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Got eczema? You’re not alone! More than 30 million Americans deal with scratch attacks and leathery skin on their legs, lips, and even near their eyes.

You probably know prescription meds can help ease the irritation, but what about that old tub of petroleum jelly in granny’s medicine cabinet? Could you slather on Vaseline for eczema relief?

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Towfiqu Barbhuiya / EyeEm/Getty Images

First things first: Vaseline is a brand, not an ingredient. When we talk about Vaseline, we’re talking about the OG purveyor of petroleum jelly (sometimes called petrolatum). It’s the goopy, gel-like mixture of mineral oils and waxes that lock in moisture like none other.

Folks have used Vaseline to smooth over minor scrapes and burns for decades. It also works as a lip balm and face cream for crocodilian dry skin. TBH, it’s a go-to for practically every skin prob but zits (definitely a no-no for acne-prone skin!).

So, what makes Vaseline so great?

  • It’s simple. No fragrances, dyes, or other skin irritants.
  • It’s mega-hydrating. Vaseline puts that moisture on literal lockdown.
  • It promotes healing. So says the American Academy of Dermatologists!
  • It protects the skin barrier. More on this later, but it shields your skin from outside gunk.

In essence, Vaseline does *all* the eczema-soothing things. Experts say that slathering Vaseline on your eczema is an excellent way to care for your scaly, inflamed skin at home.

Eczema attacks come and go, so the *best* thing you can do is identify your triggers. Prevention really is the best medicine.

If you’re already in full-on scratch mode, Vaseline can help. Here’s the drill:

  1. Gently cleanse. Eczema is easily triggered by harsh soaps, antibacterial ointments, and cocamidopropyl betaine, which is a thickening agent in some shampoos and lotions. Set yourself up for success by washing up with an uber-gentle cleanser.
  2. Pat dry. Rubbing your eczema with a towel is no bueno. Pat off excess water and leave your skin slightly damp for optimum Vaseline application.
  3. Slather on cream. Common eczema protocols include an unscented moisturizer. Some folks also apply hydrocortisone cream, but overuse can thin your skin. Chat with your dermatologist for their personalized recommendations.
  4. Dab on the Vaseline. Petroleum jelly will cover and lock in the cream you just applied. Dab and smear gently to avoid irritating inflamed skin.
  5. Cover and wait (optional). If you’re heading to bed or chillaxing on the couch, cover the area to let the Vaseline work its magic. Slip some socks over that lower legzema or wear cotton gloves over your parched hands. The longer the product settles in, the better!

Your skin barrier is the outermost layer of skin, aka the epidermis. Like armor, it protects your body from allergens, irritants, and even germs.

Researchers have found that folks with eczema — atopic dermatitis in particular — have a “dysfunctional skin barrier.” Basically, your skin isn’t so great at keeping out the bad stuff, so it gets irritated and damaged more quickly. (Yeah… thanks, Captain Obvious.)

When you slather on Vaseline, you’re giving your skin an extra layer of protection from the outside world. It’s like armor for your armor. Not only does it keep eczema triggers out, but it also keeps moisture locked in. Kinda cool, right?

Even cooler? Your skin barrier uses something called antimicrobial peptides to fight against germs and outside damage. And research shows that petroleum jelly boosts your antimicrobial peptide levels.

Remember, Vaseline is just a brand. These are some other petroleum-based options:

Fun fact: Aquaphor contains petroleum jelly *and* glycerin, which research shows can improve eczema.

Of course, if you’re among the folks who live with eczema *and* acne, you might wanna try something without pore-clogging petroleum jelly. Just know that Aquaphor also contains lanolin, so avoid it if you’re sensitive to that ingredient.

Give these hydrating, petroleum-free alternatives a whirl:

Living with eczema can feel like a losing battle. As soon as you soothe one flare-up, another erupts. Our best advice? Go for a multi-pronged approach.

  • Try wet wraps. Wet wrapping = rehydrating your skin with damp clothes covered by a layer of dry clothing.
  • Wear gloves. Protect your skin from a late-night scratch sesh by wearing gloves to bed. Disposable gloves are also great for protecting eczema-prone hands while washing dishes or cleaning.
  • Ice, ice baby. Menthol and actual ice both help itchy skin chill out.
  • Use coconut oil. This natural moisturizer might also reduce harmful bacteria. Opt for virgin or cold-pressed oil to avoid irritating chemicals.
  • Smooth on sunflower oil. This oil can add moisture, boost your skin barrier function, and even fight inflammation.

Tried it all and still can’t tame the itch? Talk with your doctor or dermatologist about Rx options.

Vaseline isn’t a cure-all, but it can help soothe eczema-prone skin by relieving dryness, promoting healing, and adding a layer of protection to your skin barrier.

Vaseline is best applied in a thin layer on top of slightly damp skin. Reapply as needed, but remember to use an eczema wrap, bandage, or long-sleeved clothing to keep the petroleum jelly from rubbing off onto furniture.

If home remedies like Vaseline aren’t taming your eczema, talk with your doctor. Some folks find that a combination of medicine and topical treatment is necessary to stop the itch.