There are many ways to treat eczema, including using topical medications or systemic drugs. Many MyEczemaTeam members choose to complement their prescribed treatments with home remedies to relieve symptoms such as dry skin, itchiness, and scaliness. Here, we will look at some of the most popular at-home remedies, including moisturizers, baths, apple cider vinegar (ACV), and essential oils.
Importantly, there is no cure for eczema at this time, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) must approve a therapy before it can be considered an effective treatment for a health condition. People living with eczema have especially sensitive skin, so it is important that they talk to their dermatologist before incorporating a new product or treatment into their skin-care regimen — even a natural one.
Eczematous skin is prone to becoming dry, itchy, and irritated due to a gene variation that affects the immune system — which in turn affects the skin’s ability to retain moisture. A high-quality over-the-counter moisturizer can help provide relief combined with medications like topical steroids.
Moisturizers, also known as emollients, can take many different forms, including lotions, creams, ointments, and gels. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases recommends that people with eczema moisturize their skin two or three times each day with products that do not have alcohol, dyes, fragrances, or irritating chemicals. Bland is better for eczematous skin. Some products may work better than others, depending on where on the body a person’s eczema symptoms appear.
Read more about the best moisturizers for eczema here.
Coconut oil — an oil pressed from fresh or dried coconut meat — may help alleviate dryness and itchiness associated with eczema. However, as the National Eczema Association (NEA) notes, whether coconut oil will work for you depends on your unique case of eczema.
Learn more about coconut oil for eczema here.
Bathing or showering can exacerbate your eczema and cause discomfort and dry skin. Fortunately, there are ways to help make bathing more comfortable and to use it as a tool in your eczema treatment program. Employing strategic bathing practices may help you improve your eczema symptoms.
Short lukewarm baths or showers are recommended for people with eczema. Hot water can dry out the skin and lead to increased irritation, pain, and potential eczema flare-ups.
Following are several types of baths that may help alleviate eczema symptoms. Your dermatologist might recommend using certain additives in your bathwater, depending on the type of eczema you have and your symptoms.
Moisturizer is most effective when applied to warm, damp skin. To take a soak-and-seal bath, fill a tub with lukewarm water and soak for five to 10 minutes. Avoid scrubbing with sponges or washcloths during the soak. After getting out of the tub, pat (don’t rub) your skin dry. Then, apply moisturizer directly over your slightly damp skin. After you moisturize your entire body, wait another few minutes before getting dressed so the moisturizer has an opportunity to penetrate your skin.
Colloidal oatmeal is an oatmeal-derived extract that the FDA has classified as a skin protectant. The product can be found in many forms, including moisturizers, shaving gels, shampoos, and bath powders. Adding powdered colloidal oatmeal to your bath or applying it as a topical paste to affected areas can help soothe the skin and relieve itching.
Dermatologists sometimes recommend bleach baths to manage eczema symptoms. Bleach baths can help reduce the number of bacteria on the skin, which may ease eczema symptoms like itchiness and discoloration. A bleach bath is extremely diluted, using only a small amount of bleach (approximately a quarter cup). You also should only stay in the tub for a limited amount of time — about five to 10 minutes — which allows the bleach to work without hurting your skin.
When done properly, bleach baths are safe for most people with atopic dermatitis — even children. However, bleach can also irritate and dry out the skin, so it’s best to ask your dermatologist before trying a bleach bath.
Learn more about bleach baths for eczema here.
One of the many types of vinegar, apple cider vinegar is double-fermented apple juice with health benefits linked to its acetic acid content.
The National Eczema Association suggests soaking in a bath containing a small amount of ACV. Add between one cup and one pint of ACV to warm (not hot) bathwater and soak in it for 15 to 20 minutes. Thoroughly rinse your skin with clean, cool water, pat yourself dry, and apply your favorite moisturizer.
Read more about apple cider vinegar for eczema here.
Epsom salt is magnesium sulfate. Although evidence of its efficacy is limited, Epsom salts may help relieve itching and inflammation due to eczema.
