The Best Skincare Routine for Eczema, According to Dermatologists

Expert advice on how to tend to this sensitive and reactive skin type.

<p>Dragana991/Getty Images</p>

Dragana991/Getty Images

Eczema is a very common skin condition that impacts about 10 percent of the population. It can affect anyone at any age, and typically shows up as uncomfortable patches of dry, scaly, and itchy skin.

“Eczema presents differently depending on the type of eczema," says Tiffany Libby, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist. "However, for atopic dermatitis– the most common type of eczema—it commonly presents in lighter-skinned patients as pink-red scaly rashes on body folds (like the neck, elbow, and inner knee creases and ankles), though it can show up anywhere on your skin. On darker skin, eczema tends to appear as purple, brown, gray itchy, scaly rashes.”

Keep scrolling to discover the best skincare routine for eczema along with some dermatologist insights on how to keep your skin at its healthiest.

The Best Eczema Skincare Routine

This inflammatory skin condition occurs due to a dysfunction of the skin barrier, so prioritizing a healthy and hydrated skin barrier is crucial. Along with using products that bolster and repair the skin barrier, people with eczema should use products designed for sensitive skin types.

Step One: Hydrating Cleanser

Use a hydrating cleanser that’s pH-balanced, fragrance-free, and designed for people with sensitive skin.

Adam Tinklepaugh, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology, says, “Gentle, non-alcohol based cleansers are generally the best to use on eczema-prone skin. Products that dry the skin and remove healthy and natural oils can make eczema worse.” Along with alcohol, additional irritating ingredients include fragrances, dyes, essential oils, and exfoliants.

Simplified cleansing balms, cream cleansers, oil cleansers, and hydrating gel cleansers are all excellent choices. When cleansing, use lukewarm water and never scrub or rub.

It's best to wash your face every evening, or after exercise or swimming. You can also wash your face in the morning, but some people with dry or sensitive skin types find that rinsing is enough. 

Step Two: Layer Moisturizers

Moisturizing is the cornerstone of any skincare routine for eczema. That said, it’s important for people with eczema to optimize their moisturizing routines, and layering different types of moisturizers is a simple and effective way to do exactly that. Start with a humectant, then follow up with an emollient moisturizer and/or occlusive.

  • Humectants: These help add moisture back to the skin. Common humectants are glycerin, lactic acid, urea, and hyaluronic acid.

  • Emollients: They replenish oils and can help with softening too. Emollients include colloidal oatmeal, glycol and glyceryl stearate, soy sterols, squalane, and oils like jojoba or sweet almond.

  • Occlusives: This type of moisturizer helps prevent transepidermal water loss (TEWL) by creating a “seal” over the skin. Common occlusives are ceramides, petrolatum, dimethicone, shea butter, and mineral oil.

Again, make sure to choose non-irritating moisturizers suitable for sensitive skin types. Apply no less than twice per day, or each time you cleanse.

Step Three: Sunscreen

In the daytime, apply sunscreen after your moisturizer. Sun exposure can actually worsen eczema, so this step is very important. People with eczema tend to find that mineral (physical) sunscreens are less irritating compared to chemical sunscreen formulas.

More Ways to Soothe & Strengthen Your Skin

The following can also help keep your skin hydrated, strong, and healthy:

  • Apply Moisturizer to Damp Skin: “It is essential to trap water underneath your moisturizer to hydrate the skin and improve eczema,” says Dr. Tinklepaugh. If your skin is dry, dampen it by splashing or spraying with water and then moisturize.

  • Use lukewarm water: Hot water strips your skin of natural oil, which can reduce overall moisture levels and exacerbate eczema.

  • Humidifier: Humidifiers increase moisture in the air, which is especially beneficial during the dry winter months.

  • Moisturize Hands Often: Brendan Camp, M.D., board-certified dermatologist says, “It is important to keep your hands moisturized because the effects of hand sanitizers, washing, and environmental factors like cold temperatures and wind can trigger eczema.”

  • Avoid Irritants: Along with carefully selecting your skincare products, be mindful of other irritants in your path. For example, Dr. Libby says, “Look for ‘Free and Clear’ labels on laundry detergents that are hypoallergenic and fragrance-free.” She adds that Velcro closures and clothing tags are surprisingly common culprits for physical irritation. 

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