Barrier Repair Moisturizers
(steroid-free, skin-barrier repair)

Used to treat:

  • Atopic dermatitis

  • Allergic contact dermatitis

  • Irritant contact dermatitis

  • Radiation dermatitis

What it does: This treatment option does more than traditional moisturizers, which sit on top of the skin and prevent water loss. Barrier repair moisturizers, also known as physiologic moisturizers, not only reduce water loss; they help rebuild the skin. Patients say these products also calm the burning and itching.

Some barrier repair moisturizers are available without a prescription. Two brands require a prescription. Approved use for the prescription products, as indicated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), includes treating atopic dermatitis in children. Studies show that these medications can effectively help heal damaged skin as well as decrease itch, redness, scaling, dryness, and thickening of the skin caused by scratching.

Barrier repair moisturizers available without a prescription often contain ceramide, a lipid. Ceramide naturally occurs in the outer layer of skin and helps the skin form a protective barrier.

Before trying an over-the-counter barrier repair moisturizer, be sure to speak with a dermatologist. Some products may contain fragrance and other ingredients that can irritate skin affected by eczema.

How to use: Studies show that when added to an eczema treatment plan, a barrier repair moisturizer can significantly improve overall results. One example of a treatment plan that may be prescribed would require the patient to:

  • Take a daily bath in lukewarm water

  • Apply other prescribed topical medication and the barrier repair moisturizer immediately after bathing and at other times of the day as directed

  • Avoid contact with known irritants and allergens

  • Keep fingernails short

  • Dress to avoid overheating and wear comfortable cotton clothing, avoiding wools and synthetics that can irritate the skin

Other key facts: The downside to barrier repair moisturizers available by prescription is the cost. Without insurance, the least expensive can cost more than $60.00, and some exceed $300.00. A patient may need to apply a barrier repair moisturizer three times a day.

All content solely developed by the American Academy of Dermatology

Clinical trials suggest that the barrier repair moisturizers available by prescription are safe to use on external skin for as long as necessary.

American Academy of Dermatology, 2010  All rights reserved.
Page last updated 3/1/07

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