Is bathing really bad for eczema? For years, the parents of children with eczema have been told by doctors to limit their child’s bathing.
- Is it true that bathing can make eczema worse?
- What about those ‘soak and smear’ treatments that dermatologists prescribe?
These treatments call for applying wet soaks for 15 minutes followed by liberally applying a rich moisturizer to heal rashes like eczema and psoriasis?
The conflicting recommendations and practices have created confusion for years. It is estimated that 75% of parents of children with eczema are confused about whether their children should or should not bathe. Thankfully, new research finally gives everyone a clear answer! I’m thrilled! I hope now I won’t have to debunk the ‘bathing is bad’ belief as often.
Why Are People Confused About Whether Bathing Hurts or Helps Eczema?
It’s because parents and doctors in the “limit bathing” camp have observed 4 important things about bathing a child with eczema.
Four reasons that baths and showers may make eczema worse:
- Harsh soaps make the dry skin of eczema drier and more irritated because they chap skin by removing precious skin lipids such as ceramides.
- Hot water makes skin itch. Hot water on skin with eczema itches more because it increases skin blood flow and causing itching.
- When a child’s eczema is bad, they sometimes complain that the water stings.
- Many skin care cleansers and moisturizers are not hypoallergenic, and eczema patients develop allergic reactions to them. Skin allergy to ingredients manifests as yet another form of eczema. Notorious allergens include fragrances and preservatives.
Parents and doctors who believe bathing is therapeutic (including myself) have observed 4 beneficial aspects of bathing in the control of Eczema.
Four benefits of bathing with eczema:
- Cool water reduces skin blood flow to help relieve itch. Less blood traveling to the skin means fewer itch-building compounds are present.
- Cool water sooths skin and is less likely to sting.
- Water hydrates dry skin and moisture can be ‘locked and loaded’ into the skin during bathing if prompt application of water trapping hypoallergenic moisturizers are liberally applied within 3 minutes of patting skin dry with a soft towel.
- The limited/prudent use of pH balanced gentle syndet soaps and cleansers do not irritate skin. This also includes natural glycerin rich soaps. They help remove skin bacteria that can worsen eczema such as staph. They do not over strip the skin's natural oils to chap skin and they rinse off easily to minimize soap residue that is also skin-chapping.
The bottom line with bathing and eczema:
Bathing daily is good for eczema - when done right! Bathing needs to be done using cool water and mild hypoallergenic cleansers. It also needs to be followed by immedaete application of a rich hypoallergenic moisturizer.
In My Dermatology Practice, the Best Skin Care Products for Controlling Eczema Are:
Syndets and petrolatum-based moisturizers: VaniCream Cleansing Bar (Head-to-toe hypoallergenic, dermatologist-trusted skin cleansing for sensitive skin). Use a rich petrolatum-based moisturizer such as VaniCream Skin Cream within 3 minutes after toweling skin dry.
Natural skin care products for eczema
Natural Eczema products Naturally Best Bar Soap (Natural skin cleansing for the entire family. The natural soap making process preserves the deeply hydrating glycerin created, making this my go-to cleanser for those wanting entirely natural skin care).
I have two fragrance-free eczema-friendly skin creams to apply after toweling skin dry:
My Natural Face, Hand and Body Lotion (made with organic ingredients that are entirely botanically based and hypoallergenic. An all-natural lotion that is eco-friendly and has a light feel that absorbs nicely into the skin).
Natural Face and Body Butter (Rich and soothing botanical ingredients that are entirely hypoallergenic, eco-friendly and deeply hydrating).
Author: Dr. Cynthia Bailey M.D. is a Board Certified dermatologist practicing dermatology since 1987. She has done well over 200,000 skin exams during her career and authors the longest running physician written skin health blog in the world.
“I love empowering people to take good care of their skin by educating them and putting the ‘self-care’ into their skin care so that they love the skin they’re in!” Dr. Bailey
Ivan D. Cardona, MD, Leland Stillman, MD, Neal Jain, MD, Does bathing frequency matter in pediatric atopic dermatitis? Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, July 2016 Volume 117, Issue 1, Pages 9–13