Product: Cortaid Advanced 12 Hour Anti-Itch Cream, 1.5 ounces for $8.49.

Product: Cortaid Advanced 12 Hour Anti-Itch Cream, 1.5 ounces for $8.49.

Key ingredients: 1 percent hydrocortisone, as well as aloe barbadensis leaf juice, oat kernel extract and benzyl alcohol, among other ingredients.

The pitch: The longest-lasting relief without a prescription for itching from eczema, insect bites, rashes and poison ivy, among other minor skin irritations. Even lasts through hand-washing.

How it works: A clear film resists rub-off and keeps the hydrocortisone on the skin.

Pros: The maker, Johnson & Johnson, claims that an independent clinical study found this cream helped retain hydrocortisone activity even after 16 hours, but there are no details on the study. A better endorsement: In March 2005, Consumer Reports listed Cortaid as one of the nonprescription drugs people should have in their medicine cabinet to treat sunburn, insect bites and poison ivy. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends 1 percent hydrocortisone cream like this for allergic skin reactions.

Cons: The American Academy of Dermatology says that over-the-counter hydrocortisone creams are not strong enough to have much effect on poison ivy rashes or eczema. This can't be used on kids younger than 2. Despite popular belief, this cream isn't effective against cuts, acne, athlete's foot, arthritis or jock itch.

Bottom line: This is best for quick, temporary relief of itching from mild skin allergies or bites from insects such as mosquitoes, but consult a doctor if you're experiencing severe reactions to poison ivy or battling eczema.