A bath for dermatitis: helpful or an irritation?

by Rebecca Israel, MS

June 18, 2020

  • Primary care providers are less likely to recommend daily bathing than specialists.

  • Frequent bathing was more effective in dermatitis management than infrequent bathing.

  • Frequent bathing was not found to cause skin irritation, particularly with doctor recommended bath products.

dermatitis and bathing title

Dermatitis is a term used to describe several skin disorders. These skin disorders can be caused by a reaction, like an allergy, or by a chronic condition, like eczema. Common symptoms of dermatitis include itchiness, inflammation, and flakiness.

An easy treatment for dermatitis is bathing. However, there are conflicting assumptions about the most effective frequency of bathing.

What do the doctors say?

Parents of children with dermatitis often receive conflicting information, leading to frustration and confusion.

The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice
Specialists were more likely to recommend daily bathing than primary care providers.

Source: Bathing Frequency Recommendations for Children With Atopic Dermatitis: Results of Three Observational Pilot Surveys

To understand the extent of parent confusion, surveys were distributed to three reputable medical societies of dermatologists, allergists, immunologists, and primary care providers. Providers answered questions about the bathing habits they recommend.

In total, only half of the physicians recommended daily bathing and around 30% of physicians recommended infrequent bathing. Interestingly, primary care providers were less likely to recommend daily bathing compared to specialists.

This data emphasizes the inconsistencies between some providers, and how parents could be unclear about the most effective strategy for managing their child's dermatitis.

Can too many baths cause skin irritation?

What frequency of bathing is most effective for managing dermatitis in children?

Source: Frequent Versus Infrequent Bathing in Pediatric Atopic Dermatitis: A Randomized Clinical Trial

Researchers wanted to know which method was most effective in managing dermatitis in children: bathing twice a day or bathing twice a week. Participants were split into either bathing frequency groups, followed the study instructions for two weeks, and then switched to the other bathing frequency for another two weeks.

Throughout the study, both parents and providers assessed dermatitis improvement. The providers were blinded to the study groups, which means they did not know what bathing frequency the children were using when they assessed their dermatitis.

58% of children who bathed frequently saw a clinically significant improvement in dermatitis management.

Based on parent and provider assessments, 58% of children after frequent bathing, and 6% of children after infrequent bathing showed clinically significant dermatitis management. Bathing twice-daily may not be a realistic schedule for the average family, but the findings do suggest that frequent bathing is more helpful than twice-weekly bathing.

The study had a relatively small group of children from Maine and only gathered data for a few weeks. Therefore, we can not say that these results apply to all children or that they would have found the same results if the study lasted longer. However, the data suggest that skin irritation from bathing is not a result of frequency. If skin becomes irritated during or after bathing, it is likely caused by another source.

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