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Atopic Dermatitis: Taking Care of Your Skin


Gentle skin care is an essential part of controlling the itch and rash of atopic dermatitis. To help prevent a cycle of itching, scratching, and rash, you can:

  • Use moisturizer at least twice a day.
  • Stay away from things that irritate your skin or make your rash worse.

How do you take care of your skin?

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.

When you notice that your rash or skin is irritated, see if you can figure out what caused the problem. Avoiding things that irritate your skin will help your skin stay healthy.

If you still have problems with itch and rash even after you have been using moisturizers, talk to your doctor.

Keeping your skin hydrated

To care for your skin:

  • 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.
  • Take a shower or bath once a day using 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 very red and 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.

Moisturizers include Aveeno or Eucerin. Or you may want to try a skin barrier repair moisturizer, such as EpiCeram, that can help with burning, itching, and redness. For severe dryness, try petroleum jelly.

Avoiding skin irritants

Try to avoid things that irritate your skin, such as:

  • Many soaps, lotions, and perfumes. Use mild, unscented laundry detergents and unscented fabric softeners.
  • Scratchy clothing or bedding, such as wool and some acrylics. Cottons and soft fabrics may be more comfortable.
  • Tags on clothing. Buy clothes without tags or remove any tags that bother your skin.
  • Dyes and fabric finishes on new clothes. Wash new clothing before you wear it.
  • Sudden changes of temperature. Keep your indoor temperature and humidity levels comfortable.
  • Excessive sweating. Choose loose clothing and bedding fabrics that air can flow through easily.
  • 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:
November 15, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Brian D. O'Brien MD - Internal Medicine
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
Amy McMichael MD - Dermatology
Ellen K. Roh MD - Dermatology