Exfoliating eczema can seem like the opposite of what you should be doing – wouldn’t this just aggravate your skin more? Removing dead skin is actually incredibly healthy for your eczema, but you do need to be very careful about how you do it. Read on for our comprehensive guide for How to exfoliate eczema.
Why should you Exfoliate Eczema?
Exfoliating is rubbing something against your skin to remove dead and dry skin cells. It helps to clean your skin and remove dirt and bacteria as well, and can lift hard crusts that often occur with eczema (and especially happen with cradle cap).
Eczema sufferers tend to have a lot more dead and dry skin cells to get rid of than other people, so many sufferers find relief in regularly dry brushing their skin. It also removes the flakes that can sometimes come off in public which can cause embarrassment for many of us.
The dead skin and hard crusts on the surface of eczema skin also stop moisturizers and topical creams from being able to penetrate in and really do their work, so it is recommended as a regular activity for people living with the condition.
You should only exfoliate dry, scaly or crusty eczema patches, however. Do not exfoliate any skin that is cracked, weeping on bleeding, or already angry, as this will make things worse.
Think of it more as a maintenance activity, for in between flare-ups, to help clean your skin and remove the dry and dead flakes.
How to Exfoliate Eczema: The best methods
Gently, gently, gently!
One of the best ways is to use a product that has moisturizing properties as well as the roughness needed for exfoliation. There are some exfoliating soaps, but it is best to choose a soap that is specifically gentle for sensitive skin, and won’t strip your skin of much-needed moisture.
Sea Salt Scrub
Some of the best scrub products you can use have sea salt granules as the exfoliant property. Sea salt is wonderful for eczema skin, with Dead Sea salt as a particularly good option.
Salt is high in lots of trace elements and minerals including calcium, magnesium, potassium, and iron. It can also improve your body’s immunity, help heal, remove infections and battle with bacteria.
And the bonus for eczema sufferers; salt also relieves inflammation and soften and moisturizes the skin. This product is a nice one for eczema sufferers, and smells amazing as well! It’s called SCARLETT PARIS Body Peel with Dead Sea Salts.
Rub the scrub all over your skin, either using your hand or a soft cloth. You can apply the scrub in the shower, before your shower, or in the bath. Rinse it off gently and pat yourself dry with a towel.
Even though these products are called ‘scrubs’ you shouldn’t really be scrubbing them onto your skin if you have eczema. Just rub it on gently in a circular motion is all that you need.
Scrubs mix the salt with a thicker base, such as coconut oil, which moisturizes your skin as the roughness of the salt granules slough off the dead skin cells.
You can buy commercially made sugar scrub products that are lovely for sensitive skin, but you can also very easily make your own sugar scrub at home.
Sugar (yes, just regular, raw sugar, like what you put in your coffee) has some gorgeous health benefits for eczema skin. And you thought too much sugar was bad for your skin! It turns out that you don’t eat it – you rub it on your body.
Raw sugar contains lots of glycolic acid, which has magical regenerating properties for your skin. Glycolic acid is a common ingredient in skincare and anti-ageing products because it reduces fine lines, repairs and rehydrates the skin, and also helps to protect it from toxins.
It is important to note that like almost anything, glycolic acid can actually cause a flare up for some eczema sufferers, although most should be fine with a sugar scrub.
It is best if you patch test a sugar scrub onto a small patch of your skin where you are not currently suffering from a flare up, and then wipe it off. Wait 48 hours to see if this causes a flare up and if not then you are probably not triggered by glycolic acid, and will be fine to use a sugar scrub all over.
Colloidal oatmeal, or oatmeal which has been reduced to a fine powder, is a primary ingredient in many eczema products and those that are suitable for sensitive skin.
We have discussed the benefits of oatmeal before, including that it helps to reduce inflammation in your skin as well as heal, cool and moisturize.
The special properties in oatmeal are why it is so soothing and nourishing for the skin. It is high in essential vitamins and minerals, helps to fight infection, encourage your immune system to work better, and is strong is skin healthy ingredients like vitamin E and zinc.
We also use oatmeal in our son’s bath. Read our guide to using oatmeal in the bath, a natural way to help lock in moisture.
Coffee scrubs have been gaining popularity recently, with some good news for eczema sufferers. While drinking lots of coffee can bring eczema on, rubbing coffee grounds on your skin can help it to go away.
Coffee has the effect of reducing heat and inflammation in the skin and helping the inflamed area start to heal, partially because it helps to increase blood circulation.
Majestic make a lovely coffee scrub which is suitable for eczema sufferers.
Even drinking Tea can cause inflammation for eczema sufferers. I know, we can’t even enjoy a lovely cup of Tea right? Read, why here!
You don’t need to buy an exfoliant product however, you can get the same sort of results using a body brush and just gently dry brushing your skin. Choose a brush that isn’t too abrasive for your skin, a brush made from hair or silicone will be fine, such as these ones below.
Use gentle circular motions with the body brush all over the parts of your body that you want to remove dry skin from. Do this naked before having a shower (it is easy to do in the shower recess before you run the shower).
SpaVerde Dry Brush Set
- Exfoliate and rejuvenate your skin by using the SpaVerde dry brushing brush with natural boar bristles. Body brush for dry brushing that revitalizes and rejuvenates skin.
- Get the full at-home spa experience with this complete dry brushing set, which includes a body brush, a face brush, a bonus storage and travel linen bag & easy-to-follow printed instructions. Great inflammation and swelling reducer – swollen feet and ankles relief.
