Stephanie Houng

What's the best soap for eczema?

What does the science say are the best soaps for eczema? And what are some simple changes to your skincare routine you can make to manage your eczema?

dry skin with eczema

Managing eczema can be mentally, emotionally, and physically draining.

Whether you're searching for the most effective soap for eczema, wondering about the benefits of Dove or Ivory soap for this condition, or exploring Aveeno, Castille, and Cetaphil soap varieties, there are so many options out there that it can be overwhelming.

And every eczema sufferer responds to these products differently.

In this article, we’ll dive into:
 
- the causes of eczema, so you can understand how the various solutions address (or might not address) the root cause of your eczema.

- explore a range of home remedies for eczema, from traditional natural remedies to innovative treatments like rice water for your face and eczema, and provide our personal experience with each

- take a look at the best (and scientifically proven) skincare routine to improve your eczema.

And lastly, look into eczema treatment practices in Japan, a country known for its skincare innovations.

Summary and Key Takeaways:

Causes of eczema are varied, but changing your soap and skincare routine can help alleviate some symptoms.

Be careful of what ingredients are in your soap. Even "gentle soap" can have compounds that can aggravate your skin.

Avoid harsh surfactants (cleansers) in your soap such as SLS (sodium lauryl sulfate).

Your soap should include ingredients (such as rice bran oil, fermented rice water) that not only clean but actively boost your skin health.

Table of Content

  • Our personal experience with eczema
  • What causes eczema?
  • How often should you use topical steroid creams?
  • What soap is good for eczema?
  • Is Dove or Ivory soap good for eczema?
  • Is Aveeno or Cetaphil good for eczema?
  • Is coconut oil good for eczema?
  • What the science says about taking more showers?
  • What natural compounds are best for eczema?

Our Personal Experience with Eczema

husband with eczema

Even though I have had my share of diverse skin issues, eczema was not one that I would say has caused me much consternation. OK, that’s technically not true. When I was a kid, I remember having constant rashes on the inside of my elbows and back of my knees. They were a big PITA for sure, but I grew out of them, and as a result, never not thought about them again.

That is, until now, and upon researching, I learned that that was, in fact, eczema. But because this childhood eczema disappeared along with my childhood, I wasn’t aware of the stress that it brings to people who continue to struggle with eczema like my husband.

My husband has been suffering from eczema all his life and he used to get flare-ups a few times a year (a couple of times a month when he was younger). He’s even told me stories of when he was younger how his flare-ups affected his mental well-being because he became self-conscious of his scratching and rashes.

Over the years, I tried many homemade remedies to alleviate the itchiness. Some of the homemade remedies I tried were:
- Apple cider vinegar baths
- Clove and vinegar compresses
- Taking probiotics and eating yogurt
- Using scent-free gentle detergent
- Oatmeal baths

The list goes on and on, but the flare-ups always returned.

He even used topical steroid creams but those have obvious side effects and lose effectiveness the more you use it.

I remember witnessing the rashes that cover his entire body. I grimaced in vicarious pain with him, knowing the frustrating sensation he must be feeling. He was literally not comfortable in his own skin because of the overwhelming itch. It’s a horrible sensation that you can’t even escape.

I recall when we first learned about the breakthrough drug Dupixent. I was elated yet daunted by the fact that it required weekly or monthly injections. Then, disappointment set in when we learned his health insurance would only cover this costly drug for a short period of time. Plus there was also the issue of side effects.

I began researching a more natural, effective, and sustainable way to manage eczema. And that’s when we moved to Japan and I found that rice water and fermented rice water were used as an effective treatment for eczema.

Knowing how much stress it brings to people who struggle with this skin condition, we decided to take our learnings and dedicate a blog post in hopes it helps others like my husband on their journey to resolving this stubborn issue.

applying hand cream for eczema

In this article, we’ll first dive into the causes of eczema, so you can understand how the various solutions address (or might not address) the root cause of your eczema.

We’ll explore a range of home remedies for eczema, from traditional natural remedies to innovative treatments like rice water for your face and eczema, and provide our personal experience with each.

We’ll also take a look at the best (and scientifically proven) skincare routine to improve your eczema. Plus, we’ll look into eczema treatment practices in Japan, a country known for its skincare innovations.

But first, to understand why some remedies work while others don’t, we need to look at what causes eczema and what happens to your body when you have eczema.

What Causes Eczema?
What Does the Science Say?

The exact cause of eczema is not fully understood, but it is believed to be due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

Here are some of the key factors believed to contribute to the development of eczema:

Immune System Dysfunction

Eczema is associated with an overactive immune system response to environmental irritants. This response leads to inflammation, causing the skin to become red, itchy, and sore.

Key Takeaways:
To manage an overactive immune response:

- Topical Treatments:
Use prescribed anti-inflammatory creams like corticosteroids or calcineurin inhibitors.

- Immunomodulators:
In severe cases, doctors may prescribe systemic immunomodulators.

- Avoid Triggers:
Identify and avoid personal triggers that cause flare-ups.

cells of immune system

What the Science Says:
Many studies have shown that eczema is due to multiple allergic reactions affecting your skin. Specifically, studies have shown that eczema sufferers have overactive mast cells which release too much histamine, cytokines, and chemokines. These contribute to the characteristic symptoms of eczema, including itching (caused by histamines), redness (caused by cytokines), and swelling of the skin (caused by all 3).

Additionally the over-activation of Neutrophils, Eosinophils, and Basophils in your skin exacerbates the common symptoms of eczema.

