Nipple eczema, a common skin condition causing itching, inflammation, and dryness around the nipple and areola, can be distressing. Understanding its triggers, seeking expert advice, and adopting effective treatments are crucial steps towards relief. We’ve interviewed top dermatologists to provide you with actionable insights on managing nipple eczema effectively.
What causes nipple eczema?
Chapel Hill, NC dermatologist Beth Goldstein, MD explains that individuals with a history of eczema are prone to nipple eczema. She emphasizes, “During breastfeeding, friction and moisture can alter the skin barrier, leading to inflammation. Irritating soaps, fragrances, allergies, or even fabric friction from sports bras can contribute.” Dr. Goldstein adds,
“Alternative diagnoses include eczema, psoriasis, Paget’s disease, and others.” Campbell, CA dermatologist Amelia K. Hausauer, MD sheds light on common triggers. “Even sweat accumulation can lead to nipple eczema,” she says. “People with atopic dermatitis are also more susceptible.”
What are the best treatments and skin-care products to use?
Fort Lauderdale, FL dermatologist Dr. Matthew Elias recommends initial relief measures. “Petrolatum-based ointments like Vaseline or Aquaphor can soothe discomfort,” he suggests. He advises, “Consult a dermatologist if initial treatments don’t work; stronger prescription options for treating the nipples might be necessary.”
Dr. Hausauer emphasizes a holistic approach. “Avoid harsh soaps and detergents. Use fragrance-free products, rinse off chlorinated water, and moisturize promptly after bathing,” she advises. “Emollients like Alastin Soothe and Protect Recovery Balm ($48) or Skinfix Remedy 911 Balm ($28) can provide relief.”
“Use of mild cleansers like CeraVe for sensitive skin, gently drying the skin and use of moisturizers such as CeraVe Hydrocortisone Anti-Itch Cream ($18) at least once or twice per day,” adds Dr. Goldstein. “Avoid use of potential allergens including fragrance containing products.”
Miami dermatologist Anna Chacon, MD suggests starting with manageable steps. “Topical hydrocortisone creams reduce inflammation,” she says. “Regular moisturizing and gentle cleansing with non-soap cleansers are essential for helping improve nipple eczema.” Dr. Chacon adds, “Hypoallergenic products and avoiding scratching can prevent further irritation.”
The Clothing Concern
New York dermatologist Elaine Kung, MD says she often sees this problem when breasts are changing in size, like for teens and older patients, but also when the two breasts are different sizes and bras are ill-fitting. “Often, teenage girls suffer from nipple eczema as their breast sizes keep on changing but their bra sizes are not keeping up with their growth or the fabric is too coarse,” she explains. “Older women whose breasts droop may also encounter nipple eczema because they often purchase the bra sizes they are used to wearing but may not be appropriate after their breasts have changed shape. I often advise my patients with nipple eczema to wear smooth fabric bras and avoid lace. I also suggest that they apply moisturizer over their breast areas before they put on their undergarments.”
When should you seek a doctor for help?
Knowing when to consult a dermatologist is vital. Dr. Chacon recommends professional evaluation if symptoms worsen or don’t improve with home treatments. “Severe redness, swelling, pain, signs of infection, or large affected areas necessitate medical attention,” she says. Dr. Hausauer advises seeking help if the rash spreads, becomes painful, or is present on one side.