August 28, 2011 8:51 AM   Subscribe

What are you eczema solutions?

I've had this for years, one thing works for... a while then I seem to develop some sort of immunity to the solution.

I'm just looking for a handful of new things to try and quite frankly I'm sick to death of trolling forums looking for something i havent tried.
I could go to a doctor but every solution theyve ever given me has never worked. I've always had better luck with home type remedies.
posted by misformiche to Health & Fitness (29 answers total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
It would help if you could tell us what you've tried already, and if you know what the triggers are for you. I'm able to keep mine under control by managing my allergy triggers, dust control in the house, especially frequent bedding changes. Have you tried diet modification? It may be that you are eating a lot of something that triggers your eczema, like dairy.
posted by Joh at 9:09 AM on August 28, 2011

Sorry, misformiche. The only that's ever had any effect on mine was a doctor-prescribed steroid cream. I do notice, however, that my eczema (which only flares up periodically, so YMDoesV) tends to appear when I'm stressed and is exacerbated during periods when I'm not getting enough sleep and hydration. So as a shot in the dark, if you're not getting enough rest, try upping your sleep hours and water intake?

In the meantime, while it doesn't solve it, I've found cocoa butter to soothe the skin surface a bit. It does nothing for the itching, but it does help with the skin damage.
posted by smirkette at 9:09 AM on August 28, 2011

Best answer: Hello! I just dealt with a superbly annoying outbreak of eczema that lasted a few months. I'm sorry that you've dealt with it for years, my sympathies--I don't know how much my advice will help, since yours seems to be chronic...

I have this awesome book called Prescription for Natural Cures. The authors advocate a pretty common-sense solution to all kinds of ailments. For eczema, they point to stress and diet as causes (obviously common factors in all sorts of disorders) being the cause; and indeed, I had eczema right when things started getting stressful (and as a result my diet went down the tubes). Here are their solutions:

1. Eliminate additives and processed foods from your diet. Also try eliminating common irritants: gluten, eggs, shellfish, soy, dairy. This is maybe the biggest effort but will potentially have the biggest payoff in terms of overall health, skin health, etc.

2. Drink lots and lots of green drink. Make your own smoothie from: any kind of or combo of leafy green (kale, chard, spinach, arugula, endive, etc) + fresh herbs (basil, wheatgrass, mint, whatever) + banana + citrus fruit + spirulina (the spirulina is especially important, don't skip it).

3. You need essential fatty acids. Fish oil, Omega-3s + omega-9s, or flaxseed oil (I find flaxseed oil gross and prefer fish oil pills). This is non-negotiable! And fish oil is so good for you in so many ways.

4. Take your vitamins: The authors mention particularly Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Zinc.

5. For itchy patches, use calendula cream instead of cortisones or steroids. I actually use Sarna skin lotion which is pretty awesome stuff.

My doctor gave me some steroidal type cream thingy but after reading up on these things, it seems that using steroid creams is just a recipe for building up 'immunity' to the steroids and having worse eczema later. I totally support your desire to find natural cures. When I chucked the steroids, I went straight to this book and tried to eat a little bit better and take my vitamins (and not scratch). Eventually the eczema went away.
posted by ArgyleGargoyle at 9:11 AM on August 28, 2011 [12 favorites]

Try exercising. It doesn't have to be too strenuous.
posted by nam3d at 9:14 AM on August 28, 2011

Omega Oils helped mine, not a magic bullet, but made it less intense. Though unlike ArgyleGargoyle I found the fishoil tabs gross as I kept having fishy burps after taking them and take a lot of flaxseed oil and eat a lot of avocado. Anyway what ever you prefer I'd recommend making sure you get plenty of those oils there are lots of natural foods you can eat to get them too. Diet helps so try and avoid processed foods.
posted by wwax at 9:18 AM on August 28, 2011

No joke, getting pregnant. It took me from a rashy mess to able to wear shorts and flip flops without being embarrassed. I guess it has something to do with hormones? I also had a lot of luck with UV therapy when I was in high school.
posted by chiababe at 9:21 AM on August 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: It doesnt appear to be diet related. Its more environmental. I have sensitive skin in general and a latex adhesives allergy. Its seems to be season related. I get it in the really sticky parts of summer. and only occasionally in the winter.

I am a very active person I bike everyday and my job has me running around and trying to get others to exercise. I'm vegetarian who doesnt eat a lot of processed food and even gives flaxseed oil to her dog. A number of my previous health problems went away simply when i changed my diet

My eczema you used be all the time. Ive gotten it to tone down ALOT
I dont even used harsh soaps as I am rather sensitive to fragrance and allergic to fabric softeners.

