If you’re a guy and you get bouts of eczema on your genitals, it’s common for the symptoms to show up on your scrotum. That’s the pouch of skin that holds and helps protect your testicles.
You might be reluctant to see your doctor or dermatologist for help, but there’s nothing to be embarrassed about. They can give you treatments that ease your symptoms. They can also rule out other conditions that look like scrotal eczema but aren’t.
Here’s what you need to know about eczema on the scrotum, including things that can trigger it, symptoms, treatment, and more.
What Are the Symptoms?
When your eczema flares, your scrotum skin may become red, sore, and itchy.
In general, eczema can also make skin:
- Dry and sensitive
- Inflamed and discolored
- Rough, leathery, or scaly
- Oozy or crusted
Some people with the condition have all of these symptoms. Some have just a few. Treatment can help them go away and keep your eczema in check.
What Are the Triggers?
Lots of things that touch or get on your scrotum could set off your symptoms. Some triggers are:
- Tight clothes
- Bubble baths
- Certain laundry detergents
- Fabric softener
- Dryer sheets
- Some shower gels
- Talcum powder
- Moist toilet wipes
- Hemorrhoid preparations
Not everyone has the same triggers. Once you learn yours, you can avoid them.
How Is It Diagnosed?
A dermatologist can usually figure out if you have eczema by checking your skin and asking you about your symptoms.
They might ask you questions like:
- Do any of your blood relatives have eczema, asthma, or hay fever?
- What are your symptoms?
- When did you start getting them?
If they need more information or think it might be something else, they may do other exams, like:
What Are the Treatments?
Your dermatologist may prescribe medicines to clear up eczema on your scrotum.
Steroids are the most common treatment for eczema. They can thin out your skin if you overuse them, though, and that could lead to bruising and tearing, says Steve Daveluy, MD, an associate professor and program director at Wayne State University in Michigan.
Still, it’s safe to use weaker, low-strength steroids on your groin, Daveluy says. Be safe and work closely with your dermatologist. They can make sure you’re using the right strength for the right amount of time. Call them ASAP if you have side effects.
Also, don’t apply steroids shortly before you have traditional or oral sex, because there’s a chance the drug could get on your partner.
Your dermatologist might also recommend meds called topical calcineurin inhibitors. They don’t have the same side effects as steroids -- for instance, they don’t thin the skin -- so they’re safe to use on the genitals, Daveluy says. They can sting a bit at first, and getting your insurance to cover them might be a hurdle, he says.
Wash your hands before and after you use topical drugs that you put on your skin. And if you’re using creams or emollients from a jar, scoop them out with a clean spoon. Putting your hands in and out of the jar after while applying these onto your scrotum could raise your chances for an infection.
Can Home Remedies Help?
Yes. Some ways to ease the itch are:
Moisturize daily. This is a must, Daveluy says. Choose a moisturizer that doesn’t have a lot of perfumes and fragrances, which can irritate the skin. Find one that you like and use it at least once a day, he says.
Chill. Scratching and rubbing a lot can damage skin, so ease the itch with an ice pack or a bag of frozen peas. You can apply it directly to your skin for a few seconds, Daveluy says. If you want to use it longer, wrap it in a clean towel or fabric first, he adds.
Shop safely. Don’t use over-the-counter products for your groin without talking to your dermatologist first. Many OTC products have ingredients that can irritate eczema, Daveluy says.
Take a bleach bath. You can try this a few times a week if your dermatologist says it’s OK for you:
- Buy plain bleach -- not concentrated. It should be regular strength (6%).
- Use 1/2 cup of bleach for a full bathtub of water, 1/4 cup of bleach for half a tub of water, and 1 teaspoon of bleach per gallon of water for a baby’s or toddler’s bathtub.
- Measure it first, and then pour it into the running water as the tub fills up. Use lukewarm water -- hot water can dry out your skin and make your eczema flare. And never put bleach directly on your skin.
- When you get in, soak from the neck down only -- don’t dunk your head in the bathwater.
- Stay in the tub for 5 to 10 minutes, or ask your dermatologist how long they’d recommend.
- After you get out, rinse off in the shower with lukewarm water. Pat yourself dry with a towel.
- If you use eczema medication, put it on right after, then use moisturizer.
Try an oatmeal bath. This also might help ease the itch. Here’s what to do:
- Buy colloidal oatmeal. You can usually find it at stores that sell health and beauty goods.
- Add some oatmeal to running, lukewarm bath water.
- Soak for about 10 to 15 minutes.
- Pat yourself dry, but leave your eczema-affected skin a bit damp.
- Apply your medicine, and then moisturize.
- The oatmeal might make the floor of the bath extra slippery, so be careful when you climb out.
- Don’t eat the oatmeal.
What Else Should I Do?
Wash wisely. Even though it’s important to keep your genitals clean, washing your scrotum too much can irritate the skin, especially if you use abrasive sponges or flannel wipes. Wash gently there and use a mild, fragrance-free cleanser, since bar soaps could aggravate your skin.
Also avoid other products that could be drying or irritating, like:
- Antiseptic washes
- Moist wipes
- Bubble bath
Shampoo can also bring on irritation if it gets on your scrotum. One way around this is to buy a shampoo that has the National Eczema Association’s Seal of Acceptance. If you can’t find one, put moisturizing cream on your scrotum before you wash your hair. Rinse it off after you rinse your hair.
And if you want to remove genital hair, think twice about using waxing and shaving products, because they could also aggravate your skin. It may be a better bet to use your moisturizing non-soap cleanser.
Dress for success. You might feel more comfortable in loose-fitting underwear that’s 100% cotton or silk, because there’s less friction and irritation. Avoid tight clothes.
And when you’re doing the laundry, use eczema-friendly cleaning products that have the NEA’s Seal of Acceptance. Also, buy products that are labeled “fragrance-free” rather than “unscented.” Unscented simply means it has a fragrance that you can’t smell.