- Neutrophils are involved in the inflammatory swelling of your skin and overactive neutrophils can damage your skin barrier

- Eosinophils are responsible for inflammation and itching

- Basophils are responsible for releasing various types of histamines and trigger an allergic reaction throughout your body.

Recent studies have shown that applying fermented rice extracts can reduce mast cell activation in your skin and suppress the levels are neutrophils, eosinophils, and basophils in your blood. Fermented rice was also shown to significantly decrease the expression of cytokine, thus reducing inflammation and redness.

Personal Experience

My husband used steroid creams only when flare-ups got really bad. Over reliance on topical steroids has side-effects (more info below) so it’s important to use it only when needed.

Since eczema can be seen as a type of allergic reaction, taking some OTC allergy medicine like Claritin or Allegra helped with flare-ups and reduced inflammation and itching.

He also started to use soaps and moisturizers that can help inhibit the allergic reaction that is at the core of eczema symptoms. Specifically, he uses a fermented rice face cream from Japan and uses a fermented rice soap bar while taking a shower.

dry skin on leg

Skin Barrier Dysfunction

People with eczema often have a compromised skin barrier. This means their skin is less effective at retaining moisture and protecting against bacteria, irritants, and allergens.

Key Takeaways:
- Regular Moisturizing:
Use thick, fragrance-free moisturizers immediately after bathing to lock in moisture.

- Gentle Skincare Products:
Use mild, fragrance-free soaps and cleansers.

- Avoid Scratching:
Keep nails short and consider wearing gloves at night to prevent scratching.

- Find ingredients (such as rice bran oil, fermented rice, and colloidal oatmeal) that include compounds such as ceramides and vitamins that can help boost your skin barrier and make up for the deficiency.

What the Science Says:
Skin Barrier Dysfunction is both a cause and a consequence of eczema, creating a cycle that exacerbates the condition.
Here's a detailed look at how eczema affects skin barrier function and specific actions you can take.

Stratum Corneum Compromise:
Eczema damages the stratum corneum, the outermost layer of the skin, which acts as a barrier to protect against environmental irritants, allergens, and pathogens. This damage leads to increased transepidermal water loss (TEWL), resulting in dryness and reduced skin hydration.

Altered Lipid Composition:
Eczema can alter the composition of lipids in the skin barrier, affecting its protective function. The skin of eczema patients often shows reduced levels of ceramides, crucial lipids for barrier function.

Personal Experience

My husband’s skin was always dry, so he always applied lotions and moisturizers and had some on-hand wherever he went. It’s important to use hand-lotion after washing your hand to lock in the moisture.

He had tried dozens of products before landing on a combination of Eczema Conqueror Balm, Lush’s Dream Cream, and Sake Kasu Face Cream which seemed to work for him. You’ll need to find the right combination of products that work for you.

Genetic Factors

Eczema often runs in families, especially those with a history of other atopic conditions, such as asthma or hay fever. Certain genes may affect the skin's ability to maintain a healthy barrier against environmental factors.

Filaggrin Mutation:
Many individuals with eczema have mutations in the gene that produces filaggrin, a protein essential for skin barrier integrity. Filaggrin is a protein that is synthesized in the epidermis, the outermost layer of the skin and it binds the skin’s various structural proteins together.

Key Takeaways:
- Early Intervention:
If you have a family history of eczema or other atopic conditions, be vigilant about skin care from an early age.

- Consult a Dermatologist:
Regular check-ups with a dermatologist can help in early identification and management.

- Find products that contain similar compounds to Filaggrin which can help your skin’s protein structure.

dna genetic factors

What the Science Says:
Recent studies have shown that adding rice starch to your bath can have 20% improvement on your skin's healing capacity in just 15mins.

This is because the small rice starch molecules can easily penetrate the outer layer of the fissured stratum corneum and form a homogenous layer and create a protective layer.

Similar to how Fillaggrin can help bind your skin’s protein structures. The researchers found that using just 10g of rice water starch per 1L of water was enough.

Personal Experience

In my husband’s case, all of the boys on his mom’s side of the family also had eczema. Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do about this and even amongst family members the severity of eczema might differ.

He also took baths filled with either colloidal oatmeal or rice water a couple of times a week to help his skin heal.

allergy affects eczema

Environmental Factors

Various environmental factors can trigger or worsen eczema symptoms. These include:
- Irritants: Soaps, detergents, shampoos, disinfectants, and other chemicals can irritate the skin.
- Allergens: Dust mites, pet dander, pollens, mold, and dandruff can trigger eczema in some people.

Key Takeaways:

Use hypoallergenic and fragrance-free laundry detergents and personal care products.

Regularly clean to reduce dust mites, use air purifiers, and vacuum regularly.

What the Science Says:
Eczema is often part of the "atopic march" – a progression of allergic diseases that can start in early childhood. This march often begins with eczema, followed by food allergies, allergic rhinitis (hay fever), and asthma.

A study published in the "Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology" discusses this progression

Personal Experience

We swapped out all of our soap to be scentless and looked specifically for products that were more gentle on the skin.

My husband also started to wear gloves when washing dishes and cooking. He found that some vegetables irritated his hands when he was handling them while cooking. And by wearing gloves when washing dishes, it prevented his hands from getting dried out from the detergent and hot water.

He also wore gloves when cleaning around the house and changed his clothing immediately after cleaning. This minimizes contact with potential allergens like dust mites, which are known to trigger eczema.

Microbes

Certain bacteria, viruses, and fungi can cause skin infections and exacerbate eczema.

More recently a study came out that showed that the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus, may be triggering the itchiness in eczema sufferers. It’s been known for a while that people with eczema seem to have more Staphylococcus aureus bacteria on their skin than those without eczema.

