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How Do I Use an Emollient for Eczema?

By Megan Shoop
Updated May 17, 2024
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Emollients often help restore moisture to the skin, and this can soothe the dry, red patches caused by eczema. These topical skin treatments come in several different consistencies, ranging from thick and greasy ointments, to dense creams and lightweight lotions. When using an emollient for eczema, it is important to choose a product with the proper consistency. This usually involves discovering what kind of eczema you have and considering the emollient treatments available.

There are two basic forms of this skin disorder: dry and wet eczema. Both conditions are caused by a serious lack of moisture in the skin, but wet eczema often leaks blood or plasma. You should only apply emollients to wet eczema after gently and thoroughly cleaning and drying the area. This should typically be done with clean, soft cloths and cool water.

If you have severely irritated skin, the best emollient for eczema may be an ointment. Thick ointments usually absorb slowly, often sinking very deeply into the skin. This means that the layers underneath the visible rash are also receiving moisture. Many patients choose to use ointments at night so the medicine can work while they’re sleeping. Generally, you should spread a thick dollop of ointment onto the affected area and cover it with gauze and medical tape, or, in the case of hand eczema, plastic gloves. This keeps the ointment from rubbing off and gives it more time to soak into the skin.

Those with mildly irritated skin may opt for a lightweight emollient for eczema, like a cream or lotion. Creams are usually thicker than lotions and may penetrate deeper into the skin. Lotions sink into the skin faster than other types of emollients and rarely leave residue behind. You should typically apply either treatment to the affected area several times a day. Creams may need to be applied only twice, while lotions might need to be applied every few hours to provide relief.

Very severe conditions may require multiple applications of an emollient for eczema. One method to try involves applying an ointment at night, followed by several applications of a cream or lotion during the day. Multiple applications generally provide the skin with a continuous source of moisture, giving it less opportunity to become irritated again.

A moisturizing bath may also be an effective emollient for eczema. Though not as convenient as ointments and lotions, emollient baths may be taken once to several times a week to treat eczema over time. Honey, powdered milk, glycerin, and jojoba oil are all moisturizing ingredients that may be stirred into the bath water. Soaking in warm water may also be relaxing, which could help soothe stress-related eczema. Emollient baths may be used in conjunction with other topical treatments to increase their efficacy.

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Discussion Comments
By Rundocuri — On Aug 20, 2014

Emollients are in every type of lotion, and different people respond to different emollients.

I have a friend who has eczema, and any type of lotion helps her keep her problem under control. On the other hand, my brother has eczema, and most lotions irritate his condition. He can only use emollients in prescription products especially for eczema.

By Heavanet — On Aug 20, 2014

I think that the best emollients for eczema are in products that are natural, organic, or vegan. These products do not contain ingredients like parabens, petroleum-based oils, artificial fragrances, preservatives, or animal products that can lead to flare ups.

When purchasing these types of lotions, shampoos, conditioners, and bathing items, it is important to read the labels. Avoid any products that have unnatural ingredients. A good rule of thumb to follow is that if you can't pronounce it, avoid it.

It is also important that you know where to look for natural skin care products, because they are not always easy to find or available in regular stores. Health food stores and online shops are the best places to find natural products that will be good for your skin as you treat your eczema.

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