As someone living with eczema, you know that your skin is extra-sensitive and prone to dryness. Go to the store and you’ll find a laundry list of lotions, creams, etc. and you’ve probably tried a few of them. Some of them probably do didn’t do the trick or even made your symptoms worse. If you’ve ever gotten confused or frustrated trying to find the right product for treating your eczema, dermatologist John Anthony, MD breaks down how to find the perfect product for your skin.
From creams and lotions to ointments and oils
Dr. Anthony recommends sticking to bland, minimalist products with a short ingredient list when treating eczema, but before you consider all that, understanding the difference between the products that are available will help.
- Lotions are spreadable and sink into your skin the best. The downside, however, is that they are quickly absorbed, and don’t last as long as the other options. “They also have a bit higher risk of stinging raw skin,” Dr. Anthony warns.
- Creams have more oil and less water than lotion, and they’re a little thicker/heavier. Although they don’t sink in as quickly as lotion, you won’t need to apply them as often.
- Ointments are the most occlusive option, meaning they’re the best at locking moisture into your skin. Ointments are also the greasiest option, however. “They spread well and last longer, but they get on things like clothes and bedsheets,” Dr. Anthony notes.
- Oils are fats that are liquid at room temperature. Most skin oils such as argan oil, rose hip oil and tea tree oil are plant-based. Some people may find success with oils, however, Dr. Anthony doesn’t typically recommend them for eczema.
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What to look for in an eczema product
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all for eczema products, so what you choose will be based on personal preference and tolerance. However, here is a guide of ingredients you should be on the lookout for in the product you choose.
In looking for an eczema product, there are three categories of ingredients to know about:
1. Emollients to help repair your skin barrier.
“They restore some of the natural fats in the skin,” Dr. Anthony says. “Fats are important in enabling the skin barrier to exist, and emollients help repair your skin barrier.”
Good choices for eczema include:
- Cocoa butter.
- Coconut oil.
- Fatty acids.
- Petrolatum (petroleum jelly).
- Shea butter.
2. Humectants to draw moisture into your skin.
“Humectants are designed to try and draw moisture into the skin,” Dr. Anthony explains. Humectants work by binding to water, pulling it from the air and from deeper within your skin. They include:
- Aloe vera.
- Alpha hydroxy acids, like glycolic acid and lactic acid.
- Hyaluronic acid.
- Urea (sometimes called carbamide).
Humectants should be used as an ingredient of an eczema cream and not on their own because it can cause stinging and burning.
3. Occlusives to lock in moisture and hydration.
Occlusives are a great follow-up for eczema-prone skin after you’ve applied