Caring for the skin with shingles can include steps such as keeping the skin clean and covered, applying cool compresses, taking oatmeal baths, and wearing loose-fitting clothing.

Shingles is a painful rash that occurs due to the varicella-zoster virus, which also causes chickenpox. Shingles can cause a rash with fluid-filled blisters and other uncomfortable symptoms, such as pain and itchy skin.

Taking care of the skin and applying certain topical treatments may help ease symptoms and help reduce the risk of infection and the virus passing to others.

This article looks at skin care tips for managing shingles symptoms, such as which topical products to use and how to wash and care for the skin with a shingles rash.

A person taking a bath as a part of a skin care routine to help ease symptoms of shingles -1.Share on Pinterest
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According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, it is important to wash the rash daily. People can follow these steps daily until the rash completely clears:

  • Use a fragrance-free cleanser to wash the rash.
  • With clean hands, apply a thin layer of pure petroleum jelly to the rash.
  • Use a clean, sterile, nonstick bandage to cover the rash.
  • Once finished, thoroughly wash the hands.

The rash may begin to scab in 7–10 days and clear completely in 2–4 weeks.

Learn how shingles rashes can look on the skin.

People may find applying a cool, damp compress to the skin helps to ease itching and other uncomfortable sensations.

A person can prepare a compress by finding a clean washcloth, rinsing it in cool water, then wringing the cloth so it is damp. They can apply the cool compress to the rash for 5–10 minutes several times (as necessary) throughout the day.

Once the rash blisters have scabbed over, people can apply calamine lotion to help reduce the itching sensation.

People can apply a new, clean bandage after washing the rash and applying petroleum jelly. Ideally, the bandage should be a sterile, nonstick one.

It is also important to thoroughly wash the hands before and after touching the rash. This is to help prevent infection within the rash and reduce the risk of the virus passing to others.

Learn more about how to cover a shingles rash.

A doctor may prescribe a topical antibiotic cream such as mupirocin or soframycin. These can help prevent a secondary bacterial infection from developing.

People may wish to try a topical pain-relief medication, such as lidocaine or EMLA cream. These work as local anesthetics that can help numb areas of pain. A person can typically apply lidocaine up to four times daily.

Topical capsaicin may help if people have postherpetic neuralgia, a type of nerve pain that can continue after a shingles rash has resolved.

Anecdotal reports suggest that a homemade baking soda or cornstarch paste may help soothe a shingle rash. A person can mix either two parts baking soda (or cornstarch) with one part water.

Mix the ingredients together until they form a paste, then apply to the skin for 10–15 minutes before washing off. Before applying homemade pastes, a person should speak with a doctor to ensure that it is safe to do so. A doctor can also advise how often a person should apply the paste.

People may find taking cool baths or even oatmeal baths may help soothe discomfort and pain from shingles. Taking a cool shower can also be soothing to the skin.

Avoid scrubbing or scratching the rash, as doing so may increase the risk of infection or scarring.

The National Institute on Aging recommends people wear loose-fitting, comfortable clothes made out of natural fibers while they have shingles. Wearing clothes made of cotton or linen may help to reduce irritation.

Shingles can cause pain and itching, which tight clothing may aggravate. Some people may also experience intense pain from the slightest touch or breeze. Because of this, wearing loose clothing may help people feel more comfortable.

Clothing that covers the rash may also help protect the virus from spreading to other people. Other measures to take to help prevent the virus spreading include:

  • avoiding touching or scratching the rash
  • avoiding sharing any clothing or other items, such as towels
  • thoroughly washing hands often, particularly after contact with the rash

Shingles is a rash of fluid-filled blisters that can cause pain and itching. Beginning treatment for shingles as soon as possible, within 72 hours of the rash developing, can help reduce symptoms and prevent long lasting complications.

Topical treatments and taking care of the skin may help reduce symptoms, prevent infection, and reduce the risk of the virus passing to other people. Options to care for the skin with shingles include applying cool compresses, calamine lotion, or topical pain-relieving medication.

Keeping the rash clean and covered with a sterile bandage has benefits. Also, people may want to wear loose-fitting clothing to help reduce any discomfort.