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Babies and eczema: how your laundry detergent might help

Eczema can be itchy and sore. Fortunately, there are ways to reduce the risk of flare-ups.


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Baby smiling with a towel on her head

Key steps

  • Look for common patterns when your baby's eczema is worse—like them being too hot or when you’ve used a certain type of baby lotion.

  • Avoid using soaps or skincare that contain perfumes or harsh ingredients.

  • Avoid rough or synthetic materials for baby clothes and wash them with a gentle detergent.

Has your baby developed red, scaly patches of skin? It could be eczema—a common skin condition. Around 30 percent of people in the US suffer from eczema, most of whom are children or adolescents.

Symptoms include dry, red patches of skin on the face or body, in particular on the face and scalp, behind the ears, and inside the elbows, knees and creases of the neck. Eczema may also appear on the front of the knees and the back of the elbows.

The good news is that most children will grow out of their baby eczema, but it’s always good to speak to your pediatrician to confirm a diagnosis and control your baby’s symptoms. 

Eczema can’t be cured, but it can be controlled and eased with the right treatments. Read on to find out about the causes of eczema in babies and ways you can avoid some common eczema triggers.

What causes eczema in babies?

Although the exact cause of eczema in babies is unknown, genes and environmental factors do play a role. Babies with a family history of eczema, asthma, or hay fever are more likely to develop eczema.

Having eczema means that your skin’s protective barrier doesn’t function as well as it should, so it struggles to retain moisture, resulting in dry skin. When irritants from outside of the body enter the immune system, this can then cause skin flare-ups in the form of red, itchy rashes.

It’s important to understand common triggers for eczema flare-ups so that you can try to avoid these where possible.

Eczema in babies—common triggers

  • Irritants: perfumes and colors in soaps, detergents, shampoos, and bubble baths

  • Changes in temperature: being too hot or too cold, and dry or damp air

  • Allergens: pet dander, pollen, dust mites, and mold

  • Materials: rough or non-breathable materials next to the skin, like some types of wool or certain synthetic fabrics

What’s the best detergent for babies with eczema?

As chemicals in perfume and colorings may cause skin irritation, it’s best to avoid these altogether if your child has eczema. Baby clothes come in direct contact with your child’s delicate skin, so you’ll want to use a gentle detergent specially designed for sensitive, allergy-prone skin. Using a detergent like this can help reduce the risk of your baby’s skin becoming irritated from their clothes.

The tips above all sound simple, but they can really help to avoid uncomfortable eczema flare-ups.

Originally published