The AAD Recommends Bathing in Bleach to Treat This Common Skin Problem

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Mother-of-three Lauren O’Leary is in a constant, multistep product rotation when it comes to treating her 3-year-old son’s eczema.

"It started right after his first birthday,” she recalls. “He gets it the worst behind his knees and on his ankles and tops of his feet. We keep it in check by using Stelatopia Milky Bath Oil, Babyganics Eczema Cream, Dove Sensitive, Tide Free & Gentle detergent and then we apply Aquaphor on the patches after every bath. I'm not always great at applying cream every day, and when I fall behind, I definitely notice more flare-ups. We’ve tried so many products."

Jason M. says he’s in a similar situation with his 10-year-old daughter, who has eczema as a side effect from allergies when she was younger. “She’s grown out of the allergies but the eczema hasn’t fully gone away. We’ve gone through Vaseline, Dove, Aveeno—you name it, we’ve applied it morning and night every day for years.”

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Besides having the very arduous task of using products on a very frequent basis to keep the eczema in check, both parents share something else: Neither of them have heard of bleach therapy, one of the American Academy of Dermatology’s recommendations for dealing with childhood eczema.

“The doctor just tell us to keep his skin well-moisturized, then I usually find out about any other recommendations or information from a local parents’ group Facebook page,” O’Leary says.

According to the AAD—which stresses you should speak with a board-certified dermatologist before beginning bleach bath therapy with your child but does have a video illustrating how to do so (shown below)—the option uses half a cup of regular-strength (6 percent) bleach for a full bathtub of water and a quarter-cup for a half bathtub. It’s mainly prescribed for children with moderate to severe eczema and it’s a recommendation if the eczema is frequently infected.

“Unlike children, who can get eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, over the whole body or in many spots, adults often get localized areas of irritation. They may have a patch on the arm or a random one on the leg, hand or foot. Often a patient will come in for a ‘rash’ and not realize that the rash is actually eczema. The dry, cold weather definitely brings out patches of eczema on people of all ages!” explains New York dermatologist Jody Levine, MD

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“Bleach baths have a place for patients whose eczema is infected. The bleach helps to kill the bacteria on the skin. I would not use bleach baths for the average adult with a few patches of eczema, which are not super infected.”

As for all those eczema-specific products many parents and eczema-suffers have on rotation? Dr. Levine says that the advent of ceramides to moisturizers, which has led to a lot more products stating that they are good for eczema—a big reason why you see more of them on store shelves nowadays. “Many moisturizing creams added a version with ceramides, which is meant for eczema. There are also a lot of specialty, prescription moisturizers. These moisturizers are used daily to try to prevent the skin from manifesting eczema. Once someone has an eczema breakout, often prescriptions are needed along with the moisturizer to clear the outbreak.”

Dr. Levine also says eczema is a “hot topic” recently, as new treatments are becoming more available. “New prescription creams are gaining FDA-approval for the treatment of eczema. In the past, steroid creams have been the best, but we shy away from using too much steroids on the skin, as there can be negative effects on the skin from them. There are not many non-steroidal creams for eczema. However, new ones are being made and tested and should be available for use in the near future.”

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2 Comments
  • jaegerp
    Posted on

    We've had success with the kids swimming pool lessons and swim year round! I'm surprised the doctors didn't recommend that. It's definitely more fun

  • Linda
    Posted on

    We already bathe in bleach and drink it everyday because of the chlorine in our water. The chlorine is absorbed through the skin. This kills gut flora. Our immune systems are in our stomachs. Chloroform,a byproduct of chlorine, is also inhaled into your lungs when you take a hot shower or bath. The effect is increased five-fold in this therapy and is especially harmful in children with allergies or lung sensitivities, such as asthma. When chlorine is added to our water, it combines with other natural compounds to form Trihalomethanes (chlorination byproducts), or THMs. These chlorine byproducts trigger the production of free radicals in the body, causing cell damage, and are highly carcinogenic. “Although concentrations of these carcinogens (THMs) are low, it is precisely these low levels that cancer scientists believe are responsible for the majority of human cancers in the United States“ --EPA. There are many holistic ways of treating eczema, which I would try before exposing myself or anyone else to even more chlorine.

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