Those living with eczema know it can range from being an occasional inconvenience to a constant nuisance. While there are a handful of approaches for keeping the condition at bay, we reached out to dermatologist Dan Siegel to highlight natural remedies for eczema that are backed by science. First, he explained exactly what eczema is and how to spot it, then he outlined the various ways you can take a natural approach to treating it.
"Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is an allergic disorder that has both genetic and environmental factors that can flare or worsen it," explains Siegel. "It often runs in families where [there] is a history of 'atopic' diseases such as asthma and hay fever along with rash."
He describes that those with eczema will likely react more vigorously than the average person would to allergens in the environment. If you suspect you might have eczema, one way to tell is if you have itches that turn into rashes. As Siegel explains, "Instead of a simple scratch eliminating the itch, the scratch sets a cycle that results in a feedback loop that worsens over time." He warns that if you have a family history of eczema, hay fever, or asthma and exhibit rashes, you likely have eczema. Here are Siegel's natural remedies for eczema.
Find plant-based relief. "Lots of plants have been used for eczema over the years," says Siegel, like "marigolds, witch hazel, chamomile, aloe, marshmallow, comfrey, yarrow, and many others." However, because their method of application (topical vs. ingested) can vary, "self-treating, unfortunately, has its own risks," he says. For example, Siegel notes that comfrey can be very toxic if consumed while some individuals are allergic to chamomile and yarrow.
In short, it's complicated, and consulting a dermatologist is highly recommended. "It is not simply taking a plant and swallowing it or rubbing it on," says Siegel. "Different parts of plants may have different uses." What you can do for a safe, plant-derived approach is seek out a product made of natural ingredients like Kamedis' Eczema Therapy Cream, which contains sustainably sourced plant extracts and natural anti-inflammatories.
Keep skin moisturized. "Avoid getting too 'dried out' and stay moisturized," advises Siegel. "Dry skin itches more and can flare eczema. On a microscopic level, dry skin cracks easily and allows water to escape and potential allergens to get in. An intact, flexible barrier is less prone to this."
Pay attention to your food allergies. "If you eat something—chocolate, citrus, and strawberries often come up in discussion with patients—that makes you itch and break out, avoid it," warns Siegel.
Switch to natural cleansers. Avoiding chemicals in your cleansers and detergents can help you avoid flare-ups on your skin, says Spiegel: "Mild cleansers are less disruptive to the skin barrier than strong soaps and detergents."
Shower smartly. "Hot showers and baths can both cause itches and strip the skin of natural moisturizers," warns Siegel. "Most people over-scrub—don't do that."
While the suggestions offered here are natural remedies, Siegel makes it clear that he doesn't warn against prescription approaches such as corticosteroids, biological calcineurin inhibitors, and other "unnatural" drugs as they can be lifesaving when needed. "In an ideal world, most people can use safer natural products to keep from getting the serious flares that may need a more aggressive, pharmacological approach," he notes. "Eczema can range from a nuisance problem to a life-threatening one, and treatment must be tempered by the severity of the disease." It is best to seek the attention of a medical professional should you have any concerns.