Is It Better To Rub Or Scratch Eczema?

Have you ever wondered what the best approach is when it comes to dealing with eczema? Many individuals with this skin condition often find themselves in a dilemma – should they rub or scratch their eczema? In this article, we will explore this common question, providing insights and suggestions that may help you find the most beneficial method to manage your eczema.

Rubbing or Scratching Eczema

Understanding Eczema

Eczema is a chronic skin condition characterized by inflammation, itching, and redness. It affects people of all ages and can have a significant impact on their quality of life. There are several types of eczema, including atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, and nummular eczema. Each type has its own set of triggers and symptoms.

The Impact of Rubbing or Scratching

When you have eczema, the constant urge to rub or scratch the affected areas can be overwhelming. However, these actions can have negative consequences for your skin and overall condition.

Rubbing or scratching eczema can exacerbate the inflammation, leading to increased redness and swelling. It can also intensify the itching sensation, making it more difficult to resist the urge to scratch. Additionally, rubbing or scratching can damage the skin barrier, leaving it vulnerable to infections.

The Importance of Proper Care

Proper care is essential in managing eczema and preventing flare-ups. Understanding the sensitivity of eczema-prone skin is crucial in developing a daily skincare routine. This routine should include gentle cleansing, moisturization techniques, and avoiding irritants and allergens.

Moisturization plays a vital role in managing eczema. Applying emollients or moisturizers regularly can help hydrate the skin and reduce itchiness. It is important to choose moisturizers specifically formulated for sensitive skin and to apply them immediately after bathing to lock in moisture.

Identifying triggers that exacerbate eczema symptoms is another key aspect of proper care. Common triggers include certain foods, environmental allergens, and stress. Avoiding these triggers can help prevent flare-ups and minimize the need for rubbing or scratching.

In some cases, medications or treatments may be necessary to manage eczema effectively. Topical steroids or anti-itch creams can provide relief from itching and reduce inflammation. In more severe cases, oral medications or phototherapy may be prescribed by a healthcare professional.

Advantages of Rubbing Eczema

While rubbing eczema may seem counterintuitive, there are some potential advantages to this action. Rubbing can increase blood circulation to the affected areas, which may help reduce inflammation and promote healing. It can also enhance the absorption of topical treatments, allowing them to penetrate deeper into the skin and provide more significant relief. Additionally, rubbing can temporarily reduce the intensity of itchiness, providing a brief respite from discomfort.

Advantages of Scratching Eczema

Scratching eczema can offer immediate relief from itching, which is often intense and persistent for individuals with eczema. The act of scratching can provide a temporary distraction from the discomfort, allowing individuals to focus on something other than the itchiness. Scratching may also release endorphins, the body’s natural pain-relieving chemicals, which can provide a sense of satisfaction and relief.

Disadvantages of Rubbing Eczema

While rubbing eczema may have some potential advantages, there are also important disadvantages to consider. Rubbing can aggravate the inflammation and further irritate the skin, leading to increased redness and discomfort. It can also cause skin abrasions, which can be painful and can delay the healing process. Additionally, rubbing can spread bacteria on the skin, increasing the risk of infection. Lastly, relying on rubbing as a coping mechanism may create a dependency, making it harder to resist the urge to rub and exacerbating the cycle of itch-scratch.

Disadvantages of Scratching Eczema

Scratching eczema, although temporarily relieving, can have significant disadvantages. Intense scratching can further irritate the skin, causing increased inflammation and leading to more severe itching. It can also break the skin and cause bleeding, leaving it vulnerable to infections. Prolonged or aggressive scratching can result in the development of thickened skin, known as lichenification. This thickened skin is more resistant to treatments and can be difficult to manage. Additionally, frequent scratching can lead to permanent scarring, which can have long-lasting aesthetic and psychological impacts. Lastly, scratching eczema increases the risk of infection, as bacteria from the nails or external sources can penetrate the broken skin.

Alternatives to Rubbing or Scratching

If you find that rubbing or scratching worsens your eczema symptoms, there are alternative approaches you can try. Using cold compresses can soothe itching and reduce inflammation. Applying topical steroids or anti-itch creams can also provide relief, targeting the specific areas of itching. Another option is to engage in stress-relieving activities such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, or yoga, as stress can trigger or worsen eczema symptoms. Additionally, gentle massage techniques can help alleviate itching and provide a sense of comfort without causing further damage to the skin.

When to Seek Medical Advice

While managing eczema with proper care and avoiding rubbing or scratching is important, there may be instances where medical advice should be sought. If your eczema symptoms worsen or persist despite home care measures, if you develop signs of infection such as increased redness, swelling, or discharge, or if your quality of life is significantly impacted by eczema, it is recommended to consult with a healthcare professional. They can provide a proper diagnosis, evaluate the severity of your condition, and suggest appropriate treatment options.


When it comes to rubbing or scratching eczema, it is important to consider the potential advantages and disadvantages. While rubbing may have benefits such as increased blood circulation and enhanced absorption of treatments, it can also aggravate inflammation and delay healing. Similarly, scratching may offer immediate relief, but it can lead to skin irritation, thickening, scarring, and an increased risk of infection.

Proper care, including a daily skincare routine, moisturization techniques, avoidance of triggers, and the use of medications or treatments, is crucial in managing eczema effectively. Seeking alternative approaches such as cold compresses, topical steroids, stress-relieving activities, and gentle massage can also provide relief without the potential drawbacks of rubbing or scratching.

If your eczema symptoms are challenging to manage or significantly impact your quality of life, it is advisable to seek medical advice. A healthcare professional can provide guidance, offer suitable treatment options, and help you find the best approach to managing your eczema. Remember, with proper care and support, you can minimize the discomfort and impact of eczema on your daily life.