How to Build the Best Skincare Routine For Eczema

Dermatologists share their expert tips.

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The Best Skincare Routine For Eczema, According to Dermatologists

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Figuring out your skincare routine when you have eczema is like doing a hard Wordle. It can take trying a number of product combinations until you land on a lineup that soothes and heals skin rather than trigger symptoms.

"Anyone with eczema should work to treat their skin gently and with care. You want to use products that are gentle and add moisture to the skin so as not to trigger an eczema flare-up of red, itchy, and irritated skin, which can be unsightly and also painful," says Dr. Corey L. Hartman, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Skin Wellness Dermatology in Birmingham, AL. "You also want to avoid eczema triggers, which can oftentimes be fragrance, dyes, or other irritants."

To help minimize the trial and error, we turned to three tops dermatologists to help streamline the process. From choosing the right moisturizer for minimizing dry patches to what ingredients to avoid when dealing with a flareup, these experts cover all the bases.

Ahead, dermatologists share their tips on how to build the best skincare routine for eczema.

Use a gentle cleanser

Cleansing is a universal skincare step. However, the type of face wash you use will vary based on your skin type and concerns. For eczema, it's best to opt for a gentle formula that will wash away makeup, dirt, and other impurities without stripping the skin.

"Use gentle cleansers that are specifically designed for sensitive skin types so they won’t strip skin or excess oils and will help add nourishing hydrating ingredients back to skin," says Dr. Tiffany Libby, a board-certified dermatologist.

Dr. Karan Lal, double board-certified adult and pediatric dermatologist and fellowship-trained cosmetic dermatologist at Affiliated Dermatology in Scottsdale, AZ. recommends La Roche-Posay Lipikar AP+ Body & Face Wash because it's formulated for extra dry, sensitive skin and can be used head to toe.

Moisturize to protect the skin barrier

When moisturizing, look for a protect that will replenish skin and reinforce the skin barrier to prevent further dryness and irritation.

"Look for humectants like glycerin and hyaluronic acid, and emollient moisturizers, like jojoba oil and sunflower oil, that soothe inflamed skin and are made of fatty acids that help soften skin and reinforce the skin’s moisture barrier," Dr. Libby says. "Occlusive moisturizers contain ingredients like petrolatum and these help seal in moisture to further prevent transepidermal water loss (TEWL)." The dermatologist is a fan of Bio-Oil Natural Oil, a product that can be used on your face and body.

Dr. Lal says the Uriage Xemose Lipid-Replenishing Anti-Irritation Cream is a good lotion for eczema because it's full of lipids and shea butter, but isn't greasy despite its rich texture.

All three dermatologists stress the importance of moisturizing directly after showering. Dr. Hartman adds to limit hot showers as the high water temperatures can further irritate eczema. It's also helpful to keep the skin as dry as possible. "Gently tap the skin with a clean, dry towel if you are sweating or change out of wet clothes as soon as possible," he says.

Use active ingredients with caution

Because a strong skin barrier and balanced microbiome are the keys to preventing eczema symptoms, many popular active ingredients in skincare products can be too harsh and drying.

"Avoid any products that could dry the skin, like alcohol or witch hazel. Also avoid products with active acids like BHAs and AHAs or use them sparingly," Dr. Hartman says. "Depending on the severity of your eczema, you may need to consider avoiding products with retinol or retinoids altogether."

If you're unsure whether you should be using any of the above ingredients, play it safe and consult with your dermatologist or do a patch test before applying the product in question all over.

Avoid products that could be triggers

While floral and fresh scents turn your skincare routine into a spa-like experience, they're also big triggers for eczema so products with fragrance should be avoided. The same goes for certain chemicals in laundry detergents and itchy and/or unbreathable fabrics.

"Avoid common triggers like certain types of soap, shampoo, body wash and cleansers, laundry detergents, and fabric softeners with chemical additives, certain fabrics like wool or polyester in clothing and bedding, fragrances, and environmental triggers like stress and extended exposure to dry air, extreme heat or cold," Dr. Libby says.

How to deal with flareups

When you get the itch that just won't quit (aka an eczema flareup), add a treatment product to your routine that will minimize the discomfort and work to heal the skin.

"Use barrier repair ingredients like colloidal oatmeal and allantoin which work to protect and soothe skin," Dr. Libby says. "Hydrocortisone in over-the-counter formulations like Sarna’s Eczema Relief Whipped Foam helps deliver fast, soothing relief to itchy, eczema-prone skin."

And when in doubt, check in with your dermatologist. "During flare ups the best thing to do is use your medication as directed by your board-certified dermatologist twice a day," Dr. Lal shares. "The key to managing a flare is making sure that you use your medication until you are completely clear and then slowly taper off. Never abruptly stop using your medication as this can lead to a rebound flare. During flares you want to moisturize more often to reduce the urge to scratch."

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