The miracle thing that worked for me for quiet a while was plain Coconut oil.
but its slowly starting to not work.

also lotions and things that are aimed at poison ivy worked well too to sooth the itching.

I'm not looking to be diagnosed. Just looking suggestion or two that other eczema sufferers have tried. weather it worked for them or not. everyone is different.
posted by misformiche at 9:25 AM on August 28, 2011

Dream Cream from Lush clears up my seasonal eczema. It seriously works like a dream. (Disclaimer: I did briefly work for Lush six years ago, but they aren't paying me for this; I used it before and ever since and I loooove it and would be swearing by it anyway.)

If it's hard to drop $25 on a tub of lotion, my doctor recommended Eucerin Cream which is in the grocery store.
posted by motsque at 9:31 AM on August 28, 2011

Response by poster: HA thanks chiababe That totally makes sense that pregnancy would helps some. But im not looking to have any babies anytime soon :)
posted by misformiche at 9:35 AM on August 28, 2011

Response by poster: lush has pretty amazing products. and 25bones seems totally worth it.
posted by misformiche at 9:38 AM on August 28, 2011

The Dream Cream motsque mentions is really good for controlling my eczema. It's even slightly soothing so it helps with the itching. However, as mentioned, it is expensive and I find for me, near-compulsive moisturizing is the key. I moisturize throughout the day, especially in the areas that are prone to outbreak. Right away when I get up, around lunchish, early evening, before bed. I also lotion up both before a shower (to seal some moisture in) and immediately after; I also really don't use any cleansers on the areas that are prone to outbreak. Fortunately for me, this is my calf lower leg, so it isn't a part that requires a lot of scrubbing. If you do want to scrub/exfoliate, I do like the Lush body butters King of Skin or Buffy, though they can feel kind of greasy and you have to be careful not to almost fall to your death in the shower as has happened a couple of times. Pat dry gently and moisturize first thing. (I really only do my whole body post-shower because taking care of that 4-5 times a day would be annoying and time-consuming, so the other lotion breaks are usually just for my particular dry spots and trouble zones like elbows and lower legs and knees.)

Because I go through so much lotion, Dream Cream would probably end up costing me about $75/month, so I switched to Cerave in the tub. It's about $8-10 for a tub that is twice the size of the Dream Cream, you can get it at the drug store and I haven't had a problem with any outbreaks since I started using it. A little bit goes a long way (even more so than the Dream Cream), as well. For some people it can feel a little heavy when you first apply it, but it's a little cooling and absorbs fairly quickly while still leaving me feeling like it hasn't all been sucked in by my skin within two minutes. Also, despite the fact that I can still notice it (in a good way) after application, it isn't greasy feeling.

The tub can be a little ungainly, so I have smaller containers that I use for my bag (honestly, the small tubs of Lush products like their lemon cuticle cream or fresh facemasks are great for repurposing for bag use, at least if you have a giant Mary Poppins bag like I do) for moisture touch-ups during the day.

So, to sum up, my old routine (which worked but was expensive and frankly the Dream Cream doesn't work as well for me as the Cerave does):

1. Moisturize 2-3 times a day with Dream Cream, especially post-showers.
2. Use body butters in the shower as opposed to soaps or other cleansers, at least on problem spots.


1. Moisturize more frequently on problem areas.
2. Throw on a quick layer of lotion on problem spots about five minutes before showering/being in water.
3. Moisturize immediately after patting dry post-shower.

I also find that wearing clothes that are tight on the skin like tights in the winter or leggings/yoga pants in the summer for working out makes things much, much worse. If it is possible to not have clothing, especially non-natural fibers, tight against the skin, do try to avoid it.
posted by HonoriaGlossop at 9:59 AM on August 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

Regular old Dove soap. I don't know why, but it's the most effective for me. It regularly outperforms rival (and more expensive) soaps in consumer tests.
posted by smorange at 10:02 AM on August 28, 2011

My dad and I both have occasional eczema. He had a patch on his leg for over a year that wouldn't respond to any treatment, over-the-counter or prescription. Finally he tried Gold Bond Ultimate Healing Skin Lotion and the patch healed within a few days. He is now hilariously evangelical about that product, and will try to get anyone and everyone to use it. Personally, I swear by Neutrogena Norwegian Formula Hand Cream (fragrance free), which is the only product that has worked to heal my eczema.

