Eczema Flare-ups: 9 Ways to Minimize These Itchy Outbreaks

by Riverchase Dermatology
May 30, 2023

Just when you think your eczema has gone quiet, the dreaded itching starts again. It can drive you downright crazy. If you’re wondering how to get rid of eczema permanently, you probably can’t, unless it goes away on its own. But there’s plenty you can do to reduce eczema flare-ups, from avoiding your eczema triggers to managing stress. 

Of course, following the eczema treatment plan your dermatologist developed for you is the best way to keep eczema under control long term, but the nine steps below can help those treatments work better and spare you some unnecessary itching.

1. Identify and avoid your triggers

Avoiding the irritants and allergens that bring on your eczema symptoms is essential to reducing flare-ups. If you’re having trouble identifying your triggers, try keeping a daily symptom diary. Write down your symptoms along with the foods you eat, the cleaning and beauty products you use, your stress levels, the weather and other potential triggers.

What causes eczema to flare up? Eczema triggers vary from person to person, but some common ones include:

  • Dry skin
  • Cleaning products such as laundry detergent and dish soap
  • Personal products such as shampoo and body wash 
  • Perfume and products with added fragrance
  • Stress
  • Wearing rough fabrics such as wool and stiff synthetics
  • Hot or cold weather 
  • Dry air 
  • Sweating
  • Tobacco smoke 
  • Dust mites, pet dander, mold, pollen

2. Take shorter baths and showers

Spending too much time in the tub or shower can dry out your skin, especially if you use hot water. Limit baths and showers to 10 minutes or less and use lukewarm water. Gently pat yourself dry instead of rubbing your skin with the towel. 

3. Keep your skin hydrated

Slather on a moisturizer at least twice a day, including right after your bath or shower. The less water—and therefore the more oil— it contains, the better. Ointments contain the least water. Creams have more water, and lotions typically have the most. Lotions are also more likely to sting skin that may already be sensitive from scratching.

Ointments, such as petroleum jelly and Aquaphor Healing Ointment, tend to be on the greasy side, so you might reserve them for nighttime use. If you prefer a less-greasy option, use a cream. Look for a thick one such as Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream or one designed for people with eczema, such as Cetaphil Eczema Restoraderm Cream or Eucerin Eczema Relief Body Cream.

If you have hand eczema, applying an ointment at night and covering your hands with cotton gloves can help.

4. Apply a barrier cream

Eczema weakens and damages the skin barrier, the uppermost layer of skin that defends against chemicals, irritants and harsh weather. A barrier cream contains ingredients that work together to strengthen and repair the skin barrier. They include ceramides, glycerin, dimethicone, squalene, hyaluronic acid and cholesterol, which is found in the skin barrier. 

Good choices include Cetaphil Healing Ointment, Eczema Restoraderm Flare-Up Relief Cream and SkinCeuticals Triple Lipid Restore. Apply it once or twice a day, either after your daily moisturizer or at different times.

5. Use mild, unscented personal care products and detergents

Choose products that are free of fragrance and dyes and are formulated for sensitive skin. Using a bar soap instead of a liquid soap can be beneficial because bar soaps contain fewer ingredients and additives. Look for a product labeled non-soap cleanser, since true soaps can be harsh.

6. Wear sunscreen every day

Getting a sunburn inflames the skin and is likely to trigger an eczema flareup, so commit to wearing sunscreen every day. Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. Mineral sunscreen, which contains titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide, is less likely to irritate the skin than chemical sunscreen.

7. Stop yourself from scratching

Eczema is known as the itch that rashes because scratching the itch leads to a rash. It can also make the itching worse. If your skin itches, apply calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream or take a 15- to 20-minute lukewarm bath with colloidal oatmeal added to the water.

It’s a good idea to keep your fingernails short and filed to help minimize the damage if you do scratch. Need to stop the itch fast without scratching? The National Eczema Association recommends pinching the skin and then patting it.

8. Plan for weather changes

If dry air or cold weather triggers flares, run a humidifier in the room you spend the most time in and apply extra moisturizer. Bothered by hot and humid weather? Try to stay indoors when the heat is at its worst. Keep cool with a fan or air conditioner, and wear soft, breathable fabrics.

9. Minimize stress

Life is stressful, and so is living with eczema. The “stress hormone” cortisol increases inflammation in the body, which is the reason stress can lead to an eczema flare. People with eczema may benefit from meditation, mindfulness, music therapy or even a relaxing massage.

Keeping eczema flare-ups at bay may take some trial and error, but once you identify your eczema triggers and learn how to deal with eczema in a way that works for you and your skin, you can look forward to life with less itching. 

Medically reviewed by ​​Toluwalase Ogunsola, BSN, APRN

Written by Jessica Brown, a health and science writer/editor based in Nanuet, New York. She has written for Water’s Edge Dermatology, Prevention magazine,,, and many other outlets.