Emollients Create a Nourishing Barrier Against Eczema

Woman Scratching an itch . Sensitive Skin, Food allergy symptoms, Irritation

Key Points

  • Eczema is a common skin condition characterized by inflammation, redness, itching, and rashes or patches.

  • People with eczema can live happy, normal lives if they practice regular skincare and eczema treatment.

  • This article considers topical emollients and their role in eczema treatment.

Eczema, the most common form of atopic dermatitis, is a chronic skin condition affecting millions worldwide. Living with this chronic condition can be a daily struggle, with its persistent itch, redness, and discomfort. While there's no cure for eczema, managing its symptoms is critical to improving your quality of life.

This comprehensive guide discusses the role of emollients for people with eczema. It covers the various emollient types, their benefits, and tips for choosing the right ones for your skin type. Learn how to incorporate emollients into your daily skincare routine and explore product recommendations to help you on your journey to healthier, more comfortable skin.

What Are Emollients?

Emollients are moisturizing agents specifically designed to improve skin hydration and maintain its natural protective barrier. They're a fundamental component of eczema management because the skin of individuals with eczema tends to be dry, sensitive, and prone to cracks.

For those with eczema, emollients provide hydration, seal moisture into the skin, and prevent water loss, which is crucial for restoring and maintaining the skin's protective barrier. Emollients lessen and relieve eczema symptoms in several ways:


Eczema-prone skin often lacks the necessary moisture to stay healthy and supple. Emollients attract and retain water in the skin, preventing it from becoming excessively dry and itchy.

Barrier Repair

The skin's natural barrier is compromised in individuals with eczema, making it more susceptible to external irritants and allergens. Emollients work by reinforcing this barrier, making it stronger and more resilient.

Symptom Relief

Emollients provide immediate relief from itching and discomfort associated with eczema. By keeping the skin moisturized and soothing irritation, they help break the itch-scratch cycle.

Different Emollient Types

There are different types of emollients, each with unique characteristics and application methods, making it easy to find one that suits your skin's needs and preferences. Here are some common types of emollients.


Ointments: Ointments are thick and greasy, making them one of the most effective emollients for eczema. They contain a high oil concentration and create a strong moisture lock barrier. They're especially useful for very dry or cracked skin. Apply ointments liberally to affected areas.


Creams are lighter and less greasy than ointments, making them easier to spread. They provide excellent moisturization and are suitable for daily use on mildly dry or irritated skin. Creams are versatile and can be applied as often as needed.


Lotions are even lighter than creams and have a higher water content. They're suitable for less severe cases of eczema and are ideal for use in warm weather when heavy moisturizers may feel too greasy. Lotions should be applied generously and frequently.

Balms and Butters

These products are thick and often contain natural oils, shea butter, or cocoa butter. They're excellent choices for deeply moisturizing and soothing eczema-prone skin. Balms and butters are particularly effective for overnight treatments.

Benefits of Using Emollients With Other Topical Treatments

Emollients are standalone products for eczema care and complement other topical treatments and medications prescribed by healthcare professionals. When used in combination, they offer several benefits:

  • Enhanced Moisturization: Emollients enhance the moisturizing effect of topical treatments, helping them penetrate the skin more effectively.

  • Reduced Irritation: Some eczema treatments, such as corticosteroids, can irritate the skin. Emollients help minimize this side effect by providing a protective barrier.

  • Long-Term Maintenance: Emollients are essential for maintaining skin health even when eczema symptoms are under control. They continue to hydrate the skin and strengthen the protective barrier.

  • Symptom Relief: Emollients provide immediate relief from itching and discomfort, which is especially valuable during eczema flare-ups.

A man rubs an emollient into his skin.

Choosing the Right Emollient

Choosing the right emollient is crucial for effective eczema care. Your skin type, preferences, and specific needs will determine the most suitable product for you. Here are some tips for selecting the suitable emollient:

  • Skin Type: Determine if your skin is very dry, moderately dry, or mildly dry. This will help you choose between ointments, creams, lotions, or balms. 

  • Fragrance-Free: Fragrances can irritate sensitive skin. Opt for fragrance-free emollients to minimize the risk of skin reactions.

