While there are several types of eczema, and cases can range in severity, eczema is a fairly common skin issue affecting just over 31 million Americans, according to the National Eczema Association. Symptoms and triggers can certainly vary, but in addition to stress, one of the most common causes of eczema's itchy, red patches is simply washing your skin — or more specifically, what you're washing your skin with. To help determine the best soaps for eczema, dermatologist and founder of her eponymous skin care line, Dr. Loretta Ciraldo MD FAAD, is here to explain the basics.
"Avoid sodium, ammonium lauryl, or laureth sulfate," Dr. Loretta says of sulfates in general, which give soaps their foaming abilities, but are also known irritants. "Artificial color and artificial fragrance can also exacerbate eczema," she says of other common offenders. Once you've checked the ingredient label for these irritants, Dr. Loretta says that it's important to make your soap does contain moisturizers. Since dry skin can make eczema worse, gentle hydrating ingredients, and even some essential oils, like chamomile and lavender (Dr. Loretta's favorites), are necessary to prevent skin from feeling stripped and tight.
In addition to being choosey with your soap, Dr. Loretta says how you wash your skin can also help prevent flare-ups and calm current ones. "Bathe or shower in tepid/room temperature water, only until your fingertips are looking wrinkled. This means you've maximally rehydrated your skin," she explains of the importance of not having prolonged contact with water. "Pat your skin dry and apply a barrier product like CeraVe, Eucerin, or Lubriderm to the skin while it is still damp." This will help lock in moisture and strengthen your skin while keeping it protected from future irritation.
Whether you're in need of a gentle face cleanser, body wash, or even hand soap, these are seven of the best soaps for eczema to give a try.
1. Tie: Best Bar Soap For Eczema
The classic bar soap in a sensitive skin-friendly formula gets Dr. Loretta's top pick for patients with eczema. "It's not loaded with potentially sensitizing foaming agents or artificial color or fragrance," she says of the Dove Sensitive Skin Beauty Bar. The fragrance-free and hypoallergenic formula still includes Dove's ¼ moisturizing cream to keep eczema-prone skin moisturized, helping to eliminate flare-ups that are caused by dry skin. Another reason Dr. Loretta likes this Dove soap for her patients is because it's affordable and easy to find.
2. Tie: Best Bar Soap For Eczema
Another bar soap that can be used on your face, Vanicream's Cleansing Bar is even accepted by the National Eczema Association. Using the brand's cream as a moisturizing base, the dermatologist-tested soap is free from irritants like dyes, fragrance, lanolin, parabens, formaldehyde, and formaldehyde releasers. Gentle enough to be used on skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, and ichthyosis, the soap works into a rich lather while still being non-comedogenic, so you don't have to worry about it clogging your pores and causing acne.
3. Best Face Wash For Eczema
If you're looking for a cleanser that's tough enough to remove makeup but won't cause your skin to dry out, Avène's Extremely Gentle Cleanser Lotion is a gentle, rinse-free option. It's hypoallergenic, non-comedogenic, fragrance-free, paraben-free, soap-free, and oil-free, and was designed to clean skin without leaving it feeling stripped.
Ingredients like parcerine and Avène's own thermal spring water (which has been used to treat sensitive skin for hundreds of years) help calm irritation and redness while restoring the skin's barrier and leaving it soothed and soft. The cleanser lotion also uses plant-derived ingredients to remove makeup, dirt, and oil without aggravating skin. Because it's a lotion formula, you can apply the cleanser with your fingertips, cotton pad, or reusable pad, and gently remove it with a tissue — no water needed (though it's still wise to rinse off for a proper clean, especially if you had on makeup.)
4. Best Body Soap For Eczema
This Shea Moisture bar soap was specifically designed for eczema and psoriasis-prone skin. Moisturizing ingredients like certified-organic shea butter are combined with anti-bacterial and soothing ingredients like oatmeal and tea tree oil, which can help heal the symptoms of eczema and psoriasis while keeping future flare-ups at bay.
It's important to note that this bar soap does include fragrance in its ingredient list (so if you have a known sensitivity, stay away), but many Amazon reviewers still give it the seal of approval for eczema. "I can't use most bar soaps because my skin is so sensitive, but this stuff is great," shares one reviewer. "This soap helps keep eczema in check and does not dry out my skin. It doesn't leave that soapy film feeling either." Another adds, "I am blown away by how well it works. During the summer, I get really bad eczema and heat rashes, [and] with this soap, I haven't broken out once this year."
5. Best Body Wash For Eczema
Another National Eczema Association-approved option, Cetaphil's Pro Soothing Wash (formerly know as the Pro RestoraDerm Gentle Body Wash) is gentle enough to be used by babies as young as three months. The soap-free formula uses a filaggrin complex to create a creamy lather that leaves skin clean without stripping it of its natural oils. Ingredients like shea butter, sunflower seed oil, and niacinamide help soothe dryness and strengthen the skin's natural protective barrier to keep future flare-ups at bay.
6. Best Hand Soap For Eczema
Hands are one of the most common areas on the body where eczema occurs, and because you wash your hands throughout the day, finding a soap that won't exacerbate the condition is important. While most household hand soaps contain fragrances that can be particularly irritating, the Free & Clear Liquid Cleanser was designed with skin sensitivities in mind. The liquid soap is dermatologist-tested and can be used on your hands, face, and body. It's sulfate-free and betaine-free, in addition to being free of common chemical irritants like dyes, fragrance, lanolin, parabens, and formaldehyde/formaldehyde releasers. Plus, it comes in a traditional pump bottle, so it's easy to use and refill.
7. Best Body Oil For Eczema
This Bioderma Atoderm Cleansing Oil might just be the most luxurious way to pamper sensitive skin. The cleansing oil is formulated with plant biolipids, like coconut and sunflower ester, to soothe dry, itchy skin and strengthen its barrier. Bioderma also uses a patented formula with seaweed extract to increase the skin's tolerance threshold while decreasing its reactivity and improving impermeability against aggressors like pollution and allergens. The soap-free and hypoallergenic oil still creates a creamy lather that provides skin with 24 hours of hydration without leaving behind a greasy film, and despite it containing fragrance, customers with eczema-prone skin swear by it.
"As someone with sensitive skin and eczema, this body wash is a lifesaver," raves one reviewer. "Minimal light fragrance, moisturizing but not greasy, and [it's] super-soothing."
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