Amy Paller, MD, a dermatologist, explains why baths and moisturizer are so important and how long a bath should be.
Why are baths and moisturizer so important when treating eczema?
I think bathing is a very important when someone has eczema. It’s is a wonderful opportunity for a young child to bond with parents. It’s also a way to get dead skin cells and bacteria off the skin.
And, very importantly bathing is a way to hydrate the skin. Because people who have eczema have very poor outer skin function, their skin can have trouble retaining the water. In fact, children and adults with eczema can actually get drier from a bath unless a moisturizer is applied immediately after the bath.
Applying moisturizer after a bath is absolutely key [because it] provides an artificial barrier that can help prevent water loss and also keep out agents [bacteria, viruses, and irritants] that we don’t want to get into the skin.
[After a bath], moisturizer should be applied very quickly. [Before applying the moisturizer], we like to [gently] pat the skin [but leave the skin feeling damp] so that we’re not totally stripping off the moisture that we get from the water.
[Next,] we like to apply a moisturizer that is ideally a cream or an ointment. [These contain] more oil than water as opposed to a lotion, which has more water than oil. [When you use more oil than water, you] do a better job of sealing in the moisture.
Many parents ask how long a bath should be. We don’t have any good scientific evidence that longer or shorter baths are important. What we do know is that the bath can dry [skin] if children stay too long in it, so we generally limit [a bath] to 5 or 10 minutes.
I know others [dermatologists] who allow a 20-minute bath, and I don’t really see a problem with that either.
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