I have atopic dermatitis. Working out irritates my skin. What can I do?

Exercise is essential for good physical and mental health. Often, people who have atopic dermatitis (eczema) avoid exercising because of itchy skin, fears of a flareup, or concerns of having skin lesions noticed.

Don't let eczema prevent you from getting the exercise you need to thrive. By taking a few steps, you can stay active and keep your skin healthy.

  • Check your clothing. Choose lightweight workout gear that lets your skin breathe and wear loose clothing that doesn't rub during exercise. This reduces the risk of irritation. Fabrics made of cotton and viscose are good options.
  • Moisturize. Apply a moisturizer to protect your skin before and after exercise. A heavy ointment might feel hot and trap in sweat. Instead, use a moisturizing cream an hour before exercise to allow time for it to fully absorb.
  • Check in and take breaks. While exercising, if your eczema starts to flare, take note and pause. You might need to change your activity for something less intense. Or try using a cold compress or cooling towel to calm your skin.
  • Lube up before and after swimming. Chlorine can strip skin of essential moisture, causing irritation. Apply a thick, rich moisturizing cream or ointment before you get in the water. Petroleum jelly is an inexpensive, effective option.
  • Drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated prevents dry skin. A good goal is to drink at least half your body weight, in ounces, of water every day. For example, if you weigh 120 pounds, you'd drink about 60 ounces of water daily.
  • Consider exercising outdoors. Some sunlight can be good for people with eczema because ultraviolet rays decrease inflammation in the skin. But limit your sun exposure to avoid skin damage or overheating. Always use sunscreen when going outside.
  • Take a short shower after your workout. Sweat can make your skin itchy and irritated. The National Eczema Association recommends showering after exercise by starting with a warm (not hot) shower and gradually making it cooler over minutes and in stages. Limit showers to 5 to 10 minutes.
March 08, 2022 See more Expert Answers