Updated: Apr 6
Home remedies and natural treatments can soothe the dry, itching skin that comes with eczema.
People can use creams, natural products, and dietary and lifestyle changes to manage or prevent eczema flares, especially in the winter, when symptoms tend to be at their worst.
Natural substances, such as aloe vera gel and coconut oil, can moisturise dry, broken skin. They can also combat inflammation and harmful bacteria to reduce swelling and prevent infection.
Natural remedies cannot cure eczema, but they can help manage the symptoms and prevent flares. I've researched some of the best natural remedies for eczema.
1. Aloe Vera Gel
Aloe vera gel is derived from the leaves of the aloe plant. People have used aloe vera gel for centuries to treat a wide range of ailments. One common use is to soothe eczema.
A systematic review from 2015 looked at the effects of aloe vera on human health. The researchers reported that the gel has the following types of properties:
The antibacterial and antimicrobial effects can prevent skin infections, which are more likely to occur when a person has dry, cracked skin. Aloe's wound-healing properties may soothe broken skin and promote healing.
How to use it
People can buy aloe vera gel in health stores or online, or they can purchase an aloe vera plant and use the gel directly from its leaves.
Choose aloe gel products with few ingredients. Others can contain preservatives, alcohol, fragrances, and colours, all of which can irritate sensitive skin. Alcohol and other drying ingredients could make eczema worse.
Start with a small amount of gel to check for skin sensitivity. Sometimes aloe vera can cause burning or stinging. Generally, however, it is safe and effective for adults and children.
Bathing is an important part of eczema treatment. When a person has a skin condition such as eczema, their skin needs extra moisture because the outer layer is not functioning as it should.
For some, washing often can dry out the skin and make eczema worse.
This can occur when:
Using water that is too hot or cold
Using the wrong soap
Not moisturising afterward
Avoid bathing too frequently. Most babies and children need bathing once or twice a week.
National Eczema Society recommends that adults:
Bathe or shower at least once a day
Use lukewarm water
Limit bathing to 10–15 minutes
Avoid scrubbing the skin
Use gentle cleansers instead of soaps
Try different a medicinal baths, with baking soda
A long, hot shower can remove natural oils and moisture from the skin.
Take shorter showers and keep the water at a warm, not hot, temperature.
After bathing, moisturise within 3 minutes of getting out. Gently pat the skin dry with a towel and apply an oil-based moisturiser before the skin has fully dried. This can help seal in water from the shower or bath before it evaporates.
After washing and drying the hands, apply moisturiser to help prevent eczema flares on them.
3. Coconut oil
Coconut oil contains healthy fatty acids that can add moisture to the skin, which can help people with dry skin and eczema.
Also, virgin coconut oil may protect the skin by helping combat inflammation and by improving the health of the skin barrier.
A randomized clinical trial looked at the effects of applying virgin coconut oil to the skin in children. The results show that using the oil for 8 weeks improved the symptoms of eczema better than mineral oil.
How to use it
Apply cold-pressed virgin coconut oil directly to the skin after bathing and up to several times a day. Use it before bed to keep the skin moisturised overnight.
Extra-virgin coconut oil is generally solid at room temperature, but the warmth of a person's body turns it to liquid. The oil is sold in health stores and online.
People who are allergic to coconuts should avoid coconut oil.
4. Tea tree oil
Manufacturers derive tea tree oil from the leaves of the Melaleuca alternifolia tree. People often use this oil to help with skin problems, including eczema.
A 2013 review identifies anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and wound-healing properties in the oil. It may help relieve skin dryness and itching and help prevent infections.
How to use it
Always dilute essential oils before using them on the skin. Try mixing tea tree oil with a carrier oil, such as grapeseed or olive oil, then applying the solution. Some products include tea tree oil in a diluted form.
People can find the oil in health stores or online.
5. Dietary changes
Eczema is an inflammatory condition, which means that it causes inflamed, red, sore skin.
Certain foods can cause or reduce inflammation in the body, and making a few key dietary changes could help diminish eczema flares.
Examples of anti-inflammatory foods include:
Sea plantation i.e. dulse, wakame & nori
Ginger and cinnamon
Common inflammatory foods include dairy, eggs, soy, and wheat. Try eliminating some of these from the diet and keep a food diary to help identify which foods may be problematic.
6. Gentle Soaps and Detergents
Many body washes and cleansers contain detergents, which help provide a soapy lather. Detergents and other lathering agents can dry out the skin, especially in people with eczema. (See video on Sodium Lauryl Sulphate).
Bar soaps can also be harsh on the skin because of their alkalinity.
Try using a gentle, no-lather, fragrance-free cleanser. Avoid products with rough particles for scrubbing or exfoliating, as these can further irritate the skin. You may want to consider African Black Soap, a rising star on treating eczema-prone skin.
Many people with eczema also find that switching to a more gentle, fragrance or colour-free laundry detergent can help improve symptoms. Soap nuts are wholly natural and fragrance-free and can be found online.
Try skipping fabric softener, which lingers on clothes and often contains fragrances and chemicals that can cause skin irritation.
7. Avoid strong heat sources
Sitting next to a fireplace, radiator or near a heater of some kind may feel good, but it can make eczema symptoms worse. The hot, dry air can dehydrate the skin and aggravate the itchiness of eczema.
Use a humidifier during the dry winter months and avoid getting too close to heaters and fireplaces.
8. Wrap up in cold weather
Cold, harsh winter winds can dry out skin and cause eczema flares.
Keep the skin covered when temperatures are low. Also, consider covering the face with a scarf if eczema occurs on the face.
A natural skincare approach works well for many but if you feel you've tried everything don’t give up hope yet! In addition to medications, there are many options you can try at home to help with your symptoms.
The eight natural remedies listed above may help replenish moisture and protect your skin’s natural barrier.
If you’re taking prescription medications for your eczema, it’s a good idea to check with your doctor before trying new home remedies.
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