Eczema (say "EGG-zuh-muh") is also called atopic dermatitis. It's a skin problem that causes intense itching and a raised rash. Sometimes the rash develops blisters and crusts. It is often scaly. The rash is not contagious. You can't catch it from others.
In lighter skin, the rash may look pink or red. In darker skin, the rash may be hard to see or it may look dark brown, gray, or purple. Or there may be patches of lighter skin.
Eczema often runs in families. People with eczema may also have allergies and asthma.
There is no cure for eczema. But you may be able to control it with care at home.
Keep your skin hydrated
Gentle skin care can help improve your skin. Regular use of moisturizers can reduce the itching, keep your rash from getting worse, and help it heal. Also, using enough moisturizer may mean that you'll need less medicine.
Here are some tips for keeping your skin hydrated.
- Find a moisturizer that you like to use.
Apply it at least twice a day. Thicker creams or ointments, like petroleum jelly, work better than thinner lotions. Moisturizers include Aquaphor, Eucerin, or Purpose. Or you may want to try a skin barrier repair moisturizer, such as CeraVe, that can help with burning and itching. For severe dryness, try petroleum jelly.
- Take a shower or bath once a day.
Use warm water and a mild soap or a cleanser that doesn't contain soap. Afterwards, gently pat your skin dry with a soft towel. While your skin is still moist or even wet, apply moisturizer right away.
- If you have crusts on your skin, soaking in a warm water bath for 5 to 10 minutes may help. Gently pat your skin dry, and apply moisturizer right away.
- If your rash is itchy, soak in a warm water bath for 20 minutes. If your doctor prescribed a cream, put it on the rash as soon as you get out of the water, even before drying off. Pat the rest of your body dry and apply moisturizer.
If you still have problems with itch and rash even after you have been using moisturizers, talk to your doctor.
Avoid skin irritants
Avoiding things that irritate your skin will help your skin stay healthy. When you notice that your rash or skin is irritated, see if you can figure out what caused the problem.
Here are some tips for avoiding irritants.
- Use mild, unscented products.
Many soaps, lotions, perfumes, laundry detergents, and fabric softeners can irritate your skin.
- Avoid scratchy clothing or bedding, such as wool and some acrylics.
Cottons and soft fabrics may be more comfortable.
- Avoid tags on clothing.
Buy clothes without tags or remove any tags that bother your skin.
- Wash new clothing before you wear it.
Dyes and fabric finishes on new clothes can irritate your skin.
- Keep your indoor temperature and humidity levels comfortable.
Sudden changes of temperature and dry air can irritate your skin.
- Choose loose clothing and bedding fabrics that air can flow through easily.
Excessive sweating can irritate your skin.
- Avoid exercising in the heat of the day.
Look for ways to be active indoors, or exercise outdoors when it's not so hot (such as in the early morning).
Current as of: August 2, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
Ellen K. Roh MD - Dermatology
Lesley Ryan MD - Family Medicine