So you might try one of those. I think eczema tends to be different for everyone, and a product that works like magic for one person might do nothing for another. But it's worth the effort to keep trying new things until you find something that works.

And I second Honoria's suggestion to keep the eczema spot moisturized throughout the day, but of course that will only help with the right product. If you moisturize a lot with the wrong product (for example, a lotion that is too watery), the eczema spot will just get worse. So if that happens, you know you need to try a different product.
posted by pitseleh at 10:05 AM on August 28, 2011

My kid has always had eczema and somebody recently suggested we switch to organic milk. It's helped his skin clear up a good bit - may be worth a shot.
posted by TallulahBankhead at 10:21 AM on August 28, 2011

I have persistent eczema which gets worse in winter and in humid summers, and like you, I tend to find things work for awhile only to stop helping after a few months or years. Currently Aveeno Eczema Therapy Moisturizing Cream is really working well. Formerly, Eucerin Calming Creme worked well for a couple months. I tried it again a couple weeks ago to compare to the Aveeno, and it still helps some, but not as much as the Aveeno. (FWIW, I also compared Neutrogena Moisture Wrap side by side to the Aveeno, and found it to be completely useless.)

Diet-wise, I find that drinking plenty of water and eating enough fat (especially saturated fat) helps. And I've found that keeping my fingernails short helps with the itching and skin irritation - I think I unconsciously scratch more than I realize, so short fingernails do less damage.

Hope this helps - eczema is zero fun, I am watching this thread with interest.
posted by pmann at 10:31 AM on August 28, 2011

And I forgot to mention that CureTogether recently published the some aggregate data from self-tracking eczema patients on their site. Statistically speaking, avoiding allergens and moisturizing work about as well as anything, but a couple of the steroids might be worth a try.
posted by pmann at 10:37 AM on August 28, 2011

dream cream is magical for some skin probs, and i love it. i don't use it as often as i should because it's so expensive tho. it never made a diff w/eczema for me, but helps enormously with another flaky skin condition i have.

i was getting eczema on my hands really badly for a while and tried all sorts of things. this calendula cream is what worked. put it on my hands at night, and after a week or so my hands mostly cleared up!

seems that some of this stuff is individual. hope you find something that helps.
posted by JBD at 10:49 AM on August 28, 2011

I've had eczema all my life and have the same experience with steroid creams - they work at first but the, over time their effectiveness drops to virtually zero.

I've tried chinese medicine a couple of times successfully - I was prescribed a tea which was a bit of a hassle to prepare and tastes revolting, but did the trick. On both occasions the doctor also gave me a list of foods to avoid, similar to those mentioned by ArglyeGargoyle.

I use an emolient cream called Diprobase (in the UK) which is wonderful. I steer clear of anything else as I'm allergic to lanolin which most creams have, E45 for example.
posted by jontyjago at 10:52 AM on August 28, 2011

Shea butter works for me on small patches. Cut out alcohol, too.
posted by londongeezer at 11:23 AM on August 28, 2011

Try an anti fungal cream on the site in addition to your standard treatments. Although they are two different things, a competing fungal infection (even very mild) can often initiate or lengthen an eczema outbreak - especially for feet and hands.
posted by NoDef at 12:46 PM on August 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

After reading about research barrier lotions in the UK, I started using Gloves in a Bottle. It's far from natural, which I aim for in my other products, but damned if it doesn't work. The research was based on the idea that many people with eczema are lacking a sufficient protective layer on top of their skin (or something like that). There are a couple of other brands available, but GiaB is easiest for me to get, and it doesn't have fragrance, Vitamin E (a common cause of dermatitis!), or lanolin. My eczema is essentially gone now.
posted by wintersweet at 12:56 PM on August 28, 2011

A friend of mine cut out gluten from her diet and her eczema disappeared completely within a month.
posted by abirdinthehand at 1:27 PM on August 28, 2011

They have been using diluted bleach baths for children with success. It's worth a try.
Mayo clinic says a half cup and no more than twice a week.
posted by beccaj at 2:39 PM on August 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've written up my approach before - it mentions a lot of the things above.
posted by batmonkey at 2:49 PM on August 28, 2011

My boyfriend has terrible eczema. He went to an allergist and found out he is very allergic to cats (we have 2 cats). Since then, we've kept them out of the bedroom and he takes an over-the-counter 24-hour antihistamine every day. His eczema is SO much better now. He also has some super powerful prescription steroids for when he has the rare flare up.
posted by kookaburra at 3:30 PM on August 28, 2011

I have hand eczema, and I've found that using plain ol' petroleum jelly several times a day works best for me. I think that eating healthful fats also does help.
posted by CutaneousRabbit at 5:08 PM on August 28, 2011

Best answer: I'm a pro at failing to control eczema. You've come to the right place.

