Science has yet to figure out the exact cause of eczema, a chronic skin condition, but those who experience it know there are variety of things that can set it off—causing red, inflamed, crusty or itchy patches. Children are especially prone; about 10-15 percent of babies will have eczema symptoms in their lifetime. Heat and stress can trigger flare-ups, as can food allergies, soaps, detergents, perfumes and even rough fabrics like wool. If you or your little ones suffer from eczema, try these practices to help ease symptoms.
- Cleanse with shea butter or neem oil.
Body washes or soaps can be very drying to sensitive skin; look for one with shea butter or neem oil that are rich in skin-saving fatty acids. Shea Moisture’s Raw Shea Chamomile and Argan Oil Baby Eczema Soap cleanses babies and adults with super hydrating shea butter and argan oil, as well as soothing chamomile. Theraneem’s Maximum Strength Neem Oil Cleansing Bar Soap combines neem, olive and coconut oils to calm and safely cleanse sensitive skin. And African Black Soap has been used for years to treat irritated skin and protect it from irritants.
- Moisturize naturally, without synthetic chemicals.
Keeping skin well hydrated locks in your skin’s own moisture in and can prevent dry patches from occurring. Moisturizing lotions or creams should be applied often during the day, but be sure they are free from potential irritants like fragrance, parabens or synthetic additives. For severely dry and inflamed skin, esthetician Renee Oleson in Portland says Avene’s Trixera+ Selectiose Emollient Cream is a customer favorite. Featuring mineral-rich thermal spring water and evening primrose oil, this soothing balm calms hyper-sensitive skin and has received a seal of acceptance by the National Eczema Association.
For a lightweight, yet deeply hydrating, moisturizer, Alaffia’s EveryDay Shea Butter Unscented Body Lotion combines unrefined shea butter with soothing lemongrass. And for kids, parents love Babo Botanicals’ Oatmilk & Calendula Moisturizing Baby Lotion, filled with gentle organic botanicals that calm and colloidal oatmeal that comforts dry skin, especially on the scalp.
- Ease the itch with herbs and minerals.
Topical ointments can help soothe the itch, and prevent infections in scratched skin. Herbal remedies with burdock root and barberry like Derma E’s Psorzema Creme are great for reducing inflammation. Water can soothe itchiness too, and Avene’s Thermal Spring Water Spray’s cooling mist is pH balanced and rich in trace elements and minerals. Or try a warm epsom salt bath—the magnesium in the salt helps reduce swelling (stick with just a teaspoon of salt in the water for babies, and be sure to moisturize afterwards). Hydrocortisone creams are a quick fix, but aren’t recommended for long-term use because they gradually thin the skin and make it more prone to infection.
- Add anti-inflammatory and immune-strengthing supplements to your diet.
Supplements like fish oil and probiotics can help, says Dr. Lee Dennis, a naturopathic doctor in Portland, by adding important nutrients that reduce inflammation and modulate the immune system to keep it healthy. Fish oils, like Pharmaca’s Omega-3 Clinical Strength Fish Oil, are rich in omega-3 fatty acids that researchers say can reduce leukotrienes, an inflammatory substance that plays a role in eczema. Probiotics are another good addition, as they can keep our immune system strong. Try Jarrow Formulas’ Jarro-Dophilus EPS Higher Potency capsules or Baby’s Jarro-Dophilus Powder, which deliver a blend of beneficial probiotic bacteria.