Bleach baths can ease symptoms of moderate to severe eczema and reduce the risk of skin infections, a dermatologist says.
Eczema causes itchy, red, scaly skin. It's often triggered by cold weather or allergens, and can be a chronic source of discomfort.
Helpful a few times a week
"Bleach is antibacterial, and studies have shown that a diluted bleach bath may reduce eczema symptoms by reducing bacteria and inflammation on the skin," said New York-based dermatologist Dr Ross Radusky.
"However, it's important to follow your dermatologist's recommendations carefully in order for this treatment to be safe and effective," he said in an American Academy of Dermatology news release.
A bleach bath may be helpful a few times a week, but using it daily can cause too much drying of the skin, Radusky said.
To prepare a bleach bath, use regular strength (6%) plain bleach. Do not use splashless or concentrated bleach, or bleach that has fragrance.
Use a half cup of bleach for a full bathtub of water; a quarter cup of bleach for a half-full tub of water; or 1 teaspoon of bleach per gallon of water for a baby or toddler bathtub, Radusky said.
One component of an overall treatment plan
Pour the bleach into the running bath water while the tub is filling and wait until your bath is fully drawn before you get into the tub. Use lukewarm water. Hot water can dry out the skin, causing an eczema flare-up. Don't put your head in the water; only soak from the neck down.
Ask your dermatologist how long you should soak – a five- to 10-minute soak is generally recommended. Afterwards, turn on the shower and gently rinse your skin with lukewarm water, but no soap, Radusky said.
Gently pat your skin dry after the bath. Use white towels if you are concerned about bleach stains. If your eczema requires medication, apply it immediately after the bath, then apply your moisturizer.
Never apply bleach directly to your eczema, Radusky said.
"Keep in mind that bleach baths are one component of an overall treatment plan that includes medicine and a good skin care routine," he said.
Eczema, also called atopic dermatitis, affects nearly 28 million Americans.
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