Bathing 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 existing eczema.

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 scrub.

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
    glycerin.
     

  • 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
    encourage use.
     

  • Avoid products that contain fragrances, preservatives, and other
    chemicals that can irritate the skin.


All content solely developed by the American Academy of Dermatology

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