Certain soaps and skin care products can worsen eczema. Soaps free from fragrances, dyes, and allergens are typically best for people with eczema.

Individuals with this condition may experience flare-ups after using some products. Because many soaps, lotions, and detergents contain harsh ingredients and scents, they can make skin feel drier and itchier than before.

While it is important to use products that do not cause irritation and worsen eczema, it can be difficult to find the right ones.

Read more to learn about the best soaps for eczema, which ones to avoid, and more.

black and white overhead shot of washing handsShare on Pinterest
Catherine Falls Commercial/Getty Images

Many soaps contain ingredients that can irritate skin and worsen eczema. People with eczema may find their skin responds best to gentle skin care products that are free from fragrances, dyes, and other allergens.

The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology recommends that individuals with eczema use soap-free, fragrance-free cleansers. Many of these cleansers are also free of sodium lauryl sulfate, the chemical that makes soap foamy.

Some products that have endorsement from the National Eczema Association (NEA) include:

  • Cetaphil PRO Gentle Body Wash
  • CLn BodyWash
  • Cerave Soothing Body Wash
  • Skinfix Eczema Soothing Wash
  • Neutrogena Ultra Gentle Hydrating Cleanser
  • CLn Facial Cleanser
  • Skinfix Eczema Soothing Wash

Soaps that contain allergens and harsh chemicals are more likely to irritate a person’s skin, which can worsen their eczema.

The detergents in many soaps — such as sodium lauryl sulfate — strip the skin of its natural oils, leaving it feeling tight and itchy.

It is advisable that individuals with eczema carefully read labels on soaps and cleansers. It is important that they pay particular attention to:

  • Allergens: These include any ingredients that caused irritation in the past.
  • Fragrances: These can be allergens, so it is a suitable idea for people with eczema to look for products that are free from fragrances.
  • Alkaline: Many soaps have a balanced pH — which refers to their acidity levels — but it is advisable that individuals with eczema still check for alkaline soaps, which can affect the skin barrier and increase their pH levels.
  • Deodorant: It is important for people with eczema to avoid deodorant soaps, as they usually contain skin-irritating scents.
  • Dyes: Those with eczema need to avoid soaps that contain dyes, which can be allergens.
  • Harsh soaps: Some ingredients that may worsen eczema include propylene glycol, salicylic acid, and formaldehyde.
  • Endorsements: Products with approval from organizations, such as the NEA, may be more suitable for individuals with eczema.

Finding the right soap for a person’s skin can be tricky. Every person’s skin is different, which means it will respond differently to certain products. Therefore, what works for one individual with eczema may not work for someone else.

Additionally, eczema can change over time, which may mean that certain products become less effective.

A person with this skin condition may wish to contact a dermatologist for cleanser recommendations. After evaluating an individual’s skin type and eczema, the dermatologist can decide which products best suit the individual.

People can also try products with NEA endorsement. It may be helpful to test different products systematically and determine which ones work best.

They can do this by performing a patch test at home.

To complete a patch test, a person applies a small amount of the soap to their wrist, cleans and dries the area, and then covers it with a wrap or bandage. It is important that they do not wash the area for 48 hours but monitor it for symptoms of an allergic reaction, such as discoloration, itchiness, or rash.

If a reaction occurs, it is advisable for the individual to remove the bandage and wash the area thoroughly.

They can also use an over-the-counter (OTC) cream that contains hydrocortisone or a soothing lotion such as calamine lotion. An OTC antihistamine may also reduce itchiness.

If there is no reaction, the product is likely safe for a person’s skin.

It is important for a person to get emergency medical attention if they experience a serious allergic reaction to a product or if their eczema shows symptoms of infection, such as producing pus.

They may also wish to contact a doctor if their eczema spreads to a large area of their body.

Eczema is a common group of skin conditions, some of which have links to an allergy or sensitivity. Finding the right soap can be difficult, but recommendations suggest that people with eczema use soap-free cleansers.

It is also advisable that they avoid products with fragrances, dyes, harsh chemicals, and deodorants.

People can try patch testing different soaps or contacting a dermatologist to find which cleanser works best for them. Experts advise that people get medical attention if they experience a serious allergic reaction or their eczema shows symptoms of infection.