To take an Epsom salts bath, the Cleveland Clinic recommends adding 300 grams (one and a quarter cups) of Epsom salts to a warm tub and soaking for 15 minutes.
Because soap is a common eczema trigger, people with the condition often have to be careful when choosing how to wash their skin. To protect your skin from flare-ups, you’ll want to use a gentle cleanser (rather than a true soap) that doesn’t dehydrate your skin. Many soaps are very alkaline and will thus irritate eczema-prone skin.
Some beneficial ingredients to look for in soaps for eczema include the nondetergent cleanser syndet (short for “synthetic detergent”) and glycerin — an ingredient that counters the drying effects of soap by acting as a humectant, or a substance that preserves moisture. Certain ingredients may prove irritating to people with eczema, including sodium lauryl sulfate and fragrances.
Read more about the best soaps for eczema here.
Eczema on the scalp (also known as seborrheic dermatitis) can cause flaking, thick scales, and an itchy scalp. Some people with scalp eczema find that they have irritation or other adverse reactions when using certain shampoos.
To find the best shampoo for seborrheic dermatitis, look for ingredients that will work on symptoms like itching or flaking. These include the antifungals ketoconazole, ciclopirox, and selenium sulfide. In one study from the American Academy of Dermatology, people with eczema reported having more adverse effects from selenium sulfide shampoo — including itching and burning sensations on the scalp — than from ketoconazole shampoo, though both were effective. Corticosteroids, coal tar, salicylic acid, and zinc pyrithione may also be helpful ingredients.
Read the MyEczemaTeam guide on the best shampoos for scalp eczema.
The National Eczema Association is clear that there is little scientific evidence to prove ACV’s health benefits for managing skin conditions like eczema. However, the NEA suggests ACV may help with eczema’s skin problems for some people.
Healthy skin is protected by an acidic barrier. A high pH can cause the skin’s moisture to evaporate too quickly and allow irritants onto the skin. It can also disrupt the skin’s natural microbiota layer, which prevents harmful bacteria from colonizing on the skin. Because people with eczema have elevated skin-pH levels (that is, more alkaline, or less acidic), ACV may help restore pH levels to a healthier level and relieve skin symptoms.
Thanks to its antimicrobial properties, ACV has been used for centuries on wounds to prevent infection. Applying diluted ACV to the skin may also help reduce the inflammation of eczema and reduce infections caused by scratching itchy skin.
Essential oils are concentrated plant extracts. Although these oils have been cited as natural remedies for a whole host of health conditions, not enough research has been done to determine their efficacy in human health, including eczema.
Studies evaluating the potential health benefits of essential oils and aromatherapy have suggested several therapeutic benefits, including analgesic (pain-relieving) and anti-inflammatory properties. Some essential oils have been studied in the treatment of the skin condition psoriasis, but there is no clinical evidence to confirm their effectiveness.
Some people swear by vitamins, supplements, and probiotics to manage the symptoms of eczema. However, there is not enough clinical evidence to support the safety or efficacy of these products in treating conditions like eczema. What’s more, certain supplements may actually pose health risks — for example, evening primrose oil can slow the clotting of blood when combined with anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin.
Although evidence is limited, some studies have been conducted on the effectiveness of supplements in managing eczema symptoms. According to a summary of several studies by the American Academy of Dermatology Association, vitamin E has been found to have a slight positive effect on symptoms. Vitamin D has been found to be potentially beneficial during the cold winter months, while vitamin B12 cream has been found to help improve eczema in adults.
Much of the evidence for the effectiveness of home remedies for eczema relies on anecdotal evidence — in other words, people with eczema have found certain products to work for them. As with any treatment or remedy, what works for one person may not work for everyone else with eczema.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that your dermatologist should weigh in before you start any new home remedies for eczema. The doctor will be able to advise you on the potential benefits and risks of each approach and recommend which treatments be safe options to add alongside your prescribed eczema treatments.
MyEczemaTeam is the social network for people with eczema and their loved ones. More than 43,000 members come together to ask questions, share advice, and connect with others who understand life with psoriasis.
What home remedies do you use for your eczema? Share your experience and tips with others in the comments below or by posting on MyEczemaTeam.