It was thought that the skin was having an allergic reaction to the bacteria. However, this recent study showed that S. aureus actually infiltrates the broken skin caused by scratching of the skin, and releases toxins that directly trigger the nerve cells which causes the itchiness sensation.

Key Takeaways:

Maintain good skin hygiene and use mild antiseptics

microbes on the skin cause eczema

How can you reduce Staphylococcus aureus on your skin?
If you suffer from eczema, you will invariably create an open wound from the scratching.

If you get open sores, it’s important to keep it clean and try to heal it as much as possible since this wound leads to your skin barrier being compromised and will cause a vicious cycle of moisture loss and infection which can will even more itchiness.

What the Science Says:

Based on the breakthrough research above, other older studies have started to gain more traction. Dermatologists and skincare experts have started to come around to the idea that if you are able to reduce the levels of Staphylococcus aureus on your skin, your eczema might be better.

A study from 2022 found that not only did fermented rice extract contain beneficial antioxidants for the skin such as phenolic acid and ferulic acid, but that fermented rice actually has compounds that help with be antiviral, antimicrobial, antifungal, and even promote anticancer activities in your skin.

A separate study from 2017 also found that rice water extracts were effective in significantly reducing the level of Staphylococcus aureus after just 30 minutes of exposure to the rice water extract. The study concluded that rice water has high efficacy in fighting against skin and wound pathogens.

Personal Experience

When my husband got an open wound from scratching, he immediately used anti-bacterial ointment such as Neosporin to speed up the healing and ensure the wound stayed clean.

Also in order to keep the amount of S. aureus bacteria count low, he used to take weekly baths in apple cider vinegar (make sure to use high-quality unfiltered ACV such as Bragg). However, this might not work for everyone since the acidity of the apple cider vinegar can further irritate the skin, so make sure to do your research to see if it’s right for you.

However, more recently, he started to use Sake Kasu Fermented Rice soaps (more information below). Taking a bath can be time-consuming and he wasn’t able to do it every day. However, he did take a shower every day, so using the fermented rice soap provided the same benefit (if not more) of apple cider vinegar bath but in an easier form that he can use every day.

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Hot and Cold Temperatures

Very hot or cold weather, high or low humidity, and perspiration from exercise can trigger eczema flare-ups.

Key Takeaways:

Dress in layers and avoid sudden temperature changes. Use a humidifier in dry environments.

We started to use a humidifier in the winter to maintain at least a 50% humidification level which has noticeably improved skin dryness.

Air conditioning can also dry out the air, which may lead to skin dryness, a common trigger for eczema flare-ups.

Similar to air conditioning, indoor heating systems can reduce humidity levels and dry out the skin. 

So make sure to use moisturizers aggressively if either the heater or AC is on.

sweat can trigger eczema

What the Science Says:

Most eczema sufferers hate the summer because sweating can exacerbate eczema. This is because contains salts, urea, and other compounds.

When sweat evaporates from the skin, these substances are left behind, causing irritation. And while sweating initially makes the skin wet, the subsequent evaporation can lead to further drying of the skin.

And lastly, sweat can alter the pH level of the skin. A change in pH can disrupt the skin's natural barrier function.

Overheating can also lead to increased blood flow to the skin, potentially exacerbating inflammation and redness.

Personal Experience

So during the summer, my husband usually takes more frequent showers and brings a change of clothing. If he doesn’t have access to a shower, he uses gentle alcohol-free wet wipes to wipe off his body and then apply a moisturizer. This has helped tremendously in managing eczema during the hot summer months.

what you eat affects eczema

What You Eat Affects Eczema

Some types of food, especially in infants and children, such as dairy products, eggs, nuts and seeds, soy products, and wheat, can trigger symptoms.

Eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and omega-3 fatty acids.

Avoid processed foods and those high in sugar.

Identify and avoid foods that trigger symptoms.

Consider an elimination diet under medical supervision.

Key Takeaways:
Eczema can get worse if you have a bad diet since your skin isn’t getting the right nutrients to maintain a healthy skin barrier or because whatever you are eating is causing a minor allergic reaction and triggering your eczema.

What the Science Says:

A significant body of research has established a link between food allergies and exacerbations of eczema, particularly in children. Common allergens include dairy, eggs, nuts, soy, and wheat.

Probiotics may play a role in managing eczema, particularly in infants and children, by influencing gut health and the immune system.

Vitamin D has been shown to have a potential role in reducing the severity of eczema, especially in individuals with low levels of this vitamin.

Personal Experience

My husband and I are foodies and we love all types of food. So making drastic changes to our eating habits was out of the question. However, we made sure to eat healthy and cooked a balanced meal without having to cut out things like gluten.

He also occasionally took some supplements such as fish oil and bromelain but supplements might not work for everyone so make sure to do your research.

Hormonal Changes

Hormonal changes can significantly impact eczema, with fluctuations often triggering or exacerbating symptoms.

Key Takeaways:

Keep track of eczema flare-ups in relation to menstrual cycles, pregnancy, or menopause to identify any patterns.

Discuss with a dermatologist or endocrinologist if you suspect hormonal imbalances are affecting your eczema. They may recommend hormonal tests or treatments.

Consider supplements like vitamin D or omega-3s, but consult with a healthcare provider first, especially if pregnant or breastfeeding.

Review any medications with your doctor, as some can affect hormonal balance and skin health.

Adapt your moisturizing routine to changes in your skin condition, which can vary with hormonal fluctuations.

hormonal changes affect eczema

What the Science Says:

A study in the "Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology" found that estrogen can influence skin barrier function and immune response, potentially affecting eczema. Some women experience eczema flare-ups in relation to their menstrual cycle, pregnancy, or menopause due to changes in estrogen levels.

