Bleach Bath Alternatives for Eczema Relief
“Rachel Oberlin is a Registered Nurse and mom of two children who were healed from significant eczema through an integrative approach. Rachel is the author at EczemaMom.com, where she shares her family’s story, research-based articles, and helpful products.”
Have you heard of bleach baths? Bleach baths, essentially bathing in a very diluted bleach solution, are commonly recommended by medical professionals for treatment of eczema. Perhaps you have wondered why bleach baths can be effective or if they are effective. Or, maybe you’re like me and are a little hesitant to soak your baby or child in such a caustic substance with a strong odor. If so, you may want to go back to my previous article Bleach Baths for Eczema: Helpful or Harmful?
To help understand why particular bleach bath alternatives may be effective, we have to understand how bleach baths work:
1. A great percentage of those with eczema have a strong colonization of the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus on their skin (not normal in the population without eczema). The severity of the colonization can correspond to the severity of the eczema (source)
2. Bleach is highly anti-bacterial, so bathing in diluted bleach can reduce the S. aureus bacteria on the skin, helping to reducing eczema.
3. Other alternative methods of bathing should have anti-bacterial action to be effective as well.
Ok, does that at least clarify why bleach baths could work and what we should think about for an alternative? Let’s consider a few.
What? Water? Well, interestingly, the clinical evidence for bleach baths shows mixed reviews (read about it here). One research study showed that the study group of patient who took water baths had greater improvement in their eczema than the study group who took bleach baths. Another study showed unclear results between the two groups. Basically, this tells us that plain water can work too. Amazing, huh?
If seems that the thing that made the water bathing effective was the fact that baths were taken regularly, which cleansed the skin of any debris in which bacteria love to colonize.
In the clinical study in which water was more effective, patients bathed twice a week.
The evidence clearly does show that regular bathing did improve eczema, whether the bath had water or bleach water in it. Maybe you’ve tried a regular bathing routine in water with no great results.
What else could be effective?
1. Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)
Let’s be honest, if you’ve ever smelled ACV, you probably didn’t immediately recognize it as a beauty elixir that you wanted to dump into your bath! But regardless of what your nostrils are saying, ACV does have benefits for your skin!
ACV is acidic, which is a good thing for the skin. If you remember back to your chemistry class, 7.0 is a neutral pH. Anything lower is acidic; anything higher is alkaline. Although there is a variation in the pH of skin of different individuals, this variation is in the acidic range. Studies show that the natural pH of healthy human skin is below 5 (source). This provides for optimal skin health and keeping healthy skin bacteria (the good guys) happily living on the skin.
But the problem is that many of our skin products are not an optimal pH for the skin. Water itself is 7.0 and can alter skin pH after bathing or showering. Bleach has a pH of 12, which is extremely alkaline!
So, adding ACV to a bath and making the soak more acidic can really help keep the skin pH balanced and result in healthier skin.
Not only is ACV helpful for pH balance, but it also has some pretty amazing antimicrobial properties. Remember how bleach was effective due to its antimicrobial action? So, we’re looking for that in a bleach alternative too.
ACV is antimicrobial due its acidic pH and some acid compounds found in it. Although some bacteria can thrive at a low pH, most prefer a more neutral pH.
In a clinical study ACV actually showed power to inhibit growth of S. aureus and E. coli bacterium as well as the fungus C. albicans (source).
ACV is simply apple cider that has been fermented. A good quality ACV is raw and unfiltered (like Bragg’s) and will contain “the mother,” a slimy, stringy looking residue that sinks to the bottom. That interesting looking “mother” contains probiotics and enzymes that are very beneficial.ACV, while not loaded with vitamins, doescontain a small amount of minerals like potassium, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorous. The star of ACV, however, is acetic acid. This particular acid is known to increase the absorption of minerals, which usually has internal applications, but perhaps external as well. All these components- the probiotics, enzymes, minerals, and acids- work together to nourish and enhance skin health.
How to take an Apple Cider Vinegar Bath
Add up to 2 cups of ACV to a full standard bath. You may want to begin my adding 1 cup and working your way up to 2 cups. If you are new to bathing in ACV, you can do a test by soaking one arm or other affected area before submerging your whole body. Soak for 15-20 minutes.
Diluted ACV is safe to use on your face and hair, but be careful of your eyes. Never use undiluted ACV on your skin as it is too strong and irritating.
Looking for a good ACV? Bragg’s is a great brand.
2. Bath Salts
Epsom Salt- Magnesium Sulfate
Epsom salts are a very common bath salt, often used to ease arthritis or other joint pain. Epsom salts have benefits for the skin and whole body too. Why are they effective?
– Increase blood magnesium levels. Magnesium is critical to over 300 cellular processes in our bodies. But the trouble is that most of us are deficient in this mineral! Although there are many forms of Magnesium that can be taken internally (a discussion for another time), magnesium is best absorbed through the skin, rather that the GI tract. Soaking in Epsom salts can increase the body’s magnesium levels, and in turn, help the body function properly (source)
– Antimicrobial. Magnesium sulfate has been shown to have antimicrobial properties (source).
– Calming effect. One effect of Magnesium, especially when combined with a warm bath, is calming and relaxing the body, which is great for eczema sufferers, as that stress can trigger eczema.
– Detox. Epsom salts are anti-inflammatory and help the body detox.
Magnesium Chloride Salts
Another member of the magnesium salt family is MagnesiumChloride. These bath salts looks like flakes as opposed to the granular Epsom salts. Magnesium Chloride flakes are a bit pricier than Epsom salts.
What makes this form of Magnesium shine?
– Absorption. Magnesium Chloride is known to be the best form to absorb through the skin, so if trying to increase Magnesium levels in the body, Magnesium Chloride would be the go-to, and could be used instead of or rotated with Epsom salts.
– Antibacterial. One study showed that Magnesium Chloride had a much greater anti-microbial effect over Epsom salts, when it was dissolved in an acid substance (source). Mag Chloride salts could be mixed with ACV in the bath for a double anti-bacterial effect.
Dead Sea Salts
What makes Dead Sea salts different than Magnesium salts? They are actually quite similar because magnesium is the most abundant mineral in Dead Sea salts. But salts from the Dead Sea in Israel will also contain other minerals such as calcium, bromide, iodine, potassium, sulfur, sodium and zinc. The actual composition can vary somewhat from season to season when the salts were harvested. Ocean water is different than Dead Sea water in that it contains a majority of sodium chloride (table salt) rather than magnesium.
Several studies have shown the effectiveness of Dead Sea salts for eczema and psoriasis treatment.
– Antimicrobial: one study found the effectiveness of Dead Sea mud (which contains the salts) against several types of bacteria. (source)
– Anti-inflammatory, skin barrier: another study found that regular bathing in Dead Sea salts improved the skin barrier function, improved skin hydration, and decreased redness and inflammation on the skin of eczema patients.
How to use Bath Salts
Add 1-2 cups of bath salt of choice to a full bath. Most packaging will include specific directions. Soak for 15-30 minutes. The water is safe for your neck and face, but be careful around the eyes.
Beware of bath salts with added fragrance or other substances that could be irritating.
Looking for some great bath salts?
Here are some products I love:
Magnesium Chloride, Magnesium Sulfate, Dead Sea Salts
Have you tried Apple Cider Vinegar baths? How about bath salts? What was your experience?
Share your experiences with us at facebook.com/naturesanctuary
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