While studies have yet to discover exactly what causes eczema in the first place, experts have learned how to lessen the appearance of dry, flaky skin — aka Atopic Dermatitis. Careless ingredients and irritating additives will likely make matters worse, while the best soaps for eczema can help to hydrate and nourish skin so the effects are less noticeable. The question then becomes: Which soaps are actually gentle? — especially because virtually all soaps are marketed as "hydrating" and "nourishing," even when they're not at all suitable for sensitive skin.
To help answer this question and learn more about eczema, I reached out board-certified dermatologist and RealSelf contributor, Dr. Joel Schlessinger via email. "Eczema causes excessive dryness and sensitivity, so any area experiencing irritation, itching, or a visible rash requires extra care," Dr. Schlessigner explained. "This means every product, soap included, needs to be thoughtfully selected if it’s going to come in contact with skin affected by eczema."
I'm of the belief that everyone should be checking the labels on their skin care products, but especially for those with eczema, all ingredients should be recognizable, pronounceable, and serve a purpose. Natural products for eczema tend to be many people's go-to because they're free from synthetic additives; on the other hand, manufactured chemicals are common triggers for eczema rashes, so scanning the list for your known allergens is a great place to start. "Natural soaps and cleansers may be effective when it comes to eczema, but the success of these products is likely due to the lack of irritating ingredients," says Dr. Schlessinger. "Products don’t necessarily need to be natural to be safe for eczema, and not all natural products are safe for those with eczema."
A body-friendly soap will also respect your skin's natural microbiome and pH levels. The surface of your skin has a population of microscopic bacteria, some of which are actually beneficial and essential in keeping your skin healthy. Aggressive hygiene products (like antibacterial soap and overly-stripping surfactants) can actually kill off your beneficial microbes, which can worsen the effects of eczema. For that reason, steer clear of any harsh antibacterials — or anything that might alter pH, which also contributes to a healthy microbiome. According to scientists, skin should be slightly acidic, with a pH in the general range of 4 to 6.