Skin Care for Atopic Dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis is a chronic type of eczema and this post discusses various skin care techniques for those living with atopic dermatitis.

This post contains links that are affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase. For more information, check out my disclosure policy.

I have chronic eczema, otherwise known as atopic dermatitis. The severity of my eczema changes and avoiding foods high in nickel is one of the best ways to treat / reduce my eczema flare ups. In addition, I proactively care for my skin by moisturizing daily, clipping my nails weekly and trying to reduce stress.

I attended a one day adult forum by the National Eczema Association. Over the years, I’ve found many of their educational resources useful. Since treatment for eczema is very trial and error, I’ve also used their Facebook page to ask questions about what they do or products they use from their fans. Once I was looking for a lip moisturizer without shea butter and someone recommended Aquaphor Healing Ointment. I use it daily on my lips and finger and it works great!

One of the original founders of the National Eczema Association, Susan Tofte, RN, FNP, presented information during the eczema forum about techniques for basic skin care, specifically for us with atopic dermatitis. She mentioned that bathing dries out the skin. However, I learned that bathing helps the skin IF a moisturizer is applied to your skin within 3 minutes of gently patting yourself dry with a towel. Nurse Susan Tofte also mentioned that when your skin becomes wet (about 20 minutes) during your bath or shower, your skin has absorbed the maximum amount of moisture from the water.

For those of us with atopic dermatitis, bathing without moisturizing after can cause dryness that stings like swimming with jellyfish.
For those of us with atopic dermatitis, bathing without moisturizing after can cause dryness that stings like swimming with jellyfish.

Nurse Susan Tofte suggested when you’re experiencing a severe eczema flare up it’s important to “baby” your skin care for at least one week to help get things back under control. During that week, she suggested bathing in lukewarm water for 20 minutes and moisturizing your skin with a moisturizer (not a lotion, as they can contain alcohol and dry out your skin) within 3 minutes of gently pat drying your skin. She suggested bathing 2 times a day throughout that week, both in the morning and at night. If your eczema is really bad, she recommended taking a bath instead of a shower (if you can). The goal of bathing often is to help your body’s skin rid itself from outside irritants and/or allergens and reducing your skin’s inflammation and reducing the itch-scratch cycle.

I use Cetaphil’s Gentle Cleansing Bar (affiliate link) for my bathing soap. Previously, I used Paul Mitchell’s Tea Tree Special Shampoo. Now I use Cleure, a fragrance free and SLS free shampoo and conditioner that was recommended by my dermatologist. Cleure contains 3 different ingredients that are all derived from coconut. Despite the coconut, I thought I would give it a try and it’s been great for nearly a year. It’s one of the only shampoos that has totally resolved my scalp from itching and consequently my dandruff.

After my daily shower, I use Cetaphil’s Moisturizing Cream (affiliate link) on my skin and Aquaphor’s Healing Ointment (affiliate link) on my lips and sometimes on my elbows or fingers if they’re really dry. I also keep a small bottle of Cetaphil’s lotion and Aquaphor’s “on the go” packs in my purse when I need to moisturize my hands and lips throughout the day.

I’ve used other lotions, moisturizers and lip balms that haven’t worked as well as these. Many other targeted eczema products include shea butter or oats. I cannot use anything with shea butter or oats because those ingredients include nickel and irritate my skin. If you’re purchasing the Aquaphor healing ointments, I purchase the travel “on the go” packs (affiliate link). Aquaphor offers a “lip balm” that I cannot use because it include shea butter, so read the ingredients. Lastly, if you’re allergic to lanolin, it’s best to avoid aquaphor products. In that instance, Vaseline could be a good alternative.  

If you have chronic eczema or a nickel allergy I highly suggest you try Skintifique’s nickel free products (referral affiliate link). Using Skintifique’s Cleanser P and Moisturizing Lotion HP daily has relieved the intensity of my eczema on my face, even when I’ve occasionally eaten foods higher in nickel. In addition I believe using Skintifique’s cleanser has diminished my acne. I also enjoy using Skintifique’s Hydrating Gel Plus HS from time to time where my skin is especially dry or itchy. If you want try Skintifique, use referral code 22140304 to receive $15.00 off their products when you register and shop.

Atopic dermatitis is a chronic disease and it’s important to recognize that flare ups will occur. Appropriately caring for your skin when you’re experiencing an eczema flare up is critical to getting your eczema under control. For me that not only involves avoiding eating foods high in nickel, but also not putting too much pressure on myself and frequently using moisturizer!

What are some techniques you use to care for your skin? Share your tips in the comment section below.

