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How To Exfoliate With Eczema Properly: Men’s Guide

Lots of guys with dry skin conditions are too wary of exfoliants to realize all the good that some gentle scrubbing can do for your skin. When you know how to exfoliate with eczema properly, you can actually reduce some of your least favorite symptoms, including irritation and flakiness.

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Can You Exfoliate If You Have Eczema?

Guys with eczema can exfoliate – and, in fact, exfoliating is one way you can help clear up eczema. You just have to be cautious and follow your dermatologist’s advice.

Those clumps of flaky, dry dead skin that tend to build up are prime for exfoliation. If you leave those clumps on your skin, they can cause more irritation. That’s why it’s a good idea to keep a body and face scrub on hand and work out an exfoliating routine that helps you clear away those patches.

How To Exfoliate With Eczema

If your dermatologist has a specific skincare routine that they’ve advised you to use, then stick with that. Otherwise, some pointers you can follow:

  1. Soak your skin in warm water. If you’re in the shower, let it run over you for 5-10 minutes. If you’re washing over the skin, you can drape a warm washcloth over your face for a minute or two beforehand. This will soften the skin and open the pores, which makes exfoliating easier and quicker.
  2. If you like to use a soap on your skin (not everyone with eczema does) suds it up and rinse it off before you use your exfoliant. It will cleanse dirt and bacteria, giving your exfoliant a clean slate to work with.
  3. Apply the exfoliant using your hands. Swirl it gently, don’t be aggressive. Target those clumps of dead skin that really need to be exfoliated, and avoid sensitive, oozing, or damaged skin. 
  4. Exfoliate for about 30 seconds, then rinse it off completely.
  5. If you have a topical treatment that your dermatologist has prescribed, use it now. If that treatment doesn’t double as a moisturizer, then you need to also use a lotion or oil of some sort to moisturize your skin. (ALWAYS moisturize after you exfoliate.)

What To AVOID While Exfoliating With Eczema

Don’t Scrub

When I say “scrub,” I mean really getting in there with some elbow grease. When you’re exfoliating with eczema, you can be a little bit lazy. Swirl the exfoliant gently, just barely enough to dislodge dead, flaky skin. 

Don’t Exfoliate Too Often Or Too Long

Unless you’re using a very, very gentle scrub, you probably shouldn’t be exfoliating more than once per week if you have eczema. And you also shouldn’t exfoliate for more than 30 seconds to a minute. Don’t worry – most scrubs are hardy enough to be effective even if you use them infrequently and briefly. 

And for good measure, target the spots on your skin that actually need to be exfoliated. Avoid the areas that look and feel okay.

Don’t Exfoliating Weeping Or Oozing Eczema

It’s never, ever a good idea to exfoliate any sort of open wound or damaged skin. Follow those same rules if you’re suffering from weeping or oozing eczema. Exfoliation is best for that dry, thick built-up skin that you need to get rid of. It’s not good for irritated, oozy skin.

Don’t Use Commercial Exfoliants

Plastic beads, sulfates, parabens – all of those can increase your long-term skin irritation. When you’re picking out an exfoliant, try to stick with a short, natural ingredient list with things that you know you’re not allergic to. 

Lots of people with eczema really enjoy sugar scrubs (I also think sugar scrubs are better than salt scrubs if you have eczema), and plenty are made and sold with three ingredients or fewer (sugar, an oil, and a natural scenter). You can also pick up a fancier organic face scrub, if you’re looking for functionality an luxury. Keep an eye out for those options!

What To After You’re Done Exfoliating

Moisturize!! Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. I know “moist” is one of those words that people hate the sound of, but think moist.

If you have a topical treatment that you apply to your skin to soothe your eczema, put that on first (your freshly exfoliated skin will absorb it better). Then get out a lotion ASAP. 

Part of trying to prevent dryness, flakes, and irritation is keeping your skin protected with a moisturizer. Your skin is most vulnerable to outside irritants right after you’ve exfoliated (since you’ve taken away that dead skin barrier). A moisturizer restores that barrier between your skin and the rest of the world, and it soothes irritation.

Frank Edwards is a men's grooming & style expert who is "internet famous" for being able to simplify complicated grooming routines into easy, yet effective rituals any man can do. As a professional analyst, he has spent years researching the biggest brands, products, experts, best practices, and breaking news in the space. He takes this analysis, tests it out on himself, and then documents everything in his writing. As a result, his experience-based articles are considered by some to be the gold standard in men's grooming and men's style.