7 Home Remedies for Eczema That Are Simple and Safe

Woman scratching the eczema on her wrist

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Are you experiencing dry, itchy skin? Have you found unexplained rashes in certain areas? If you answered "yes," you may have a case of eczema. Eczema is an umbrella term for a variety of skin conditions—it can cause dry skin, itchiness, blistering, inflammation, and rashes.

Eczema is relatively common, too. Over 31 million Americans have a type of eczema. Eczema is not contagious or deadly, but the discomfort is never a welcome addition to an individual's health. While some cases require a dermatologist's expertise, many eczema flare-ups can be helped with a simple home remedy.

Dr. Rana Abdat, a dermatologist from Dartmouth-Hitchcock Nashua, NH, recommends that patients see a dermatologist right away, especially to rule out other conditions or infections that mimic eczema. Home remedies are intended to work alongside your doctor’s treatment to provide daily relief and prevention strategies. 

Causes of Eczema

Eczema is an immune system response caused by genetics and exasperated by specific triggers. There are seven types of eczema, and they’re all driven by an inappropriate immune system response. Here are the most common triggers:

Dehydration

Dehydration can lead to dry skin, which can cause eczema to occur. Of course, even if you are hydrated, moisturizing skin assists in keeping eczema away. One study recommends bathing daily and applying a moisturizing topical ointment. Hydrated skin helps to lessen eczema symptoms.

The National Eczema Association also recommends staying hydrated by drinking water, bathing, moisturizing, and applying topical ointments.

Irritants

Irritants are substances, fabrics, or surfaces that can irritate your skin and cause an eczema flare-up. Avoid common irritants so you don’t trigger eczema symptoms. The most common irritants include:

  • Metals (especially kinds that are not hypoallergenic, such as nickel)
  • Fragrances (found in skin products, hair products, household cleaners, perfume)
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Fabrics (wool and polyester)
  • Antibacterial products
  • Formaldehyde (found in adhesives)
  • Leather dyes
  • Temporary tattoos

Stress

Psychological stress causes your immune system to act up, which means more immune responses. Since eczema is an inappropriate immune system reaction, stress can be a trigger for eczema flare-ups.

Stress is also known to upset skin barrier function, which can further trigger eczema.A healthy skin barrier will keep moisture in and irritants out. Without a strong skin barrier, you can experience dry, itchy, irritated skin. Then, the itching response to eczema continues to harm the skin barrier, only making the condition worse.

It is debated whether the stress causes eczema to flare up or eczema causes the stress to occur originally. Either way, stress has a strong potential to make whatever eczema you're experiencing worse.

Medication

Medication side effects can include skin reactions—it's actually the most common type of adverse drug reaction. These reactions are unique for every patient and range from skin lesions, to eczema, to severe conditions such as Lyell's Syndrome. Always consult your doctor about skin reactions that occur within a year after trying a new medication. 

Home Remedies for Eczema

While home remedies are not always the answer, they can help you explore different options and make daily life more manageable. Here are some simple, safe home remedies for dealing with eczema:

Prehydrating Baths

One study recommends bathing for 15-20 minutes every day, lightly patting your skin dry, and applying a topical ointment in problem areas. These are called “prehydrating” baths—the study recommended them for those with atopic dermatitis. Atopic dermatitis is a type of eczema, characterized by patches of itchy skin that usually start appearing when an individual is five years old.

Of course, dry skin is a trigger for all cases of eczema, so this method would likely help anyone. Before adding a prehydrating bath to your daily routine, consult with your doctor about the type of topical ointment to use. If you decide to use moisturizer, you should avoid any that include fragrance, which is another common trigger for eczema.

Colloidal Oatmeal

Colloidal oatmeal is oat powder that could be beneficial for soothing your skin. Try colloidal oatmeal bath powder in a lukewarm bath—avoid using hot water because it can remove skin moisture and cause worse irritation.

Colloidal oatmeal helps maintain the surface pH of your skin while relieving itching and irritation. It even creates a protective barrier on the skin and keeps moisture in. Try colloidal oatmeal bath powder in your daily 15 to 20-minute baths. 

Oils

Evening primrose oil, sunflower oil, and coconut oil can all work to treat eczema. Evening primrose oil is helpful due to its gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) content. If you have eczema, it is believed that you don’t produce enough GLA. One study found a significant increase in skin hydration after taking evening primrose oil. You can find an evening primrose oil supplement at many natural grocery stores.  

Sunflower oil protects the skin’s outer layer, keeping moisture in and irritants out. It also may help relieve itching and inflammation. Sunflower oil can be applied directly to the skin. 

Coconut oil can reduce bacteria on the skin due to its antibacterial properties. This helps to prevent infection and irritants on your skin, which cause the skin to ooze and become more inflamed.

Other oils—like olive oil—have been tested and yielded similar effects. Talk to your doctor and ensure you don't have an allergy to any oils before using them to treat your eczema.

Calendula or Aloe Vera Cream

Calendula has anti-inflammatory effects on the skin and has been used topically as an herbal medicine for many years. While it is not recommended for children under six, calendula’s anti-inflammatory properties, at high concentrations, are comparable to some synthetic drugs.

You can get calendula in the form of a cream for topical applications. While there isn’t a lot of research on the effectiveness of calendula against eczema, but it can be a good natural remedy to try with doctor supervision. 

Similarly, aloe vera has been shown to have significant anti-inflammatory properties, although it is largely effective for mild inflammation. Aloe appeared to have no effect on chronic inflammation, so applying at the earliest signs of irritation is essential. Aloe vera can be found in a cream or gel for topical applications, though it is best fresh from the plant.

It’s rare to be allergic to aloe vera, but speak to a medical professional before trying anything new.

Over the Counter Topical Creams

Most topical creams for eczema are steroids, specifically corticosteroids, but there are also non-steroidal creams. Eczema creams help reduce itching and inflammation. Topical creams are used for temporary relief of symptoms, not a long-term treatment, and are applied directly to the skin. 

One of the most common over-the-counter topical steroids is called hydrocortisone, a mild steroid, and the creams sold in stores have particularly low doses of it. Even so, hydrocortisone cream can provide mild relief from itching and inflammation and can be helpful in your daily life. A doctor might prescribe something stronger if needed. 

Methods of Relaxation

Due to the role of stress in immune function, it can cause eczema flare-ups. With this in mind, it’s important to minimize the stressors in your daily life. Some ways of de-stressing include meditation, acupuncture, massages, quiet baths, spending time outdoors, and spending time with pets.

Everyone experiences stress in different ways—your method of de-stressing may differ from someone else’s. Sometimes it can be helpful to see a therapist and have professional help in handling stress in your life.

Anti-Inflammatory Diet

Dr. Jen Haley, a dermatologist and medical advisor at Editor's Pick, recommends an anti-inflammatory diet to treat eczema. Dr. Haley says to lean towards foods with omega-three fatty acids, such as salmon. These foods often contain anti-inflammatory properties. You should also eat high-fiber vegetables for lessening intestinal inflammation and foods rich in vitamin A for skin health. Dr. Haley further recommends that you avoid dairy, sugar, and fried foods. 

A Word From Verywell

Home remedies can only provide so much assistance—if you are experiencing continuous pain and discomfort, see a medical professional immediately. A doctor will be able to refer you to a dermatologist, who can then diagnose eczema (or any other skin conditions) and provide the best course of treatment.

Before starting a home remedy, talk to a health care professional about questions or concerns you have. Every treatment plan is a unique, individual experience that is worth talking with a professional about.

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10 Sources
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