Atopic dermatitis: Proper bathing can reduce itching

When done correctly, your bathing routine can help reduce eczema flares and manage itching.

If you have atopic dermatitis (eczema), warm baths or showers using mild or soap-free cleansers should be part of your regular skin care. It's important to properly bathe when you have eczema. Otherwise your skin may become irritated, making your symptoms worse.

Bathing and moisturizing tips

  • Take a bath or shower using lukewarm (not hot) water for 5 to 10 minutes. Use a gentle cleanser (not soap). Don't scrub the skin with a washcloth or loofah.
  • After bathing, use a soft towel and gently pat the skin, leaving it slightly damp.
  • Apply any prescription topical medication to your skin as directed by your doctor.
  • Within 3 to 5 minutes, liberally apply a rich moisturizer all over your body. Failing to apply a moisturizer within a few minutes will cause the skin to become even drier.
  • Allow the moisturizer to absorb into the skin before getting dressed or applying wet wraps.

Bath treatments to help reduce itching and prevent flares

Some people find relief from eczema symptoms by soaking in bath water that has been treated with specific additives. Before trying a soaking treatment (including those listed below), it's important that you talk with your doctor and determine if an option is an appropriate solution for you.

Bleach bath. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends a bleach bath to help prevent eczema flares. A diluted-bleach bath decreases bacteria on the skin and related infections. Add 1/2 cup (118 milliliters) of household bleach, not concentrated bleach, to a 40-gallon (151-liter) bathtub filled with warm water. Measures are for a U.S. standard-sized tub filled to the overflow drainage holes.

Soak from the neck down or just the affected areas of skin for about 10 minutes. Do not submerge your head. Take a bleach bath no more than twice a week.

Baking soda. The National Eczema Association recommends adding 1/4 cup of baking soda to your bath or applying it directly to your itchy skin in the form of a paste.

Oatmeal. Adding colloidal oatmeal to your bath or applying it to the skin directly in the form of a paste may help relieve itching.

March 08, 2022 See more In-depth