My Account  |  Contact Us  |  |  +44 1962 890210

How to patch test toiletries and creams on children with eczema

When your baby has eczema, it can be an exhausting and frustrating task to find products that don’t irritate their sensitive skin. Since every baby will react differently to certain ingredients, there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to toiletries. It’s all about testing products to see what works best for your child. We show you how to test new products to minimise the risk of an eczema flare-up.

Of course, you want to identify the best products quickly to avoid big flare-ups (and wasted money) where you can. So, to help you on your hunt, we’ve created this list of ingredients to avoid in your baby’s skincare products.

When you do find a new product, whether natural or synthetic, one great habit to get into is to conduct a patch test before use. This will help you to avoid exacerbating your baby’s eczema.

What is a patch test?

Patch testing is a method of testing toiletries to determine whether they will cause eczema before extended use. A home patch test is not the same as an allergy test. It is however a great way to identify products to minimise eczema flare-ups. (Most women will be familiar with patch testing before having their hair coloured. Patch testing eczema treatments works in the same way).

If your little one is repeatedly reacting to skincare products, your doctor can analyse the severity of their reaction and identify its cause with an application test. This test detects type IV hypersensitivity reactions (allergic contact dermatitis reactions) to substances including fragrances, parabens, and preservatives in toiletries. An application test is recommended in cases where the trigger isn’t apparent, or symptoms develop several days after applying the trigger product.

A parents visual guide to patch testing new creams and toiletries on eczema kids

Which toiletries should you patch test?

We recommend testing everything that you plan to use on your baby’s skin. This includes creams, sunscreen, shampoo and conditioner, bubble bath, toothpaste. Here’s how to do it:

  • To begin, test only one product at a time as testing multiple products at once can make it difficult to determine which toiletries are causing the reaction.
  • Give your baby a calming bath to clean the skin and remove any leftover products and dry them thoroughly.
  • Place a penny-sized amount of the test product inside their elbow, behind their knee, and at the back of their neck. Try to conduct the patch test 12-24 hours before bathtime to give the product time to sink into the skin.

Top tip: Only conduct the patch test on one side of the body, using the other side as a control. This will help you determine whether, if a reaction occurs, it is to the test product or an unrelated trigger.

  • If any redness, burning, rash, itching, or stinging occurs, wash the patch test areas immediately and discontinue using the product.
  • If no reaction occurs, wait two days, and then repeat the steps above. Apply the product to the same three areas.
  • If there is still no reaction, wait two more days and conduct a third patch test.
  • If your child begins to react to the product at any time, wash the area immediately and discontinue use.
  • Following the third patch test, if no reaction has occurred, conduct a patch test in the same three areas every day for a week. This allows time for any contact dermatitis to build through periods of continued exposure.
  • If, after a week of use, no reaction has occurred, the product should be safe to use on your child.

Why do I need to repeat the testing so much?

Conducting a repeated patch test is vital since some reactions won’t occur immediately after initial exposure. This is because there are two types of contact dermatitis that can present differently.

Irritant contact dermatitis

Various ingredients can trigger this form of dermatitis which presents an immediate, localised reaction in the contact area. Typically, triggers of irritant contact dermatitis may affect anyone exposed to the irritant, though eczema sufferers can be particularly sensitive. The reaction won’t worsen with repeated exposure to the irritant and will begin to fade once the irritant is removed.

Allergic contact dermatitis

If your child is allergic to a particular ingredient within the test product, this can cause an allergic contact dermatitis response. These reactions may take 48-72 hours to develop. This is because they involve the body recognising the allergen on the skin’s surface, activating the immune system, and triggering dermatitis. Unlike irritants, only a small number of people will react to the specific allergen. With allergic reactions, the more the skin is exposed to a substance, the worse the allergic reaction can become.

Remember: Just because your baby hasn’t reacted to a product now, this doesn’t mean a reaction won’t develop in the future. So, always keep an eye out for new flare-ups that may be caused by toiletries.

Here at ScratchSleeves, we don’t just share our experiences of bringing up an eczema child and favourite allergy-friendly recipes, we also manufacture and sell our unique stay-on scratch mitts and PJs for itchy babies, toddlers and children. We now stock sizes from 0-adult years in a range of colours. Visit our webshop for more information.

