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5 Top Eczema Treatments for Dry, Itchy Skin

5 Top Eczema Treatments for Dry, Itchy Skin

You don't have to live with the dry, itchy skin that eczema causes; there are over-the-counter creams that can help. Here's how to get relief.
Eczema treatments on the hands, dry, itchy skin, psoriasis

When my 17-year-old daughter goes swimming in a pool with chlorine, we can count on a bad rash hours later. When she uses traditional sunscreen, we know she’ll be itching later that night. Sure, it helps if she rinses off right after her swim or goes with specialized sun protection. But these are triggers and side effects of eczema she’s dealt with since she was an infant, and it’s miserable.

We hoped she’d outgrow it, but it hasn’t happened yet, and now, in my 50s, there are days when my skin is hit with something similar. This is called atopic eczema, and take it from me; it’s no fun. More than 30 million Americans are dealing with some form of eczema, which essentially means itchy, red, and scaly skin. Your outer skin layer ends up with tiny cracks, which leads to inflammation. It’s most common in knee and elbow joints but can happen anywhere.

One in ten people will suffer from eczema at some point in life, and it can pop up at any age. And bonus (sarcastically, she types), if you get it as an adult, it can be really challenging to treat. So, we’re here to help. 

How do you know it’s eczema?

Eczema treatments on the elbow, dry, itchy skin, psoriasis

When you experience these skin problems as an adult and haven’t had issues in the past, it’ll be important to confirm what you’re dealing with is actually eczema, and not another issue, like an allergy or bad reaction to a new medication.

Once confirmed, note that as we age, our skin changes, and we can sometimes end up with something called asteatotic eczema, which leads to dry skin that has a harder time holding moisture or repairing itself after a scrape or cut. So, if you have red, flaky skin, and it ends up being eczema, understand it can’t really be cured but CAN be treated.

How do you treat it?

doctor looking at eczema, rash, itchy skin

The treatment options for adults are typically the same as those for children. How you handle it really will depend on the severity. If your case is making you miserable, and keeping you from sleeping, which was what my daughter experienced, see your doctor for a prescription for a high dose of topical corticosteroid. That was the ONLY thing that worked for her. That said, it can have side effects that leave lasting impacts and could cause thinning of the skin, especially on the face and skin folds, so be cautious about how much you use. There are also pills and injectables if your case is severe enough.

Before you go to the most severe meds, it’s wise to try a few other options first. Over-the-counter creams may help get your skin back in shape. Moisturizing is important for all ages and supports the skin barrier, which helps with flare-up prevention. The moisturizers should contain three things: humectants that hydrate, emollients to support the skin, and occlusives to lock in the moisture. And you should moisturize every day, several times a day. You can consider topical corticosteroids to reduce swelling and redness when you have a flare-up, and there are over-the-counter options to try before going the prescription route. 

If itching is intense, you may also need to take an antihistamine. Really severe cases can be eased with bandages to prevent scratching. 

And you should look at your environment to see what might trigger eczema. It may not be chlorine or sunscreen in your case. It could be something in the air in your home, so it’s important to note when the cases happen and see what they have in common. Sometimes, there are fabrics that irritate your skin, or soaps or detergents can do it. Other times, it’s heat, so it’ll be important to keep your home cool and even take shorter showers if you like your water hot (I mean, who doesn’t?).

Also, consider dietary triggers. In some cases, things like eggs and cows’ milk might start an eczema flare-up. A dietitian might help if this is the case. 

Even jewelry can cause issues.

Once you’ve ruled all that out and are looking to keep things on track, note that using the right moisturizer will help.

So which moisturizers should you try?

Cream, skincare, lotion

We already mentioned you should look for moisturizers with emollients, but they’re not just good for moisturizing. They can also have a mild anti-inflammatory impact. You may even need to try different kinds of emollients for different parts of your body. Ointments are typically the most effective, but because they contain the most oil, they are often the greasiest. Lotions aren’t as greasy but may be less effective. Creams fall in the middle ground. It’s smart to use the emollient all the time, even when you’re not having symptoms, in order to keep flare-ups at bay.

Finding options with humectants will help add moisture to your skin. Think glycerin, lactic acid, and hyaluronic acid. Emollient options include glycol and glyceryl stearate, among others. And common occlusives are petrolatum, dimethicone, shea butter, and mineral oil.

To make it easier, look for the NEA (National Eczema Association) Seal of Approval on products you’re considering. That makes it simple to find something that won’t aggravate sensitive skin. These are our favorite five options.

CeraVe Moisturizing Cream 

This brand’s moisturizing cream has three essential ceramides to help restore the skin’s barrier.  

First Aid Beauty’s Ultra Repair Cream

This moisturizer is composed of colloidal oatmeal. It’ll leave you soothed and moisturized with its fact-acting formula.

Eucerin Eczema Relief Cream

This is one of the most affordable over-the-counter options. It also has colloidal oatmeal to help ease the redness and swelling and is known for its fast-acting relief.

Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream

This has niacinamide and is hypoallergenic. It’s popular for many with dry skin and even better for those with eczema.

Avene XeraCalm A.D. Lipid-Replenishing Balm

This option helps rebalance the skin’s microbiome, which treats eczema and seals in moisture for up to 48 hours and also calms the irritation to the skin. 

These are all readily available and considered reliable options for milder cases, but if your eczema intensifies, consult your doctor for a prescription to help. Just remember, there’s no need to suffer when you don’t have to.

Read Next:

Slugging it Out Over Dry Skin Care

Top-Rated Shower Oils To Beat Dry Fall & Winter Skin

A Skincare Regimen That Beats Dry Winter Skin

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