How to Prevent Eczema Flares and Spreading

It may take some trial and error to get your symptoms under control

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Eczema can be challenging to cope with, especially if it covers a large part of the body or is in a problematic area. The good news is that there are prevention strategies to prevent eczema flares. Working with a board-certified dermatologist to create a skincare routine, keeping a diary of triggers, and refraining from scratching are all great ways to prevent eczema.

This article discusses the strategies you can use to cope with eczema if you experience an outbreak.

Eczema on leg

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How to Prevent Eczema Flares and Spreading

When a flare-up of eczema occurs, it can be challenging to deal with, but knowing how to prevent it can keep outbreaks to a minimum.

Understand Your Triggers

While each person with eczema is different, some common triggers can set off an outbreak. For example, dehydrated skin, household irritants, and stress are all known to trigger a flare in many people.

To avoid a flare-up caused by a trigger, you must first understand which ones are unique to you. You can do this by keeping a diary of your symptoms that occur with factors like:

  • Emotional or physical stress
  • Chemicals such as laundry detergents or cleaning supplies
  • What you ate that day or in the days leading up to the outbreak
  • If you are sick with an infection, such as COVID-19
  • The time of year and whether seasonal allergies can be playing a role
  • Anything you touched or wore that day, particularly nickel-plated jewelry or wool as these are common triggers

While it may take some time to determine your triggers by the process of elimination, once you have everything recorded, you’ll know what to avoid in the future to ensure you don’t experience as many outbreaks.

Triggers in Babies and Children

If you’re a parent of a child with eczema, it can be hard for them to tell you their triggers or relay when they’re experiencing a flare-up. To best help your child, you can avoid using environmental irritants such as harsh soaps, ointments, baby lotions, and products with fragrances. Food allergies may also play a role in eczema in children, so monitoring what they eat in relation to their eczema outbreaks can help reduce their flare-ups.

Develop a Skincare Routine With a Dermatologist

Working with a dermatologist will help you devise a plan to keep your skin moisturized. It can also provide you with tips on how to keep your skin healthy.

Seek Treatment for Increasingly Severe Outbreaks

If you have severe outbreaks that cover a large area of the body and are challenging to treat using a skincare routine, you may need to be prescribed medication by a dermatologist. They will suggest a proper treatment based on your specific case, where and how much of the body is covered with eczema, and your response to medications.

Some medications that may be used to develop a skincare routine include topical corticosteroids, topical PDE 4 inhibitors, and topical calcineurin inhibitors.

Prevention Techniques for those with Severe Eczema

While prevention strategies may work for those with mild cases, people with more severe eczema will likely have to try more potent therapies. Typically, that means seeking treatment through a dermatologist for symptoms and practicing the many prevention strategies available. Not all stages of eczema are the same. Not all techniques to prevent flare-ups will work for everyone.

Limit Contact with Household Chemicals

Many household chemicals, such as laundry detergents and cleaning agents, contain harsh chemicals that can set off an eczema outbreak in some people. When looking for products, try to choose natural, fragrance-free, and dye-free agents to help protect your skin as best you can.

What are Some of The Best Laundry Detergents for People With Eczema?

While every person is different, some laundry detergents are better than others, according to the National Eczema Association. Those detergents include:

  • Tide PODs Ultra Oxi Free Laundry Detergent
  • Tide Free & Gentle Liquid Laundry Detergent
  • Hygienic Clean Heavy Duty 10X Free Liquid Laundry Detergent
  • Dirty Labs Bio Laundry Detergent – Free & Clear with Phytolase
  • Ivory Free & Clear Laundry Detergent
  • Honest Company Hypoallergenic Baby Laundry Detergent
  • Seventh Generation Laundry Pack Free & Clear
  • Dreft Pure Gentleness Liquid Detergent 

Choose Your Clothing Wisely

People with eczema should avoid clothing made of fabrics that can irritate or aggravate the condition. Wool, synthetic materials such as nylon and polyester, and any clothing with rough seams can create an issue. It’s best to stick to either cotton, silk, or bamboo when choosing the fabric best suited for your skin. Lyocell/TENCEL is another fabric derived from bamboo that is also eczema safe.

You should also wash new clothing before wearing it to remove any irritants from production before putting it on your skin.

