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Bleaching skin may help certain skin conditions

KREM 2 wanted to find out whether bleaching skin was the best method for children like Jamison so we talked to board-certified dermatologist and surgeon Dr. Scott Smith.

SPOKANE, Wash.-- A story about a Washington mother bathing her 1-year-old son in bleach received nationwide attention on Wednesday.

Alicia Barber said she bathes her son, Jamison, in bleach twice a week to keep him alive after he was born with a rare genetic skin disorder. Jamison was born in May 2017 with harlequin ichthyosis, a rare skin disorder that covers newborns with thick, cracked skin, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

KREM 2 wanted to find out whether bleaching skin was the best method for children like Jamison so we talked to board-certified dermatologist and surgeon Dr. Scott Smith.

Is the use of bleach common in dermatology?

This condition is not common but the use of dilute bleach water is not uncommon in dermatology.

Is it safe? Does bleaching skin require medical supervision?

The use of dilute bleach water is in fact quite safe. However, it is always recommended that you get the advice of a physician to make sure you have the right diagnosis and the appropriate treatment.

What is the recommended bleach to water ratio?

We typically recommend 1/4 -1/2 cup of bleach in a full bath. A person should soak in it for approximately 10 minutes. The amount of times a week a person should do this would depend on their condition and severity. 2-3 times a week is not an uncommon recommendation.

When should you talk to a doctor?

It is always recommended that you get the advice of a physician to make sure you have the right diagnosis and the treatment is appropriate.

What type of skin condition is this treatment recommended for?

We often recommend the use of dilute bleach baths for people who have atopic dermatitis, commonly known as eczema, or frequent skin infections. The idea behind this treatment is to help decrease the bacterial load on a person. We all have bacteria on us all the time. Decreasing the number of bacteria helps prevent inflammation and possible infection. It can help reduce the frequency and need for the use of oral antibiotics. A few other nice things about bleach is that there is essentially no bacterial resistance and it does not induce bacterial resistance. Bleach is fairly inexpensive, readily available, and this is very easy to do.