4 Eczema Mistakes that Could Be Making Your Skin Worse

Avoid these surprising habits that could be sabotaging your road to smooth skin.

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If you have eczema, you already know what a pain it can be. Eczema symptoms, like dry and flaky skin, can create urges to itch, to scrub down in the shower, or to lather up with the cucumber-scented Bath and Body Works lotion you got for Christmas—but are these methods helping or hurting your eczema flare-ups?

It turns out many of our common skin-care habits are not so great for people with eczema. These common mistakes can actually make eczema worse, according to dermatologist Suzanne Friedler, MD, of the Mount Sinai Hospital and St. John’s Episcopal Hospital.

  • Don’t: Spend too much time sudsing in the shower. All that water will hydrate your skin, right? Nope. Your skin produces oils that keep the skin naturally moisturized, and all that hot water ends up washing away those oils and drying out the skin. Doctors recommend less—not more—shower time to reduce eczema symptoms.

  • Don’t: Use lotion as your go-to moisturizer. Sure, lotion might bring some immediate relief, but it’s not going to prevent future eczema flare-ups. Dermatologists would rather you use ointments or creams, which are much better for eczema-prone skin. Lotions have a high water content, compared to creams and ointments which are rich in oil and can lock in moisture. Here are more tips for choosing the right moisturizer for eczema.

  • Don’t: Wash down your entire body with soap. Scrub down the obvious spots with soap—under the arms, around the feet, and, um, “down there”—but the rest of your bod will be fine with just a rinse from the shower. Squeaky-clean skin actually results from a lack of natural oils on the skin that, which can trigger eczema symptoms.

  • Don’t: Scratch your skin. While many people describe eczema as a rash that itches, Dr. Friedler says some call eczema the “itch that rashes.” That’s because you could have no visible eczema symptoms on the skin, yet dry skin could prompt you to start scratching, which in turn can lead to the development of an eczema rash. In some cases, the rash can become so severe that it bleeds and eczema symptoms worsen. This creates what derms call the “itch-scratch cycle.”

Making these skin-care mistakes can exacerbate your eczema symptoms, but proper skin care and other lifestyle adjustments can cut down on itching and other eczema flare-ups.