- We only use the highest quality, natural materials. And we back that with our 90-day money back guarantee.
- Whether you’re looking to stimulate collagen production or improve your skin texture, dry brushing helps buff away dead skin cells to reveal healthier, younger looking skin.
This brush stands out because it has a good bristle texture that users praise, resulting in healthier, softer skin, lymphatic drainage, and better circulation. We love that it comes with a bonus facial brush and in stylish gift-worthy packaging.
Occasional buyers have experienced issues with handle durability and a few were bothered by shedding bristles.
Pretty Sea Exfoliating Brush
- High-quality material-made of 100% natural boar bristle, suitable for exfoliating, relaxing and removing dead skin and toxins
- 15.7″ non-slip handle-wrapped with hemp rope, provide better grip, easy to clean the hard-to-reach areas
- Dry wet brushing-can be used both for showering and dry skin brush, boost circulation and promote skin health and glows
- Comfortable & health -rub and soften skin over your full body, improve your skin’s quality and leave it glowing and smooth
- Medium stiffness bristles- Tough and flexible, we recommend soaking with warm water for about 2 minutes to slightly soften it before use
We love the long handle and firm texture of this brush that leaves skin soft and clear. We liked the added grip of the rope-wrapped handle.
This brush may not be the best choice for taller users as some felt it was too short. It also lacks the durability seen on some other models.
Homemade Eczema Exfoliant
With many eczema products, it can be just easier to make your own at home and be certain of what ingredients have gone in. Here are some super easy recipes for homemade exfoliants for eczema that you can throw together in your kitchen.
Combine 1 cup raw sugar and ½ cup coconut oil in a small bowl to create a paste, with an essential oil with antiseptic properties such as tea tree oil or manuka oil.
For more information about which essential oils are good for eczema, read our article here Best Essential oils for Eczema.
Once you have made your sugar scrub you can keep it in a container in the fridge – this helps give it extra lovely cooling powers which will soothe and refresh your eczema when you use it.
The oil and sugar can separate when left sitting in the container; just give it a good mix before you use it.
Combine 1 cup oats with 1 cup of coconut oil and a couple of drops of lavender oil. Use the same as the scrubs described above – just massage gently onto your skin in a circular motion and then rinse off in the bath or shower.
You could also add some raw manuka honey to the mix for its antibacterial properties.
Mix 1 cup coffee grounds with ½ cup coconut oil to form a paste. Use in the same way as described above.
Exfoliating Eczema – What not to do
Children, especially babies may not really like the experience of being exfoliated, so again it is important to go as gently as possible. You should persevere with the activity and try to get them used to it if you can, however, because it is enormously good for their skin.
You should be rubbing enough to remove dry skin cells, but not so hard that you really anger the skin or cause pain to the sufferer.
Don’t exfoliate every day – give your skin a chance to breathe and relax in between exfoliation sessions. Generally, no more than once a week is recommended.
If you are suffering from infected areas on your skin, do not exfoliate. Signs of infection can include bleeding and weeping skin, with a yellowish pus coming out. If you have infected areas, you should consult a doctor as you probably need to be prescribed a course of antibiotics to help clear this up.
Many chemical exfoliants can aggravate your skin, so even though we recommend exfoliating for eczema sufferers, not just any product will do. Chemical peels are especially harsh, and anything containing an astringent will dry out your skin.
Look for exfoliants that are made from all-natural ingredients or those that are labeled as suitable for eczema or for sensitive skin. If you are unsure of which ingredients to steer clear of, some of the usual suspects to watch out for include:
- Sulphates like sodium lauryl sulphates and sodium laureth sulphate (SLS)
- Petroleum oils
- Salicylic acid
- Preservatives like methylparaben and butylparaben
Even if you are using an exfoliant that is all-natural or suitable for sensitive skin, make sure that you conduct a patch test first in a small safe area of your skin, to make sure that there is nothing in this particular product that your eczema disagrees with.
Other tips and tricks to help your eczema
Don’t bathe too often, for too long at a time, or in baths or showers that are too hot. Hot water will have a drying effect on your skin.
After bathing put on a lovely greasy emollient for moisturizing properties. It helps to actually put this on while your skin is still wet to help lock that moisture back in.
Use dead sea salt to not only exfoliate eczema safely but also in your bath. We use it every day in our house. Read how and why we use Dead Sea salt in our bath water.
However, you do need lots of water internally, so drink plenty of water throughout the day to keep hydrated. Every living being needs lots of water, but eczema sufferers need to kick their intake up a notch over everyone else.
Some people find benefit in taking a daily probiotic supplement or eating foods that are high in probiotics like live culture yogurt, miso, and other fermented products.
Some people also find their eczema is better if they avoid certain types of food, including sugar, salt, saturated fats, gluten, dairy, and soy. You might like to try an elimination diet to see if you can reduce your incidence of eczema by changing your eating habits.
For more information about eczema and your diet, you might like to read our article here Eczema Diets For Adults
Exfoliating Eczema – In Summary
Exfoliating is wonderful for eczema but does need to be done carefully. Don’t brush too hard, and only use products that are suitable for sensitive skin, or make your own with one of our great recipes. Exfoliate only dry scaly skin, not cracked or weeping areas, and only exfoliate around once a week.
It is a lovely in-between maintenance activity to keep your skin clean, remove dry and dead skin cells and help your moisturizers and topical creams to work.