Dealing with dry, itchy, red patches on your skin? Eczema might be to blame. Eczema is an incredibly common and usually very manageable skin condition. In fact, an estimated 30 percent of people in the U.S. have eczema — so if that’s you, you’re not alone.
Many people develop eczema in childhood and it may improve or resolve over time. But for some, eczema may persist throughout your life or you may develop it for the first time later in life.
Regardless of your age, the approach to eczema treatment is similar. It all starts with your day-to-day skin care habits. Everyone with eczema needs to pay attention to their regular skincare routine.
Moisture is king.
Maximize your moisturizer
Emollients, or moisturizers, are the mainstay of treating eczema. You should get in the habit of applying a thick, fragrance-free emollient eczema cream at least once daily.
Try to apply your moisturizer within three minutes of exiting the bath or shower, as this is when your skin is most absorbent.
Moisturize often during flare-ups
Emollients can be safely used several times daily when skin is flaring.
Use the right kind of moisturizer
The thicker the emollient, the better it works. The thickest, strongest moisturizers are ointments, followed by creams, followed by lotions (anything that typically comes in a pump bottle).
Be gentle on your skin.
In addition to the use of moisturizer, it is important to use gentle skin care products for your cosmetics, cleansers and household products.
Related: How to ditch dry skin
Use a mild soap
Choose a mild cleanser for bathing and hand washing such as unscented Dove soap.
Skip the long, hot showers
Showers should be lukewarm and limited to less than 10 minutes.
Use unscented products
Avoid the use of scented products such as perfumes, body sprays and scented lotions.
Use gentle laundry methods
Opt for unscented laundry detergent and avoid the use of dryer sheets.
Know when the basics aren’t enough.
Find a dermatologist you trust
Sometimes, all of those preventative measures for eczema are not enough to keep things under control. If that happens, your dermatologist becomes your best friend.
Don’t have a dermatologist? Find one near you.
Be open to all the options
Your dermatologist can discuss a myriad different prescription options for the treatment of eczema. Most commonly this will entail the use of a steroid topical cream or ointment. There are options for non-steroid creams or ointments as well. Your dermatologist can help figure out what is right for you.
If topical therapies are inadequate, your dermatologist can review other treatment options such as pills and injections that can be used to control severe, difficult-to-treat eczema.
Watch out for infections
Generally, you should see your dermatologist whenever your eczema is not controlled by your at-home therapies or is impacting your quality of life (such as inability to sleep or persistent scratching). Because eczema breaks down the skin barrier, people with eczema are more prone to bacterial and viral skin infections.
If you notice any of these signs of infection, you should seek medical evaluation.
- Open, weepy skin
- Yellow crusting
- Clusters of blisters
- Localized redness, warmth and swelling
Eczema shouldn’t hold you back or cause you discomfort. Talk to your dermatologist about ways to control your eczema symptoms.
About the author
Rachel McAndrew, MD is a dermatologist on the medical staff at Baylor Scott & White Clinic – Austin Downtown and Baylor Scott & White Clinic – Lakeway. She enjoys seeing patients of all ages and focuses on medical dermatology. Originally from Michigan, she completed medical school at Michigan State University. Her love for Texas started during her undergraduate degree at the University of Texas and she returned here to complete her training in dermatology. She now lives in Austin with her husband and son.