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Have an Eczema Flare Up? 9 Easy Tips to Stop Scratching

woman scratching her neck because of an eczema flare up

Scratchy fabrics, irritating seams, harsh dyes and fragrances. If you have eczema, you probably know that certain types of clothing can cause issues. Eczema (also called atopic dermatitis) is a chronic skin condition that causes dry, red, itchy skin. It’s not fun. And clothing and detergents can make your skin feel worse and cause an eczema flare up.

But there’s good news: You can manage eczema symptoms and minimize an eczema flare up with these 9 strategies.

Moisturize Daily

"Some eczema flare ups can be prevented with daily use of a thick moisturizing cream or emollient such as petrolatum," says UVA Health dermatologist Bridget Bryer, MD.

And if you're having persistent flareups, you may need to rethink your clothing and laundry routine. Bryer recommends these tips.

Just Breathe

Choose soft, breathable fabrics like cotton, linen, silk, and bamboo. These fabrics keep heat and moisture at bay and minimize skin irritation. And be sure to avoid rough, scratchy fabrics, and synthetic fabrics like polyester.

Loosen Up

Tight clothes can irritate your skin and trap heat and moisture. Loose-fitting clothing lets your skin breathe and gives room for air to circulate around your body.

Remove Tags & Labels

Cut off tags and labels from clothing. They can rub against your skin and trigger itching or irritation. Don’t forget to check for labels in the side seams of clothing.

Wash Your Clothes Regularly

Even loose-fitting clothes will build up accumulations of dead skin cells and dirt, which can irritate your skin. Wash your clothes after each use to avoid this problem.

Use Gentle Detergents

Use mild, fragrance-free and dye-free detergents that are specifically formulated for sensitive skin. Avoid fabric softeners, dryer sheets, and bleach. All of these can leave residue on your clothes and cause skin irritation.

Make sure laundry products are fragrance free, not unscented. Unscented products contain fragrances that most people can’t smell, while fragrance-free products contain no fragrances. It might be helpful to look for products that have the National Eczema Association Seal of Acceptance.

Wash New Clothes Before You Wear Them

Washing your clothes first thing can help prevent an eczema flare up. It helps remove any harsh chemicals, allergens, and residues from the fabric. It also softens the fabric and makes it more comfortable.

Cut the Clothesline

Drying clothes outside is better for the environment. Unfortunately, it also exposes your clothes to potential allergens like grass and pollen. If you don’t have a dryer or want to avoid using one, try drying your clothes on a rack or line inside your home.

Can’t Control Your Eczema Flare Up?

An eczema specialist can help.

Layers Are Your Friend

Wearing lightweight layers in the winter (or really any time of year) gives you some control over your body temperature. You can add or remove layers as needed to stay comfortable and prevent sweating or overheating.

Don't Live With Itchy, Uncomfortable Skin

And when eczema flare ups don't respond to over-the-counter treatment? Bryer says, "A dermatologist can work with you to develop a regimen. You don't have to live with itchy or uncomfortable skin." A dermatologist might recommend 1 or more of the following treatments:

Of course, everyone is unique. Pay attention to how your skin reacts to clothing, and you may find other ways to prevent an eczema flare up. And be sure to talk to your doctor or see a dermatologist if you need more help managing your eczema.

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