Soothe eczema-prone skin with our edit of the best bath and shower products for irritated skin
Bath time should ideally be a blissful chillout window in an otherwise hectic day. Luxuriating in bubbles, pouring wine, floating your worries away...that kind of vibe. Except, if you suffer with eczema , in which case, baths and showers can present more stress than serenity, with everything from alcohol to fragrance to foaming agents in common bath and shower products aggravating and drying out eczema-prone skin, leaving it sore, flaky and itchy. "The combination of water and soap or shower gel can lead to moisture loss from the surface of the skin and disruption of the skin’s barrier resulting in dryness or irritation," warns dermatologist Dr Anjali Mahto.
Given that a daily wash is non-negotiable for most of us, finding a body cleanser that’s gentle on eczema skin and ideally not too expensive is essential.
"When skin is dry and eczema-prone, it's important that you opt for gentle formulas which are devoid of any fragrance or soap," advises dermatologist and eczema expert Dr Ophelia Veraitch, of the Cranley Clinic in London . "The skin is in need of soothing and hydrating ingredients such as ceramides. Hypoallergenic formulations and perfume-free products that specifically target sensitive skin are a good choice."
There's a whole raft of ingredients eczema-prone people should avoid in their body washes and shower gel, Dr Veraitch explains. She stays to steer clear of SLS, which cause shower gels to foam because their job is to clean the skin by stripping it of natural moisture. Side step fragrances (parfum) and parabens too. "These are all ingredients that cause flare-ups for those with sensitive skin," she warns. She also cautions against scrubs that contain alpha-hydroxy acids (AHA) as these can be too strong for dry skin types.
Another bath time issue for eczema sufferers is the heat of the water. "Hot water strips your skin of its protective oils and fats and without these protective oils, your skin barrier becomes weaker making it harder for your skin to retain water, leading to eczema flare-ups," explains Dr Hiba, founder of Harley Steet clinic Dermasurge . Dr Hiba advises following the advice from the National Eczema Association of ‘soak and seal’ to trap moisture within the skin. "This is where you bathe in lukewarm water and within three minutes of getting out, liberally apply a moisturiser all over your body. It’s important to apply the moisturiser within three minutes or the skin may become even drier."
With this advice fresh in our minds, these are the eczema bath products and shower washes to add to your routine. We also hit up eczema sufferer and blogger Elise Loubatieres , AKA Little Miss Plumful to her 12,000 followers, who regularly shares eczema-friendly skincare on her channel, for her non-irritating bath, body and shower products.
The best eczema bath products and shower gels and oils
Oilatum Bath Formula, £9.50
This milky bath addition helps to soften and hydrate the skin, as well and nourishing and protecting. It's a moisturising emollient that contains mineral oil that turns your bath water milky white when added. Elise told us this is a favourite of hers. "Indulging in a long hot bath can really irritate my eczema so I always pour in this milky bath formula to protect my skin whilst I soak. This has been a staple in my bathtime routine since I was a toddler."
We tried and loved this soothing wash for our 2020 Get The Gloss Beauty and Wellness Awards. It creates a lovely soft lather and feels gentle on the skin. Made with sweet almond and oat kernel oils it's creamy and moisturising, plus it's vegan and cruelty-free.
Any eczema sufferer knows that fragrance can be an irritant, but Elise says this citrus-scented gently bubble bath is the exception for her. "Fragranced bath products usually irritate my eczema rashes, but not this one. This bath soak contains colloidal oatmeal and oat oil which leaves my skin feeling soothed and nourished whilst filling my bathroom with a fresh zesty scent."
Eucerin is the eczema bath product favoured by both Dr Hiba and Dr Ophelia Veraitch. It includes urea which can help soothe itchy skin and the pump dispenser makes it easy to use in the shower – no grappling with fiddly lids. It's soap-free too, so gentle to the skin. When we spoke with Toff, she told us Eucerin is a favourite brand of hers too, to soothe her acne-prone skin.
Jessica Alba's skincare range has a whole category of Eczema body care, comprising a cream, a balm and this body wash. It combines prebiotics and natural ingredients such as colloidal oatmeal and coconut oil to soothe flare-ups. As with all Honest products, it's pleasingly affordable for a celebrity-founded range.
Another favourite of Elise's, she tells us that this creamy formula creates bubbles that froth over the side of your tub in the most decadent way, but the best part is it doesn't leave her skin feeling dry.
This fragrance-free body was is rich in moisturising ceramides and comes recommended by the National Eczema Association. It effectively washes away dirt and bacteria that can make eczema worse without irritating, leaving skin soft, although you’ll likely need to follow up with a leave-on emollient to keep eczema symptoms at bay. "Good old Aveeno is cheap and cheerful and easy to find, a real go-to for those with eczema. It does the job and smells lovely too," Elise says.
French pharmacy brand SVR is an unsung hero when it comes to eczema. "This shower oil nourishes my skin whilst cleansing, leaving it silky soft and ready to go if I don't have time to moisturise my body," Elise tells us.
You’ll notice that a few of the products in this edit are in the babycare market – your bathroom may have to accommodate teddy bear packaging in the name of eczema relief. Atopic eczema affects one in five children and can affect babies as soon as they’re born, hence the demand for baby-friendly body care products and they’re just as apt for adult eczema sufferers. This dermatologist-developed sunflower oil infused wash restores the skin’s lipid balance, plus it’s fragrance and foam-free. While it does contain some alcohol, it’s fatty cetyl alcohol which shouldn’t dry out eczema skin, but do be aware of this addition to the ingredients list if alcohol is out for you.
Eczema sufferers often find that shower gels can be drying, but that's not the case with this, according to Elise. "This formula is gentle enough to use on my rashes and more importantly it doesn't sting," she says.
Westlab Dead Sea Bath Salts, £4.99
Not the most luxurious of bath salts, but we wouldn't be without Westlab in our bathroom (if you want something fancier, the brand also sells a CBD version and a sleep-inducing one). These are made from Dead Sea salts with a high mineral content of magnesium chloride, potassium chloride, sodium chloride and calcium chloride – all of which are required by the body to maintain cell function. "People who suffer from dry itchy skin need to keep the skin barrier as healthy as possible to prevent a flare-up," says founder Penny Hamilton. "Dead Sea salt helps the skin improve its barrier function and maintain its integrity. This, in turn, both improves the skin texture and helps reduce the itch/scratch cycle.”
Bioderma Atoderm Shower Oil, £16.40
This is Dr Hiba's choice of shower gel for eczema sufferers and The National Eczema Society generally recommends using an oil over a traditional foaming bubble bath or wash as they help to bind moisture to the skin and don’t aggravate dryness. This whopper of a bath oil can be applied pre-wash or mid-shower, on a soft, damp sponge if you prefer, and lifts grime, sweat and dirt without damaging the delicate skin barrier. It’s SLS free and contains niacinamide for additional barrier strengthening, and while it’s much loved by dry skin and eczema sufferers, you’ll pick up a subtle trace of fragrance, so patch test away and move onto the next if it’s proves problematic.
Avène Xeracalm Oil , £15.50
This wins the approval of the eczema-prone and dermatologists alike for its fragrance-free, hydrating and itch-alleviating formula. It’s light feeling for oil, yet gets straight down to business, cutting through crud and leaving behind a lipid layer to protect chapped, sore skin. It’s one of the pricier buys in this edit, but it melts away makeup too so doubles up as a facial cleanser, and while it’s not sexy, sudsy or glamorous, it ticks all of the boxes for what an eczema appropriate product should bring to bathtime.