Eczema self-care – what you can do to get relief

2nd December, 2022 • 8 min read

Itching, scratching, rashes, bleeding – eczema can cause a range of difficult symptoms, but there are ways to manage the condition and carry on living your life to the full.

Eczema brings with it many troubling symptoms. For some of you, the itchy, dry, sore skin can become debilitating and affect how you go about your daily life.

The good news: there are many tried and tested self-care tips and treatments that can help you manage the worst of the symptoms.

There are also effective ways to avoid triggers and prevent an eczema flare-up in the first place.

What causes eczema flare-ups

It's best to avoid triggers that you notice might be causing an eczema flare up:

  • wear looser comfortable clothes – made from silk and cotton rather than irritating fabric such as wool. If you notice that certain materials are triggering a flare up, avoid wearing them
  • wear non-powdered, non-rubber gloves – such as cotton gloves to protect your hands and avoid irritants, especially when you’re doing housework, or if you do a job like hairdressing and you’re exposed to chemicals
  • try using soap substitutes if your skin is getting very dry and moisturize after you wash. Avoid any skincare products irritating your skin including soaps and body washes
  • pay attention to your washing powders and fabric conditioners – these can sometimes be the cause of your eczema
  • is heat triggering your symptoms? If the answer is yes, try to keep your house cool
  • don’t waste time trying to get rid of dust mites – there's no clear evidence that trying to eliminate house dust mites works and it’s very hard to achieve, so it’s best to focus on other treatments if you think you have dust mite eczema

Eczema and diet

Your diet could also play an important role, especially if you notice certain foods causing or triggering your eczema.

  • some foods such as eggs and cow's milk are more common triggers, but it's not healthy to make big shifts in your diet without speaking to a doctor
  • eating a balanced diet as part of your lifestyle is very important to make sure you’re getting all the nutrition you need
  • if you feel like you might need big changes in your diet, or you’re thinking about cutting out food groups, speak to your doctor first, as they might refer you to an allergy specialist, dermatologist, or a dietician who can help guide you

Treatments for an eczema flare-up you can try at home


*Infographic created by the
National Eczema Association
.

  • bandaging and wet wraps – during a bad flare these can help moisturizer or medication soak into your skin better. They can help stop scratching and keep your skin hydrated. Read about
    how to use wet wraps at home
    . Doctors may also prescribe them for you, especially if you need medicated wraps or wraps on your face. You can read more about
    treatments from a doctor
    .
  • antihistamine tablets to help with the itching – in most cases people don't find this particularly useful, but it can be helpful to take a sedating antihistamine at night to help break the scratch-itch cycle, which often affects your sleep. Remember to use antihistamines only in the short-term as they’re not safe for a long period – use for a max of 14 days at a time and then speak to a doctor
  • moisturizers you can buy over the counter – find out more about moisturizers below
  • steroid creams available over the counter can help reduce inflammation – they’re usually weaker in strength than those prescribed by a doctor, but they can be helpful. They should be applied in a thin layer so your skin looks shiny. Read more about
    how to apply steroid creams
    . Remember, it’s better to see a doctor if you have a severe flare-up, or if the cream isn’t helping

Treatments you can try to stop eczema itching

The aim of these tips is to help reduce any skin damage. This is because constant itching can lead to more bleeding and a risk of infection or scarring.

To help reduce your itching symptoms:

  • keep your nails short
  • gently rub your skin if you feel very itchy
  • wear gloves at night if you noticed you're itching a lot

The best eczema cream

The best moisturizer or best lotion for eczema will depend on many factors. Dr. Ann Nainan of Healthily says: “It’s recommended to moisturize at least 2 to 3 times a day. You might prefer a thicker, greasier moisturizer at night while you’re sleeping, and a lighter moisturizer during the day. The general rule is the greasier the better but don’t choose one you won’t want to use. Build regular moisturizing into your skincare routine, to help prevent eczema flares. It can also help to reduce itchiness.”

How to apply eczema creams

  • there’s no clear answer on which order to apply your steroid and your moisturizer, but remember to leave around 30 minutes between them. This is to stop the moisturizer from diluting the steroid and to avoid spreading the steroid to other non-inflamed parts of your body
  • make sure you wash your hands first so that you have less chance of infection when applying creams
  • it's best to use a spoon and avoid putting fingers into the creams. This can help avoid contamination, which would be a potential source of infection. You can use the spoon to put the cream on a piece of kitchen roll and then apply it to your skin
  • stick to moisturizers that are hypoallergenic, fragrance and dye-free, as they’re usually the safest and least irritating
  • apply the emollient in the direction of your hair to reduce the risk of a hair follicle infection called folliculitis

When to see a doctor

If self-care hasn't worked, your symptoms are getting worse or they’re affecting your daily life, it's best to see a doctor.

There are lots of treatment options that will soothe your symptoms like strong steroids and specialist creams.

Find out everything you need to know about

eczema
.

Seek urgent medical help if your rash is:

  • spreading quickly
  • affecting a large proportion of your body
  • developing small blisters
  • very painful

You should also get medical help if you feel unwell or have a fever.

The

National Eczema Association
can also be a great place to get help and support.

Alternative treatments for eczema

Can Argan oil help my eczema?

Argan oil has traditionally been used for cooking, but it’s thought that using it daily could improve skin hydration and keep your skin barrier healthy. We don’t know specifically about its effects on atopic eczema, or whether it could irritate the skin, so if you want to try argan oil, make sure you test it on a small patch of skin first.

Can coconut oil help my eczema?

When compared with other natural remedies and oils for eczema, coconut oil has the most evidence going for it. While there’s still a lot of research to be done, some suggests it could help with eczema.

In one of these studies, 117 children with eczema found that virgin coconut oil moderately improved symptoms in just under half of the children using it. Another study looked at babies with eczema and found that applying virgin coconut oil for 8 weeks improved skin hydration.

Every person with eczema is unique and not everyone responds well to the same treatment. If you want to try it, make sure you choose a virgin product with no added scent or chemicals, and be aware that some people can have an allergic reaction.

Can calamine lotion help treat eczema?

Calamine lotion is best known for being used to help with minor skin itching, for example, irritation caused by mosquito bites. So it could help soothe very itchy eczema, but calamine can also be drying, which can make eczema worse. For this reason, avoid using it on your skin for more than a few days.

Can Chinese herbal treatments help my eczema?

Some people prefer to try complementary therapies, such as herbal medication and treatment. There’s little evidence this works and it's better to speak to a doctor first before you try any new treatments.

Some patients have tried Chinese herbal treatment before, but it can have potentially serious side effects, such as liver inflammation, so it's best to avoid it.

Important: Our website provides useful information but is not a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor when making decisions about your health.