the case, you'll likely experience other symptoms such as nipple discharge. See a doctor if you're concerned.