Can Bathing Too Much Worsen My Eczema?

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One of the golden rules to managing eczema is “moisturize, moisturize, moisturize” – so it makes sense that a good, long soak in the tub is best for your troubled skin, right? It might surprise you to learn that too much bathing can actually have the opposite effect: your skin might get dryer the longer you keep in the tub.

How does this happen? It’s important to keep in mind that the outer layer of our skin is held together by lipids, which are basically fatty compounds. These lipids are composed of the natural oils our bodies produce, which help keep our skin moist while also warding off potentially harmful bacteria. That’s right – oily skin is actually a good thing.

When we bathe, we’re effectively removing the lipids from our skin. That’s why your face stops feeling oily after a good washing. If we remove too much of the lipids, however, we run into some problems.

Because the lipids work partially as the cement that binds the cells on our skin’s protective outer layer, we risk exposing the more sensitive skin underneath to the elements. What’s worse, our skin can’t produce the oils fast enough to make for how much we remove. This leaves skin exposed and lacking in the vital oils that keep it moist – which in turn makes us more vulnerable to the dry, cracking flakes people with eczema are all too familiar with.

So how frequently should we bathe? Some experts say once a week is a good rule of thumb. Others say that it’s not how often we bathe, but how we conduct our baths that matters. Hot water, for instance, can break down skin lipids rather quickly, so it’s best to stick with lukewarm water. A 10- to 15-minute shower or soak will also keep you clean without harming your skin’s “armor”; any longer, and you risk losing some of that protection. Of course, it goes without saying that you shouldn’t be scrubbing too roughly, either.

However you choose to bathe, make sure that you do two things afterwards: moisturize your skin with a (preferably organic) lotion, and allow your skin to breathe by putting on all-natural cotton clothing. With proper skin care, you can minimize eczema conditions to a point where it’s hardly even any bother.

 

Image from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bubble_bath.jpg

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