If there’s one skin condition that I’m most familiar with, it’s eczema, an inflammatory rash that results in redness, flaking, severe itching and, at times, unbearable discomfort. For me personally, these outbreaks typically occur on my hands and wrists, but they can also pop up on the ditch of my arms, upper lip and the backs of my knees.
Throughout the years I’ve sought professional treatment, changed my diet, tried a countless number of products and nearly every other tactic in the book of eczema relief and I think I can confidently say that I’ve finally nailed down a routine that works best for me, and possibly for others in my situation (though you should always consult your own doctor).
While I have managed my symptoms using topical steroid creams prescribed to me by my dermatologist, I’m constantly cautioned to use them sparingly or only in situations of severe flare-ups due to the potential for steroid withdrawal in cases of long-term use. Because of this, I’ve relied heavily on over-the-counter products and treatments that I’ve gathered in the list ahead, along with the tips I have for using them.
Keep in mind that while my experience with eczema certainly doesn’t render me a medical professional and my advice shouldn’t be taken as such, I do know what it’s like to deal with this occasionally debilitating issue. You may find relief in products like a pair of gel-lined gloves, a homeopathic cleansing bar and a daily hand cream that I consider my holy grail.
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A healing hand cream
True to its brand name, this hand lotion is actually like gold to me. I have countless tubes of it lying around the apartment, in the car and in my purse because it does such an incredible job of instantly calming eczema-related irritation and extreme dryness. Unlike other severe-dryness-formula hand creams that feel like a sensory nightmare on my skin, Gold Bond's healing hand cream soaks perfectly into the skin without leaving behind any kind of greasy finish. And like the claim on the tube, it genuinely does last through hand-washing and acts as a kind of undetectable moisture seal. It's enriched with seven intensive moisturizers, three vitamins essential to skin barrier health and aloe, a welcome ingredient for soothing inflammation.
A quick-relief colloidal oatmeal treatment
Earlier this year I had the opportunity to try Murad's recent line
of eczema-targeted products, and this was one standout product from the collection that I continued to buy after my original tube was empty. According to Murad, this fast-acting treatment features a formulation that was inspired by steroid creams. It boasts a high concentration of 5% colloidal oatmeal to ward off irritation and extend the time between flare-ups.
For the greatest effectiveness, I like to use this the second I start to feel the familiar beginnings of an itch or irritation, which means I can prevent a rash from reaching its full potential. I found the texture to be comforting, cooling and not sticky like topical steroid creams that just sit on the skin. Because it sinks in so well, I had no problem layering this underneath other products like hand creams, Aquaphor or even makeup, something that I wouldn't normally be able to do without experiencing pilling or separation.
A soothing hypochlorous acid skin spray
While it's true that Tower 28's SOS Daily Rescue Spray is marketed as a facial product, I've found it incredibly helpful for dramatically calming the skin on my hands, arms and other areas that become affected by eczema outbreaks. In fact, the first time I spritzed this on my skin, I was immediately asking myself what kind of redness-reducing magic did it contain? Well, it turns out it's an ingredient that, up until that point, I'd never heard of called hypochlorous acid, an acid naturally produced by our body's immune system that can instantly soothe stressed-out skin.
This pH-balancing mist is reportedly great for acne and rosacea, too, and can even help support the skin's natural barrier, something that becomes severely compromised during an eczema outbreak. I use this every morning and night between my skin care products to help trap in moisture and optimize absorption, as well as use regularly on my hands whenever I feel a flare-up coming along and before applying a steroid cream or Murad's colloidal oatmeal treatment.
A healing ointment
When I was first prescribed topical steroids for eczema many years ago, my dermatologist suggested I always follow up with a layer of an occlusive product such as Vaseline or Aquaphor. Much like the "slugging"
trend that Vaseline and similar formulas have become synonymous with, my dermatologist explained that doing this would help prevent moisture loss and help seal in the active ingredients underneath.
To this day, I still follow this technique whether I'm using a steroid product or Murad's colloidal oatmeal treatment, because I've found it can really help to maximize the impact of the product that I'm using. This is especially beneficial when trying to limit my use of a steroid. I prefer using Aquaphor, a petroleum-based product that also contains glycerin, provitamin B and lanolin for added hydration and nourishment.
A pair of moisturizing gel-lined gloves
One of the most essential products in my eczema-relief kit is a pair of gel-lined washable gloves like these, which are also infused with nourishing ingredients like jojoba seed oil, olive oil and vitamin E. I used them nearly every night to help seal in moisture and products while also preventing any Aquaphor or hand creams from getting on my sheets. I also prefer gel-lined gloves over most standard cotton versions because they don't snag on cracked or flaking skin, they won't absorb product and I feel like they do a better job of keeping my skin hydrated.
A shea butter-based African black soap
Finding the right soap for my hands or body that won't trigger or exacerbate irritation has been a notorious uphill battle, but about five years ago, I stumbled upon this bar of soap at my local pharmacy and it's been a bathroom staple of mine ever since.
This cleansing bar has a base of shea butter, a welcome ingredient for eczema-related skin care because it not only deeply moisturizes, but it also soothes and offers anti-inflammatory benefits. The formula also contains calming aloe and oat, along with hydrocotyle asiatica, a homeopathic ingredient that can help relieve itching, flaking and rash-like skin.
An anti-scaling coal tar treatment
Arguably one of the strangest products I've tried in the name of eczema relief, MG217 is a thick Vaseline-like ointment that features an extra-strength formulation of 2% coal tar. Apparently topical coal tar
is one of the oldest remedies for atopic dermatitis (another term for eczema) and other inflammatory skin conditions such as psoriasis due to its ability to reduce scaling, flaking, redness and irritation of the skin, while also imparting some antibacterial benefits. This medicated formula is additionally fortified with vitamins A, D and E, all of which can also help to improve skin's compromised skin barrier and reduce flakiness.
I typically use MG217 once a month or whenever my eczema becomes more severe, and only at night. I use it completely on its own and not in conjunction with any other products and after applying a liberal layer, I always pop on either my gel-lined gloves or just a pair of reusable cotton gloves
since this product does stain sheets and clothing. Warning: This product smells exactly like the inside of an auto repair shop. However, I do notice a fairly significant reduction in irritation and flaking after I use it, so it makes it all worth it, in my opinion.
A sensitive skin-friendly laundry detergent
Very early on in my eczema "career" I learned that the kind of laundry detergent I use does matter when it comes to potential skin irritation. Ultra-fragranced and heavily dyed formulas have always made my itching and redness worse, or in some cases, have even been to blame for instigating a flare-up.
A couple of years ago, I started using this Arm & Hammer dye-free liquid laundry soap based on the recommendation
of board-certified dermatologist Dr.Julie Russak
. This sensitive skin-friendly formula is hypoallergenic, free from any potential skin irritants and is compatible with all washing machines and temperatures.