Intense itching and irritation from eczema can disrupt your day-to-day life, even during active treatment. Adding complementary practices like meditation to your routine may help with symptom management.
Eczema is a group of inflammatory skin conditions that share intense itching and irritation symptoms. Atopic dermatitis is the most common type of eczema, affecting more than 9 million children and 16 million adults in the United States alone.
If you live with eczema, you may practice diligent skin care and use prescription medications or over-the-counter (OTC) products to manage your symptoms.
Even with treatment, however, eczema symptoms can flare or cause itchiness and discomfort. To help manage eczema, many people turn to complementary practices such as meditation.
Meditation may not treat the underlying causes of eczema, but it may help lower stress, improve sleep, and reduce symptom sensitivity.
Meditation is a mental activity that trains your attention and focus, encouraging a mind-body connection. Many types of meditation exist, and within those types, there are even more variations and unique concepts.
Bolstering your mind-body connection can help improve personal awareness of your physical and psychological well-being and their connection with one another. Recognizing these complex interactions can help you manage their influence in your life.
When it comes to eczema, an improved mind-body connection from meditation may help improve symptoms indirectly and may change your perception of those symptoms as they occur.
Stress and anxiety reduction
Stress is a common trigger of eczema flares.
If you’re stressed or feeling anxious, your body releases chemicals and hormones that can cause inflammation. This may compound existing inflammatory conditions such as eczema. Stress may also affect your skin’s ability to repair itself.
In addition to allowing you the opportunity to disengage from obsessive thoughts and worries, meditation may also improve the physiological processes in your body related to stress.
In a systematic review and meta-analysis from 2017, meditation used to manage stress lowered blood pressure, reduced stress hormone levels and inflammatory markers, and decreased heart rate.
Managing stress and inflammation may help reduce the severity of eczema symptoms.
Sleep disturbances are common if you live with eczema. Itching and discomfort can wake you or keep you awake, and bedding, detergents, and sleep temperature can aggravate eczema and cause a flare.
Meditation may contribute to improved sleep in several ways. It can help promote relaxation, reduce stress, and calm thoughts that might prevent sleep. A
Reduced symptom sensitivity
When you’re hyperaware of eczema symptoms, every itch, tingle, or sensation on your skin can feel unbearable.
Meditating may help change how you perceive your symptoms by deactivating overstimulated areas of the brain associated with chronic stress and pain.
In a pilot study from 2013, participants reported that meditation helped them identify triggers of stress, helping them prevent sensations of itch from becoming overwhelming. The group also indicated they felt more in control of their eczema and were better able to cope with the emotional impact of the condition in their lives.
Mindfulness itself is not inherently a type of meditation. Mindfulness is a mental practice in which you focus on the current moment. It is the act of purposeful, moment-by-moment, nonjudgmental awareness.
When mindfulness is incorporated into meditation, it’s known as mindfulness meditation, a mindfulness-based intervention (MBI). MBIs have been researched across multiple health conditions and appear promising for treating eczema symptoms.
A small study from 2022, for example, found MBIs helped decrease atopic dermatitis severity, itch perception, and stress levels, supporting their use as adjunct therapies to conventional treatment.
You don’t need advanced training to begin meditating. These steps can help you add meditation to your daily routine:
- decide on a meditation format
- select a quiet location to meditate
- create a comfortable space and atmosphere
- set aside a specific time to meditate
- keep meditation time brief and gradually build as you feel more comfortable
- allow yourself to make mistakes as you learn
If you’re unsure which meditation type is best, a simple place to begin is breathwork meditation, such as mindful breathing.
Simply sit quietly, focusing your attention on inhaling and exhaling. Allow thoughts to come and go without holding onto them. Focus on the sensation and rhythm of your breathing.
Meditation may be an effective complementary practice for more than just eczema. According to the
- reduction of stress, anxiety, and depression
- improved blood pressure
- management of acute and chronic pain
- improved sleep quality
Limited research cited by the NCCIH also suggests meditation may help:
- promote weight management
- regulate eating patterns
- reduce side effects from cancer
- improve symptoms in some mental health conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and substance use disorder (SUD)
The use of meditation for eczema is an emerging field of study. No standards yet indicate the ideal treatment duration or a best-in-practice meditation method.
There is no way to know how well meditation will work for you or how long it will take to see improvement. Successful results in literature range from 2–13 weeks and beyond.
Mindfulness meditation remains one of the most well-researched meditation interventions, but limited data on its use in eczema is available.
Meditation is not a substitute for conventional eczema therapy. It’s a way to supplement your treatment plan and potentially enhance your results.
If meditation doesn’t work for you, there are other complementary practices you can consider, including:
- stress reduction techniques
- nutritional support
Before beginning any complementary therapy, discuss it with a dermatologist to ensure it’s the right choice for you.
Meditation for eczema is a form of complementary therapy that may enhance your treatment outcomes. A growing body of research suggests meditation may help relieve stress, promote quality sleep, and lower symptom sensitivity in people with eczema.
There’s no way to know if meditation will work for you or how long it will take to notice improvements. Speaking with a dermatologist can help you decide whether meditation or another complementary therapy is right for you.