Taking care of your skin is really important for people with atopic dermatitis.1 Good skin care can help reduce the number and severity of flare-ups.2 See below for some expert tips.

What’s a good skin care regimen for atopic dermatitis?

Keep skin clean and moisturized.1-3

Atopic dermatitis flare-ups can be triggered by irritants and infections.3 These can cause more inflammation leading to itchiness and scratching, which can then damage the skin, letting more irritants in. Damaged skin is also less effective at retaining moisture, resulting in dry skin, another major cause of itchiness.3

Cleansing is fundamental to healthy skin.1,3 By keeping skin free of dirt, you are also keeping away irritants and minimizing germs.3 Moisturize immediately after washing or bathing to seal in moisture.1 In order to minimize damage to the skin, do not rub with a towel, gently pat dry instead.1,2

Use a non-soap, fragrance-free cleanser.1-2

When choosing a cleanser, it’s best to avoid soaps and harsh detergents that can dry the skin.1 Look for non-soap cleansers that are free of potential irritants like sodium lauryl sulfate or fragrances.1,2 Cleanse gently, avoiding anything that can scrape the skin like washcloths, sponges or loofahs.1

The simplest moisturizers are the best.1-3

Choose a thick cream or ointment and avoid those that contain potential irritants.1,2 Petroleum jelly is a good moisturizer, as most that are commercially available are highly purified and unlikely to contain harmful substances.3 Some people without food allergies use vegetable shortening as a moisturizer, and report that it has been effective for them.1,3 When in doubt, test a wide range of products on a small area first.2,3

Sun protection in atopic dermatitis

It’s good to be out in the sun, in moderation.4,5

For some people, moderate exposure to sunlight helps improve their atopic dermatitis.4,5 Studies show that certain types of ultraviolet radiation can help the skin’s barrier function and defense against germs.5 In addition, sunlight stimulates vitamin D production, which is also beneficial for skin health.5

On the other hand, too much sun exposure can cause problems.4,6,7 Skin cancer is associated with excessive sun exposure,6 and in some people, sun exposure can cause breakouts, a condition called photosensitivity.7 In order to get the benefits of sunlight without too much risk, it’s important to pay attention. If you have flare-ups after sun exposure, consult your doctor so that he can evaluate your level of photosensitivity.7

Look for mineral-based, alcohol-free sunscreen.4,6

In order to avoid skin cancer, moderate your exposure to sunlight and use sunscreen appropriately.4,6 Mineral-based sunscreens seem to work best for atopic dermatitis.4,6 Be sure to use at least an SPF 30 product with broad spectrum protection, avoiding potentially irritating ingredients like alcohol and fragrance.6

Follow the instructions for sunscreen use on the package, and if you are using a moisturizer, make sure you apply it at least 30 minutes before you put on sunscreen so that neither is diluted.4,6 It’s also a good practice to test a small amount of sunscreen on the inside of your wrist or elbow.6 Don’t wash the area and observe for 24-48 hours.6 If you don’t see any reaction or feel any itchiness, then you should be ok.6

Can I use make-up if I have atopic dermatitis?

Have fun, but choose your make-up products carefully.8-9

Yes, people with atopic dermatitis can wear make-up, but it’s important to pick products that work with your skin.8,9 Start by using one product first, then wait a week before adding another.9 Sometimes flare-ups caused by make-up can take four to seven days to appear.9

As with other skin products, stay away from those containing potential irritants.9 Mineral-based make-up is usually better, as they are usually fragrance-free.9 It’s also a good idea to stay away from any product that contains shimmer or shine, as the ingredients used to get this effect can cause irritation as well.9

Minimize the use of make-up brushes and applicators, as keeping the instruments clean and free of bacteria can be challenging.8 Experiment with using clean fingers instead.8 Make sure to store your make-up properly as well, in order to avoid contamination.8

As always, if you develop any flare-ups or symptoms after using a product, talk to your doctor who will be more than happy to help you sort things out.


  1. Moore, A. (2020) “Skin care tips for individuals with atopic dermatitis (eczema)”, American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, (Accessed October 29, 2020).
  2. American Academy of Dermatology Association. “Atopic dermatitis: Self-care”, (Accessed October 29, 2020).
  3. Lee, M. (2015) “Basic skin care for eczema: a dermatologist’s review”, National Eczema Association, (Accessed October 29, 2020).
  4. National Eczema Society. “About sun and eczema”, (Accessed October 29, 2020).
  5. Elias, P.M. (2015). “Sun exposure and eczema: does reduces UV-B exposure contribute to an increase in atopic dermatitis?” National Eczema Association, (Accessed October 29, 2020).
  6. Coman, C. (2017). “Slather up: sunscreen for eczema skin”, National Eczema Association, (Accessed October 29, 2020).
  7. Oakley, A.M., Badri, T. & Harris, B.W. (2020) “Photosensitivity”, StatPearls Publishing LLC, (Accessed October 29, 2020).
  8. Hewett, L. (2020). “Make-up tips from a beauty writer who has eczema”, National Eczema Association, (Accessed October 29, 2020).
  9. Skotnicki, S. (2014). “Safe make-up tips for eczema (atopic dermatitis)”, Allergic Living, (Accessed October 29, 2020).

Health information contained herein is provided for general educational purposes only. Your healthcare professional is the single best source of information regarding your health. Please consult your healthcare professional if you have any questions about your health or treatment.