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Keeping your skin’s moisture intact is one of the most important things you can do to help control your eczema.
Moisturizers helps protect the outermost layer of skin known as the stratum corneum or skin barrier. People living with eczema have a damaged skin barrier, which makes their skin more sensitive to irritants, allergens, bacteria and other invaders. A damaged skin barrier also make it harder for the skin to retain water, leading to chronic dry, itchy skin, which can cause eczema to flare or get worse.
There are a lot of moisturizers on the market — learn which ones are safe for you or your child with eczema
And you’ll also get the NEA "Eczema Basics" booklets for adults and children
Wind, low humidity, cold temperatures, harsh soaps and prolonged exposure to water, all lead to dry skin. So, it’s important to understand how and when to properly moisturize and which products are best to use when you have eczema.
Some things to remember when moisturizing:
Water is an effective way to put moisture back into the skin, but only if you use lukewarm (not hot) water, avoid scrubbing and apply a moisturizer within three minutes after bathing or showering. This last step very important — if you don’t moisturize immediately afterward, the moisture your skin needs will evaporate and may cause a rebound effect making the skin even more dry.
Not all moisturizers are created equal. In fact, there are many types of common moisturizers that aren’t good at helping control your eczema and may even make it flare or get worse. It’s important to understand the differences between the three basic types of moisturizers — ointments, creams, and lotions — so that you can properly hydrate your skin and help keep your symptoms under control.
Moisturizers are classified based on the amount of oil and water they contain. The more oil in a moisturizer, the better it usually is at treating eczema. The best moisturizers to use are the ones that feel “greasy” (ointments and creams), because they contain more oil. These are very effective at keeping moisture in and irritants out.
All moisturizers should also be applied to your hands immediately after washing and gently blotting them dry. For this reason, it’s a good idea to keep moisturizer near every sink in your home and carry a small tube with you at all times, so that you can reapply it throughout the day.
Ointments are usually the first choice for eczema treatment. They have the highest oil content of all the products (followed by creams and then lotions), so they don’t generally burn when they’re applied to sensitive skin and are very good at sealing in moisture.
Products high in oil content, such as petroleum jelly and mineral oil, are particularly good for treating eczema. But if you don’t like the way petroleum jelly, mineral oil or other ointments feels on your skin, the next best alternative is a cream.
Creams are second to ointments in the amount of oil they contain and are also very good at sealing in moisture. Because they contain less oil, they are also less greasy to the touch. Be sure to read labels carefully — creams sometimes contain stabilizers or preservatives that can irritate your skin.
These contain the least amount of oil. Because they are primarily made of water, lotions evaporate quickly and may contain preservatives that burn when applied to skin that’s scratched or broken.
If your skin stings or burns after you apply a moisturizer, switching to an ointment may help.
Skin barrier creams are infused with lipids and ceramides, which are naturally occurring substances found in healthy skin barriers.
Lipids make up the building blocks of the structure and function of living cells. Ceramides are naturally occurring lipids in our skin that consist of an oily wax that forms a barrier in our stratum corneum.
The lipids and ceramides found in skin barrier moisturizers form a protective layer on the skin to help lock in moisture while keeping out impurities. This allows eczema skin to heal and become more resistant to symptoms, including burning, dryness and itch.
Apply skin barrier creams only to the skin affected by eczema and under the direction of a qualified health care provider.
Skin barrier creams are available by prescription and over-the-counter.
Finding a moisturizer that works can be a challenge. What works for one person may not work for another. As the condition of your skin changes so can the effectiveness of a product. A manufacturer may also change the formulation of a product from one year to the next. The best eczema lotion, cream or moisturizer is the one that works for you.
Take the following steps when introducing a new product to your skin:
NEA’s Seal of Acceptance Product Directory will help you find eczema-specific moisturizers and commercial wet wraps that help with symptoms.