Whether it’s period breakouts along your jawline or stubborn post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, most people are dealing with some sort of skin concern. For some, it’s eczema (aka atopic dermatitis) and the dry, itchy, and discolored rashes that can come along with it. If you're not familiar, eczema is a form of inflammation that affects the skin, often triggered by things like stress, the environment, weather, food, and certain ingredients in topicals. Eczema is most common in infants and young children, but it does sometimes persist into adulthood — which calls for proper treatment. So, naturally, sufferers tend to be on the lookout for the best skin care routine for eczema.
Besides steering clear of factors that don’t agree with your complexion, you can help keep your skin calm and collected with the right regimen. Thankfully, it’s super simple and mostly about upping the hydration and avoiding fragrance and potentially harsh additives and preservatives. It may also be helpful to avoid excessive heat and scratchy fabrics like wool, and you may even want to cop a humidifier for your bedroom for the added moisture, notes board-certified dermatologist Dr. Jenny Liu, M.D. Of course, if your skin is especially inflamed, then consider scheduling time with your dermatologist who may opt for more aggressive, prescription-strength treatments — because, with eczema, OTC skin care can only do so much.
For more on what you can do at home to hopefully avoid the office visit, scroll on for a straightforward three-step skin care routine for eczema, courtesy of dermatologists.
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1. Cleanse Daily
According to Dr. Lindsey Zubritsky, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist, the ideal skin care routine for eczema starts in the shower. Lukewarm water is best when dealing with this skin condition, as hot water (excessive heat, remember?) can exacerbate eczema and cause dryness, she explains. Baths also work, but Liu recommends not soaking for more than 15 minutes. She also notes that the water shouldn’t be too hot and that you should reserve the soap for your pits and slits plus any other areas that are visibly dirty or sweaty.
Daily cleansing is important to rehydrate the skin and “remove any crust and dead skin buildup,” Liu says. Fragrance-free hydrating cleansers that rebuild and support the skin’s moisture barrier are best, Zubritsky adds — so reach for formulas that contain nourishing ingredients like ceramides, niacinamide, and humectants (such as hyaluronic acid).
2. Moisturize Often
Immediately after cleansing and while your skin is still damp, you’ll want to reach for a nice thick moisturizing cream or ointment. Slathering on moisturizer right out of the shower or bath helps to seal in that hydration, and your products will be better able to penetrate the skin and go to work, the experts explain. “Moisturizers are the most important step to any skin care routine for eczema,” Zubritsky says, adding that you want to do this at least twice a day with a fragrance-free option. “It’s crucial.”
3. Opt For Mineral Sunscreen
Sunscreen should be a part of any skin care routine, but when you’re dealing with eczema, using SPF can cause a flare-up if you’re not careful. When choosing a product for sun protection, experts recommend reaching for a mineral (physical) sunscreen that uses zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide as its active ingredient; these are more suitable for sensitive skin and less likely to cause irritation.
Sethi, A. (2016). Moisturizers: The Slippery Road. Indian Journal of Dermatology, 61(3), 279-287. https://doi.org/10.4103/0019-5154.182427
Zuuren, E. J. (2017). Emollients and moisturisers for eczema. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2017(2). https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD012119.pub2
Dr. Jenny Liu, M.D., Minneapolis-based board-certified dermatologist
Dr. Lindsey Zubritsky, M.D., Pittsburgh-based board-certified dermatologist