Our Guide to Exfoliating Eczema

If you or a loved one has ever had eczema, you know how much of a hassle it can be  to find products for exfoliating eczema that won’t leave your skin more irritated and sensitive than before. While we recommend using the ViaBuff Level 2 Body Exfoliator and Facial Mini Buffs, which were designed specifically for those with eczema, what else should you do to ensure thorough yet gentle exfoliation? Without further ado, we present to you, the ViaBuff guide to exfoliating eczema!

1.)    Use only the Level 2 Body Exfoliator or Facial Mini Buff

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Not only can eczema cause itching, inflammation, and a degree of sensitivity,  but it also typically involves crusted, scaly patches of skin that flake throughout the day. In theory, it makes sense that you would want to use the ViaBuff Level 4 Exfoliators, which were designed to exfoliate exceptionally dry skin. However, it’s important to keep in mind that the ViaBuff Level 4 Exfoliating Buffs weren’t designed to treat eczema; they were designed to treat very dry skin that isn’t any more sensitive or prone to irritation than normal. Therefore, those with eczema, may find this buff to be a little too abrasive for their skin, and using it may lead to skin irritation. The ViaBuff Level 2 Exfoliating Buffs, on the other hand, were designed to be just abrasive enough to eliminate flakes of built-up dead skin without irritating already sensitive and inflamed skin.

Aside from using the ViaBuff Level 2 Exfoliating Buffs, we also recommended exfoliating regularly and sparingly, unless otherwise directed by your dermatologist. Although the frequency of exfoliation will depend on your skin’s sensitivity, it is generally recommended that you only exfoliate once a week (or less) if you have eczema (American Academy of Dermatology). If you are unsure of how frequently you should exfoliate, check with your dermatologist to determine the appropriate frequency.  Trust us on this one – overzealous exfoliation always produces more harm than good.

2.)    Exfoliate in a Circular Motion

While there technically is no incorrect motion to exfoliate the skin, some are better than others. If moving your buff in a left-to-right or up-and-down motion, you may potentially miss patches of skin and  inadvertently over-exfoliate others(SheKnows). Whether you are applying your exfoliating serum or just using your ViaBuff Level 2 Exfoliating Buff, it is generally recommended that you exfoliate in a circular motion, so that you can more accurately exfoliate the entire skin (plus, there is something kind of soothing about rubbing the skin in a circular motion with one of our ultra-soft buffs).

3.)    Exfoliate Damp Skin

There’s actually a pretty healthy debate as to whether you should exfoliate on dry or damp skin. On the one hand, there is more friction when you exfoliate dry skin, which means that you should theoretically be able to remove more dead skin and debris. However, dampening the skin can make it softer, and make exfoliation less painful for those who have sensitive or very dry skin (such as for people with eczema) (Self.com, Livestrong).  Therefore, unless your dermatologist recommends otherwise, it is probably best for those with eczema to exfoliate slightly damp skin.

4.)    Use Gentle Keratolytic Ingredients

keratolytic agents

“Keratolytic” is just a scientific word for those ingredients that can help to exfoliate the skin. While there are numerous keratolytic ingredients out there, many of these may prove too abrasive and irritating for those with eczema. Among the best keratolytic ingredients for those eczema/sensitive skin include:

  •        Lactic acid, which help to promote cellular turnover and combat signs of skin roughness, hyperpigmentation, and sallowness, which can be of particular help if you have scars and discolor from picking at your eczema lesions.  (Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology,  (Archives of Dermatology). Lactic acid has been shown to even reduce the thickness of icthyosis scales when paired with urea and applied topically,  but it is not unreasonable to believe that lactic acid could similar work on patches of calloused and scaly eczematous skin ( British Journal of Dermatology).  In fact, lactic acid is (generally) so well-tolerated and effective at treating dry skin conditions that a case study from  the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology  found that a 10-year-old boy who had a history of ichthyosis “had essentially complete resolution of ichthyoticscaling and xerosis” after applying a 12% ammonium lactate  cream  (a derivative of lactic acid)  twice a day for one month.
  •        Salicylic acid, which is one of our favorite exfoliating ingredients. Topically-applied salicylic acid is believed to absorb more quickly into dry skin than into healthy skin, in addition to working for a longer period of time in dry skin than in other skin types (Clinics in Dermatology). Once in the skin, salicylic acid works hard to break down intercellular bonds of hardened skin cells, making it particularly beneficial for those conditions like eczema and psoriasis(Clinics in Dermatology, Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, Archives of Dermatological Research).
  •        Urea, which has been shown to reduce epidermal proliferation when applied topically (epidermal over-proliferation is a common feature in eczematous skin) (Acta Dermato-Venereologica). Urea has also  been shown to increase skin hydration  and the skin’s water-binding capacity when applied topically (Dermatology Online Journal). A study from the journal Current Medical Research and Opinion found that topically-applied urea could improve the scaling, cracking,  roughness, and redness seen in skin afflicted with ichthyosis vulgaris (a dry skin disorder) , but it is not unreasonable to believe that these benefits could be seen in eczematous skin.

5.)    Follow up with a Soothing Moisturizer


To minimize irritation and partially alleviate dry, flaky skin, you should follow up with a soothing moisturizing serum shortly after exfoliation. Among the best moisturizers for eczematous skin include:

  •        Calendula officinalis, which is well-known as  a treatment for dry skin.  Topically-applied calendula officinalis has been shown to treat exfoliative cheilitis (excessive dry and flaking skin on the lips) and to even exhibit anti-inflammatory and anti-oedematous properties – a definite boon for those with dry, sensitive, and inflamed skin (Cases Journal, Tropical
    Journal of Pharmaceutical Research
  •        Hyaluronic acid, which is naturally found in our skin as part of the extracellular matrix and collagen, and which acts as a lubricator, shock absorber, and modulator of inflammatory cells in the skin.  Hyaluronic acid can retain up to 1,000-times its weight in water, making it a great ingredient for those looking to help retain moisture and even plump up the skin slightly (Patience Preference and Adherence, Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, WebMD).
  •        Niacinamide, which is believed to improve skin barrier functioning (read: less potential for irritation by external elements) and subsequently reduce redness, erythema, and inflammation (Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology). In fact, a study published in Clinical Pediatric Dermatology found that a niacinamide-containing treatment was able to improve the appearance and symptoms of mild-to-moderate chronic lesions in children  with atopic dermatitis (  a form of eczema). As an added bonus, topically-applied niacinamide has also been shown to increase the skin’s antioxidant capacity and treat skin yellowing, fine lines, and wrinkles (Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, WebMD).
  •        Petrolatum, a fragrance-free, preservative-free,  and ultra-affordable moisturizer for those with eczema and other dry skin conditions. Petrolatum is generally well-tolerated and seldom induces an adverse reaction, although be aware that this is a heavy, thick substance that may make the skin feel a tad oily  (Dr. Kathryn Schwarzenberger for Everyday Health).

Bottom Line

When it comes to exfoliating eczema, we recommend using the ViaBuff Level 2 Body Exfoliator and Facial Mini Buff, which were specifically designed to cater to eczematous skin. In addition to using the appropriate exfoliating tool, we suggest exfoliating on damp skin ( to reduce irritation) and in a circular motion (so you’ll be less likely to miss a spot). You may want to use keratolytic ingredients that have been shown to be a boon for dry skin, including urea and lactic acid, and follow up using soothing hydrating ingredients like niacinamide and petrolatum. And as always, if you have any questions, please send us an email – we would love to hear from you!


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