Most of the good answers are already here, but I'll list two specific regimens that managed to eliminate (if briefly, anyway; see professional experience above) the eczema that covered most of my hands for years.

1. ChapStick. Makes sense, right? Well, it worked for me once. Apply liberally and often, and especially before bed. Wear gloves overnight. They both slow the evaporation and prevent cases of ChapStick pillow from cropping up.

This has to be original-flavoured brand-name ChapStick, which was a Wyeth product and is now produced by Pfizer. No other brand seemed to work for me. It'll leave eczema patches looking all pink with healthy new growth after one evening, and after constant use will allow patches to heal completely and disappear.

I've recommended this therapy to others in various forums and usenet groups since the 80s, and I still get the occasional "Thank you for your miracle cure; you've changed my life" emails. Seriously. The unfortunate truth is, though, that this therapy worked for me exactly once and then lost its magic for me. This is a hint that my condition is a combination of environmental and dietary factors, but I've been too lazy to troubleshoot it to that degree. ...which I should.

2. Coal tar ointment. This was one of the seemingly crazy solutions I tried in my youth, back in the days when my mother and I would visit an endless stream of doctors and dermatologists trying each of their pet cures (none of which, by the way, was ever ChapStick). The coal tar, then, did nothing, even when combined with hydrocortisone, vitamin E creams, and regular doak oil soaks (yes, this is in one day). The coal tar now, though, has worked wonders. I apply it globbingly before bed, and then put gloves on, as before. The gloves are important. Topical ointments absorb and evaporate in minutes, but you want your eczema to stay moist and healing all night long. The gloves are vital. Keep the area soft using boring, standard, scent-free moisturizers during the day (Jergens, et al)—especially immediately after washing with soap—and use the coal tar every night. I can't promise it'll work, but I can promise it'll smell strangely intriguing. It's available over-the-counter in some stores (brand name Psoriasin, by Pharmacal).

Best of luck. PM me if you wanna discuss solutions in any greater detail.
posted by tapesonthefloor at 6:04 PM on August 28, 2011

Fresh aloe vera works on mine.$8 or $9 for a 1 gallon potted plant at our local nursery.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 12:39 PM on August 29, 2011

I've had moderate-to-severe eczema literally since I was born. I'm still fighting it now, at 29, but the things that have helped me are, in order from most "natural" to least:

*Get older. I assume you're already an adult, but on the off chance that you're not, about 50% of my problem areas cleared up naturally as I matured from a child/teen to an adult.
*Avoid sweating. This may be idiosyncratic to me, but sweat evaporating off my skin always aggravates my eczema. A heavy sweat on Monday means a breakout on Wednesday.
* Keep it hydrated. Dry skin is the enemy, and petroleum jelly alone will seriously help. It won't clear it up, but it will keep it from becoming more aggravated. Really, anything that seals out the normal evaporation of moisture off skin will help here, so even chapstick, as tapesonthefloor suggests, would work.
*Get allergy tested. If you're allergic to your dog, cat, bird, feather pillow, etc, it's going to be nearly impossible to clear your skin without some serious environmental adaptation.
* Coal tar. Worked for my scalp eczema, when nothing else did. Doesn't clear the issue permanently, but at least brings it under control so my head doesn't look like I've been snowed on. I know for a fact that you can buy coal tar shampoo in any store that sells shampoos; not positive about ointments.
* Steroid ointment. Can be relied upon to clear the area, but tends to thin skin and needs to be used sparingly, so only for flare-ups
* Non-steroid, topical immunosuppressant ointment (Protopic, specifically). Works wonders for me and doesn't have the skin-thinning effects of steroids, but currently (as far as I know) carries a black-box warning for being possibly carcinogenic

Things that haven't helped me:

*Oatmeal baths. When I was a kid, my mom regularly dunked me in Aveeno oatmeal baths. I grew to hate those baths, but I never did see any skin improvement
*"Don't scratch!" Great advice if you can manage it, but I scratch in my sleep, for heaven's sake. Sometimes I can't control it.
* Aloe vera. My grandmother swore by this, but it never did anything for me.
* Cortisone cream. I'm sure that it helps with bugbite-type itches, but for eczema-type itches, it never did jack for me.
posted by badgermushroomSNAKE at 8:22 PM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

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