Other research have also found that pregnancy can either improve or worsen eczema symptoms. Hormonal changes, along with shifts in the immune system during pregnancy, play a significant role.

And lastly, thyroid hormones, which regulate metabolism, can also affect skin health. Hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism can exacerbate skin conditions like eczema.

Personal Experience

We don’t have much experience here, so please discuss with your doctor how hormonal changes affect your eczema and explore safe treatment options during pregnancy or menstrual cycles.

How Often Should You Use Steroid Creams for Eczema?

effects of steroid cream for eczema

Steroid creams, also known as topical corticosteroids, are commonly used to treat eczema and other skin conditions. While they can be effective in reducing inflammation and alleviating symptoms, they also have potential side effects, especially with long-term use or overuse.

Here are some of the negative side effects associated with the use of steroid creams:

1. Skin Thinning (Atrophy): Prolonged use of potent steroid creams can cause the skin to become thin and fragile. This is one of the most common side effects and can make the skin more prone to bruising and tearing.

2. Telangiectasia: These are small, visible blood vessels that may become prominent on the skin surface after prolonged steroid use.

3. Stretch Marks (Striae): Similar to those that occur during pregnancy or significant weight gain, stretch marks can develop with the long-term use of steroid creams, especially in the skin folds.

4. Perioral Dermatitis: This is a rash that occurs around the mouth and sometimes the eyes. It can be triggered by the use of potent steroid creams in these sensitive areas.

5. Acne or Acneiform Eruptions: Steroid creams can cause or worsen acne, particularly on the face.

6. Tachyphylaxis: This is a situation where the skin becomes tolerant to the effects of the steroid cream, leading to diminished effectiveness over time.

7. Hypertrichosis: Increased hair growth in the area where the steroid cream is applied.

8. Skin Discoloration: Some people may experience changes in skin pigmentation with the use of steroid creams.

9. Secondary Infection: Thinning of the skin and disruption of the natural barrier can make the skin more susceptible to infections.

10. Systemic Absorption: Although rare, especially with low-potency steroids, there is a risk of systemic side effects if a large amount of steroid cream is absorbed through the skin. This can lead to conditions like Cushing's syndrome or suppression of the adrenal gland.

11. Contact Dermatitis: Some individuals may develop an allergic reaction to the components of the steroid cream.

12. Glaucoma and Cataracts: When steroid creams are used around the eyes, there is a risk of developing eye conditions such as glaucoma and cataracts, although this is rare.

Personal Experience

If you suffer from eczema, you should have topical steroid creams. But since there are negative side effects, my husband uses it sparingly and only as a last resort when the flare-ups are worse than usual.

What’s more important is that you understand the causes of the eczema and take proactive action to minimize the irritation.

Additionally, one of the most overlooked aspects of managing your eczema has to do with your skincare routine. Below we’ll outline key concepts and the most recent scientific research that’s available on how you can change your skincare routine to manage your eczema.

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Scientifically Proven Best Skincare Routine for Eczema:

As outlined in the section above, there are multiple causes for eczema. Some you can manage, and some unfortunately are out of your control.

However, the easiest and most effective way to manage your eczema has to do with your daily skincare routine.

Here are some lesser-known yet extremely effective changes to your skincare routine that can help with your eczema:
- Be mindful of what’s in your soap and choose soaps that are gentler and free of irritants
- Take showers more frequently (but for lesser duration) and apply moisturizers right away
- Take baths infused with beneficial non-irritable compounds to soothe and heal your skin

What Soap is Good for Eczema?

The Type of Soap You Use Significantly Impacts Your Eczema

Soap and cleansing products contain a variety of compounds, each serving specific functions to enhance the product's effectiveness, stability, and aesthetic appeal.

Here are some common types of compounds found in soaps and key things to keep in mind when buying soap if you have sensitive skin or eczema.

Surfactants

Function:
Responsible for cleaning by reducing surface tension, allowing the soap to spread and penetrate dirt and oils.

Examples:
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES), Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate.

Key Considerations:
Use soap that has milder surfactants and don’t combine multiple surfactants since it can lead to harshness when cleaning. It’s a common myth that you want that “squeaky clean” and “tight” feeling when using soap. That means that it’s too harsh and stripping your skin of its natural beneficial oils and compounds.

Moisturizers & Humectants

Function:
Help to retain moisture in the skin, preventing over-drying.

Examples:
Glycerin, Propylene Glycol, Sorbitol, Aloe Vera.

Key Considerations:
Make sure your soap has humectants that can help moisturize the skin. Quality soap should have naturally occurring humectants such as Glycerin. However, many commercial soap makers remove these naturally occurring humectants from their soaps because they can resell the compounds in higher-priced skincare products such as toners.

Emollients

Function:
Soften and smooth the skin.

Examples:
Shea Butter, Cocoa Butter, Jojoba Oil, Lanolin.

Key Considerations:
Emollients are critical to help smoothen your skin, but many soaps don’t include this or only include trace amounts since these compounds can be expensive.

Preservatives

Function:
Prevent the growth of bacteria, mold, and yeast to extend the product's shelf life.

Examples:
Parabens, Phenoxyethanol, Methylisothiazolinone.

Key Considerations:
Preservatives are a double-edged sword in that you don’t want them in soap since they can irritate the skin. However without them, your soap will have a shorter shelf-life.

Look for quality soaps don’t sit on store shelves for months but are rather made-to-order so they don’t need preservatives.