  • Hypoallergenic: Look for products labeled as hypoallergenic, as they're less likely to cause allergic reactions or further skin irritation.

  • Preservative-Free: Some individuals with eczema may be sensitive to preservatives. If you suspect this, choose emollients without added preservatives.

  • Patch Test: Before applying a new emollient to a larger area, perform a patch test on a small part of your skin to ensure you don't have any adverse reactions.

Incorporating Emollients Into Daily Skincare 

Emollients should become an integral part of your daily skincare routine when managing eczema. Use a mild, fragrance-free cleanser when washing your face and body. Avoid hot water, which can further dry out your skin. After washing, pat your skin dry gently with a soft towel. Avoid vigorous rubbing, which exacerbates irritation.

While your skin is still slightly damp, apply your chosen emollient generously; cover all affected areas. Depending on the severity of your eczema, you may need to reapply emollient throughout the day, especially after washing your hands or when your skin feels dry. Consider using a thicker emollient or balm as an overnight treatment to deeply hydrate your skin while you sleep.

Eczema Treatment Recommendations 

Now that you understand the importance of emollients in eczema care and how to choose the right one, here are some product recommendations to help you get started.

Baby Healing Ointment Advanced Therapy Skin Protectant
$18.37 ($1.31 / Ounce)

by Aquaphor 

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02/22/2024 11:57 pm GMT

Aquaphor Healing Ointment

Aquaphor Healing Ointment is a trusted skincare product often recommended for managing eczema. This ointment, formulated by Eucerin, is an effective moisturizer and skin protectant.

Aquaphor's unique blend of ingredients, including petrolatum, mineral oil, and panthenol, creates a barrier that locks in moisture and soothes dry, irritated skin. Its non-irritating, fragrance-free formula makes it suitable for sensitive skin. Apply it to eczema-prone areas to relieve itching, redness, and discomfort.

Healing Jelly For Dry Skin and Eczema Relief
$4.57 ($2.61 / Fl Oz)

by Vaseline 

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02/22/2024 11:32 pm GMT

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Vaseline Original Healing Jelly

Vaseline Original Healing Jelly is a versatile, well-known product; this petroleum-based ointment forms a protective barrier over the skin, helping lock in moisture and prevent hydration loss, which is crucial for eczema-prone skin.

Vaseline effectively soothes dryness, itching, and irritation associated with eczema, providing a simple and affordable option for eczema management. While it may not address the underlying causes of eczema, it can significantly improve skin comfort and hydration when applied regularly.

Moisturizing Cream | Body and Face Moisturizer
$16.02 ($0.84 / Ounce)

by CeraVe 

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02/22/2024 11:53 pm GMT

CeraVe Moisturizing Cream

CeraVe Moisturizing Cream is a widely recommended and dermatologist-developed skincare product for individuals with eczema. This cream is specially formulated with ceramides, hyaluronic acid, and essential lipids, making it an excellent choice for soothing and hydrating eczema-prone skin.

CeraVe Moisturizing Cream strengthens the skin's natural protective barrier, providing long-lasting moisturization while helping reduce dryness, itching, and redness associated with eczema. CeraVe's non-irritating, fragrance-free formula is suitable for sensitive skin and can be used daily to maintain and improve skin health.

Advanced Repair Body Cream
$14.95 ($0.93 / Ounce)

by Eucerin 

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02/25/2024 05:11 pm GMT

Eucerin Advanced Repair Cream

Eucerin Advanced Repair Cream is a highly regarded skincare product often recommended by doctors for addressing eczema concerns. This cream is enriched with a potent blend of ceramides, natural moisturizing factors, and urea, all working together to replenish and fortify the skin's protective barrier.

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This product effectively alleviates dryness, itchiness, and discomfort associated with eczema, providing long-lasting hydration and relief. Eucerin's clinically proven formula is fragrance-free and non-comedogenic, making it safe for sensitive and eczema-prone skin types. Regular use improves the overall health and comfort of the skin in individuals with eczema.

