When you have eczema, it can be difficult to know what cream or lotion to buy — in the sea of creams and lotions on the market — that won't exacerbate your symptoms. For that reason, we consulted the experts to find the best eczema treatments that will not only keep your skin happy, but will actually help to soothe and help repair dry, itchy, irritated skin. But first, let's delve into what eczema actually is.
Eczema is a skin condition that causes itchy, dry, and inflamed skin. It can develop on many parts of the body, but is most commonly found on the inside of elbows, back of the knees, hands, and face. Eczema has various causes, but is typically due to "either a genetic predisposition (it often affects people with asthma and hay fever) and exposure to an allergen, or a reaction to an external allergen," says Dr Susan Mayou, consultant dermatologist at the Cadogan Clinic in London. "Irritant eczema is due to excess exposure to an irritant, such as soaps and cleaning products."
The skin condition is also incredibly common. "Eczema or atopic dermatitis (as it's otherwise known) is very common, affects 20-percent of children and 2-percent of adults worldwide," says Dr Catherine Borysiewicz, consultant dermatologist at the Cadogan Clinic. "Depending on the person, eczema can vary in appearance; if it is mild, the skin looks dry and flaky, and when it is severe, it can be extremely irritated, red, cracked and usually rough in texture," says Rishika Sinha, consultant dermatologist at the The Private Clinic of Harley Street in London.
When it comes to helping soothe and repair, "the best creams are the ones that lock in the moisture to repair and hydrate the skin," Sinha advises. "And you should avoid anything with perfume or a strong fragrance, as this can cause irritation." Additionally, thinner lotions can sometimes cause dryness due to their higher water content. It's for this reason that Dr Ismat Nasirrudin dermatologist at the Pulse Light Clinic recommends a heavier cream that contains ceramides high up on the ingredient list.
If you visit the GP with eczema concerns, they might prescribe you a steroid cream, and while these are effective, that should only be used during severe flare-ups. "Steroids work by having a suppressant effect on cells of the immune system found in the skin, which stops the itchy sensation and redness from continuing," says Dr Simran Deo, a GP and dermatologist specialist at UK-based online doctor Zava UK. When treating severe eczema, steroid creams should be used alongside moisturisers as they "protect the outermost layer of skin, which is important as a damaged skin barrier can leave deeper layers of the skin more vulnerable to irritants, allergens, and bacteria," Deo adds.
While eczema is a chronic condition, there are certain things you can do to help relieve the symptoms, one of the biggest (and easiest) is incorporating a good moisturiser into your daily routine. And so you don't have to faff around with reading ingredients labels and running from store to store, we asked top dermatologists to share the ones they recommend to their patients. Read on to see which eczema creams — many of which you'll find on your local high street — are the best to help soothe itchy, inflamed, and sore skin, according to dermatologists.