Also look for soaps that contain naturally anti-bacterial and anti-fungal compounds (such as fermented rice or rice bran) since this would minimize the need to add additional preservatives.

pH Adjusters

Function:
Maintain the product's pH at a level that is safe and effective for skin.

Examples:
Citric Acid, Sodium Hydroxide (Lye), Lactic Acid.

Key Considerations:
Your body has a natural pH that is slightly acidic at around 5. Most soaps are alkaline and have a pH level of 10. Look for soaps that have a more neutral pH of around 7-8 to not irritate your skin and offset the pH level of your skin.

Fragrances

Function:
Provide a pleasant scent.

Examples:
Essential Oils, Synthetic Fragrances.

Key Considerations:
Fragrances serve no purpose in skincare and should be avoided as much as possible in your soap. Naturally occurring fragrances that come from a key compound in the soap is ok though (ie: aloe scent it comes from the aloe vera used in the soap).

Colorants & Pigments

Function:
Give the soap its color, making it visually appealing.

Examples:
Titanium Dioxide (for white color), FD&C Dyes, Mica.

Key Considerations:
Colorants and pigments should be avoided at all cost since they can irritate the skin and serve no beneficial purpose for your skin.

Exfoliants

Function:
Aid in removing dead skin cells from the surface of the skin.

Examples:
Ground Apricot Kernels, Jojoba Beads, Pumice, Oatmeal.

Key Considerations:
You want to avoid excessively harsh exfoliants such as micro-beads and pumice since they can be overly abrasive to your skin and damage the skin’s outer layer. More gentle and naturally found exfoliants such as oatmeal and rice bran are ok since those compounds not only exfoliate but can also help to heal the skin.

Chelating Agents

Function:
Bind compounds in the soap to improve the stability and appearance of the soap.

Examples:
EDTA (Ethylenediaminetetraacetic Acid), Tetrasodium Glutamate Diacetate.

Key Considerations:
Chelating agents are found in all soap to help bind the compounds of the soap together.

You want to avoid chelating agents that serve only one purpose of binding compounds together. Rather, you want to look for chelating agents that serve multiple beneficial purposes.

For example, citric acid not only binds the compounds in soap together, but also reduced the pH of soap to make it more gentle on your skin and also maintains the integrity of beneficial antioxidants and amino acids found in quality soap.

 On the other hand, chelating agents such as Tetrasodium EDTA service no other beneficial skincare purpose than to bind compounds together.

Antioxidants

Function:
Prevent oxidation and rancidity of oils in the soap.

Examples:
Vitamin E (Tocopherol), Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT).

Key Considerations:
Antioxidants can be beneficial for your skin so look for soaps with antioxidants that are beneficial for eczema.
For example, Vitamin B3 (niacinamide) has anti-inflammatory properties and Vitamin E (Tocopherol) has moisturizing properties.

Thickeners

Function:
Adjust the viscosity of liquid soaps.

Examples:
Sodium Chloride, Xanthan Gum, Cellulose Gum.

Key Considerations:
Thickeners should be avoided at all costs since they can irritate the skin. They are mostly found in liquid soaps. This is why bar soaps are generally considered better for your skin than liquid soap.

Opacifiers

Function:
Make transparent products opaque or creamy-looking.

Examples:
Styrene/Acrylates Copolymer, Titanium Dioxide.

Key Considerations:
Opacifiers are only added to soaps to make them look creamier and serve no benefit for your skin, so it should be avoided.

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Is Dove or Ivory Soap Good for Eczema?

dove soap good for eczema?

Short answer is no...

Unfortunately, both Dove and Ivory soap are not good for those with sensitive skin and should be avoided.

Even their gentle formulations are not gentle enough and can strip the skin’s natural oils and skin barrier.

Moreover, they also don’t include many beneficial compounds that can improve your skin health.

Avoid Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)

Dove and Ivory soap contain an extremely drying surfactant known as Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS). SLS should be avoided at all costs for those with sensitive skin.

What is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)?
SLS is a synthetic surfactant used for its effective cleansing and foaming properties. It is known for its ability to remove oils and residues.

Use in Skincare and Cleaning Products:
SLS is widely used in a variety of personal care products such as shampoos, body washes, and toothpaste, as well as in household cleaning products.

Potential for Irritation:
SLS can be more stripping and potentially irritating to the skin, especially for individuals with sensitive skin, eczema, or other skin conditions. It can disrupt the natural oil balance of the skin, leading to dryness and irritation.

Mild Antimicrobial Action:
SLS can have some antimicrobial effects due to its ability to disrupt lipid membranes, which can affect bacterial cells but can also strip your skin of natural oils.

Not Typically Comedogenic:
SLS itself is not known to be comedogenic. It does not tend to clog pores directly since its primary function is to act as a detergent, helping to remove oils and debris from the skin and hair.

Are gentle formulations of Dove and other soap brands good for eczema?

Gentle Formulations Are Not So Gentle:
While the more gentle formulations of Dove and Ivory soap don’t include SLS, they do stack multiple more gentle surfactants together which can also lead to excessive cleaning.

For example, Dove’s Sensitive Skin Beauty Bar combines:
- Sodium Lauroyl Isethionate (a surfactant from coconut oil)
- Lauric acid (a surfactant from coconut oil)
- Sodium Isethionate (another surfactant)
- Sodium Stearate (a surfactant and improve lather)
- Cocamidopropyl Betaine (yet another surfactant from coconut oil)
- Sodium Laurate (surfactant and foaming agent)

That’s a total of 6 surfactants that can potentially dry out your skin.

