How To Care for Eczema Prone Skin

By Dr. Hadley King

Eczema is an itchy inflammation of the skin that can lead to a skin rash, itching or dry, scaly skin. To combat dry and eczema-prone skin, it is important to add as much moisture to our skin as possible. This means using a humidifier, limiting time in baths or showers, using gentle cleansers and moisturizing, moisturizing, moisturizing.

Firstly, moisturizers ideally contain three components: humectants, emollients and occlusives. It’s best to look for products that contain all three.

  • Humectants, like hyaluronic acid and glycerin, pull moisture into the epidermis. They should be used along with the other components like emollients and occlusives, in order to retain the water content.

  • Emollients are substances that soften and moisturize the skin and decrease itching and flaking and are often used in combination with emulsifiers. Examples of those include cholesterol, squalene, fatty acids, fatty alcohols and ceramides.

  • Occlusives are moisturizing agents that work by forming a protective layer on the surface of your skin and create a barrier to prevent moisture loss. Examples of those include petrolatum, beeswax, mineral oil, silicones, lanolin and zinc oxide.

Secondly, don’t spend too much time in hot baths or showers because, while you may not think it, that will actually dry out your skin. Take brief lukewarm showers no more than once per day and use gentle soap substitutes such as Dove beauty bar. Harsher soaps and detergents can strip moisture from the skin.

And immediately after the shower, even before your skin is dry, apply emollients to lock in the moisture. You may need heavier emollients and occlusives in the winter like Vaseline Original Healing Jelly than you do during the warmer months, and you may need to apply more. You should use enough to leave the skin feeling well hydrated. If the skin seems to quickly absorb what you have applied and feels dry, then you need to either apply more or switch to a more moisturizing product.

Lastly, a humidifier in the bedroom at night, or in other rooms where you are spending a lot of time, can also be helpful. By increasing the humidity of the air, you will lose less moisture from your skin.

I also recommend avoiding any potentially drying or irritating ingredients like alcohol, clay, hydroxy acids and retinoids/retinols.

Proper formulations and usage of ingredients like hydroxy acids and retinols can still be helpful, depending on your skin, but you may need to decrease the strength, amount or frequency, and combine with more moisturizers.

If these measures aren’t sufficient, then it’s reasonable to see a dermatologist for next steps. Prescription creams or ointments such as corticosteroids may be necessary to treat the dry skin. Please visit HERE to find a dermatologist near you.