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Atopic Dermatitis: Taking Care of Your Skin


Good skin care is an essential part of controlling the itch and rash of atopic dermatitis. To help prevent a cycle of itching, scratching, and rash, you can:

  • Keep your skin hydrated, and avoid dry skin.
  • Avoid skin irritants.

How do you take care of your skin?

Good skin care is an essential part of controlling the itch and rash of atopic dermatitis. To help prevent a cycle of scratching, itching, and rash, keep your skin hydrated and identify and avoid skin irritants.

If you still have problems with itch and rash even after you have been using moisturizers, talk to your doctor.

Keeping your skin hydrated

To care for your skin:

  • Soak in clean, lukewarm water for about 10 minutes. Your skin will absorb water and still retain its natural oils. Losing the natural oils makes the skin drier. You may shower when atopic dermatitis is under control or when an outbreak is mild.
  • Avoid washing with soap during every bath. When soap is needed, use a gentle, nondrying product, such as Aveeno, CeraVe, or Cetaphil. Use soap regularly only on the underarms, groin, and feet, and rinse immediately afterward. Use soap or shampoo at the end of the bath to keep your child from sitting in soapy water.
  • Avoid adding bath oils and bubble bath to the bathwater, because they can reduce your skin's ability to absorb water.
  • Avoid using scrub brushes or washcloths.
  • Pat your skin dry after a bath or shower. While your skin is still moist or even wet, apply a moisturizer immediately‚ÄĒwithin 3 minutes of leaving the bath or shower. Waiting longer allows the skin to dry out.
  • Apply the moisturizer several times a day. Thicker creams or ointments, like petroleum jelly, work better than thinner lotions.
  • In warm, humid climates, greasy lotions or moisturizers may block sweat glands and make your skin uncomfortable. For greater comfort, use:
    • An oil-free moisturizer, such as Cetaphil.
    • Cream-based medicines and cream moisturizers, such as CeraVe.
  • Talk to your doctor about using a wet bandage over the affected area. It can help relieve symptoms but may not be a good idea if medicine is being used on the skin.

Moisturizers include Aquaphor, Eucerin, or Purpose. Or you may want to try a skin barrier repair moisturizer, such as CeraVe or TriCeram, that can help with burning, itching, and redness. For severe dryness, try petroleum jelly, mineral oil, or an all-vegetable shortening such as Crisco.

Avoiding skin irritants

Try to avoid skin irritants, such as:

  • Many soaps, lotions, and perfumes. Use a fragrance-free mild laundry detergent when you wash clothes, and rinse the clothes twice.
  • Scratchy clothing or bedding, such as wool and some acrylics. Cottons and cotton blends may be more comfortable.
  • Places with low humidity.
  • Sunburn.
  • Sudden changes of temperature.
  • Excessive sweating. Choose clothing and bedding fabrics that air can flow through easily. This will keep sweat from building up on your skin and irritating it.
  • Exercising in the heat of the day. Swimming may be a good choice for exercise. But be sure to wash and moisturize right away after pool use. The chemicals used in swimming pools can be irritating.
  • Emotional stress.


By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Amy McMichael, MD - Dermatology
Current as of March 12, 2014

Current as of: March 12, 2014

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