Minimize the amount of surfactants:
It’s generally recommended that for those with sensitive skin, you should not only look for more gentle surfactants but also minimize the number of surfactants that are in a single product.

Your Soap Should Not Include Non-Essential Compounds:
In addition to combining multiple surfactants, Dove and Ivory soap both contain excessive chelating agents (ie: Tetrasodium Etidronate and Tetrasodium EDTA) which are only there to harden and bind the soap together without providing any additional skincare benefits.

Dove and Ivory also both contain colorants such as Titanium Dioxide which are only there to make the soap look creamier and whiter while serving no benefit to your skin.

what soaps are best for atopic dermatitis

Look for Soaps with Only One Surfactant

We recommend Lauric Acid since it's the most gentle and has additional skin benefits.

We personally found success with soaps that contain only Lauric Acid.Lauric acid is a natural fatty acid found in coconut oil, palm kernel oil, and in some animal fats. It is a medium-chain fatty acid.

Use in Skincare:
In skincare and cosmetic products, lauric acid is often used for its moisturizing properties and its ability to help cleanse the skin due to its antimicrobial properties.

Gentleness:
Lauric acid is generally considered gentle and less irritating to the skin, especially when used in formulations designed for sensitive skin. It is often used in natural or mild skincare products.

Mild Antimicrobial Effects:
Lauric acid has natural antimicrobial properties. It can help in reducing the presence of bacteria, viruses, and fungi on the skin. This makes it particularly useful in acne treatments and products designed for skin prone to infections.

Non-Comedogenic Properties:
Lauric acid is also non-comedogenic, meaning it doesn’t clog pores, which is an important consideration in skincare, particularly for those with acne-prone skin.

Is Aveeno and Cetaphil Good for Eczema?

cetaphil and aveeno good for eczema

Short answer is yes...

Yes in general, we find that Aveeno and Cetaphil are some of the best soaps available for those with eczema.

They use gentler surfactants and include no unnecessary preservatives, binders, colorants, or fragrances.
They also include a good amount of additional compounds that are beneficial for the skin (such as Oat for Aveeno and Vitamin E for Cetaphil).

One Point of Caution:
However, we did see that similar to Dove, both Aveeno and Cetaphil combine multiple surfactants together (ie: Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate + Disodium Lauryl Sulfosuccinate + Sodium Isethionate + Cocamidopropyl Hydroxysultaine) to clean your skin.
As mentioned above for Dove, while using more gentle surfactants is good, it’s best to avoid stacking multiple surfactants together since they can lead to excessive drying of your skin.

Other Common Compounds Found in Soap and Their Effects On Your Skin

Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate
Source and Nature: Derived from coconut oil.
Potential for Irritation: Considered to be one of the milder surfactants and is generally well-tolerated by sensitive skin. It's used in personal care products for its ability to create a rich lather and effectively remove dirt and oil.
No Antimicrobial Effects: This ingredient itself does not have significant antimicrobial properties. It's used more for its gentle cleansing and lathering abilities.
Non-Comedogenic Properties: Generally considered non-comedogenic, it is unlikely to clog pores, making it suitable for use in products for sensitive and acne-prone skin.

Disodium Lauryl Sulfosuccinate
Source and Nature: This ingredient is typically synthesized from lauryl alcohol, which can be derived from coconut or palm kernel oil, or from petroleum sources.
Potential for Irritation: A surfactant used for its foaming properties. It's often found in cleansers and bath products. It is generally considered to be a mild and safe ingredient for most skin types.
No Antimicrobial Effects: It is not known for antimicrobial properties. Its primary function is as a mild surfactant.
Non-Comedogenic Properties: Also considered to be non-comedogenic. It's a mild cleanser that is unlikely to contribute to acne.

Cocamidopropyl Hydroxysultaine
Source and Nature: It is derived from coconut oil, specifically from the fatty acids in coconut oil.
Potential for Irritation: A surfactant derived from coconut oil, known for its thickening and foaming properties. It's commonly used in shampoos and body washes. It is generally considered gentle and is less likely to cause skin irritation compared to stronger surfactants. However, some individuals may experience sensitivity or allergic reactions to this ingredient.
No Antimicrobial Effects: Some studies suggest that cocamidopropyl compounds can have mild antimicrobial effects. However, these are not strong enough to classify the ingredient as an antimicrobial agent in personal care products.
Non-Comedogenic Properties: Typically non-comedogenic.

Sodium Isethionate
Source and Nature: Sodium Isethionate is typically synthesized in a laboratory setting.
Potential for Irritation: A mild surfactant often used in combination with other surfactants to enhance the gentleness of a formulation. It is known for its mildness and is typically well-tolerated by sensitive skin. It's less likely to strip the skin of natural oils, making it a suitable option for dry or eczema-prone skin.
No Antimicrobial Effects: Does not have antimicrobial effects.
Non-Comedogenic Properties: Known for its gentle cleansing properties, it is generally non-comedogenic.

Sodium Lauroyl Isethionate
Source and Nature:Sodium Lauroyl Isethionate is typically derived from lauric acid, which is found in coconut oil and palm kernel oil.
Potential for Irritation: Considered to be a mild and gentle surfactant.
Antimicrobial Effects: while Sodium Lauroyl Isethionate can help remove bacteria and other microbes from the skin due to its cleansing action, it is not primarily known for strong antimicrobial properties. Its main function is as a surfactant and cleanser.
Non-Comedogenic Properties: Sodium Lauroyl Isethionate is generally considered to be non-comedogenic.