Manage Stress Effectively

Stress and eczema are linked; severe eczema can interfere with sleep and self-esteem which in turn causes stress. Having a stress management strategy in place can help prevent eczema.

Stress management techniques have been proven to help those with eczema better control their condition, including:

Focus on Bathing and Showering for Eczema Prevention

Personal hygiene practices may have to be tweaked to prevent eczema. Taking short showers or baths in warm, not hot, water can help prevent skin dehydration. This can help keep eczema outbreaks to a minimum. Other tips for bathing and showering include:

  • Using scent-free and natural skincare washes and products
  • Patting yourself dry instead with a towel instead of rubbing the skin
  • Moisturizing immediately after you’re finished bathing or showering while the skin is still damp

Can You Shower Everyday with Eczema?

Currently, there is no strong evidence to support any frequency of bathing or showering to be better or worse for eczema. As long as you keep your skin moisturized following your bath or shower, there is no risk associated with worsened eczema and daily showers. 

Avoid Scratching the Area

The itch associated with eczema can be so severe that avoiding scratching the area may seem impossible. However, if you scratch, you risk causing the rash to spread, worsen, and become infected. There is also something associated with eczema known as the itch-scratch cycle.

The itch-scratch cycle is a phenomenon that drives the worsening of eczema by scratching the itch that first develops at the initial point of a flare-up. First, a person scratches the initial irritation, damaging the skin. Once the scratching has damaged the skin, eczema worsens, leading to more itching, and the cycle continues.

While leaving the itch alone is easier said than done, you can use a prescribed or over-the-counter (OTC) anti-itch cream and keep the area moisturized with an eczema-friendly moisturizer.   

Eczema and Infection

The more a person scratches, the more likely they will break their skin. When that happens, bacteria and other germs can get into the open wounds and cause an eczema infection. To avoid infection, you must avoid scratching the area as best you can.

Eczema Scarring (AKA Pigment Alteration)

In some cases, the scratching a person does during a flare-up can leave changes in pigment called hyperpigmentation in the area after the outbreak has subsided. These are sometimes referred to as eczema scars.

If you have any pigment alterations caused by eczema, you are advised to follow the same rules for avoiding eczema flare-ups and avoid itching the area because that will cause further damage.

Eczema on Different Skin Tones

Skin tone can play a role in the appearance of eczema and eczema pigment alteration. In people with darker skin, eczema will not appear as red as it does on those with lighter skin, making it hard to identify. Eczema will be dark brown, ashen gray, or purple in those with darker skin. The pigment alteration will also differ depending on skin tone. People with lighter skin may have less pigmentation in altered areas, making them appear lighter than their skin tone. In contrast, people with darker skin have more pigmentation and, thus, darker alterations.

Next Steps If You’ve Tried Everything

If you have tried everything to heal your eczema and reduce the frequency of outbreaks and nothing seems to be working, you should meet with a dermatologist. They might prescribe you a stronger medication or treatment that can be used in addition to your current therapy plan.


Eczema can come and go, and when experiencing a flare-up, it can be incredibly challenging to cope with. To help prevent eczema flare-ups, you should focus on managing stress, knowing your triggers, and avoiding certain chemicals, products, and materials. If all else fails, a board-certified dermatologist can prescribe you stronger medications and give further advice. Doing so can reduce the severity and frequency of flare-ups and complications that can arise, such as infection.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What naturally prevents eczema outbreaks?

    There are several natural things you can do to help prevent eczema outbreaks. Some include managing stress and identifying triggers to keep track of what set off your flare-ups. Others can use complementary and alternative medicines such as coconut oil, vitamin D supplements, or probiotics.

  • Can you stop eczema from starting or spreading?

    It can be challenging to stop eczema altogether. After all, there is no cure for the skin disorder. That said, there are many ways to prevent outbreaks and flare-ups. When it comes to spreading the rash, the best thing you can do to avoid that is to keep yourself from scratching it and treating it as soon as it begins.

  • Do eczema rashes ever go entirely away?

    A person with eczema can live rash-free for long periods if they practice prevention strategies. However, once a person is diagnosed with eczema, they will have it for the rest of their lives. There is no cure.

14 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Angelica Bottaro
Angelica Bottaro is a professional freelance writer with over 5 years of experience. She has been educated in both psychology and journalism, and her dual education has given her the research and writing skills needed to deliver sound and engaging content in the health space.