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What is the right way to wash your skin to prevent eczema?

By Cynthia Bailey MD.

What is the right way to wash your skin to prevent eczema?

The most important aspect of eczema skin care is to heal your skin by keeping it hydrated. Done correctly, this can actually help heal and prevent atopic eczema.

The soap, water temperature and moisturizer you use become really important to controlling your eczema. This is because bathing “the wrong way” can over-strip skin oils, thus weakening the fragile skin barrier of eczema-prone skin even more. Soaps and cleansers are also common sources of fragrance and preservative allergens.

Here is the skin cleansing advice I emphasize with my eczema-prone patients: 

  • Use soap only on those areas that need it such as your feet, armpits, buttocks and groin. The rest of your skin may only need a simple rinsing with water. Use only mild soaps or cleansers that are hypoallergenic.
  • When you bathe, be sure that the temperature of the water is at most lukewarm, not hot. Hot water will pull more natural skin oils out of your fragile skin. It also brings more blood to the skin’s surface which can fuel inflammation that leads to eczemaand itching. 
  • Rinse your skin really well after contact with any soap or cleanser to remove all product residue. 

The specific soap or skin cleanser you use is really important when you have eczema.

Dermatologists in recent years have come to recommend the use of synthetic cleansers called SYNDETS. SYNDETs offer ‘soap free’ skin cleansing at a pH more like our skin's natural pH. They are modern inventions by skin care scientists and allow you to remove dirt and oil from your skin without exposing skin to the alkaline pH of traditional soap. The idea is that maintaining a neutral or balanced pH during skin cleansing of eczema prone skin has been associated with better skin barrier strength.

My favorite SYNDETS are gentle and fragrance-free skin cleansers such as VaniCream Cleansing Bar. Other options include Aquanil Cleanser, Cetaphil Cleanser, and Neutrogena Ultra Gentle Daily Cleanser. Dove Bar was the first SYNDET and is still loved by many, but be sure to use the fragrance-free product.


Naturally made soaps are another good skin cleansing option for eczema skin care and I’m a fan. Let me explain why. First, you need to know that ‘soap’ (as opposed to a SYNDET) can have an alkaline pH, which scientific studies have shown may dry sensitive skin. The time-honored process of making soap is called ‘saponification’. This involves mixing oils (such as olive, palm or other oils) with lye (the alkali), and soap and glycerin are produced. The resulting product has an alkaline pH and can have an extra layer of alkali on the surface. This can be skimmed off and, in fact, well-made natural soaps have any excess alkali film removed.

Glycerin is nature’s bounty for moisturizing and healing eczema prone skin. It also has commercial value and can be extracted from soap and sold separately. The natural soaps I recommend for eczema patients retain their rich natural glycerin and are thus, in my experience, healing. The soap itself rinses well from skin, and together, the products allow us to cleanse skin gently while also using a natural product and benefitting from glycerin hydration. Natural soaps can be chemical and fragrance free to reduce exposing the barrier-compromised, eczema-prone skin to problematic allergens and irritants found in synthetic modern products. This is the only way to truly cleanse soiled skin without modern chemicals. I offer this for my patients and customers that want entirely natural ingredients for their skin care.

Thus, for people wanting natural skin care products, I have made it my priority to develop a line of glycerin rich natural soaps including the Naturally Best Bar Soap and the All Natural Foaming Hand Cleanser.

Washing your skin is not harmful if done with gentle soaps, skin cleansers, and cooler water. In fact, it can be therapeutic and help your eczema heal if you carefully follow this advice. Wetting your skin and patting it dry is the best way to prep it for absorbing moisturizer – the key next step to healing eczema. Your skin is like a water-logged sponge after bathing. It is filled with moisture which you can trap when you apply your moisturizer within the "magic 3 minutes" after toweling dry.  As a dermatologist, it is also the time I recommend to my eczema patients that they apply any topical medicine I may have prescribed.

For more important information, take a look at the 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).