woman with itchy rash on elbow

How Do Saunas Impact Eczema Symptoms?

As the weather warms up, many of us immediately begin shedding our winter clothes and soaking up the sun. However, for those living with eczema, this time of year can be especially difficult.

When thinking about ways to manage eczema, it can often take trial and error to find what soothes your symptoms. An often overlooked method is sauna therapy (mostly due to some misconceptions about sweating). Let’s take a closer look at its effects on some of the root causes of eczema and flare-ups.

What Causes Eczema & What Are the Symptoms?

Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a chronic skin condition that causes dry, itchy, and inflamed skin. While scientists haven’t nailed down the exact cause of eczema, genetic and environmental factors (such as a family history of eczema, hay fever, or asthma and a weakened immune system with filaggrin deficiency) combined with climatic changes, may trigger it.

Often, people with eczema have sensitive skin, which can be easily irritated by everything from soap to clothing materials. According to the Mayo Clinic and the Cleveland Clinic, other common eczema symptoms include:

  • Itching
  • Swelling
  • Dry skin
  • Cracked, flaky, or scaly skin
  • Thick, leathery patches of skin
  • Oozing and crusting
  • Small, raised bumps
  • Purple, brown, gray, pink, or red rashes

These symptoms commonly appear on the elbows, knees, neck, ankles, or hands and, if left untreated, may be difficult to relieve.

Eczema vs. Psoriasis

Eczema and psoriasis are sometimes used interchangeably — after all, both can cause itchy, red rashes and usually occur in the same areas. However, there are some key differences, including their underlying causes.

Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune skin disorder that causes the immune system to attack healthy skin cells, resulting in skin cell growth and inflammation.

On the other hand, eczema is usually triggered by irritants or allergens and linked to a combination of genetics, environmental factors, and a weakened immune system. Eczema is also around four times more common than psoriasis.

What Are Effective Treatments for Eczema?

While there isn’t a cure for eczema yet, there are several treatment options for different levels of severity, ranging from wet wraps to prescriptions. Some treatments for eczema (like topical corticosteroids) can even be used to help those with psoriasis.

Summertime and the ensuing sweating, sunlight exposure, and outdoor allergens can cause eczema flare-ups so it’s important to think about managing your symptoms ahead of time. Common eczema treatments include:


For those living with eczema, your skin is likely more sensitive to bacteria, allergens, and irritants — but it may also struggle to retain water. Applying moisturizer after bathing or showering can help lock in moisture to protect your skin barrier.

Check your moisturizer’s ingredients carefully and avoid fragrances and dyes, as these might further irritate your skin. Moisturizers that contain more oil and feel greasy, like ointments and creams, are usually better for treating eczema than those with more water.

Topical Steroids

This treatment category includes medications applied to your skin to reduce inflammation and itching. They come in several forms, including lotions, creams, ointments, gels, foams, and shampoos. Topical steroids can have different strength levels but work best on mild to moderate flare-ups.

NOTE: Prolonged or improper steroid use can lead to topical steroid withdrawal (TSW), which can actually worsen your symptoms after discontinuation.

Prescription Injections

If you have inflamed eczema that isn’t responding to topical treatments, prescription injections may be another option. These deliver biologics to treat moderate to severe eczema and work by calming your immune system and reducing inflammation. Common injections include dupilumab and tralokinumab-ldrm.

Antihistamines & Immunosuppressants

While antihistamines won’t prevent eczema flare-ups, they can help you manage eczema symptoms like itching and sleep difficulties. Antihistamines bind to your cells’ histamine receptors. By blocking histamine release, it relieves itching and swelling (note that some antihistamines can also cause drowsiness).

If you have moderate or severe dermatitis, you may also turn to immunosuppressants. These help rein in your immune system, slowing down eczema symptoms like itchiness. Immunosuppressants can also give your skin more time to heal, reducing the risk of infections from broken skin.

How Do Saunas Play a Role in Eczema Treatment?

While this may come as a surprise to those who frequently experience sweat-induced eczema flare-ups, saunas can actually improve several crucial symptoms. Sauna heat can help soothe inflamed skin, reduce itching, and promote healing by boosting circulation and facilitating toxin removal via sweating.

