Avoiding dry skin is an important part of treating
atopic dermatitis. This is done through bathing and
Bathing keeps you clean.
For the best effect, moisture
should be sealed into your skin by applying a nonsensitizing, nonperfumed
moisturizing cream or ointment (emollient) within 3 minutes of
Excessive bathing with soap or failure to use a moisturizer may leave the skin dry, making atopic dermatitis worse. Your doctor will suggest how often you should bathe based on your skin
and the climate where you live.
General bathing and moisturizing guidelines for people with atopic
dermatitis are as follows:
Soak in clean, lukewarm water for about 10 minutes. The skin will retain its
natural oils. Losing the natural oils makes the skin drier. You may shower when
atopic dermatitis is under control or when an outbreak is
Avoid washing with soap during every bath. When soap is
needed, use a gentle, nondrying product, such as Aveeno, Dove, Basis, or
Neutrogena. Use soap regularly only on the underarms, groin, and feet, rinsing
immediately afterwards. Use soap or shampoo at the end so that you aren't sitting in soapy
Avoid adding bath oils to the bath water.
Avoid using scrub brushes or
Pat your skin dry after a bath or shower. While your
skin is still moist or even wet, apply a moisturizer
immediately—within 3 minutes of leaving the bath or shower. Waiting longer
allows the skin to dry out. Moisturizers include Aquaphor, Eucerin, or Purpose.
For severe dryness, try petroleum jelly, mineral oil, or an all-vegetable shortening such as Crisco. Also apply the
moisturizer several times a day.
In warm, humid climates, greasy
moisturizers may block sweat glands and make your skin
uncomfortable. For greater comfort, use:
Oil-free moisturizers, such
Cream-based medicines and
Talk to your doctor about using a wet bandage over the
affected area. It can help relieve symptoms, but it may
not be a good idea if medicine is being used on the skin.
When an atopic dermatitis rash results in open, oozing, or crusted
sores, clean the affected area. In this case, your doctor also may
Taking frequent sponge baths (4 to 6 times a
day) or soaking in a bath of clean, lukewarm water for 10 to 30 minutes,
2 to 4 times a day. Adding colloidal oatmeal to the bath water [3 Tbsp (44 mL)
per tub] can help relieve the itching. You can get colloidal oatmeal in the
health and beauty section of a pharmacy.
Using a cloth dampened
with a soothing medicine or water for rashes that cover small areas.
ByHealthwise Staff Primary Medical ReviewerAdam Husney, MD - Family Medicine Specialist Medical ReviewerAmy McMichael, MD - Dermatology
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.