A key part of eczema skin care is keeping skin moisturized. It’s also important to avoid skin care ingredients and environmental triggers that can cause flare-ups. A daily skin care routine can help you manage symptoms.

If you or a loved one is living with eczema or atopic dermatitis, you probably know the importance of having a good skin care routine.

Eczema is a chronic condition that can flare when you’re exposed to environmental triggers. Atopic dermatitis is a type of eczema characterized by dry skin, scaly patches, itching, and sores.

Keeping your skin moisturized can help prevent eczema flares and provide some relief when flares occur. By developing a routine that works for you, you can help ensure that you keep your skin moisturized and protected against future flare-ups.

A basic skin care routine involves cleansing, moisturizing, and protecting your skin each day. This is generally done in the morning, and at night before bed.

Having a skin care routine makes it easier to care for your skin more consistently, which will benefit your skin.

Everyone’s skin is different, so no two skin care routines are going to be exactly the same.

The products you use to cleanse and moisturize your skin are of particular importance if you experience eczema. You’ll want to make sure you incorporate products that do not irritate your skin into your daily routine.

The habits you build in as part of your routine, such as keeping showers short and avoiding showering with hot water, can also help you protect your skin and minimize eczema flares.

The most essential part of a skin care routine is ensuring that it’s something you can follow consistently. If you find your routine too challenging to keep up with every day, it may be difficult to maintain it, and that will lessen its benefits.

Keeping your skin moisturized can help to prevent itching, irritation, and thickening of the skin. In fact, in mild cases, dry skin is the primary symptom of eczema, and a good skin care routine can help keep symptoms suppressed.

In other cases, managing symptoms may require additional precautions and treatments. Whether your eczema is mild or more severe, the starting point for most routines focuses on:

  • locking in moisture
  • soothing the skin
  • avoiding triggers

Applying moisturizer

One of the most important steps you can take is getting into the habit of moisturizing your skin immediately following a shower or bath.

According to the National Eczema Association, if you don’t immediately apply moisturizer after bathing, the water in your skin will evaporate. This will then cause it to dry out.

Showering or bathing

During a bath or shower, you should avoid hot water. Hot water can cause your skin to dry out more, and lukewarm water will help stop this process.

It’s also a good idea to avoid scrubbing or using harsh soaps on your skin. Then, apply moisturizer within 3 minutes of getting out of the shower to help create a barrier to lock in moisture, per the National Eczema Association.

The American Academy of Dermatology doesn’t fully discourage baths, especially for children. They state that bath time can provide an opportunity for parents and children to bond and can remove bacteria and dead skin cells.

However, you should keep baths and showers short. According to a 2018 review, researchers recommend daily bathing or showering that lasts between 5 and 10 minutes.

Avoiding and recognizing triggers

Eczema can get worse when you come in contact with irritants or triggers. One part of a good skin care routine should be taking active steps to avoid contact with known triggers.

If you don’t know what triggers you have, you may want to keep a journal to help you determine the possible causes of your flares. This way, you can potentially avoid them in the future.

Also, keep in mind that not all triggers come from chemicals or irritants.

For example, cold, dry air can trigger an eczema flare-up. During the winter, you may need to change your routine a bit to help keep your skin more protected.

Experimenting with your routine

No two cases of eczema are exactly alike. As a result, what works for some people may not work as well for you, and vice versa.

In an article for the National Eczema Association, dermatologist Dr. Margaret Lee notes that you may find relief with products not specifically designed for eczema care. For example, you might find that vegetable shortening or petroleum jelly helps to rehydrate your skin and relieves the pain and itchiness associated with a flare.

Once you’ve established a routine with one or more products that work, you should consider writing down the routine to help keep it going.

If you’re caring for a child with eczema, having their routine recorded can help in case someone else needs to take over responsibility for the routine.

What to include

Moisturizers are one of the most important parts of a skin care routine. But not all moisturizers are created the same way, and some provide better benefits than others.

Ointments and creams are the most effective moisturizers you can use for treating eczema. This is because ointments and creams have a higher oil content than lotions.

Oil has two effects on the skin. The first is that it keeps moisture in. The second is it helps keep irritants out.

Several brands, like Aveeno, offer moisturizers designed specifically for eczema. When looking for moisturizers, you should avoid ones that have added fragrances, dyes, or other ingredients that may irritate your skin.

You also want to include gentle cleansers, like CeraVe, in your routine. Keeping your skin clean will help prevent dry, cracked areas of skin from becoming infected.

