and Moisturizing Guidelines
Bathing and moisturizing are essential
for healthy skin. Bathing can hydrate skin, remove dirt and germs,
and promote relaxation. It also can loosen crusts from inflamed
skin. However, hot water, drying soaps, and rubbing to get skin clean
or dry can aggravate eczema and cause a flare-up. These guidelines
can help you reap the benefits of bathing and moisturizing:
1. Use lukewarm water for bathing and washing hands. The
water should not feel hot nor redden the skin because hot water
dries skin. Dry, irritated skin can cause a flare-up and worsen
2. Avoid excessive bathing. Bathing too frequently can dry
skin. A short lukewarm shower, tepid bath, or sponge bath once a day
for 5 to 10 minutes can hydrate skin effectively.
3. Use mild, non-drying cleansers. For anyone with an
inflammatory skin condition, such as eczema, it is essential that a
personal cleaning agent cleanse without causing excessive skin
dryness or roughness. Look for a mild cleanser that is free of
fragrances, antibacterial agents, and other chemicals that can
irritate the skin.
Equally important is how the cleanser makes the skin feel. Does the
skin feel dry or slightly irritated? Even mild cleansers can
irritate. If the cleanser dries or irritates, stop using it
immediately. Cleansers should not be used on skin that has flared as
even the mildest cleanser can be quite irritating.
4. Soap up only as needed. When not too dirty or sweaty, use
soap only on the genitals, armpits, feet, and hands.
5. Steer clear of body sponges and washcloths. The friction
caused by using a body sponge or washcloth can irritate skin and
lead to a flare-up. Use your hands to lather up, and never rub or
6. Pat skin partially dry with a towel. Do not rub the skin
dry. Rubbing skin dry with a towel removes important natural oils,
which dries skin. Instead of rubbing the skin dry, use the towel to
pat the skin partially dry and then apply moisturizer.
7. Apply moisturizer while the skin is damp. Applying
moisturizer while the skin is damp, usually within 3 minutes of
bathing, locks in the moisture from the bath. In the winter, or any
time the air is dry, apply a heavy layer of moisturizer to the face,
hands, and other skin that will be exposed.
8. Select moisturizers with care. When selecting
moisturizers, it is important to know a bit about them so that you
can select the ones that best fit your needs. One of the biggest
misconceptions about moisturizers is that these products hydrate the
skin. The truth is that moisturizers lock in the skin’s own moisture
to prevent dryness and cracking. The more oil a moisturizer contains
the more effectively it protects against moisture loss. Moisturizers
that come in ointment form contain the most oil because an ointment,
by definition, consists of 80% oil and 20% water. This water-in-oil
emulsion forms a protective layer on the skin and makes it more
“moisturizing” than creams and lotions. Ointments are especially
beneficial when humidity is low. Ointments should not be used on
areas of the body that tend to get hot and sweaty.
Creams contain 50% oil and 50% water. Water is the primary
ingredient in lotions, so lotions do not provide as great a barrier
against moisture loss as do ointments and creams.
When selecting a moisturizer, be sure to keep in mind:
When the relative humidity drops below
60%, skin begins to lose
moisture and greater protection against moisture loss is needed.
When humidity is low, look for moisturizers that contain
petrolatum, mineral oil, linoleic acid, ceramides, dimethicone, or
In humid conditions, the skin can
replenish itself by soaking up
moisture from the air so a lotion may be all that is needed.
Find moisturizers that feel pleasing to
the skin as this will
Avoid products that contain fragrances,
preservatives, and other
chemicals that can irritate the skin.
All content solely
developed by the American Academy of Dermatology