  1. Hi!
    Thank you so much for your website.
    I’m suffering with nickel allergy and, as result, severe eczema.
    It was only yet diagnosed, so I don’t really have any idea on how to treat my skin.
    Could you please send me a list of everything that you use?
    Thank you so much!
    Bruna F

    1. Hi Bruna,
      Thank you for your kind words about my site! I’m glad you’ve found my posts useful.
      I’ve found avoiding foods with nickel to be the best treatment for both my nickel food allergy and my severe eczema. I don’t use that many products on my skin. The over the counter product I use are those I wrote about in this post, Cetaphil lotion and soap, Aquaphor Healing Ointment and the Paul Mitchell Tea Tree shampoo.
      My dermatologist also prescribed Desonide and Elidel. When I was first diagnosed, I used both. Now I only use Desonide when things are really bad – usually when I eat something high in nickel.
      Keeping our skin moist is really important. I purchase the Cetaphil lotion from Costco and keep it everywhere. Check out the National Eczema Association. They have some great tips! Good luck and stay connected!

      1. Hi, I can’t find anywhere confirmation that the Paul Mitchell products are nickel free. How do you know they are? Does it only apply to the Tea Tree Special product line?
        I can easily find nickel-free skincare products here in Europe, but hair care is more difficult. The brands my dermatologist suggested as guaranteed nickel free (Avene, Bioderma, Eucerin, SVR, La Roche Posay) have very few hair care products, mainly for psoriasis/seborrhea, but literally nothing for dry hair. And losing your hair is not something you want to play or experiment about, so I’d be grateful if you could share your experience on this.

        1. Hi Eva,
          I can understand how frustrating that would be. My dermatologist originally recommended I try “Free & Clear,” which I did try, but didn’t like how it made my hair feel.
          In this blog post – Skin Care for Atopic Dermatitis – I don’t write that Paul Mitchell’s tea tree products are nickel free, just that I’ve had success using it without problems. Searching on Pinterest looking for a shampoo myself, someone else had promoted them as “nickel free” and then tried them for myself.
          I hope that’s helpful in your search for nickel free shampoo options.

    1. Hi JP,
      Unfortunately I don’t know if mango butter generally is high in nickel or if a specific mango butter product you use or are considering using is high in nickel. Personally I can tolerate eating mangoes. I like you cannot tolerate anything with shea butter, it’s terrible for me!

  2. Hi Christy,
    Your website has been a blessing! Thank you so much for sharing all of this info and your experiences with nickel allergies. I was diagnosed with a severe nickel allergy a few weeks ago and the lifestyle change has been overwhelming. Your site has helped me so much! If you don’t mind me asking, what kind of sunscreen do you use?

    1. Hi Jackie,
      Thank you! I’m so glad my website has been helpful with your new severe nickel allergy diagnosis. It was overwhelming for me too. I don’t wear sunscreen very often, but when I do I use Neutrogena Beach Defense Water+Sun protection sunscreen spray. I bought it for cheap at Costco. I does have some ingredients I don’t know what they are, but haven’t had any issues. My preference is to wear layers like Columbia’s long sleeve breathable shirt with a straw hat over sunscreen when I hike or do yard work. But at a pool or beach I use this sunscreen.
      Stay in touch and warm regards,

  3. Thank you for this website. I too was diagnosed with a severe nickel allergy in 2013. I have (sort of) been managing it thanks to antihistamine. Unfortunately, I have been having some severe issues lately. There does not seem to be much information regarding nickel and foods and much of the nickel free diets are contradictory. Do you have a successful resource for nickel free foods?

    1. Hi Laurie,
      Thank you for your comment. I also take a anti-histamine in addition to avoiding foods high in nickel.
      I created my website to write about experience being allergic to foods high in nickel. You’re right, there’s little info about systemic nickel allergy syndrome (SNAS). My story has some great links as well as my list of foods high in nickel or my resources page.
      Let me know if you have specific questions.
      Warm regards,

  4. This is amazing! this has helped me a lot! I have eczema since a few years ago and for me it has been really difficult to accept it. Finding a treatment that actually worked for my type of skin and eczema was a whole journey! Finally, I discovered foderma and the results have been amazing!