Sodium Stearate
Source and Nature: Sodium Stearate is a sodium salt of stearic acid, a fatty acid commonly found in animal and vegetable fats.
Potential for Irritation: Generally considered safe and non-irritating at the concentrations used in personal care products.
Antimicrobial Effects: It does not have significant antimicrobial properties.
Non-Comedogenic: Typically non-comedogenic, but as with any ingredient, individual reactions can vary.

Cocamidopropyl Betaine
Source and Nature: Derived from coconut oil, it's a mild surfactant used in many personal care products.
Potential for Irritation: Generally mild, but some individuals may experience irritation or allergic reactions, particularly those with very sensitive skin.
Antimicrobial Effects: It has some antimicrobial properties but is primarily used for its cleansing and foaming abilities.
Non-Comedogenic: Generally considered to be non-comedogenic.

Sodium Chloride
Source and Nature: Common table salt; used in personal care products for various purposes, including as a thickener or to balance the viscosity of products.
Potential for Irritation: Usually not irritating in the concentrations used in personal care products, but can be drying to the skin.
Antimicrobial Effects: No significant antimicrobial properties in the context of personal care products.
Non-Comedogenic: Non-comedogenic.

Tetrasodium Etidronate
Source and Nature: A synthetic compound used as a chelating agent to bind metal ions in personal care products.
Potential for Irritation: Generally considered safe and non-irritating.
Antimicrobial Effects: No antimicrobial properties.
Non-Comedogenic: Non-comedogenic.

Tetrasodium EDTA
Source and Nature: Similar to Tetrasodium Etidronate, it's a synthetic chelating agent.
Potential for Irritation: Typically non-irritating and safe in the concentrations used in personal care products.
Antimicrobial Effects: No antimicrobial properties.
Non-Comedogenic: Non-comedogenic.

Titanium Dioxide
Source and Nature: A natural mineral used in personal care products, often as a pigment or in sunscreens for its UV-filtering properties.
Potential for Irritation: Generally considered safe and non-irritating; however, it can be drying in some formulations.
Antimicrobial Effects: No antimicrobial properties.
Non-Comedogenic: Generally non-comedogenic, but in some formulations, it can clog pores.

Sodium Oleate
Source and Nature: Sodium Oleate is the sodium salt of oleic acid, a fatty acid found in various animal and vegetable fats and oils, particularly olive oil. It is produced through the saponification of oleic acid.
Effect on Eczema: Sodium Oleate can be mild and moisturizing, which might be beneficial for eczema-prone skin. However, as with any soap-based ingredient, it can potentially dry out the skin if used excessively.
Potential for Irritation: Generally considered mild, but the potential for irritation can vary depending on individual skin sensitivity and the concentration used in the product.
Antimicrobial Effects: Has some antimicrobial properties due to its ability to disrupt bacterial cell membranes, but it is not primarily used for this purpose in skincare products.
Non-Comedogenic: It is generally considered non-comedogenic.

Stearic Acid
Source and Nature: Stearic Acid is a saturated fatty acid commonly derived from animal fats, as well as vegetable fats like cocoa butter and shea butter. It is used in a variety of cosmetic and skincare products.
Effect on Eczema: Stearic Acid can help to create a barrier on the skin, locking in moisture, which can be beneficial for dry, eczema-prone skin. However, it should be used in appropriate formulations to avoid potential dryness.
Potential for Irritation: Generally well-tolerated, especially when used in moisturizing formulations. Pure stearic acid or high concentrations might be irritating for some individuals.
Antimicrobial Effects: Does not have significant antimicrobial properties in the context of skincare.
Non-Comedogenic: It is typically considered non-comedogenic.

Is Coconut Oil Good for Eczema?

is coconut oil good for eczema?

It Depends...

Coconut oil is often considered beneficial for eczema, but its effectiveness can vary from person to person.

Moisturizing Properties:
Coconut oil is an excellent moisturizer. It helps to hydrate the skin by reducing transepidermal water loss, which is particularly beneficial for the dry skin associated with eczema.

Lauric Acid Content:
Coconut oil contains lauric acid, which has antimicrobial properties. This can be beneficial in preventing skin infections, a common complication of eczema.

Anti-Inflammatory Effects:
Some studies suggest that coconut oil has anti-inflammatory properties, which can help reduce the redness and itching associated with eczema.

What does Coconut Oil Lack?
However, coconut oil doesn’t have many compounds that have been proven to heal wounds or bind proteins and lipids in the skin, as some other compounds such as rice and oatmeal.

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Why coconut oil-based soaps can be harsh for those with eczema:

Applying coconut oil on your skin can be beneficial, but soaps made with coconut oil can be too harsh.

High Cleansing Power:
The surfactants derived from coconut oil, particularly sodium laurate, are very effective at removing oils and dirt. This high cleansing ability can also strip the skin of its natural oils, leading to dryness and irritation, especially in individuals with sensitive or dry skin.

While sodium laureate is more gentle than SLS, it’s still on the harsher side when compared with other surfactants such as Lauric Acid.

pH Level:
Like all traditional soaps, those made with coconut oil are alkaline (have a high pH), which can disrupt the skin's natural acid mantle. Soaps made with coconut oil tend to have a higher pH than those made with other natural oils such as rice bran oil. This disruption can exacerbate skin conditions like eczema or cause irritation in sensitive skin.

INÉ Skin Nutrient Bar: Your Key to Unlocking the Ageless Beauty of Fermented Rice Water!

Introducing the INÉ Skin Nutrient Bar

An Artisan Soap Bar Made with Japanese Sake

Immerse yourself in the transformative power of fermented rice with the Skin Nutrient Bar, meticulously crafted with 100% organic Sake Kasu, a legendary secret from ancient Japanese skincare rituals.