The Calm Skin Guide

Love our blog? It's also available in book format with:

Signed copies available at no extra cost

Written by:

Claire has been a writer ever since she learned to hold a pen. Her children both suffered from eczema as babies so she knows what it’s like to have to deal with this horrible condition.

Reviewed by:

Coming from a family of eczema sufferers, Jae draws on years of practical, first hand experience living with eczema.

Interesting article? Don't keep it to yourself...

Read next...

You may also find helpful...

Triggers | Eczema 101
Finding the trigger for their child’s eczema so that it can be avoided is the holy grail for eczema parents....
Conventional Treatments | Eczema 101
Keeping emollients on a wriggly little one for long enough to be absorbed can be challenging. Most eczema parents have...
Eczema & Food | Triggers
There is growing evidence that early-onset eczema can be a forerunner to food allergies. For example, a study of over...
Eczema & Food | Triggers
If you have a child with eczema you will likely know all about the atopic triad – this describes the...
Eczema 101
If you have a child with eczema you already know that there are likely to be other side effects, like...
Eczema 101
Have large areas of your child’s skin suddenly erupted into a red, itchy rash? This is likely to be an...
Featured Article | Eczema 101 | Triggers
One of the first pieces of advice that any eczema parent hears is that they should identify any triggers for...
Eczema 101
The link between eczema, allergies (especially allergic rhinitis, or hay fever) and asthma has long been recognised by parents and...
Seasons & Holidays | Triggers
Spring is finally on its way, with lighter nights and warmer days. It’s definitely a feel-good time of year –...
Triggers | Bathing & Washing
  There’s good scientific evidence that children who live in hard water areas are 54 per cent more likely to...
As the parent of an eczema child you know that all sorts of things can trigger a flare up. Toiletries,...
Conventional Treatments | Eczema 101
If you have just been told by your doctor or health care provider that your little one has eczema, the...
Triggers | Eczema 101
When your baby has eczema, it can be an exhausting and frustrating task to find products that don’t irritate their...
When your children are constantly itching because of eczema, you’ll very quickly become an expert on all the various products...
Featured Article | Triggers | Bathing & Washing
Bathtime should be a relaxing and fun time when babies can bask in Mum and Dad’s undivided attention before bedtime....
Eczema & Food | Triggers
When your baby begins to itch and scratch, we know from experience it can be distressing. For parents with itchy...
Featured Article | Eczema 101 | Conventional Treatments
There’s more information about baby eczema available on the web than anyone can hope to read in a lifetime so...
Life Stages | Triggers
Teething is a well known anecdotal trigger for flare-ups in pre-existing baby eczema. It’s not clear if the trigger for...
Triggers | Eczema 101
There are a number of different types of eczema and it’s entirely possible for child to suffer from more than...
Sleep & Scratching | Triggers
As many parents of itchy little ones know, it is common for children who suffer from eczema to also be...
Eczema 101
Rashes and minor skin problems are common in babies and infants. While most blemishes disappear without treatment, other skin problems...
Laundry & Clothing | Triggers
One of the most effective ways of controlling baby eczema is to identify what triggers your baby’s eczema flare-ups and...
Triggers | Conventional Treatments
Babies and children with eczema are more likely to suffer from dangerous allergic reactions. We asked Dr Nikky Ellis – A&E doctor,...
Although house dust mites are not a common trigger for childhood eczema, for a number of children they can cause...
Featured Article | Eczema 101 | Conventional Treatments
Looking after a scratchy baby can be stressful enough, without feeling like you are fighting the healthcare system on your...

Quick buy

What our lovely customers say...

More reviews are available on...

Multi Buy Discount


Spend between £30 - £60 and save 5%
Spend between £60 - £120 and save 10%
Spend over £120 and save 15%

Discount automatically applied at checkout

No Quibbles Guarantee

output-onlinepngtools (48)

ScratchSleeves abide by a no quibbles guarantee.

Free UK Postage

output-onlinepngtools (85)

Free packing and postage on all UK orders. For overseas orders to Europe postage is from £3.50, to USA is £6.50 and to the rest of the world, from £3.75.

Scroll to Top