THE PRODUCT Tecnu Extreme Poison Ivy Remedy ($14.99 for a four-ounce tube)
THE CLAIM "It can also be used once the outbreak has begun, as a remedy to stop the poison ivy rash in its tracks, cure the itching within seconds, and allow the healing process to begin unimpeded." (Emphasis ours.) The claims of instant relief and of effectiveness after a rash has spread are novel.
THE CHECK We asked six people with active rashes to test the new product (from the maker of Tecnu, a wash used before or immediately after poison ivy exposure, but largely ineffective after infection takes hold).
THE RESULTS Modestly to strongly positive, with one memorably negative experience.
DETAILS Tecnu Extreme is a wash with a beaded, sandy texture, like an exfoliating facial cleanser. It claims to remove urushiol, the toxin that triggers the body's violent response to poison ivy. All testers except one said the act of applying it provided relief -- "like liquid sandpaper," one wrote. Four said relief was immediate; one said it came several minutes later; one got no relief.
But most said the itching returned within a couple hours, before they could get back in the shower to reapply. (You need a shower, or a big sink and privacy, to apply it, wait, then wash it off. A seventh tester tried this in an airplane restroom -- go ahead, imagine what that looked like -- and had to abort the experiment.)
Reapplication usually provided more relief; two testers said they slept better after an evening dose. One said she woke up itching. The consensus was that healing may have been speeded a bit, but since each case is different it's hard to know. One tester said her case ran its normal painful, itching course.
About that really bad result: Our tester got relief at first, but repeated application opened sores on his foot, which erupted into a blistered field of lesions that required him to wear shorts and sandals to work and caused his co-workers to avert their eyes. His dermatologist said that, based on her observation, she wouldn't recommend the product.
BOTTOM LINE Worth a try the next time you're infected, but don't scrub too hard. Expect relief to wane between applications, which may be hard to arrange. And cancel those airline reservations.
-- Craig Stoltz