Is Aquaphor Good for Eczema? | MyEczemaTeam

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Is Aquaphor Good for Eczema?

Medically reviewed by Steven Devos, M.D., Ph.D.
Written by Anika Brahmbhatt
Posted on August 30, 2023

If you have atopic dermatitis or another form of eczema, you’re probably familiar with the challenge of moisturizing dry skin without further irritating it. Discovering the right skin care approach is crucial in providing relief and improving your skin’s overall health.

Everyone’s skin reacts differently to different products, so a cream or lotion that works well for someone you know might not have the same effect on your eczema-prone skin. One popular skin care product is Aquaphor, an over-the-counter healing ointment available at most drugstores.

Aquaphor is a hypoallergenic, fragrance-free ointment that protects your skin. It’s used for various purposes, from treating diaper rashes to hydrating dry or chafed skin. MyEczemaTeam members often discuss Aquaphor with one another.

“I use Aquaphor and I love it,” shared one member. “I have a drawer full of prescription meds to alleviate the itching from eczema, but colloidal oatmeal baths and Aquaphor are also very helpful.”

“Having a good day, but the eczema on my hands is a little rough,” shared another member. “I’m using Eucerin and Aquaphor for extra moisture.”

Whether you’re looking to supplement your current eczema care or to replace a product that you’re currently using, Aquaphor may be worth looking into. So, as one member asked, “How and when do you use Aquaphor, how does it work, and how safe is it for eczematous skin?”

What Is Aquaphor?

Aquaphor is a clear gel-like substance that is thicker than your typical lotion. Its main ingredient is petrolatum, also known as petroleum jelly or Vaseline. Some people with sensitive skin mention Aquaphor as a useful skin care tool because it’s free of fragrances and preservatives, which tend to cause skin irritation. Aquaphor products come in several forms, including hand and foot masks.

Aquaphor is specifically meant to treat dry, cracked, or irritated skin and to restore skin health and smoothness, but it can be used for many purposes. People with sensitive skin sometimes prefer these kinds of topical gels to traditional lotions, which contain ingredients meant to keep their texture creamy. Those ingredients can trigger allergic reactions in people who have especially sensitive skin.

It’s Important To Consider Allergens

One MyEczemaTeam member shared their experience discovering allergens in their skin care products. “I did patch testing and found out I am allergic to fragrance, lanolin, limonene, and linalool, among other things,” they wrote. “These ingredients were in EVERY SINGLE THING I was using, from shampoo to body wash to hand soap and lip balm. I have bought new products that are safe for me and after two weeks, my skin is more clear than it has been for months!”

Aquaphor doesn’t include fragrances or preservatives, but it does contain lanolin. Although not very common, signs of an allergic reaction to lanolin include discoloration (reddening or darkening of skin), itchiness, swelling, or blistering in the hours or days after use.

If you have (or suspect you have) a lanolin allergy, Aquaphor may not be the best product for you. Instead, you may prefer Vaseline, which is 100 percent petroleum jelly without any other added ingredients.

To find out what you may be allergic to, your doctor may conduct a patch test. During this process, the doctor will place one or more small patches on your skin to test its reaction to the substance in a safe and controlled environment.

Moisturizing Your Skin

Eczema is a chronic, inflammatory condition that can cause severe itchy skin among other bothersome symptoms. “Can’t stand this itching!!!” wrote one MyEczemaTeam member.

Hydrating your skin is a basic measure health experts recommend for people with eczema because it improves the skin’s ability to act as an effective barrier. When you have eczema, your skin barrier doesn’t function properly. Your skin may feel very dry because it is not keeping water in the way it should. For this reason, you may need the help of moisturizing creams in the affected areas.

The National Eczema Association notes the importance of establishing a nonirritating skin care routine that includes emollients (products that help soften your skin). You’ll want to avoid products with perfumes, dyes, and other ingredients that might trigger an eczema flare-up.

A compromised skin barrier can also make you more sensitive to potential allergens in eczema creams or other skin care products, so keep that in mind whenever you’re trying something new.

How Aquaphor Works

Aquaphor contains 41 percent petrolatum, an active ingredient meant to create an additional barrier between your skin’s natural barrier and the outside.

If you have regularly dry or cracked skin, you may experience abnormally high levels of water loss through your skin. As an occlusive agent, petrolatum acts like a shield, slowing down the escape of water.

In addition to preventing water in your skin from evaporating, petrolatum causes water to build up in the outermost layer of skin called the stratum corneum. The stratum corneum naturally keeps moisture in, but when you have eczema, it needs some extra help to function properly. Applying a healing agent like petroleum jelly is a good way to help with this barrier function.

In addition to preventing water loss, occlusive agents can help restore your skin’s natural ability to retain water on its own because they penetrate so deeply into the skin. Repairing your skin barrier through moisturizing daily can help reduce your risk of eczema flares in the future.

Whether you use Aquaphor or another hydrating product, the overall goal is the same — to repair and maintain your skin barrier’s effectiveness. Talk to your doctor if you’re not sure whether Aquaphor is the right option for you.

How To Use Aquaphor

You may wonder how much Aquaphor to apply for eczema or how often to apply it. Typically, moisturizers are applied twice a day for best results. Gauge how much you need based on your comfort levels, needs, and what other products you may be using. Talk to your dermatologist to determine the best skin care routine for you.

Some MyEczemaTeam members use Aquaphor to create a wet-wrap dressing, which involves moisturizing the skin and then wrapping it with a material such as gauze to keep the moisture in. “Try Aquaphor at night with gloves,” suggested one MyEczemaTeam member.

Another member said they find it useful to apply Aquaphor on top of another product. “For the severe itching and burning on your legs, try putting on baby oil and then a thin layer of Aquaphor over the baby oil,” they wrote. “I use the oil and Aquaphor mostly at night, so I can get some sleep.”

While many MyEczemaTeam members find Aquaphor effective, a common complaint is the texture. “I hate the consistency of the product,” wrote one member.

“If you use too much of the Aquaphor, every bit of clothing sticks to you,” another advised.

Potential Risks or Side Effects

People with eczema have particularly sensitive skin, so consult your health care provider before changing or adding to your eczema treatment regimen.

As mentioned earlier, Aquaphor contains lanolin alcohol, which comes from wool. Some people with atopic dermatitis may develop an allergy to the substance.

Generally, Aquaphor and its main ingredient, petrolatum, are not considered highly risky in terms of side effects. Note, however, that because it is an over-the-counter product, it is not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the same way a prescribed medication would be.

You should stop using Aquaphor, or any skin care product, if you notice side effects such as skin discoloration, sensitivity, itching, and swelling.

Talk With Others Who Understand

MyEczemaTeam is the social network for people with eczema and their loved ones. On MyEczemaTeam, more than 48,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with eczema.

Are you living with eczema? Have you used Aquaphor to treat dryness, itchiness, or other symptoms of your eczema? Add your comments and questions below and get valuable insights about moisturizers from other MyEczemaTeam members. You can start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

    Posted on August 30, 2023
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    Steven Devos, M.D., Ph.D. received his medical degree and completed residency training in dermatology at the University of Ghent, Belgium. Learn more about him here.
    Anika Brahmbhatt is an undergraduate student at Boston University, where she is pursuing a dual degree in media science and psychology. Learn more about her here.

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