Eczema (or skin inflammation) affects roughly 28 million people in the United States. That includes 20% of children age 10 and under, in addition to the 1% to 3% of adults affected worldwide, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Medical treatments vary depending on severity (people with the worst cases should see a dermatologist, says Dendy Engleman, MD, "as scratching can create open sores and wounds that can worsen into bacterial infections") and natural remedies for eczema vary, but "the good news is there are many over-the-counter products that can provide relief," notes Engleman.
"There are so many causes and triggers of eczema, which can occur from your scalp to your toes," adds dermatologist Francesca Fusco, MD. "But the one common denominator of treatment is moisturizing. For the face, the ideal moisturizer hydrates but doesn't clog your pores or feel greasy."
Without a doubt, keeping a star moisturizer around is key for helping eczema. So, we reached out to a handful of dermatologists to find the best lotions for eczema—here's what they had to say.
"Moisturizers not only hydrate, but they seal in moisture," explains Fusco. "If you were to look at eczema under a microscope, you would see tiny breaks in the skin cracks, which is what doctors refer to as an impaired barrier. Moisturizers protect against moisture loss and protect the impaired barrier. For patients seeking organic options, Weleda has a number of products including Sweet Almond Oil. Alone or when spiked into moisturizer, it nourishes and hydrates skin."
"Eczema can get very frustrating in the winter months. The dry heat inside and the dry air outside cause the outer layers of the skin to lose water and become dehydrated," explains Lily Talakoub, MD. "In addition, washing with lathering soaps strips the natural oils of the top layer of the skin further increasing the dryness of the skin. Restoring the lost moisturize is essential to patients with eczema. Application of a thick, creamy moisturizer twice a day, such as iS Clinical Body Complex, delivers nutrients, ceramides, and essential oils. The iS Clinical Body Complex contains hyaluronic acid, which helps the skin retain moisture. Body Complex also delivers essential vitamins, calming botanicals, and powerful antioxidants."
"I also recommend Avène TriXera Emollient Cream, which is great for eczema because it has ceramides and essential fatty acids that are important to treat eczema," adds Talakoub.
"With atopic dermatitis (eczema), there is a loss of the normal barrier function of the skin," says Jeremy Brauer, MD. "This has several consequences, one being moisture loss as well as exposure to allergens. Moisturizers can aid in the repair of this barrier, prevents transepidermal water loss, and attracts water to the stratum corneum, which is the top layer of the skin. In particular and depending upon the state of one's skin, I recommend Environ Body Derma-Lac Lotion to exfoliate the skin."
"Moisturizers can be classified by their mechanism of action and ingredients and have various formulations including water-based gels, lotions, suspensions, and creams; oil-based ointments; or combination emulsions," Brauer continues. He recommends pairing the Environ lotion with the Environ Vitamin A, C & E Enhanced Body Oil to nourish the skin.
"I recommend prevention with good skincare," suggests Cindy Yoon Soo Bae, MD. "This includes using warm instead of hot water to shower and bathe, using gentle cleansers, and moisturizing afterward. A humidifier is also great to help with moisture. Avoiding triggers and irritants is a must—for example, use cotton instead of wool. I love plain Vaseline petroleum jelly for moisturizing as it has no added scents, fragrances, or ingredients that the skin may react to."
"Cetaphil has a great line of products under Restoraderm, which received the seal of acceptance from the National Eczema Association," says Dendy Engelman, MD. "Cetaphil Restoraderm Eczema Calming Body Moisturizer contains a blend of 15 moisturizers and skin-essential vitamins to provide soothing relief for dry, itchy, irritated skin.
"Its key Ingredients are filaggrin technology, which are natural moisturizing factors found in the epidermis. It also contains pyrrolidone carboxylic acid and arginine, which are amino acid derivatives that help restore skin hydration. The ceramide technology replenishes lipids necessary for a healthy skin barrier. Lastly, its allantoin and panthenol help soothe dry, itchy skin."
Also recommended by Cindy Yoon-Soo Bae, MD, CeraVe Moisturizing Cream is one of those all-in-one moisturizers that nips dryness in the bud. Packed with ceramides, humectants, and emollients, this creamy moisturizer locks in your skin's moisture for hours on end.
"First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream is a double hitter because it's a head-to-toe moisturizer that provides instant relief and long-term hydration for dry, distressed skin, even eczema," explains Fusco. "It contains colloidal oatmeal without having to sit in an oatmeal bath, a time-honored calmer of eczema."
Bae is also a fan of Vanicream Moisturizing Skin Cream. This is a gentle yet hardworking moisturizer that won't irritate the most sensitive skin, because it's paraben-, lanolin-, and fragrance-free. This has the stamp of approval from the National Eczema Association, so you know it's the real deal.