    1. Hi Mery,
      Thanks for your comment and appreciation for my website. I am so happy that’s it’s been helpful for you. I totally understand how difficult living with eczema and trying to find actual solutions can be.
      I’ve never heard about foderma before you mentioned it. How did you learn about the product. What do you like about it? Is it oily or does it make your skin feel greasy?
      Warm regards,

  5. I’m at my wits end. I itch constantly. I have tried so many products. I have been diagnosed with a nickel allergy and formaldehyde and something else. The problem they diagnose and leave you on your own to figure it out. I have atopic dermatitis which doesn’t come and go, it just stays. I have had all kind of prescription creams, prednisone- nothing works

    1. Hi Djayne,
      I understand. Living with atopic dermatitis is challenging, especially when your physicians aren’t helpful in providing solutions. Have you tried the low nickel diet? I wasn’t able to find any real remedies with prescriptions until I tried the low nickel diet. When I eat something higher in nickel, I still have issues, but when I follow the low nickel diet my eczema drastically reduces.
      Warm regards,

  6. Thank you so much for being a great resource for me. I also have eczema and nickel allergy. I try to avoid steroids at all costs but sometimes get embarrassed or conscious by the way my hands look as I work with the public. Are you able to manage your flare ups with just moisturizing?

    1. Hi Gail,

      Thanks for your comment and appreciation for my website! I also avoid steroids, but do use desonide from time to time. My dermatologist suggests it’s better to use than regular moisturizer, as regular moisturizer just doesn’t do enough some times and it’s always better to do anything to prevent itching. 

      I totally understand dealing with the embarrassing aspects of eczema. Mine can get really bad on my face and neck and it appears I have a bad sunburn, but it’s really just my eczema. I’ve started taking the dupixent shots with some success too. The low nickel diet has been the best solution in combination with doing my best to avoid contact with nickel.

      Warm regards,

  7. I liked it when you shared that it is important to proactively care for your skin by moisturizing daily and clipping your nails frequently if you are dealing with eczema. My friend just mentioned the other day that she is worried about her son who has developed skin rashes since a few weeks ago and it is getting worse each day. I will suggest to her taking her son to a reliable dermatologist who can help with his condition.

    1. Hi Taylor,
      Thanks for your comment and sharing that you recommended your friend take her son to a dermatologist. Living with eczema without access to medical professionals can be really challenging. Hopefully they are able to seek the care they need to improve his eczema.
      Warm regards,

    1. Hi Max,
      You are correct that the cetaphil I’ve used forever has almond and sunflower oil ingredients and it doesn’t cause me any issues. I don’t know why, maybe since those ingredients are not the primary/first listed ingredients. I’ve also used Lubriderm Daily Moisture Body Lotion – Unscented and Skintifique’s products (my post includes a referral discount code). Perhaps either of those could be great alternatives.
      Warm regards,

  8. Have you tried CeraVe? The bottles say they are eczema approved. And their website says not tested on animals, which I like. Have not tried them yet though.

    1. Hi Elinor,
      Thanks for your comment. Yes, the product I tested at a Costco mentioned that could have possibly given me hives was CeraVe. The National Eczema Association Seal of Acceptance can be a great tool to identifying cosmetic products for those of us with eczema, however many of us with nickel allergies also have to investigate ingredients and choose to avoid natural ingredients contain higher amounts of nickel, such as soy, nuts, oats, or seeds.
      Warm regards,

  9. Thank you for sharing your experience about nickel allergy! I’ve been diagnosed with it a few days ago, and it really makes me sad that I should avoid chocolate from now on. Have you heard about Cetaphil Restoraderm Moisturizer or Cetaphil Pro Ad Derma Moisturizer? I’ve been using it for the past week but lately, after being diagnosed with nickel allergy, I’m nit sure if I should stop using that moisturizer for it’s main ingredient is Colloidal Oatmeal. Oats contain nickel right? So I should say goodbye goodbye to my Cetaphil Restoraderm moisturizer?

    1. Hi Jamie,
      Thanks for your comment, I don’t believe I’ve heard of either of those products but there are a lot of various types of products offered by multiple brands. I personally can’t tolerate any cosmetic products that contain with colloidal oats or oatmeal and I believe it’s became oats are higher in nickel.
      Warm regards,

  10. I was using the Cetaphil Hydration cream for awhile but my eyes would constantly get itchy and my face would swell up. I believe it is the PRUNUS AMYGDALUS DULCIS (SWEET ALMOND) OIL ingredient :(. I also used cerave but it has xanthan gum in it.

    1. Hi Lauren,
      Thanks for your comment. You are correct that the cetaphil I’ve used forever has almond and sunflower oil ingredients and it doesn’t cause me any issues. I don’t know why, maybe since those ingredients are not the primary/first listed ingredients. I’ve also used Lubriderm Daily Moisture Body Lotion – Unscented and Skintifique’s products (my post includes a referral discount code). Perhaps either of those could be great alternatives.
      Warm regards,

  11. Hi Christy have you ever tried eucerin or had issues with it? Specifically the intensive repair line but not the one with oats

    1. Hi Meredith,
      Thanks for your comment. Yes, I’ve used the Eucerin Intensive Repair Body Lotion, but I prefer their eczema relief body lotion.
      Warm regards,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like