Daily Moisturizing Body Lotion with Soothing Oat and Rich Emollients

by Aveeno 

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02/23/2024 12:22 am GMT

Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Lotion

Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Lotion is a popular choice for individuals with eczema and is known for providing effective relief from dry, itchy skin. This lotion is formulated with colloidal oatmeal, a natural ingredient renowned for its skin-soothing properties. This powerful ingredient locks in moisture, restores the skin's protective barrier, and reduces the symptoms of eczema, including redness and irritation.

Aveeno's fragrance-free, non-greasy formula is gentle on sensitive skin and can be used daily to maintain healthy and comfortable skin. It's a trusted option for those seeking a moisturizing solution to alleviate eczema symptoms and promote skin hydration.

Cetaphil Moisturizing Lotion

Cetaphil Moisturizing Lotion is a dermatologist-recommended product suitable for individuals dealing with eczema. This lotion is specifically designed to provide gentle and adequate hydration for sensitive and dry skin.

This product's hypoallergenic and non-comedogenic formula includes a blend of humectants and emollients to lock in moisture, soothe itchiness, and relieve the discomfort associated with eczema. Cetaphil's fragrance-free and non-greasy texture makes it well-tolerated by sensitive skin types. It's a reliable choice for daily eczema management as it improves skin hydration and overall comfort.

Shea Butter Hand Repair Cream
$10.95 ($3.42 / Ounce)

by Burt's Bees 

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02/22/2024 11:42 pm GMT

Burt's Bees Shea Butter Hand Repair Cream

Burt's Bees Shea Butter Hand Repair Cream is a hydrating, nourishing product that benefits individuals with eczema, particularly for dry and irritated hands. This cream contains shea butter, cocoa butter, and essential botanical oils to provide intense moisture and relief to dry and eczema-prone skin.

While it's primarily marketed as a hand repair cream, its rich, emollient formula can also be applied to other areas of the body affected by eczema. Although not specifically formulated for eczema, the natural ingredients in Burt's Bees Hand Repair Cream soothe and hydrate eczema-prone skin, making it a worthwhile option for those looking for an alternative moisturizing solution with natural ingredients.

Shea Body Butter
$24.00 ($3.75 / Ounce)

by The Body Shop 

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02/22/2024 11:37 pm GMT

The Body Shop Shea Body Butter

The Body Shop Shea Body Butter is a luxurious, deeply hydrating skincare product to combat eczema. This body butter is enriched with shea butter sourced from Ghana, known for its rich and moisturizing properties.

While not explicitly formulated for eczema, this intensely nourishing formula can relieve dry and sensitive skin. The Body Shop's commitment to using ethically sourced ingredients and their cruelty-free practices make this body butter an appealing option for those seeking a more sustainable skincare product.

A woman scratches her eczema

A Recent Study Links Skin Bacteria to Eczema

In July 2023, researchers out of Mexico reported the results of a study that found certain bacteria, specifically S. aureus, mutated on the skin of eczema patients. The mutations may enable these bacteria to multiply more efficiently, spreading eczema.

Previous studies have established S. aureus' presence on the skin of eczema patients. Such studies have found that greater numbers of bacteria equated to more severe eczema.

Medical director of Project Skin MD Ottawa, Dr. Alain Michon, spoke to Medical News Today about the study's findings: "Targeted treatment of S.Aureus bacteria strains with capD mutations could be valuable not only to help treat acute episodes of eczema but also to prevent flare-ups and keep eczema under control."

These results could lead to a better understanding of eczema pathologies and progression and more effective treatment and management of the condition.

Emollients: Your Ally in the Battle Against Eczema

By understanding emollients' role in promoting skin hydration and barrier protection, choosing the right product for your skin type, and incorporating them into your daily skincare routine, you can take significant steps toward managing and alleviating the symptoms of eczema. Remember that eczema care is a long-term commitment. Consistent emollient usage is critical to achieving and maintaining healthier, more comfortable skin.

If you're living with eczema, the most crucial strategy for effectively dealing with it is to consult a dermatologist about treatment options. They recommend specific products and options tailored to your needs. With the right approach, you can nourish your skin's protective barrier and relieve eczema.

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