Finally, if you’re seeing a dermatologist for treatment, you should discuss which medications may be best for you, and ensure that you use them according to the prescribed instructions for the best results.

What to avoid

Certain substances can make eczema worse. It’s best to avoid skin care products with the following ingredients:

  • Fragrances: Both synthetic fragrances and natural fragrances, including those from essential oils, can be highly irritating if you have eczema. Both types of fragrances can also trigger allergic reactions.
  • Urea: While urea is a moisturizing ingredient, it may irritate skin if you have eczema because it’s an exfoliant that can harm the outer layer of skin.
  • Lanolin: Lanolin is a popular ingredient in moisturizer that’s made from sheep’s wool. It can cause an allergic reaction and make eczema worse in some people.
  • Retinoids: Acne products and products for mature-looking skin both often contain retinoids, which can be very irritating. A label may list them as “vitamin A.”
  • Cocamidopropyl betaine: This is a foaming agent found in a lot of shampoos and soaps, particularly “no tears” formulas designed for children. However, it may be irritating to skin.
  • Propylene glycol: This ingredient appears in a lot of moisturizers and creams but may cause an allergic reaction in some people.
  • Ethanol: Ethanol is a form of drying alcohol found in many gels. Because it’s harsh and may dry your skin, it can cause further irritation.

When buying skin care products, check the labels to look out for the ingredients listed above. You can also look for a product with the National Eczema Association Seal of Acceptance on it. This will help you avoid products that contain these known irritants.

Outside of skin care, other substances you might come in contact with may make eczema worse. It’s best to avoid the following common triggers.

  • metals, especially nickel
  • smoke
  • certain fabrics, like wool
  • antibacterial ointments and wipes
  • harsh soaps and household cleaning products
  • dyes used for leather or temporary tattoos

While it helps to avoid topical substances and chemicals, remember these aren’t the only triggers. When possible, you may also want to avoid:

  • very hot showers or baths
  • dry, cold air
  • any foods or airborne allergens that make your eczema flare
  • stress

Your routine will vary based on your triggers and what you’re planning to do each day. For more specific guidance, talk with your dermatologist to see what they recommend for you.

You should aim to moisturize your skin 2–3 times per day.

Morning routine

  • Cleanse: If you shower or bathe in the a.m. and want to wash your face, you may wish to avoid harsh soaps and use a non-irritating cleanser, like CeraVe or Cetaphil. If you decide not to wash your face, you can instead remove any oil gently with water and a soft cloth.
  • Treat: Pat yourself dry and apply any prescription creams or medicated treatments to eczema patches, if applicable. Otherwise, spot-treat any problem areas with a thick, oil-based cream.
  • Moisturize: Next, apply moisturizer all over your damp skin. Even if you don’t shower, you should take the time in the morning to apply moisturizer to your skin.
  • Protect: If you plan to spend time outside, you should apply sunscreen with at least SPF 30 before heading out. If it’s cold and dry, make sure you cover as much of your skin as possible.

Throughout the day

  • Cleanse: Keep gentle soaps in your bathroom, kitchen, or at work to help protect your hands throughout the day.
  • Moisturize: Apply lotion or moisturizing cream to your hands each time you wash them.
  • Protect: Reapply sunscreen as needed.

Nighttime routine

  • Cleanse: Before bed, wash your face with a gentle cleanser to remove any dirt and buildup from the day. If you plan to take a shower, keep the temperature lukewarm and limit the time to 5–10 minutes.
  • Treat: Pat yourself dry, then take time to spot-treat any areas of concern with thick, oil-based creams, or apply prescription products as needed.
  • Moisturize: Apply moisturizer to your body soon after drying off. You may opt to use different moisturizers for your body and face.
  • Protect: Make sure that your nightwear and sheets are made of fabrics that won’t chafe or irritate your skin. Breathable and loose-fitting cotton is an appropriate fabric for nighttime use. Consider using a humidifier as needed for dry air. Keeping your bedroom clean and dust-free can help you to avoid airborne allergens.

One of the most important parts of eczema care is keeping your skin moisturized. You should also take steps to avoid triggers, which can help you prevent flares.

Your skin care routine should consist of plans for when you’ll moisturize your skin as well as ways to help protect it. Your routine will likely differ from that of other people, depending on your current needs.

If you have trouble developing an effective routine, you can talk with your doctor. They can provide you with more specific recommendations that may help your individual situation.