Itch Busters for Eczema Irritation

Medically Reviewed by Stephanie S. Gardner, MD on April 01, 2021

To find relief for your eczema may take trial and error. What works well for one person may not ease your symptoms. It’s a good idea to keep an open mind -- and find lots of options.

Moisturizers: Creams and ointments ease inflammation and put water back into your skin to help it heal. Put it on several times a day, including right after you bathe or shower. Petroleum jelly and mineral oil work well since they form a thick barrier over your skin.

Products with glycerin, lactic acid, and urea may also help since they also help pull water into your skin.

Coal tar: Your doctor may suggest a product that contains coal tar. Extract of crude tar has treated eczema and other skin problems for more than 2,000 years. Although it’s messy and many people don’t like the strong smell, it may help soothe your skin.

Wet wraps: When your eczema’s flaring, soak some gauze, bandages, or pieces of soft clothing in cool water, then put them on your skin. The coolness will relieve itching, and the moisture will help creams or lotions work even better.

Talk to your doctor to find out how often you can use wet wrap therapy. If you do it too much, your skin may get infected.

Hydrocortisone creams: Hydrocortisone is a steroid that helps keep redness, itching, and swelling at bay. You can buy low-strength creams and lotions at the store. If those don’t help, your doctor may prescribe you something that’s stronger-acting.

It’s safe to put hydrocortisone on most body parts as many as four times a day for up to 7 days, as long as you’re not pregnant or breastfeeding. If you do use it, keep it away from your eyes, rectum, and genitals.

It’s also important to note that some people have a severe reaction to hydrocortisone. If you have trouble breathing or swallowing, or notice a skin rash after you use it, call 911 or your doctor.

Calamine lotion (zinc oxide, ferric oxide) can be put in the refrigerator and helps relieve itch quickly.

Your doctor might also prescribe other topical medicines to treat eczema flares, such as crisaborole (Eucrisa), pimecrolimus (Elidel), or tacrolimus (Protopic). Dupilumab (Dupixent) is an option that is a shot.

Antihistamines: Over-the-counter allergy meds don’t work well for itchy skin caused by eczema. But antihistamines that are known to cause drowsiness can help you sleep if you take them before bed.

Keep cool: Keeping cool and keeping your rooms cool can reduce itch.

Alternative and Complementary Treatments

Acupuncture: This ancient Eastern practice is based on the belief that paths of energy flow through the body. When they become blocked, your health takes a hit. By gently inserting thin needles just under the surface of your skin, energy is “unstuck,” and your health may improve.

Studies show that people with eczema who try acupuncture or acupressure (which doesn’t use needles) get relief from itching after only a few treatments.

Relaxation techniques: There’s a strong link between stress and your skin. Plus, you’re prone to scratch more when your emotions are running high.

Self-hypnosis, meditation, and biofeedback therapy have all been shown to ease eczema symptoms. You may also want to see a therapist. Doing so can ease stress. It can also help you change habits or negative thought patterns that may be adding to your skin problems.

Coconut oil: It seems to lessen the amount of staph bacteria on the skin, which lowers the chance of infection. Apply it to damp skin once or twice a day. “Virgin” or “cold pressed” coconut oils are best because they don’t have chemicals that could irritate the skin.

Sunflower oil: This oil is particularly good at holding in moisture. It may also lessen inflammation. Rub it in a couple of times a day, at least once after a shower or bath to seal in moisture. Don’t use it if you’re allergic to sunflower seeds.

Other complementary treatments: Some people use supplements of different types to help. There is some evidence that vitamin B12 made into a cream helps some people with eczema. (This may need to be made by a specialty pharmacy in consultation with your doctor.) Others say that certain vitamin and mineral supplements help with symptoms of eczema, though there is little supporting evidence. In addition, some supplements can be harmful on their own or when taken with another supplement or medication. That’s why it’s always best to check with your health care provider before you try anything new.

Show Sources


National Eczema Association: “Hydrocortisone FAQs,” “Psychodermatology,” “Alternate Routes: Acupuncture, Acupressure, and Eczema.”

Journal of Clinical Investigation: “Coal tar induces AHR-dependent skin barrier repair in atopic dermatitis.”

Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology: “Guidelines of care for the management of atopic dermatitis: section 2. Management and treatment of atopic dermatitis with topical therapies.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Diseases and Conditions: Eczema.”

Journal of Drugs in Dermatology: “An evidence-based review of the efficacy of coal tar preparations in the treatment of psoriasis and atopic dermatitis.”

American Academy of Dermatology: “Atopic Dermatitis: Bleach Bath Therapy,” “Atopic Dermatitis: Recommendations for the Use of Systemic Antihistamines.”

American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology: “Bleach Bath Recipe for Skin Conditions.”

News release, Northwestern University.                               

Harvard Medical School: “Recognizing the Mind-Skin Connection.”

National Jewish Health: “Eczema Treatment: Wet Wrap Therapy of Atopic Dermatitis.”

Medline Plus: “Hydrocortisone Topical.”

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