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There’s no shortage of treatments for easing skin dryness and discomfort caused by eczema. But what if you’d rather keep your symptoms in check using natural options as opposed to, say, prescription creams or drugs?
Always here to help, we rounded up 13 promising at-home treatments to reduce flare-ups and soothe your eczema symptoms.
Eczema is a common skin condition that occurs when the skin’s protective barrier is weaker than it should be.
Without a strong barrier, it’s easier for moisture to escape the skin and for bacteria and viruses to make their way in. That can lead to dry patches that are red and itchy, especially on the face, hands, feet, inside the elbows, and behind the knees.
The causes of eczema aren’t fully understood, but it’s thought that people with eczema have overactive immune systems that cause their skin to become inflamed, irritated, and uncomfortable.
Ready for relief? The below treatments aren’t a perfect substitute for an Rx, but they do have a combo of promising science and stellar reviews from folks living with eczema.
1. Use a gentle body wash
Rule No. 1 of basic eczema maintenance and flare-up management: You need to use the right cleanser. A mild, soap-free option is less likely to strip your skin of its natural barrier and cause dryness. Opt for one that’s free of dyes and perfumes too, both of which can trigger irritation.
2. Get serious about moisturizing
Hydrating regularly with a heavy-duty ointment or cream achieves two important things. First, it eases (or prevents) dryness that can lead to itching. Second, it acts as a barrier to block out potential irritants that can make you more uncomfortable or up the risk for infection.
Reach for a dense moisturizer or petroleum jelly, and again, steer clear of anything containing dyes or perfumes. Slather the stuff on within a minute or two after bathing and reapply as often as you feel like you need it.
For serious rejuvenation for hands and feet, apply before bedtime and slip on some cotton socks or gloves. Get a solid 7–8 hours and wake up to refreshed skin.
3. Turn. Down. The. Heat.
A steamy shower or bath might seem soothing, but for eczema, it’s anything but. Too-hot water temps can irritate your skin, so instead of cranking the heat, keep the faucet set to cool or warm.
When you’re done, gently pat skin with a towel instead of rubbing to prevent irritation. And of course, follow up with plenty of moisturizers.
4. Resist the urge to scratch
Scratching takes dry, irritated skin from bad to worse. If mentally willing the itch away doesn’t work, try an over-the-counter (OTC) anti-itch spray like TriCalm Extra Strength Spray. It’s recommended by the National Eczema Association and doesn’t require touching (and therefore aggravating) your itchy skin.
Another idea? Don a pair of cotton gloves at night so you don’t accidentally scratch yourself while you’re snoozing. Sounds weird, but it works.
5. Keep your cool
Heat and sweat are serious itch inducers, so try to regulate your body temp. Wear loose, breathable clothing when the weather’s hot or humid. Breezy cotton is your friend! And in the winter? Dress in easy-to-remove layers so you don’t get too warm or stuffy.
6. Try wet wraps
Wet wrapping can help rehydrate skin during a flare-up when it’s particularly parched. After bathing and moisturizing, wrap warm, slightly damp cloths or gauze around the affected skin, followed by a layer of dry clothing, like a long-sleeved shirt or sweatpants.
Leave the wraps on for several hours or overnight to encourage your skin to absorb as much of the moisture as possible.
7. Take a bleach bath
Bleach baths might sound like the last thing sensitive, eczema-prone skin needs. But if you think your eczema may also be worsened by a bacterial infection, it could help. A small amount of bleach helps kill bacteria on the skin that can lead to itching, irritation, and infection.
The key is getting the amount right: Mix 1/4 to 1/2 cup of bleach in a full bathtub of warm water. “Full” means your tub is filled to the overflow drainage hole. Soak for 10 minutes, then rinse your skin with plain warm water before gently patting it dry. Don’t take a bleach bath every day. 2 to 3 times per week is plenty.
8. Take a colloidal oatmeal bath
Colloidal oatmeal contains natural emollients that calm red, inflamed skin and ease uncomfortable irritation. It’s available as a finely ground powder that’s easy to sprinkle into a warm bath.
To reap the most benefits, soak for 10–15 minutes, then gently pat your skin dry with a towel and apply your favorite heavy-duty moisturizer.
9. Drizzle on some ACV
The research on using apple cider vinegar for eczema is pretty limited, but some experts theorize that adding 2 cups of apple cider vinegar to a lukewarm bath could help ease your discomfort.
The thinking? Eczema occurs when the skin’s acidic barrier doesn’t function the way it’s supposed to, which can make it prone to dryness and irritation.
Because ACV is mildly acidic, adding it to a bath could temporarily help restore healthier acid levels in skin. Still, since there’s not much science behind ACV as an eczema remedy, it’s worth getting the green light from your healthcare provider before giving it a try.
10. Wear skin-friendly clothes
Soft materials like cotton, linen, or Tencel feel gentle against sensitive skin. Avoid anything rough or scratchy, like wool. If you like wool for warmth in the winter, protect your skin with a base layer like a long-sleeved cotton shirt.
Opt for loose cuts, too, over anything that’s tight or restricting. Annoying pinching or tugging can become straight up unbearable when your skin is already itchy or in pain.
11. Use a humidifier
Dry indoor air can make skin even more parched, especially in the winter. But a humidifier can add moisture to the air and help you feel more comfortable. Keep one in any room where you spend a lot of time, like your bedroom, office, or living room.
12. Slather on some coconut oil
Not only does the thick, highly-absorbent oil offer up some serious hydration, but the lauric acid in coconut oil also boasts antimicrobial properties to help keep bacteria, fungi, and viruses from penetrating your skin and causing an infection.
Opt for virgin or cold-pressed coconut oils, which are extracted without chemicals that could potentially irritate your skin.
13. Get real about relaxation
Unchecked tension causes your body to produce too much of the stress hormone cortisol, which can suppress your immune system and cause your skin to become inflamed.
Prioritizing stress management can help make you more comfortable. One study of eczema-prone subjects found that regular meditation helped reduce inflammatory markers as well as chronic itching.
First, the bad news: There’s no surefire way to prevent eczema completely. The good? If you have eczema, there are lots of effective ways to manage your symptoms and keep flare-ups at bay. The key is finding a skin care routine that works for you — and sticking to it. That might include things like:
- Moisturizing regularly. Massage a thick ointment or cream into your skin at least twice a day to lock in moisture and protect your skin’s delicate barrier.
- Steering clear of harsh personal care products. Use mild, soap-free cleansers that are free of dyes or perfumes. If a product seems to irritate your skin, toss it.
- IDing your triggers. Do your symptoms tend to flare up when you wear certain fabrics, when you get sweaty, or if you eat certain foods? Pay attention to what seems to make you uncomfortable and take steps to avoid it as much as possible.
- Bathing better. Keep your showers or baths to less than 15 minutes, and use warm water instead of hot. Pat your skin dry with a towel instead of rubbing it, and moisturize as soon as you can after.
Even if you’re proactive about caring for your skin, it’s normal to experience periods of dryness or mild discomfort with eczema. But if things seem worse than usual, you should see your heathcare provider if:
- Your itching or discomfort is so bad it interrupts your daily activities or sleep.
- You develop new symptoms related to your eczema.
- You notice you’re getting flare-ups more often.
- Your eczema seems to be getting worse or spreading to new parts of your body.
- You have a dry patch that seems like it might be infected.