Each bar, lovingly crafted to preserve the full, potent benefits of Sake Kasu, is designed to cleanse, nourish, and rejuvenate your skin from head to toe—all in the meditative mist of your shower. Just as the Toji's hands glow from daily immersion in sake, your skin too can embrace the radiant benefits of sake.

  • Free from Harmful Additives
  • Vegan Friendly 
  • Non-Comedogenic
  • Safe For All Skin Types
  • No Artificial Coloring or Fragrance
Learn More

Take More Showers (but for less time) and Apply Moisturizers Immediately

Studies have shown that it’s important to rid your skin of irritants that you accumulate throughout the day. These irritants can be external factors such as dust but can also be produced by your body through sweat.

How Long You Take a Shower For Affects Your Eczema

What the science says:
A study has shown that while the frequency of showering does not have any effect on eczema, how long you take a shower does affect eczema. The study recommends that you should take a shower for no more than 9 minutes and avoid hot water temperatures.

How Soon After Showering You Apply Moisturizers Significantly Affects Eczema

What the science says:
study from 2009 in Pediatric Dermatology found that it’s best to apply a moisturizer directly after taking a shower for the best effect on skin hydration.

The study found that bathing and immediately applying a moisturizer was more effective at keeping your skin hydrated than bathing and applying a moisturizer after some time has passed. Similarly, showering alone and not applying a moisturizer had the worst effect on skin hydration.

Take a bath with compounds that can soothe and heal your skin

miroslava-bodnar-O_1AfH4zD_A-unsplash.jpg__PID:636f3e7d-d3c6-4178-b2db-7c3316fde133

Colloidal Oatmeal and Rice Water are Great For Your Skin

It’s commonly recommended by dermatologists to take colloidal oatmeal baths to help with eczema flare-ups.
This is because colloidal oatmeals have the following benefits:

Moisturizing Properties:
Colloidal oatmeal contains polysaccharides (complex sugars) that form a protective barrier on the skin. This barrier helps to lock in moisture, which is crucial for eczema-prone skin that tends to be dry.

Lipid Replenishment:
It also contains lipids that are similar to those found in the skin, which can help replenish the skin's natural lipids, improving barrier function and hydration.

Anti-Inflammatory Effects:
Colloidal oatmeal contains avenanthramides, which are compounds known for their potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. This can help reduce the redness and irritation associated with eczema.

Relieves Itching:
The anti-inflammatory properties, combined with the protective barrier formed by colloidal oatmeal, can help soothe and reduce the itching that is often a significant discomfort in eczema.

Protects Skin Cells:
The antioxidants present in colloidal oatmeal can help protect the skin cells from environmental stressors and reduce oxidative stress, which can otherwise exacerbate eczema symptoms.

Maintains Skin pH:
It helps in maintaining the natural pH of the skin, which is vital for the overall health of the skin barrier and in managing eczema.

Rice Water, Rice Bran, and Fermented Rice Water Work Wonders on Eczema

A recent study has shown that rice bran powder, rice water, and fermented rice can also improve eczema.

- Taking a bath with rice bran powder was shown to reduce redness and itchiness with no side effects

- Applying rice water or taking baths infused with rice water significantly improved skin hydration and reduced inflammation after just 3 weeks. It was concluded that the high concentrations of anti-oxidants in rice water helped neutralize free radicals that triggered inflammation.

- Rice water is also rich in vitamins that helped nourish and protect the skin, thus reducing inflammation and promoting healing of micro-wounds in the skin.

- Over the course of the study, no participants had negative reactions to rice water, so it is believed that rice-based skincare products are good for those even with severe allergies and sensitivities.

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See How Rice Water and Fermented Rice Can Improve Your Eczema

Rice Water Has Been Used for Centuries in Japan As Part of Their Skincare Culture

Rice water is like the multitasker of the beauty world.

We're talking moisturizing, antioxidant, and healing properties that have cooling and soothing effects on the skin. It’s even said to boost circulation, fade hyperpigmentation, and calm inflammation, all while making your skin soft and radiant.

Believe it or not, rice water is even thought to offer a little shield from the sun when it’s left to linger on the skin.

Click here to see the science behind rice water and why it's considered the "fountain of youth" in Japan.

Rice water has been used by Japanese women for over 1300 years and is prized for its hair and skincare benefits.

Living With Eczema Doesn't Have to Be Daunting

Navigating the world of eczema management is a journey that's as unique as each individual's skin.

As we've explored in this article, from understanding the root causes of eczema to experimenting with various treatments, including home remedies and scientifically-backed skincare routines, the path to relief is multifaceted.

My husband's personal battle with eczema has been a testament to this. His experiences with various treatments, from the traditional to the innovative, like fermented rice water, highlight the importance of patience, persistence, and personalization in managing this condition.

Eczema is more than just a skin condition; it's a complex interplay of genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors.

The key is to find what works for you, whether it's a specific soap, a dietary change, or a particular skincare routine.

living with eczema

Remember, what works for one person may not work for another. It's about listening to your body, being mindful of its responses, and adapting accordingly.

Luckily, our journey in Japan opened our eyes to the wonders of fermented rice water, but it also reinforced the idea that sometimes, the simplest solutions can be the most effective.

It's not always about the most expensive or the most complex treatment; sometimes, it's about going back to basics and finding harmony between your skin and natural ingredients.

So, to all the eczema warriors out there, keep exploring, keep experimenting, and most importantly, keep your head up. Managing eczema is a continuous process, but with the right approach, it's one that can lead to significant improvements in both skin health and overall well-being.

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