7 tips for treating eczema, according to dermatologists

pumatokoh/ShutterstockThere are a couple things that can treat eczema.
  • Eczema is a skin condition that is a result of a damaged skin barrier – making it much more prone to irritation or infections.
  • There are several ways to treat eczema, but they’re all focused on restoring the skin’s barrier through proper skin care.
  • If you’ve tried these treatments and you’re still struggling, it may be time to schedule an appointment with a board-certified dermatologist.

Known as “the itch that rashes,” eczema can be a huge pain. Eczema, also referred to as atopic dermatitis, is a skin condition that is most commonly associated with a red, itchy rash. Flares are often caused by several different things, said Ellen Dabela, a dermatologist in New Jersey.

“Humidity, temperature, exposure to various irritants or allergens, the presence of bacteria or yeast, and even one’s own immune system will affect the severity and duration of an eczema flare,” she told INSIDER. “There is also a genetic interplay between atopic dermatitis, asthma, and seasonal allergies.”

But what actually causes it? A damaged skin barrier, Carley Fowler, a dermatologist in Tennessee, told INSIDER. “Think about your skin as a brick wall: You have bricks and you have mortar,” she said. “The bricks are skin cells, and the mortar is your skin’s natural oil. Your skin is a barrier to the outside world, protecting your body. Patients with eczema are missing their mortar, so their barrier is broken down.”

This means that anything can creep through your skin’s barrier, including fragrance, smoke, soaps, and other irritants, Fowler said.

The good news is that there are several different ways to treat eczema. But ultimately, controlling eczema is all about restoring the skin’s barrier so that your skin doesn’t get so irritated. From at-home remedies to in-office treatments, here are 7 ways to treat eczema.

Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize.

Shutterstock/By Africa StudioMoisturizer needs to be a part of your daily routine.

The best thing you can do if you have eczema? Make moisturizing your skin a non-negotiable step in your daily routine.

“The best way to treat eczema is changing behavioural habits,” Dhaval Bhanusali, a dermatologist in New York, told INSIDER. “I recommend moisturizing right out of the shower after pat drying yourself down since this is when pores are open the most and absorb the best.”

Reach for heavy-duty moisturizers.

TargetRegular lotion might not cut it.

If you’re struggling with eczema, typical lotions won’t help you out very much, said Sara Moghaddam, a dermatologist in Maryland. “Do not use lotions, as their alcohol content is higher and they evaporate quicker providing less moisture to the skin,” she told INSIDER.

Instead look for a thick cream or other emollient-based products, like Vaseline, said Monica Valentin, a dermatologist in Virginia.

“No matter what type of eczema you have, I always recommend Vaseline after baths or showers and a ceramide-containing moisturizer, like CeraVe, all other times of the day,” she told INSIDER. “Vaseline works by locking in the water for skin absorbed during the bath. Ceramides, on the other hand, are normal building blocks of the skin, but they are usually low or missing in eczema skin. So using a ceramide containing cream help rebuild the fat layer of the skin that naturally keeps in moisture.”

Avoid irritating products.

TORWAISTUDIO/ShutterstockProducts with fragrance are problematic for people with sensitive skin.

While a product may smell delicious, intense fragrances can end up exacerbating eczema, said Marisa Garshick, a dermatologist in New York. “Typically I recommend avoiding products that contain any fragrance as many people with eczema have sensitive skin,” she told INSIDER.

That goes beyond just creams and body washes, Kelly Conner, a dermatologist in Texas, told INSIDER. She recommended that people with eczema steer clear of scented bubble bath, dryer sheets, fabric softeners, and harsh laundry detergents.

But there are also a bunch of other potentially irritating ingredients that you should be on the lookout for as well, she added. “Watch out for hidden ingredients like fragrance, parfum, lavender, geraniol, citrus, parabens, formaldehydes, plant/flower/fruit/nut oils, lanolin, cocamidopropyl, and betaine,” she added.

All of these can irritate your skin and cause a reaction.

Cut down on shower and bath time.

iStockHot and long showers and baths can dry out skin.

One of the easier remedies for eczema is to change your showering or bathing habits, said Sarika Snell, a dermatologist in Washington, DC. Unfortunately for those who love to take extra-long showers or baths, spending a lot of time in the water can dry your skin out.

Using hot water can also deplete your skin of moisture and only make matters worse, Snell told INSIDER. “Showers should be limited to once per day, less than 10 minutes with lukewarm water,” she said. “This will keep the skin from drying out.”

Eat antioxidant-rich foods.

Steffen Zahn/FlickrPutting food in your body can help your skin.

Beyond what you put on your body, what you put in your body can help with eczema. Turns out, foods you eat can aid in improving atopic dermatitis, said Mariana Atanasovski, a dermatologist in Michigan.

“If you are looking for dietary changes that can help with eczema, make sure you eat your greens,” she told INSIDER. “Broccoli, kale, cabbage and brussels sprouts are great antioxidants and they also reduce inflammation.”

Invest in a humidifier.

Yury Stroykin / ShutterstockHumidifiers can help a lot with your skin.

If you’re dealing with eczema, putting a humidifier in your room can do wonders for your skin, said Lauren Levy, a dermatologist in New York. “Adding a humidifier at night may also help, as heat and lack of moisturizer contributes to dry skin,” she told INSIDER. This may be especially helpful in the winter months when the air outside tends to be dryer and the air inside is heated.

Avoid “natural” remedies.

BSIP/Getty ImagesEssential oils can lead to more breakouts.

It may be tempting to go “au naturale” when it comes to treating eczema, but that route may do more harm than good, said Brenda Dintiman, a dermatologist in Washington, DC. “Remember natural is not always better,” she told INSIDER. “I see allergies to lavender, chamomile, tea tree oil and birch tree extracts.

“Now with the latest craze to use herbal oils, we are seeing children with a flare of their eczema when their parents put spearmint, eucalyptus, and other oils on for sleeping or studying purposes.”

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