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Eczema types: Neurodermatitis self-care

10 tips dermatologists give their patients who have neurodermatitis

To clear neurodermatitis, you must stop scratching, rubbing, and touching your itchy skin.

Dermatologists understand that this can sound impossible. That’s why they offer their patients with neurodermatitis the following tips.

  1. Follow your treatment plan. Your plan includes medication that can stop the itch. For this medication to work, you must use it as directed.

    Even when you use the medication as directed, your skin can itch for a while. When the itch starts, you can get temporary relief by doing one of the following:

    • Apply a cool compress to the itchy area. To make a cool compress, run cold water over a clean towel, then apply the cool, damp towel to the area for 10-15 minutes a few times daily.
    • Take a cool bath in colloidal oatmeal. This product is available at your local drugstore.
    • Take an antihistamine that contains diphenhydramine. You can buy these without a prescription. It’s important to know that you will feel sleepy after taking this medication. Only antihistamines that cause drowsiness can ease the itchy feeling.

  2. Moisturize. Neurodermatitis makes your skin extremely dry. Apply a fragrance-free moisturizer at least once a day and after every bath or shower. Applying moisturizer while your skin is still damp after washing makes the moisturizer more effective.

    Continue to apply moisturizer after your skin heals. Moisturizer can help prevent another flare-up of neurodermatitis.

  3. If you cannot stop scratching, rubbing, or touching the skin with neurodermatitis, cover it. Some people have scratched for so long that they don’t realize that they’re scratching. Others scratch while asleep.

    You can cover your skin by wrapping it with loose-fitting clothing or an elastic bandage or by applying a corticosteroid tape.

  4. Ask your dermatologist about wearing an Unna sleeve or Unna boot if covering your skin fails to protect it. If you scratch while sleeping (or cannot stop scratching), this device can protect the skin on your arm or leg, allowing it to heal.

    Should this be an option for you, a nurse or other medical professional will apply the Unna boot or Unna sleeve. These are made of gauze dressing that contains ingredients like zinc oxide to promote healing. The gauze goes on wet and dries hard. You will need to return to your dermatologist to have an Unna sleeve or Unna boot removed.

  5. Keep your fingernails very short. When fingernails are very short, they tend to cause less damage if you scratch.

    Getting treatment for neurodermatitis can stop the itch

    And that can help you feel more comfortable in your own skin.

  6. Find ways to reduce stress. When you feel stressed or anxious, neurodermatitis can flare up. Even after your skin clears, stress could cause a new patch of itchy skin.

    If you’re unsure how to reduce stress, talk with your dermatologist or primary care doctor. A mental health professional can also provide helpful techniques.

  7. Try to stay a comfortable temperature. Heat and sweat can irritate your skin, causing your skin to itch.

  8. Wear loose-fitting cotton clothing that feels smooth to the touch. Tight clothing can irritate the skin, causing the area to itch. It’s also best to avoid clothing made of wool or a synthetic fabric, like polyester or rayon.

    If you have neurodermatitis in your groin area, wear loose-fitting satin underwear. Silk and synthetic materials like polyester can irritate your sensitive skin. You also want to avoid wearing shapewear. The tight fit can rub and irritate your skin, causing the area to itch.

  9. Avoid what triggers your neurodermatitis. Common triggers include becoming overheated and sweating, feeling stressed, and having extremely dry skin. If you’re uncertain about what to avoid, ask your dermatologist.

  10. Keep your dermatology appointments. Follow-up appointments will help you get the most out of your treatment plan. For example, your dermatologist may prescribe a medication that you would apply for a few weeks. After that, you’d get a prescription for another medication.

    Sometimes, a treatment fails to work. If this happens, keep your appointment. Dermatologists understand that this can happen and work with their patients to find treatment that will help them.

    If you’re having trouble following your treatment plan, your dermatologist can also help you sort it out.

Neurodermatitis rarely clears without medical treatment

While you may want to treat the itchy patches of skin on your own, neurodermatitis usually requires prescription medication to clear. Some patients also need help figuring out how to avoid scratching so that their skin can heal.

If you have itchy patches on your skin, take time out to see a dermatologist. Many skin conditions can cause itchy skin. A board-certified dermatologist can figure out what’s causing your itchy skin and create a treatment plan tailored to your needs.

Find a dermatologist

Kunin A. "Eczema: Protect your skin, reclaim control.” In: The DERMAdoctor Skinstruction Manual. Simon & Schuster. United States, 2005:98-9.

Schoenfeld J. “Lichen simplex chronicus.” In: James WD [editor] Medscape. Last updated August 20, 2020.

Written by:
Paula Ludmann, MS

Reviewed by:
Pearl E. Grimes, MD, FAAD
Ivy Lee, MD, FAAD

Last updated: 1/20/21