How to Manage Eczema on the Face

Eczema is a condition that makes your skin turn red, scaly, and itchy. Your doctor might call it dermatitis. It can show up in several places on your body, and different types can cause different symptoms. If you have it on your face, it can cause red patches, small bumps, and flaking skin. If you scratch too much, your skin can get darker, thicker, and infected.

Doctors don’t know exactly what causes eczema, but they think many people are born with a tendency to get it. You can take actions to manage a breakout on your face.

Treatment

Eczema can’t be cured, but it does come and go. Several years might pass without a flare-up. With the help of your doctor, you can manage and ease your symptoms when you do have them.

Steroid creams. These are a key part of eczema treatment. Over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream can help with red, itchy skin. Put it on once or twice a day for several weeks. If that doesn’t work well enough, you may need a stronger prescription steroid. Use it only for a short time, though, because it can thin your skin.

Calcineurin inhibitors. Your doctor may prescribe these instead of a steroid cream. These creams and ointments block chemicals that can make your eczema flare. They’re used particularly to treat eczema on your face, including your eyelids, neck, and skin folds.

Check for fungus. Your doctor may prescribe anti-yeast ointments or creams if your eczema is caused by a fungal infection. High levels of one kind of yeast normally found on skin can show up on people with atopic eczema on their heads or necks.

Phototherapy (ultraviolet light therapy). This may help if your eczema is moderate to severe and cream medications haven’t worked. Keep in mind that using this type of treatment for a long time can raise your odds for skin cancer.

What You Can Do

Moisturize. The best way to keep your skin from drying out is with thick creams (Cetaphil, Eucerin) and ointments (Aquaphor, Vaseline), not with thinner lotions. The best time to do this is right after you wash your face. If ointments are too greasy for your face, try using them only at night.

Clean gently. Soap can irritate your skin, but washing with water alone may not be enough, especially if your face is oily. Use a gentle non-soap cleanser instead.

Keep an eye on the temperature and humidity. Use only cool -- not hot -- water on your face, and for as little time as possible. Stay away from places that are too hot or activities that make you sweat. They can make you itchy. Air that’s either too dry or too humid also can irritate your eczema.

Consider the sun. Some people’s eczema gets worse in sunlight, while it’s the opposite for others.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Debra Jaliman, MD on September 29, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

DermNet New Zealand: “Seborrhoeic dermatitis.”

Mayo Clinic: “Atopic dermatitis (eczema).”

National Eczema Association: “Eczema Causes and Triggers.”

National Health Service (UK): “Atopic eczema - Treatment.”

UpToDate: “Patient education: Atopic dermatitis (eczema) (Beyond the Basics),” "Treatment of atopic dermatitis (eczema),” "Management of severe refractory atopic dermatitis (eczema).”

National Eczema Society (UK): “Adult Seborrhoeic,” “Topical Calcineurin Inhibitors (TCIs),” “Facial eczema.”

MedlinePlus: “Atopic dermatitis.”

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