Eczema treatment: What is better for my symptoms – bathing or showering? Revealed

Eczema is the name for a group of conditions that cause the skin to become itchy, inflamed and red. Atopic eczema (atopic dermatitis) is the most common form of eczema, affecting up to one in 10 adults and two in 10 children. In addition to the common skin complaints, during a flare-up – where symptoms are particularly acute – the skin may also blister and weep fluid.

As the NHS explains, there are a number of things that may trigger your eczema symptoms.

These triggers can vary from person to person.

Common triggers are irritants – such as soaps and detergents, including shampoo, washing-up liquid and bubble bath, notes the health body.

It is important to note that washing up and bathing products can exacerbate symptoms, applying water to the skin can also provide relief.

In fact, if you are experiencing a flare-up and want to alleviate symptoms, you may choose to have either a bath or a shower.

Is one more effective than the other?

According to the The National Eczema Association (NEA), both are equally as effective but there are important rules to follow.

The NEA explains: “Water is an effective way to put moisture back into the skin, but only if you use lukewarm water, avoid scrubbing and apply a moisturiser within three minutes after bathing or showering.

“As long as you follow these rules, both bathing and showering are equally effective in keeping the skin barrier healthy and flexible, so that it can better lock in moisture and keep irritants out.”

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However, notes the health body, too much contact with water or improper bathing can actually cause irritation.

“Especially if you repeatedly get your skin wet without moisturising it immediately afterward,” says the skin specialist.

This causes your skin to lose its moisture content and become dry and irritated, it adds.

What moisturisers should I use?

Emollients are the main treatments for eczema.

According to Bupa, these special moisturisers work by hydrating and soothing your skin and helping to repair any damage.

“They can ease pain and itching and stop your skin getting infected,” the health body explains.

According to the website, your doctor can prescribe emollients, but you can also buy some products from pharmacies.

“Use your emollients all the time, even when you don’t have any symptoms,” it advises.

According to the NHS, if your skin is sore and inflamed, a GP may prescribe a topical corticosteroid (applied directly to your skin), which can reduce the inflammation within a few days.

“Topical corticosteroids can be prescribed in different strengths, depending on the severity of your atopic eczema and the areas of skin affected,” explains the health body.

They can be:

  • Very mild (such as hydrocortisone)
  • Moderate (such as betamethasone valerate and clobetasone butyrate)
  • Strong (such as a higher dose of betamethasone valerate and betamethasone dipropionate)

Very strong (such as clobetasol propionate and diflucortolone valerate)

“If you need to use corticosteroids frequently, see a GP regularly so they can check the treatment is working effectively and you’re using the right amount,” adds the NHS.

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