Should people with eczema-prone skin avoid taking hot showers or baths? As it turns out, the short answer is yes. But on the other hand, it’s actually a bit more nuanced than that.
Although keeping clean is an essential part of everyday life, eczema experts assert that a long hot shower or bath may not be your best option. While hot water can provide some temporary relief for symptoms like itching or irritation, the overall effect of submerging the skin in excessively warm water can undermine your best efforts to manage eczema.
Regardless of your skin type, exposure to excessive heat can cause water to evaporate from the skin, and this is especially true of hot water, which tends to also strip the skin of natural oils and lipids. Why this matters for eczema-prone skin is that this effect can further disrupt an already fragile skin barrier, and increase inflammation, leading to even more eczema symptoms.
The good news is that if you love a hot shower, you may not have to give it up entirely. Instead, here are a few best practices we recommend to prevent any damage or adverse reaction.
What To Do Instead: Our Bath and Shower Tips To Prevent An Eczema Flare
Tip #1: Opt for lukewarm water – According to dermatologists the sweet spot for enjoying warm water should be no more than 86°F (or about 30°C). So with this in mind, you can do a lot to minimize the effects of your bath or shower by turning the temperature down just a few notches.
Tip #2: Keep your shower time short – Another easy way to support your skin is to limit the amount of time you spend in hot water. About 5-15 minutes is a good amount of time, but if you are experiencing any symptoms you may want to keep it under ten minutes.
Tip #3: Try a therapeutic bath – For many people with eczema, a bath with added therapeutic elements can be very helpful. Some go-tos recommended by the National Eczema Association include colloidal oatmeal, fragrance-free bath oil, ¼ cup of baking soda, one cup of salt, or ¼-½ cup of household bleach. Just be mindful of how your skin tolerates these types of treatments and always cut your soak time short if you notice any negative reaction.
Tip #4: Avoid rough fabrics before, during, and after – For washing, drying off, or covering up post-shower, gentle fabrics are best. Look for microfiber or soft cotton towels if possible, as these options will be less damaging to sensitive skin.
Tip #5: Always moisturize afterward – However you choose to get clean, your best bet will always be to replenish the skin immediately after with hydrating and moisturizing products. For this, we love body oils or butters with eczema-friendly ingredients. We also suggest applying while the skin is still slightly damp so that the skin is able to properly absorb all the good stuff.
How does hot water affect eczema? By Hana Ames, Medically reviewed by Amanda Caldwell, MSN, APRN-C
How Does Hot Water Affect Eczema? By S. Behring, Medically reviewed by Reema Patel, MPA, PA-C
The Right Way to Take a Shower or Bath When You’re Managing Eczema By Leslie Barrie
Medically Reviewed by Ross Radusky, MD
Eczema and Bathing By The National Eczema Association