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If you’ve got eczema, you know the struggle can be real.
Eczema, a condition that causes skin issues like red or discolored, itchy rashes, can affect people differently, so eczema skin care doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all answer. From flakes to flare-ups, caring for eczema-prone skin takes effort… and sometimes some trial and error.
Looking for the right skin care routine for your eczema? There are some steps you can take to soothe (and often prevent!) symptoms, even when a flare erupts.
5 tips for your eczema skin care routine
- Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize!
- Know your triggers
- Watch your water temp
- Peep product labels
- Keep it consistent
Dry skin craves moisture — and it’s no different when that dryness is caused by eczema.
In a small research review of 77 studies, using moisturizer regularly significantly reduced the amount of flare-ups participants had. It also reduced their need for harsh corticosteroids.
Keeping your skin hydrated with a dense cream or ointment helps ease irritation and soothe any flares that may pop up. It also keeps that itchy feeling at bay, so you don’t find yourself scratching. Itching your skin could make your eczema worse.
Pro tip: The National Eczema Association recommends applying moisturizer within 3 minutes after a shower or bath. This helps keep moisture in and prevents water from evaporating from your skin.
Finding the right moisturizer
Steer clear of moisturizers that contain a lot of irritating extras, like dyes and fragrances. Opt for products that are dye- and fragrance-free.
Look for moisturizers that are rich in emollients, like colloidal oatmeal or shea butter. Those that contain fatty acids called ceramides can also help manage and prevent flares. One study suggested that ceramides can help ease eczema symptoms by locking in moisture for longer periods of time. This can allow you to apply product less often.
No two cases of eczema are exactly the same, and neither are their triggers. Identifying what causes your skin irritation can help you better understand your eczema — and show what to avoid to keep flares at bay.
Eczema can be caused by any number of things, from irritating chemicals or fabrics to certain foods. Even stress or the weather can bring on a flare-up.
According to the National Eczema Association, some of the most common eczema triggers include:
- metals (like nickel)
- dyes in clothing, leather, or temporary tattoos
- fabrics (like wool)
- certain soaps
- certain household cleaners
- bacitracin and other antibacterial ointments
Food allergies are also tied to eczema, so knowing what foods you may be sensitive to is important in maintaining healthy skin. Some items (like nuts, dairy, and gluten) are notorious for triggering an eczema flare-up. Others are known to help ease the condition. Eating a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods, omega-3s, and probiotics could help ease or prevent flare-ups.
Pro tip: Keep a notebook or journal (or just your phone’s notepad) handy at all times, so that you can track your triggers whenever irritation occurs — even on the go.
Love a luxurious soak in a hot bath after a long day? If you have eczema, it’s best to trade that hot water in for something closer to warm and farther from scalding. Hot water can strip your skin’s natural oils, leaving it unprotected. This can lead to dryness and irritation. Dialing back the heat can help your skin absorb and retain moisture.
Experts also recommend taking it easy on the length of your scrub sesh. They suggest that a 5- to 10-minute shower or bath is the sweet spot for primo skin care. After washing, be sure to pat (not rub) yourself dry with a clean towel and apply moisturizer within 3 minutes to keep your skin hydrated and fresh.
Pro tip: Wanna make bath time even more eczema-friendly? Try a skin-soothing oatmeal bath.
Just like it’s good to know what goes *in* your body, it’s also important to know what goes *on* it. That includes the products you use.
Hygiene and beauty products can contain harsh or irritating ingredients. These can worsen existing eczema or lead to a fresh outbreak. According to the National Eczema Association, this can include:
- certain essential oils, like tea tree oil
- propylene glycol
- cocamidopropyl betaine
Carefully look at the label to understand what’s in your fave face washes, cleansers, shampoos, and deodorants. You may not realize that one of your go-to products could be aggravating your skin.
An easy way to spot skin-friendly products is to look for the National Eczema Association Seal of Acceptance. Products that earn this seal are already vetted for known irritants, making them a safe bet for use even by the most sensitive skin.
Pro tip: Choose skin care products labeled “fragrance free” instead of “unscented.” According to the American Academy of Dermatology, unscented products *can* contain skin-UNfriendly fragrance — it’s just masked so you can’t smell it.
It’s important not to just show your skin some TLC when you have a flare-up. Try to treat eczema relief and prevention like a full-time job. Forming habits focused on avoiding irritants and promoting soothing hydration will help prevent or minimize symptoms so you can have happier, more hydrated skin.
Establish a regular routine, with set times to cleanse, moisturize, and treat your skin. Generally, you’ll do this both in the morning and at night, but some folks may find they need to add in extra care throughout the day. Choose what works best for you and your skin.
Sometimes, the same ol’ routine can get boring. Or, certain go-to products just don’t work the way they once did for your skin. That’s fine.
It’s A-OK to try new products (just peep that label first!) or add or subtract steps if you think it’ll be better for your skin. Just keep your skin’s needs top of mind and proceed with a mindful eye.
Pro tip: Many people are prone to flare-ups during the winter months, thanks to the cold, dry weather. Unless you have the luxury of snow-birding through life (#Goals), you may need to rotate your routine. Consider switching to a heavier moisturizer and avoiding irritating fabrics (we see you, wool) when you’re laying on the layers in the colder season.
Best moisturizer for eczema: CeraVe Moisturizing Cream
CeraVe products could be a staple for folks dealing with dry skin. The brand touts a rich, nongreasy consistency, easy absorption, and skin-soothing ingredients. It’s no wonder that the CeraVe Moisturizing Cream is dermatologist-recommended and National Eczema Association-approved.
Not only is CeraVe Moisturizing Cream rich in helpful ceramides, it also contains hyaluronic acid. Hyaluronic acid is known for being a powerful, hydrating ingredient. A small study even suggested that it may be effective specifically for easing eczema symptoms.
This moisturizer can be applied as often as needed, and tends to work best when used directly after cleansing (but before makeup, if that’s your jam).
While it’s not the cheapest option out there, many reviewers say this cream is totally worth it. Users find that a little goes a long way with this moisturizing cream, and love that it does double-duty (it’s suitable for both face and body).
Best face wash for eczema: Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser
When it comes to uber-gentle face washes, Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser’s got you covered. This tried, and true product seems like it’s been around forever — and for good reason. Featuring only eight ingredients, this moisturizing cleanser is designed specifically for sensitive skin. It’s soap-free, fragrance-free, and nondrying.
While it’s not your best choice for removing stubborn makeup (a gentle makeup-removing wipe or some micellar water can help!), reviewers say this face wash can leave your skin feeling clean and hydrated. You can use it day and night — or whenever you need a cleansing refresh during the day.
This Cetaphil cleanser gets bonus points because you can use it either with and without water — great for when you’re in a pinch or can’t get to a sink. Simply cleanse, moisturize, and go!
It’s important to establish healthy habits when it comes to caring for eczema-prone skin. Keeping skin hydrated, avoiding irritants, and developing a care routine can all contribute to preventing or managing flare-ups.
Speak with your dermatologist if you need support or guidance in managing your eczema, or if your flare-ups worsen.