Exfoliating eczema may improve the skin’s appearance and stop the buildup of dead skin cells that can worsen flare-ups. However, the risk of skin irritation means that exfoliation could do more harm than good.
Eczema is a common skin condition, with various types affecting 31.6 million people in the United States.
There is no known cure for eczema, but people can manage the condition with treatments and home remedies. Exfoliating eczema could also play a part in skin care for some people, but it is important to proceed cautiously.
In this article, we explore the benefits and risks of exfoliating eczema. We also look at how to exfoliate the skin and provide post-exfoliation tips.
Exfoliation removes the buildup of dead cells on the skin. It
Anecdotal evidence suggests that exfoliating eczema may stop excess dead skin cell buildup that may worsen eczema flare-ups.
Atopic dermatitis is the most common type of eczema, and the symptoms include:
- redness in light skin and darker patches in dark skin
- skin inflammation
- dry skin
- skin rash
- bumpy skin
- scaly patches of skin
- weeping, oozing sore spots
Types of exfoliations
Exfoliating products work either chemically or mechanically.
Chemical exfoliation typically uses acids, such as glycolic acid or salicylic acid, to dissolve skin cells.
Mechanical exfoliation employs physical tools, such as:
- scrubbing particles
The potential benefits of exfoliation for the skin include:
- unclogging pores
Although people can perform exfoliation to break down dead skin cells, exfoliating products contain scrubbing or chemical agents that may irritate the skin.
As a result, exfoliating eczema could do more harm than good, especially if a person does not do it correctly. If a person chooses to exfoliate, they should do so safely to avoid damaging the skin.
Anyone considering exfoliating eczema needs to balance the potential benefits against the risks of irritating their skin and making their eczema worse. Doctors can answer any concerns or queries regarding skin care.
Learn more about dermatologist-recommended skin care routines.
Due to the risk of irritating inflamed and sensitive skin, a person should use caution if they try exfoliating eczema. They should ensure that every step in their skin care routine supports gentle, soothing care.
To maximize the benefits of exfoliating eczema, a person should use products that suit their skin type. People with eczema tend to have dry, sensitive skin. Experts advise people with eczema to use gentle products that do not contain harsh ingredients or strong fragrances.
Learn more about skin care routines.
The National Eczema Association (NEA) has established the NEA Seal of acceptance to help people with eczema and sensitive skin find products they can use with some degree of confidence.
Although the Seal does not guarantee that a product is safe for all people with eczema, it does indicate that the product does not contain ingredients known to harm sensitive skin. Additionally, testing data support claims regarding the product’s safety, toxicity, and content.
The list of products that have received the NEA Seal of Acceptance includes:
- skin and hair care products
- household cleaners
Looking for the Seal could be a good way to start a search for safe exfoliating eczema products.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD), people can make exfoliating at home safer by:
- scrubbing the skin gently for no more than 30 seconds, whether using the hands or exfoliating tools
- using only lukewarm water to rinse the face
- refraining from exfoliating every day
- waiting at least a day or two after exfoliation to see how the skin reacts before repeating it
People who use prescription creams to treat their eczema should check with a doctor before exfoliating the affected areas of skin.
Eczema can damage the skin barrier, leaving the skin more vulnerable to irritation, infection, drying, and other damage. This vulnerability makes moisturizer very important for people with eczema because it helps protect the skin barrier.
The AAD also states that exfoliating can promote dry skin, making moisturizing particularly important after exfoliating eczema.
Ways to find a good moisturizer for eczema include:
- avoiding known triggers and allergens
- avoiding using products that contain irritating preservatives
- looking for hypoallergenic products
- looking for products containing helpful ingredients, such as:
- reviewing the list of moisturizers that have received the NEA Seal of Acceptance
- using products that contain neither fragrances nor dyes
- carrying out a patch test, which involves applying a pea-sized amount of the product to the wrist or the inside of the elbow and monitoring the area for a reaction for 24–48 hours before applying a larger amount
A person should use gentle, downward strokes to apply moisturizer and do so as soon as possible after washing off the exfoliating product.
Exfoliation is a skin care practice that uses either chemical or mechanical means to remove the buildup of dead skin cells. Some users say that exfoliating improves their skin.
Exfoliating eczema could help prevent flare-ups by removing dead skin cells. However, it could also irritate the skin and make eczema worse.
Anyone who is considering exfoliating eczema should balance the practice’s risks and benefits and consult a healthcare professional first.