Eczema is a very common skin condition. The National Eczema Association estimates that about 31.6 million people in the U.S. — about 10% of the population — have some form of eczema. Eczema affects all ages, races, and genders.
While most people think of the red rash that eczema can cause, one of the most frequent frustrations is the constant itch that comes with eczema. This itch can lead to pain, sleeplessness, and skin infections.
There are several types of eczema and many things that can cause the condition. Skin care is especially important for people with eczema, and proper skin care includes choosing the right type of soap for your condition.
What Is Eczema?
Eczema is a condition that makes your skin dry, itchy, and red. It’s most common in young children, but anyone can get it at any age. People with a history of eczema may continue to notice flare-ups from time to time. Eczema is not contagious.
There are several different types of eczema, and it’s possible to have multiple types at once. Types of eczema include the following:
- Atopic dermatitis is the most common form of dermatitis and causes dry, inflamed, and itchy skin.
- Contact dermatitisis eczema caused by a skin reaction to allergens, like poison ivy, skin care products, and nickel.
- Dyshidrotic eczema dries out the skin and causes painful, itchy blisters on your hands and feet.
- Neurodermatitis is also called discoid eczema and causes intense itching on a small patch of skin.
- Nummular eczema is characterized by small, round lesions on the skin. These lesions are usually itchy and sometimes ooze.
- Seborrheic dermatitis usually affects the scalp, and one of the most common symptoms is dandruff.
- Stasis dermatitis happens when the veins in the legs struggle to push blood back to the heart. It can cause swelling, discoloration, dryness, and itching in the lower legs.
Eczema can affect all areas of the body. Symptoms of an eczema flare include:
- Cracked, dry skin
- Darkened skin around the eyes
- Oozing and crusting
- Raw and sensitive skin
- Small, raised bumps
- Thickened skin
The cause of eczema can vary from person to person. Some people may have a gene variation that weakens their skin barrier, the outer layer of skin. If this layer is weak, it has a harder time protecting against allergens, bacteria, environmental toxins, and irritants. For some people, eczema is caused by too much Staphylococcus aureus on their skin. Everyone has some of this bacteria, but too much can damage your skin barrier.
Common triggers of eczema flare-ups include:
- Cleaning products
- Cold and/or dry air
- Dry skin
- Dust mites
- Irritating chemicals
- Pet dander
- Rough or irritating fabric
- Skin infections
- Tobacco smoke
Skin Care for Eczema
Because skin with eczema is so sensitive, it needs special care.
Bathing and showering. Adjusting the way you bathe and shower can soothe and reduce eczema flare-ups. Try these tips:
- Shower daily in warm — not hot — water
- Avoid using anything that will scrape your skin, like a loofah
- Avoid bubble baths, as they can further irritate your skin
- Pat your skin dry rather than rubbing it
- To prevent flare-ups, take a bleach bath by adding half of a cup of household bleach to a warm bath. Do not submerge your head
- Add a quarter cup of baking soda to your bath to relieve itching
- Add colloidal oatmeal to your bath to relieve itching
- Choose your eczema soap carefully
Moisturizing. Moisturizing is a key aspect of eczema skincare. Try these moisturizing tips to soothe irritated skin:
- Moisturize immediately after you bathe or shower to lock in moisture
- Moisturize at least twice a day
- Choose a moisturizer carefully
Soap for Eczema
When choosing skin care products, especially soap, choose products without harsh chemicals and fragrances. You can find many products specifically for eczema-prone skin, but if you’re having a hard time choosing a product, look for one with a seal of approval from the National Eczema Association.
To qualify for the National Eczema Association Seal of Acceptance, products must be created for or intended to be used by people with eczema. The review panel, made up of allergists, dermatologists, and pediatricians, reviews the ingredients and test results before deciding if a product should get the National Eczema Association’s Seal of Acceptance. Products on this list include cleansers, moisturizers, hair products, hydrocortisone creams, household products, and fabric products. You can find the full list on the National Eczema Association’s website.
Many of the atopic dermatitis soaps and cleansers on this list are made by brands that you can find in your local drugstore, like Aveeno, CeraVe, Dove, and Neutrogena. If you’re struggling to find products you like, you can also find instructions online for how to make eczema soap yourself.
Other Tips for Managing Eczema
Skin care is one of the best ways to manage eczema, but there are other things you can do as well. Here are some tips for managing eczema:
- Determine what type of eczema you have. Each type has its own triggers and treatment options.
- Learn what triggers your eczema so you can avoid those things. Visiting an allergy specialist can help you figure out if you’re allergic to anything.
- Use an anti-itch cream containing at least 1% hydrocortisone to the affected skin to relieve itching.
- Try an allergy medication if your eczema is caused by allergies.
- Use a humidifier, as dry air can worsen eczema symptoms.
- Avoid clothing that irritates your skin, and choose fabrics that can breathe, especially in hot weather and while you’re exercising.
- Reduce stress and anxiety. This is easier said than done sometimes, but stress can trigger and worsen flare-ups.
- Try wet dressings for severe eczema. You can do a wet dressing by applying a corticosteroid cream and sealing it in with wet gauze.
- Consider light therapy for stubborn eczema. Light therapy is not recommended for young children.
- Speak to your doctor about prescription medications or creams for eczema.
Eczema in infants and young children is very common but can’t always be treated in the same way as eczema in adults. If you have concerns about your child’s eczema, speak to your pediatrician.