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Before consulting a healthcare provider about prescription medication—or in addition to it—you may want to try at-home remedies for the dry skin caused by an eczema flare. Here are some that experts say are effective.
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Natural/at-home remedies for eczema
Moisturizers and ointments
Use a fragrance-free and dye-free moisturizer after bathing, showering, washing hands, or any time your skin is dry. Moisturizing creams, such as Vanicream, and ointments are thicker than lotions and may be more effective for your eczema. After a shower or bath, pat skin dry and apply moisturizer while the skin is still slightly damp to lock in moisture (AAAAI, n.d.).
The National Eczema Association recommends taking a bath or shower daily with lukewarm water—not hot—and for no more than 10 to 15 minutes. Use a gentle cleanser. Pat dry, apply topical medication and moisturize within three minutes to prevent dryness (NEA-b, n.d.).
Colloidal oatmeal or baking soda
Adding colloidal oatmeal or baking soda to a warm bath-—or applying either one topically—may relieve discomfort and help with itchy skin (NEA-b, n.d). Oats contain antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, including avenanthramides (a polyphenol) and vitamin E (Shi, 2019).
Diluted bleach baths (usually one-quarter to one-half cup of bleach added to 40 gallons of bathwater) once or twice a week may help improve symptoms of eczema (AAAAI, n.d.).
Wet dressings or “wet wrap” therapy
Wet dressings can soothe crusted or oozing skin. “Wet wrap” therapy can be effective for severe flare-ups: Gauze or cotton clothing is dampened with water and applied to affected areas for several hours or overnight (NEA-a, n.d.)
Studies show that applying coconut oil reduces a type of bacteria on the skin known as staph. That can lower the chance of infection. Coconut oil also contains beneficial fatty acids that can protect the skin barrier (NEA-a, n.d).
Essential oils for eczema: are they worth trying?
Aloe vera gel is naturally anti-inflammatory and antibacterial and may be helpful to some people with eczema (Chau, 2019).
Switch to gentle soaps and detergents
Using gentle, dye-free, and fragrance-free soaps and laundry detergents may help people with eczema who find their sensitive skin is irritated by harsher cleansers.
Avoid extreme temperatures
During cold weather, indoor heaters can be drying to the air and the skin of people with eczema. Using a humidifier in the bedroom can add moisture to the air and help prevent skin from drying out.
Change in diet
Avoiding inflammatory foods—such as simple starches, added sugar, and processed and fast foods—may be helpful to some people with eczema (Jones, 2018). Some people find that specific foods, such as certain fruits or vegetables, are eczema triggers.
Stress reduction techniques, such as biofeedback, meditation, and mindfulness, might improve mood and decrease stress and anxiety, which can worsen eczema symptoms (NEA-a, n.d.).
Aside from avoiding known irritants, other lifestyle changes can be helpful, including wearing gloves if working outside, cleaning, using chemicals, or washing dishes, avoiding tight-fitting clothing and clothes made of synthetic fabrics or wool, and not rubbing or scratching affected areas.
Contact dermatitis: allergic and irritant eczema
What is eczema?
Eczema (also known as atopic dermatitis) refers to a group of skin conditions whose symptoms include red, inflamed, peeling, cracked, or blistered skin. It often appears in skin folds, such as the inside of the elbow or the knee. Some causes of eczema include:
- Skin irritants such as dyes, fragrances, chemicals, and soaps
- Fabrics (like wool or synthetic fibers)
- Animal dander
- Dust mites
- Food allergies
- Genetic susceptibility
Half of people with moderate to severe eczema also have asthma, hay fever, or food allergies (AAAAI, n.d.).
Eczema is not curable, but many effective treatments are available. If at-home or natural remedies aren’t alleviating your symptoms, talk with your healthcare provider or a board-certified dermatologist about eczema treatment options. You might benefit from a combination of lifestyle, over-the-counter, and prescription therapies.
- AAAI. (n.d.). Eczema Atopic Dermatitis. Retrieved March 6, 2020, from https://www.aaaai.org/tools-for-the-public/conditions-library/allergies/eczema-(atopic-dermatitis)-overview
- Chau, J. (September 12, 2019). 10 inexpensive ways I manage my eczema. Retrieved March 6, 2020 from https://nationaleczema.org/blog/inexpensive-eczema-tips/
- Jones, K. (December 14, 2018). Everything you need to know about eczema and food allergies. Retrieved March 7, 2020 from https://nationaleczema.org/blog/eczema-food-allergies/
- National Eczema Association (NEA-a). (n.d.). Can natural treatments help manage your eczema? Retrieved March 6, 2020 from https://nationaleczema.org/eczema/treatment/complementary-and-alternative/
- National Eczema Association (NEA-b). (n.d.). How to use baths to manage your eczema. Retrieved March 6, 2020, from https://nationaleczema.org/eczema/treatment/bathing/
- Shi, V. (May 11, 2019). Are there any natural and alternative eczema treatments worth trying? Retrieved March 6, 2020 from https://nationaleczema.org/blog/alternative-treatments-dr-shi/
Dr. Mike is a licensed physician and the Director, Medical Content & Education at Ro.