Applied to the Skin
For many patients, adding the following
non-medicated therapies to a treatment plan helps relieve the itch
and inflammation of eczema:
What it is: A cool compress is a cloth dipped in cold water
that is wrung out and applied directly to the skin that itches. When
first placed on the skin, the itching or pain may become more
intense; however, this soon subsides.
What it does: Helps relieve
inflammation and itching. Cool compresses are often helpful for
How to use: Several factors,
including the type of eczema and severity, affect when and how often
a cool compress should be placed on the skin. If this is an
appealing treatment option, speak with a dermatologist.
Emollients and Moisturizers
What it is / What it does: The word “emollient” means “to
soften,” and emollients can leave skin feeling softer. The word
“moisturizer” means “to add moisture.” In truth, a moisturizer
cannot add moisture to the skin. A moisturizer traps moisture in the
skin, which helps prevent water loss. Both emollients and
moisturizers can decrease dryness and scaling, leaving the skin
feeling more comfortable.
Most patients living with eczema, with
the exception of seborrheic dermatitis, benefit from frequent use of
these products. Research shows that regularly applying a moisturizer
to skin affected by atopic dermatitis can:
Reduce dry skin.
Boost the skin’s protective
abilities. Moisturizer forms a protective layer on the skin.
Increase the effectiveness of topical
corticosteroids, and possibly reduce the need for long-term use.
Reduce skin irritation.
Improve the skin’s appearance.
How to use: Most moisturizers
are applied directly to the skin; however, some are added to a bath.
When applying a moisturizer to the skin, be sure to apply it
immediately after bathing. When applied while the skin is still
damp, the moisturizer can “lock in” the moisture from the bath or
Moisturizers come in different forms.
Ointments lock in moisture more effectively than other forms. Creams
come in second and are used for dry skin or mild to moderate eczema.
Lotions, which are primarily water, tend not to be as effective at
locking in moisture. However, some newer lotions are excellent
moisturizers. If you prefer to use a lotion, ask your dermatologist
for a product recommendation.
Another reason to speak with a
dermatologist before selecting a product is that many emollients and
moisturizers contain added preservatives and fragrances that can
irritate skin affected by eczema. Even products labeled “unscented”
can irritate the skin because “unscented” means the fragrance is
masked. It does not mean the product does not contain fragrance.
When a product does not contain fragrance, it says “fragrance free.”
If the skin stings, burns, itches, or
feels drier after applying an emollient or moisturizer, stop using
it. These symptoms mean that the product is irritating the skin.
All content solely
developed by the American Academy of Dermatology