Last updated January 1, 2013
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It Depends...

 

Some people with ichthyosis say that they have trouble with body odor unless they make sure they are completely dry before they put any cream on.

 

 

Bath and Shower Hints

 

When you have ichthyosis, one of the best things that you can do for your skin (and it's cheap!) is take a bath.  Long showers are okay, but actually soaking in a bath is even better.

 

Filtered Water

Many people with ichthyosis swear by water filters.  All the time that they spend showering and bathing is made more effective by using "soft water."  Both in a conservation effort and to preserve the normal taste of drinking water, some people arrange their water filter to only filter hot water.

 

Soaking and Scrubbing

BathtubThe first part of your bath is well spent by just soaking, letting the water soften and loosen the skin.  I like to do this for about an hour.  Then comes the work part!   After the skin is soft and loose is the ideal time to scrub some of it off.   How hard you scrub, and what you use to scrub with, can depend on your age and the type of ichthyosis you have.  I personally prefer using a natural pumice or terra cotta stone (see what they look like and where to get them in the Products section.   These would be on the severe side of the scale...you could also use other products designed to remove skin (like certain sponges, or other synthetic products....or just a soft washcloth).  I get the best results from a pumice.  It's important that this is a real, natural stone not an artificial one.  Artificial pumice stones, for use on the feet, are commonly stocked in drugstores; these tend to leave tiny scratches all over my body, as tiny grains of the artificial stone fall away as I use it.  So again, a natural stone is a must for me.  

 

I also like to use a scrubbing gel (exfoliating gel).   I put the gel on one part of my body at a time (just one arm, or half of a leg), and then scrub with the pumice stone on top of the gel.  This speeds up the process of removing my skin and makes the pumice even more effective.  Exfoliating gels are meant for the "rest of the world" to use alone; you rub the gel on (body or face, there are products specially made for each), rub lightly with your hand, and rinse off.   Instead of using my hand, I use a pumice stone.  If you don't have ichthyosis, this would sound crazy...if you do, however, this probably sounds more reasonable.  I have several exfoliating gel products that I like, and alternate them.

 

I approach pumice stones and exfoliating gels a bit like I would approach refinishing wood--I have several stones and gels, some more coarse and others more fine, that I use at different times.  The thicker the scaling, the coarser and more harsh the pumice and gel that I select; as my scales get thinner, I select pumice stones and gels that are finer and, therefore, gentler. 

 

Bath Additives

While you're soaking, I've found several bath additives help make the process more effective.   My latest favorite is Arm and Hammer baking soda and Epsom Salts. 

 

I've also used dead sea salts.  They're becoming very popular; you can find them now in most larger, nicer, drug stores with the rest of the bath bubbles/salts, or in one of the specialty bath shops like Bath and Body.  Dead sea salts are meant to be very relaxing (and they are!).  However, I've found that my skin doesn't burn as much in the water (either when I first get in the bath, because my skin is really dry and cracked, or when I'm scrubbing with my pumice) and also doesn't itch as much for the next several hours (maybe up to 24) when I've bathed in it.  For a less exotic option (and certainly cheaper), some people add regular table salt to their bath water, with much the same result.

 

Other additives that I occasionally use (never in combination, but I rotate between them):  a couple of tablespoons of boric acid powder, oatmeal-type additives like Aveeno, various types of oils (bath and body oils sold at any of the bath specialty shops, Hermal Dermatological Bath Oil, etc.), and anything packaged as "moisturizing" from the bath gels.   Some people prefer a small amount of bleach, or antibacterial soap, if they have trouble with body odor or infections.

 

Protecting Sores

Have a place on your skin that's sore or cracked and that you know will sting when it comes into contact with water?  You can always "grin and bear it", but you can also try covering the sore spot with a dab petroleum jelly, like Vaseline, that can help protect the spot.

 

Cream Up!

The most important part of your bath routine is being sure to cream up as soon as you get out!   I usually shower off, after my bath, and then get out.  I then pat myself dry, so my body is still moist, and then cream up my whole body!  See the section on Creams for suggestions of which particular cream to use, but it's critical that you use some kind of cream. Other people with mild-to-moderate forms of ichthyosis prefer to use a mixture of glycerin and water after the bath rather than cream.

How Often Do You Do This?
 

My skin would look better if I took a long bath everyday.  But I have too much going on in my life to be able to devote that much time to bathing.  I usually take a bath once a week, and take long showers (using the pumice as best I can all over in the shower, but focusing on face, hands and arms) every day.  How often you take a bath is again a matter of personal choice: how much benefit do you get, how important is it to you, how many other activities are competing for your time, etc.

 

Other Tips:

Ann wrote:

I was reading your sight and wanted to give you some of the things that I have used to help with my ichthyosis.  I would soak in polytar, which can be bought over the counter at any pharmacy, for about 20 minutes and then use also a polytar soap.  I have found that this works much better than soaking in the oatmeal product.  This is what my doctor recommended and that I do and it works.

