Which Moisturizer Is Best for Eczema?

When you have eczema or atopic dermatitis, it's key to use a moisturizer. Dry skin can often make eczema worse.

Moisturizers lock in water and create a barrier against things that can irritate your skin. You can choose from plenty of products, but they're not the same. You should also know when and how to apply them.

Lotions, Creams, and Ointments

There are three types of moisturizers: lotions, creams, and ointments. They’re classified by the amount of oil and water in them. The more oil they contain, the better they are for eczema.

Ointments have the most oil. They’re usually the best choice to treat eczema. They won't burn when you apply them to your skin. They help it hold on to moisture.

Some people like to use them overnight. This gives your skin time to absorb them fully. Petroleum jelly and mineral oil are examples.

Creams are a good choice if you don't like the greasy feel of an ointment. They have the second highest amount of oil. They can also seal in moisture.

Be sure to read labels carefully. Creams often contain additives that can irritate your skin or cause allergic reactions in some people.

Lotions are mostly made of water and have the lowest amount of oil. They don't usually work well for people with eczema. They evaporate quickly and may have ingredients that bother your skin.

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How to Use a Moisturizer

It’ll work best if you apply it after a bath or shower. Use lukewarm -- not hot -- water. Bathe for just about 10 minutes.

Pat your skin dry. Leave it slightly damp. That way you don’t remove all the moisture you got from bathing.

Apply moisturizer within 3 minutes after you get out of the water. Wait longer and your skin will start to dry out.

Soften the moisturizer by rubbing it between your hands. Use your palms to smear a thick layer all over your skin. Apply it gently in simple downward strokes. Try not to rub it in circles or up and down.

It may feel sticky at first, but that's OK. Don't try to take off the extra. Your skin will absorb it.

Each time your wash your hands or get them wet, moisturize them, too. Keep moisturizer by each sink in the house so you don't forget.

If you use a prescription skin medicine, put it on before you moisturize.

How to Choose a Product Safely

There are many products out there. What works for someone else may not work for you.

The best options are:

  • Fragrance free (not just unscented)
  • Perfume free
  • Dye free

Unscented products may have still fragrances, so they can still irritate you skin. They're just covered up so you can't smell them. Look for moisturizers marked fragrance free.

Check the label if you know you’re allergic to a certain ingredient.

Dab a pea-sized bit of any new product onto the crook of your elbow or the inside of your wrist. Wait 24 to 48 hours to see if it causes a rash, redness, or itching before you use it on your entire body.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Debra Jaliman, MD on September 26, 2017
© 2017 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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