"Eczema is a skin disease that's characterized by dry skin that becomes inflamed," says Loretta Ciraldo, MD, a Miami-based dermatologist and founder of Dr. Loretta skin care. You'll typically see the skin condition, also known as atopic dermatitis, show up as extra-dry patches of inflammation, which she says tend to be really itchy. "Drier, colder weather can worsen it, as can using certain skin-care ingredients like alcohol and coloring," says Dr. Ciraldo.
While there are definitely things you can do to dry skin that also help with eczema, eczema is more about giving extra attention to your skin's barrier. "People with eczema have skin that doesn't function well as a barrier," says Shirley Chi, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Los Angeles. So it takes an extra level of TLC, and that includes avoiding certain lifestyle habits (one, for example, happens in the shower). Keep scrolling for the most common mistakes that dermatologists see people make when treating eczema.
1. Using heat
Basking in hot water in your shower can feel good, but it makes eczema worse. "Hot showers temporarily substitute the sensation of heat for itch, but if you come out and towel dry, you'll make your skin drier and worsen the problem," says Dr. Ciraldo. Instead, stick with tepid water, and try to stay in the water until your fingertips wrinkle—"this will rehydrate your skin," she says. After patting yourself dry, apply a fragrance-free lotion like CeraVe Moisturizing Body Cream ($13) when your skin's slightly damp.
2. Skimping on moisturizer
Everyone should be quenching their skin with a moisturizer every single day, but if you're dealing with eczema, you should do so more frequently. "One of the biggest mistakes people with eczema make is that they don't moisturize enough," says Dr. Chi. "They might use cream once a day, when actually they need it two to three times daily, especially after getting the skin wet like after hand washing or bathing." This is because eczema skin dries out easier, so keep that moisturizer on hand.
3. Sloughing skin with strong chemical exfoliants
Since having eczema means your skin barrier is compromised, derms say to avoid exfoliating, especially with a strong chemical exfoliant. "Don't use exfoliators like salicylic acid or glycolic acid," says Dr. Chi. In fact, she suggests skipping out on exfoliating altogether until your skin barrier's back in tip top shape. Then, when you're ready, try lactic acid, which is less irritating than the other acids in your arsenal.
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