Ironically, the more water there is in a lotion or moisturizer, the more likely it is to worsen your hand eczema. Moisturizers usually contain more water than oil, and when the water evaporates they have a net drying effect on the skin. The very best moisturizer for hand eczema is a greasy one. It has very few ingredients, it holds the skin’s natural moisture in, and it provides a protective barrier to keep irritants out. This turns out to be petroleum jelly, also known as petrolatum (Vaseline is one brand, and there are others as well). You should apply it to your hands immediately after you bathe, and each time you wash your hands. Carry a small tube with you and reapply it throughout the day.
Once your eczema has cleared and you are no longer using a prescription ointment, your doctor may also suggest using petroleum jelly or a prescription medication on an ongoing basis at night with cotton gloves. In this case, wear the same gloves over and over to help contain the medication. If you dislike petroleum jelly, the next best alternatives are, in order, lubricants, hydrating gels, and creams. Urea and lactic acid are helpful ingredients because they help the skin absorb moisture. You need to read all labels carefully to make sure that products don’t contain any ingredients that should be avoided. NEA has more information about these ingredients.
Eventually you’ll be a skilled reader of labels for lotions, shampoos, and other cosmetics.