EczemaNet Article
Daily Skin Care Essential to Control Atopic Dermatitis

When looking for a safe and effective way to control atopic dermatitis, do not overlook dermatologist-recommended skin care. It can reduce flare-ups, decrease the need for medication, and improve response to treatment.

Despite these benefits, dermatologists find that patients and caregivers seldom follow the skin care guidelines given to them. Often the reason is misconceptions about skin care. The following should help clear up some of this confusion.

Myth: Keep Bathing to a Minimum
It is a common misconception that bathing dries the skin and should be kept to a bare minimum.

What dermatologists recommend: People with atopic dermatitis tend to have excessively dry skin. To hydrate the skin, take a short, daily bath(s) in warm — not hot — water. A mild, non-irritating soap should be used only when needed.

The facts: Daily bathing as recommended by a dermatologist helps to hydrate the skin, which can reduce flare-ups and relieve discomfort when moisturizers also are used as directed.

For severe atopic dermatitis, a dermatologist may recommend up to 3 short baths a day. Even patients who avoid water because getting wet can be painful tend to get relief after some initial discomfort.

Myth: Moisturizers Add Moisture to the Skin
The word “moisturizer” causes a great deal of confusion. People often think that a moisturizer adds moisture to the skin and can be applied any time.

What dermatologists recommend: Apply moisturizer within 3 minutes of bathing. This will trap moisture in the skin. Continue to apply moisturizer throughout the day to very dry areas.

The facts: A moisturizer cannot add moisture to the skin. Moisturizer seals in the water from the bath, preventing water from evaporating. This is why moisturizer is most effective when applied within 3 minutes of bathing.

To apply a moisturizer after bathing:

  1. Gently pat the skin partially dry.

  2. Apply medication directly on the lesions.

  3. Apply moisturizer on top of the medication and to the rest of the skin. For best results, dermatologists recommend using a thick, oily moisturizer and applying it in the same way that you would apply icing to a cake.

Applying moisturizer within 3 minutes of bathing and frequently throughout the day will help the skin to retain moisture from bathing. This, in turn, helps prevent dryness and cracking, which is especially important when the air is dry. With regular use, moisturizer can help to reduce discomfort and flare-ups as well as decrease the need for medication.

The new barrier repair moisturizers (also called barrier repair creams) can be especially helpful. Barrier repair moisturizers are generally applied twice daily to flare-prone skin and can be used along with a traditional moisturizer. These products do more than traditional moisturizers, which sit on top of the skin and prevent water loss. Barrier repair moisturizers, also known as physiologic moisturizers, not only reduce water loss; they help rebuild the skin. Patients say barrier repair moisturizers also calm the burning and itching.

Myth: Identify and Avoid Allergens to Prevent Flare-ups
Dermatologists often hear their patients and caregivers say that if only a patient’s allergies could be identified, then the patient could avoid these and prevent atopic dermatitis flares.

What dermatologists recommend: No one thing — not even allergen (substance to which the patient is allergic) avoidance — can control atopic dermatitis. Successfully managing this complex condition requires a multi-faceted approach. Proper skin care, using medication as directed, and avoiding one’s personal triggers all play a role. A trigger is anything that irritates the skin. A trigger need not be an allergen.

The facts: Laundry detergents, soaps, smoke, skin care products that contain alcohol or fragrance, and rough-textured clothing such as wool are common triggers that cause atopic dermatitis to flare. Triggers vary from person to person though, so it is important to learn what irritates the skin and avoid contact with individual triggers.

Discover the Benefits of Skin Care
Dermatologists stress that control of atopic dermatitis is nearly always possible. A key part of gaining control is good skin care. If skin care has not been a regular part of caring for atopic dermatitis, be sure to see a dermatologist. Including dermatologist-recommended guidelines can help one discover the relief possible with skin care.

For more information about skin care that can help to control eczema, visit:

Barrier Repair Moisturizers

Preventing Flare-Ups

Moisturizing and Cleansing Key to Treating Atopic Dermatitis

1 Abramovits W. A clinician's paradigm in the treatment of atopic dermatitis. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology 2005; 53: S70-7.

2 Beltrani VS. Atopic dermatitis: An update. The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 1999; 104: S85-6.

3 Hanifin JM, Tofte SJ. Patient education in the long-term management of atopic dermatitis. Dermatology Nursing / Dermatology Nurses' Association 1999; 11: 284-9.

4 Leung AK, Barber KA. Managing childhood atopic dermatitis. Advances in Therapy 2003; 20: 129-37.

5 Tofte SJ, Hanifin JM. Current management and therapy of atopic dermatitis. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology 2001; 44: S13-6.

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Page last updated 10/15/07

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