If you’re looking at saunas vs. steam rooms, it's key to note that traditional saunas are generally more beneficial for those with eczema. While both provide a warm environment, traditional saunas deliver a more intense dry heat (but still have the option to add steam), making them a better option for therapeutic heat treatment.

harness the power of heat

Increase Circulation

Being in a sauna’s heat can dilate your blood vessels, lowering blood pressure and increasing circulation. Not only will your body be able to remove waste and toxins from your bloodstream more effectively, but it can also deliver more nutrients and oxygen to your skin cells. Plus, it can complement eczema treatments like moisturizers and topical steroids by unclogging your pores and allowing your skin to better absorb creams, oils, and more.

Reduce Inflammation

Another benefit of increased circulation is reducing inflammation, particularly in conditions like eczema. As mentioned above, better circulation can deliver more nutrients and oxygen to the skin, which may promote healing and reduce inflammation. The heat also encourages sweating, which can help expel toxins and inflammatory agents from the skin, potentially improving overall skin health.

Relaxation/Stress Relief

Because stress produces large amounts of cortisol, causing your skin to become more oily and susceptible to inflammation, it can be a trigger for eczema flare-ups. Saunas offer a peaceful environment where you can unwind and destress while the high temperatures soothe your muscles, releasing tension and providing deeper physical relaxation. Managing your stress can help reduce eczema symptoms by lowering the body's cortisol levels and minimizing inflammatory responses in the skin.

sweat more, stress less

What is Topical Steroid Withdrawal?

Many people turn to topical steroids to help alleviate eczema symptoms. Unfortunately, they can be a double-edged sword.

The downside is that prolonged reliance on these treatments can lead to dependency and complications in the form of Topical Steroid Withdrawal. TSW occurs when these steroids are abruptly discontinued after long-term use, leading to severe symptoms like redness, peeling, and intense itching.

For those seeking alternative relief methods (with other benefits on top), saunas can play an important role in managing eczema and TSW symptoms. The relaxing environment of a sauna can help ease your mind and soothe your body, with benefits ranging from muscle recovery and better sleep to potentially reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s.

Precautions of Heat Therapy for Eczema

Although sauna use can have a host of benefits for eczema, it's important to approach sauna use with safety in mind:

  • Make Sure to Moisturize: Heat dehydrates the skin, so it’s crucial to moisturize thoroughly after sauna use to maintain skin hydration and prevent eczema symptoms from worsening.
  • Stay Hydrated Before, During, and After: On top of moisturizing your skin, keep your body hydrated as well. Replace lost fluids from sweat with water and electrolytes so you don’t experience any adverse effects from dehydration.
  • Varied Responses: Although many individuals with eczema benefit from sauna sessions and find the warmth soothing and relaxing, results can vary. Some people might notice their skin conditions worsen after using a sauna, so keep an eye on your symptoms.

Is Cold Water Therapy Effective for Inflammation?

Did you know that cold water therapy may also be a viable option for managing eczema symptoms? When your body is exposed to cold water, your blood vessels constrict, which can help manage swelling and inflammation. Other cold plunging benefits include reduced muscle soreness, increased resiliency, and better mood and energy levels.

Cold showers and ice baths are two common forms of cold water therapy. While cold showers are more accessible and can be easier to integrate into your daily routine, ice baths can provide much more effective cooling and benefits. The good news is that you can try DIY cold water therapy at home before you commit to buying a cold plunge tub.

cold therapy for all, designed for you
We also offer inflatable cold tubs and ice bath barrels with smaller footprints for those just dipping their toe into cold plunging.

Find a New Method to Soothe Your Skin

Skin conditions like eczema can be irritating to manage — and summer brings a new host of potential triggers. Luckily, Plunge offers high-quality saunas and cold plunges to help soothe your skin and much more.

Whether you're interested in the dry heat of a sauna or the refreshing cool of a cold plunge tub, adding these solutions to your home is accessible and affordable. Our products are HSA/FSA-eligible and have a range of financing options, ensuring that anyone can invest in their skin and overall health. Make Plunge your go-to choice for a holistic approach to managing your skin conditions this summer!

Medical Disclaimer: The information contained in this post is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions or before embarking on any new health or wellness routine, including saunas and cold plunging. Neither the author(s) nor the publisher of this content take responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any cold plunging routine or other health or wellness program.