Best over-the-counter products for eczema
Eczema, also called atopic dermatitis, is a very common skin condition that presents as dry, red, scaly patches on the skin, which hurt and itch. These flare-ups come and go and can be very uncomfortable. Eczema occurs most frequently in children, but people of all ages may suffer from this condition.
As with any medical condition, you should consult your doctor if you or someone you care for is having symptoms. In babies, you want to rule out acne, skin infections, allergic reactions, or a more serious illness.
In children and adults, even though eczema is the most likely culprit for your itchy, scaly skin patches, you want to rule out psoriasis, allergic reactions, skin cancer, and other conditions. Once eczema is diagnosed, it is usually manageable with over-the-counter products.
Eczema causes and triggers
Understanding why you are getting eczema is crucial to controlling it and knowing what products might help manage it.
Eczema can be caused by
Topical causes: detergent, makeup, dryer sheets, perfume, lotion, chlorinated pools, irritants, allergens, certain fabrics such as wool, or rough materials.
Environmental causes: allergies, weather changes, dry climates, quickly changing temperatures or climates.
Internal causes: Food or medicine reactions.
Stress: Because isn’t everything worse with stress? There is real science behind it, which is that your immune system reacts to stress in such a way that it can cause eczema flare-ups.
If you’ve been avoiding your eczema triggers and still get flare-ups, there are several options to manage it using over-the-counter products. If you have known allergies or sensitivities, make sure you read the labels carefully, keeping an eye out for irritants.
How to treat eczema at home
The first step to taming your eczema has to do with making sure what you use on your skin is not making things worse. Fortunately, there are many bath products for eczema-prone skin.
Mustela products tend to work well for many young kids or babies with eczema. They have a body wash and shampoo. We also recommend Natralia’s Happy Little Bodies. However, many doctors, including pediatricians and dermatologists, say all ages do well using the Dove Beauty Bar as the only skin product to use in the bath. You may need to experiment a little with what works best.
Right after you get out of the bath or shower, it’s important to seal in moisture. Treat angry spots with hydrocortisone. If you have cracked or open skin, it’s time to go to the doctor for prescription-strength hydrocortisone or another treatment.
Put on a very thick barrier to lock in the hydrocortisone. Some products that we recommend are petroleum jelly, like Vaseline, a product containing lanolin, or Aquaphor, which contains both petroleum jelly and lanolin.
Wear a robe or a light, loose layer after bathing so the treatment doesn’t wipe off on the inside of your clothes. The more you can let it soak in, the better. For babies, a towel robe or onesie over the skin you’re treating works well. We recommend you avoid fleece or layers too heavy for the weather because babies are prone to heat rash, especially if the thick layer of lotion gets sweaty.
For full body relief after bathing, there are many options. A very thick product with several of the main ingredients as some of the above is Bag Balm, which is an old favorite of people who work with their hands. It has an aroma some might love, but may be too strong for others. This one is pretty thick so might be better for large areas like hands, feet, knees, and elbows instead of all over the whole body.
If the thickness of the “jelly-like” products is too much for you but you need something very thick, a good option would be pure coconut oil, which is the same product you might cook with, or pure shea butter. These are natural products that have good results for most people with eczema. You may want to warm these up between your hands or even in the microwave for a few seconds. Put on a small amount to start to see how your skin likes it and how you like the feel of it on your skin.
Everyday remedies for eczema flare-ups
Throughout the day and before bed, you may want to pay extra attention to moisturizing all over, or specifically in places that are drying out, such as hands, feet, knees, and elbows. Lotions for eczema are less greasy than the products we recommended for right after the shower or bath and can help your skin stay soft year-round. Preventing dry skin is an important part of keeping eczema itchiness away.
What helps one person might sting another. It comes down to individual needs when it comes to skincare, so you may need to try a couple before you commit. Pay special attention when using products on babies and young kids because it’s not always obvious to the eye that a product is stinging. Use small amounts to start to make sure your skin likes it.
Preventing eczema flare-ups
Once you find something that soothes you, use it often. Keep a pump bottle in the car and moisturize your hands at red lights. Put a tub next to your computer at work and hit those elbows when you’re waiting for your next conference call. Make a habit of lotioning up your feet before you put on your cozy socks before movie night. Give yourself a full body moisturizing treatment before bed.
Skincare products that can prevent eczema
Cerave products help many people with eczema. They also have a line for babies, which is gentler and very effective.
Aveeno is also very successful for adults and kids. For babies, the nighttime lotion is smooth and gentle.
AmLactin is another product that people swear by to soften dry, scaly skin.
If you want to feel luxurious, the L’Occitane Butter Hand Cream is thick enough to really tackle dry skin but gentle enough that it won’t irritate you.
Generally, it’s a good idea to choose fragrance-free products aimed specifically at people with very sensitive skin, and these all fit the bill.
Eczema and sun sensitivity
People with eczema need to be extra careful in the sun. Using products designed for sensitive skin will help you keep eczema symptoms at bay when you’re enjoying the fresh air and sunshine. Thinksport is good for adults and kids and ThinkBaby is a smart choice for your infants above six months. Of course, Cerave and Aveeno get in on the action with sunscreen for face and body as well.
There can be a bit of trial and error when it comes to finding what works best for your eczema. The products we recommend in this article are a good jumping-off point to figure out what causes your eczema as well as what might help alleviate the symptoms. With some detective work and some moisturization habits, you can keep itchy, scaly eczema away.