Atopic Dermatitis: A Guide to Bathing

Fri, 05/15/2015 - 10:00
atopic dermatitis  a guide to bathing

By Tanya Greywal, BA and Lawrence F. Eichenfield, MD

University of California, San Diego / Rady Children’s Hospital, San Diego


  1. How often and for how long should you bathe or shower?

  • There are no comparative studies that clarify the optimal frequency and duration of bathing for people with atopic dermatitis
  • Physicians generally recommend a bath or shower at least once per day for a short period of time (eg, 5-10 minutes)


  1. What is the best water temperature to use?

  • Lukewarm water
  • Avoid extreme temperatures (very hot or very cold)


  1. What is the best way to cleanse your skin?

  • Gentle cleansing
  • Avoid vigorous scrubbing of the skin
  • Do not use washcloths, loofahs, or brushes to clean the skin


  1. What type of product should be used to clean the skin?

  • A gentle cleansing bar or wash without fragrances or dyes
  • A non-soap cleanser with a low-pH (less than 5.5). The pH of normal skin is 4.0-5.5, while the average pH of soap is 9.0-10.5; therefore, a lower pH cleanser may help to avoid skin irritation.
  • Sometimes you may want to limit the use of soap to reduce possible skin irritation, especially when your eczema is flaring.


  1. What does cleansing remove from your skin?

  • Natural oils produced by your skin (sebum)
  • Environmental dirt, allergens, and irritants
  • Dead skin cells (desquamated keratinocytes)
  • Skincare products, medications, moisturizers, cosmetics, etc.


  1. How does water affect your skin?

  • Water hydrates, softens, and cleanses the skin
  • It can irritate and dry the skin when you do not moisturize after a bath or shower


  1. What is important to do right after a bath or shower?

Lightly pat yourself dry with a towel without completely drying your skin (do not rub or scrub the skin)
Apply any topical medications recommended by your physician
Moisturize your skin in order to maintain hydration


  1. What are some other types of baths that my doctor may recommend and why are they important?

Bleach Baths – reduce the risk of superficial skin infections by decreasing the bacteria on the skin

  • It is like soaking in a swimming pool!
  • Pour60 mL (≈ ¼ cup) of liquid bleach (sodium hypochlorite 6%) into a full bathtubof water
  • Soak for 10 minutes, then rinse the skin with fresh lukewarm water

Salt Baths – may help to reduce irritation and discomfort that occurs when bathing while skin is very inflamed and irritated

  • Add 240 mL (≈ 1 cup) of table salt to a full bathtub of water

Download in pdf format:

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