Scott wrote:

Over my 34 years I've learned a lot about dealing with this. As far as bathing goes, I've found the synthetic green scouring pads to be very effective after a (even brief) shower. I scrub like hell. Then I use Lubriderm liberally at least twice after showering.

Dee wrote:

I have found that for my 7 year old son with EHK that the vaseline does not adequately protect his open sores from stinging. We have discovered that Elizabeth Arden 8 Hour Cream dabbed onto open sores prevents nearly all stinging in the tub. 

Keith wrote:

I have found that using neosporin with the pain relief formula (ointment not cream) works just the same as petrolium jelly plus the fact it is antibacterial formula at the same time. I have also found that although scouring pads work great nothing works better than my hands and fingers for scruubing off "loose" skin. Your fingers can feel the contours better and you can tell how hard to scrub before you tear your skin as opposed to a scouring pad which I sometimes rub myself raw with and
don't realize until it's too late.

Fred wrote:

I have used honey, mollasses and maple syrup (strongest) as an exfoliate.  The prosess is as follows: I rub it on one area at a time as the process takes about 20 minutes at a time. I rub until it becomes  tacky or hard to rub. Then I begin to pat the skin until lesions begun to peel off. They come off in a manner similar to when you peel off a band aid. I have also had good to exellent results buy  using the three above items in the bath as a soak (within days).

Jack wrote:

While showering use super fatted soaps (basis soap is the best and it's on the drug store shelf) before turning off the shower, apply vaseline to your affected areas and lower water temp just at luke warm or cooler and stand back under the shower. before opening shower curtain or stall pat skin lightly, cause as soon as your skin hits a drastic air temp change your pours will shut tight. this has made my winters here in new hampshire a little easier and hopefully it will help others live a little easier with this condition

Theresa wrote:

In my experience, water is the absolute enemy of my skin.  I love to take a long hot bath but I can suffer for days afterward. Various medical manuals and physician resources state that bathing and showering time should be as seldom and as short as possible.  I can't just not shower every day, but when I do, it usually  5 minutes or less and with lukewarm water.  (I treat myself to a long,  lovely hot shower occasionally, too,  but again I suffer for it. I have found many things that help, that don't cost much and don't take a lot of time or energy to do...  

1.  I NEVER, EVER, use soap on my face, (not even beauty bars or liquid facial cleansers).  I use Wet Ones  to clean my face and immediately use a moisturizer while my face is still damp.  It may not be what the rest of the icthyosis community would prescribe, but it works for me.  I am now 40 years old and my facial skin is as close to normal as it will ever get.  Most people think that I'm in my late 20's or early 30's so I have done far less damage to my face with this regimen that most people with normal skin.  

I have also found that when an area of my body becomes particularly dry and is about to start breaking apart, I will put on some of Band-Aids advanced healing bandages over it for just a couple of hours.  When I take the bandage off, the dead skin comes away with the bandage and the skin underneath is much better and more able to absorb moisturizers.  I've put a call in to the Johnson & Johnson Co. to see if they can make these bandages available in larger sizes or in sheets, but they won't unless they get a lot of requests.  Maybe others could try this and if it works, call in!  In my trials, this works best on my shins, where I seem to have the most trouble (besides my heels) with my skin cracking, splitting and bleeding all over the place. 

I am concerned about everyone's calling for the use of heavy scrubbing, pumice stones, and the like.  When I have gone that route, it had the unfortunate effect of making the skin tougher and more prone to injury.  I am VERY gentle in washing now, and have actually seen great  improvement in my skin. Also, the more I stay away from water the better off I am.

I have a wonderful thing I do for my feet as often as I can... I put baby oil or mineral oil in my hand and add regular table sugar to make it good and gritty.  I then give my feet a thorough massage.  This not only helps to  exfoliate but it is an absolute luxury.  When my feet are tired or just plain ache, I give them this treatment and it's like getting a whole new set of feet!

Shanti wrote:

This is my daily face washing routine.  It leaves my face very soft and smooth. Splash with warm (not hot) water to moisten the skin. Scrub with wet washcloth.  This allows me to scrub the eye area and > around the nose really well. Wash with Burts Bees Orange Orange Essence Facial Cleanser.  It contains olive oil, lanolin, oat protein and glycerin so it's really moisturizing. I rinse gently with warm water, but not so much that the oils from the cleaner come off and then moisturize. To get eye makeup off, put sweet almond oil on a cotton ball and wipe. Also, scrubbing with baking soda mixed with water and a few drops of lavender essential oil a few times a week works wonders as an exfoliating mask.  I follow that with a coat of evening primrose oil or sweet almond oil and let it soak in overnight. And, if you put either one of those oils on the eye area before you go to bed every night, it keeps that area really soft.

Ame wrote:

In order to exfoliate my skin, I prefer to use a pumice stone, almost all days during the shower. It's pretty simple, but works :) I've been using this simple treatment during a decade and my skin looks normal. Almost nobody notices that I have ichthyosis, although is severe.

Doc wrote:

Our doctor suggested a weekly bath with deep tub and one cup of bleach to help with bacterial growth. This really seems to help all of us. Controls itch and redness. Prevents Staph infection. After the bath use lots of lotion!