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How often should you bathe when you have Atopic Eczema?

By Cynthia Bailey MD.

How often should you bathe when you have Atopic Eczema?

For years, parents of children with eczema have been told by doctors to limit their child’s bathing. The conflicting recommendations and practices have created confusion for the eczema community for years. It is estimated that 75% of parents of children with eczema are confused about whether their kids should or should not bathe daily. Thankfully, new research finally gives everyone a clear answer!

Why is there confusion 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:

1. Harsh soaps make the skin drier and more irritated, because they chap skin by removing precious skin lipids such as ceramides.
2. Hot water makes skin itch. Skin with eczema itches more when in contact with hot water, because the heat increases skin blood flow (which is why skin turns red in hot water) and this in turn brings in the building blocks of itch.
3. When a child’s eczema is bad, they sometimes scream, cry and complain that the water stings.
4. 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 feel bathing is therapeutic (including me) have observed 4 beneficial aspects of bathing to control eczema:

1. Cool water reduces skin blood flow to help relieve itch because less blood going to the skin means fewer of the building blocks for itch are delivered.
2. Cool water soothes skin and is less likely to sting.
3. Water hydrates dry skin and can be ‘locked and loaded’ into the skin during bathing IF prompt application of water trapping hypoallergenic moisturizers are liberally applied within the “magic 3 minutes” after patting skin dry with a soft towel.
4. The limited/prudent use of pH balancedgentle SYNDET soaps and cleansers (or natural glycerin rich soaps) clean skin with minimal or no skin irritation. They also help remove skin bacteria that can worsen eczema such as staph. They do not overly strip the skin's natural oils that can lead to chapped skin, and they rinse off easily to minimize soap residue that is also skin-chapping.

The bottom line is that washing daily can be good for eczema - when done right. The devil is in the details though.

Washing needs to be done using cool water and mild hypoallergenic cleansers. It also needs to be followed by immediate application of a rich hypoallergenic moisturizer.

For more information, take a look at Eczema Page Index:

Most Popular Products for Treatment of Eczema

1. VaniCream Cleansing Bar (head-to-toe hypoallergenic, dermatologist-trusted skin cleansing for sensitive skin).
2. VaniCream (Hypoallergenic, richly moisturizing, somewhat heavy feel on the skin that comes from petrolatum).
3. Naturally Best Bar Soap (natural skin cleansing for the entire family. The natural soap making process preserves the deeply hydrating glycerin, making this my go-to cleanser for those wanting entirely natural skin care).
4. Natural Foaming Hand Cleanser (an easy rinse formula to keep at every sink where you wash your hands. Keep the pump container of the Natural Lotion right next to the Cleanser to moisturize your hands during the day after washing).
5. Natural Lotion (made with organic ingredients that are entirely botanically based and hypoallergenic. It is eco-friendly and has a light feel that absorbs nicely into the skin).
6. Natural Face and Body Butter (rich and soothing botanical ingredients that are entirely hypoallergenic, eco-friendly and deeply hydrating).