How to Manage Eczema on the Face

Medically Reviewed by Stephanie S. Gardner, MD on September 18, 2023
3 min read

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.

It can cause:

  • Red patches
  • Small bumps
  • Flaking skin
  • Skin that is darker, lighter, or thicker

Learn more about the symptoms of eczema.

There are many kinds of eczema. The types that are often found on the face include:

  • Atopic eczema
  • Seborrheic dermatitis
  • Contact dermatitis

Get more details on the different types of eczema.

Doctors don’t know exactly what causes eczema. Many people may be born with a tendency to get it. Things that may trigger eczema include:

  • High temperatures
  • Sweating
  • Air that’s too dry or humid
  • Sunlight
  • Contact with certain kinds of chemicals

Know more about what causes eczema.

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. View a slideshow to learn more about corticosteroids and how they work.

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. View a slideshow to see the types of eczema treatment.

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 the skin can show up on people with atopic eczema on their heads or necks. Find out more on fungal infections of the skin. A JAK inhibitor, opzelura at 1.5 % can be used twice daily ages 12 and up. 

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. View a slideshow on the benefits of light therapy.

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 or a medical emollient instead. Pat dry with a soft towel.

Watch the temperature. Use only cool -- not hot -- water on your face, and for as little time as possible.

Skip makeup.Don’t use cosmetics on irritated skin.

Learn more about which cosmetics to choose for eczema on the face.