Nonprescription or herbal eczema remedies?
April 15, 2004 8:16 AM   Subscribe

Eczema. I get it on my face and sometimes behind my knees, and I generally treat it with prescription cortisone cream from my dermatologist. Lately, though, it's not working so well, and it occurs to me that maybe slathering myself with this stuff isn't such a good idea in the long term. Do any mefites have recommendations for nonprescription or herbal remedies? (The signal-to-noise ratio on Google is darn near impenetrable on this topic.)
posted by cowboy_sally to Health & Fitness (22 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
IANAD, but a friend of mine discovered that her eczema was caused by a wheat (or maybe it was gluten?) allergy. So maybe try doing the Atkins thing for a few weeks.
posted by bcwinters at 8:55 AM on April 15, 2004

The signal-to-noise ratio on Google is darn near impenetrable on this topic.

Web searching often sucks for medical advice, but have you tried searching the newsgroups?
posted by Galvatron at 9:02 AM on April 15, 2004

somewhat similar AskMe from January.
posted by lotsofno at 10:06 AM on April 15, 2004

I've found that using moisturizing lotion, especially after the shower, and staying hydrated help. I'm skeptical about "wheat allergies" since it seems sort of new-agey and unscientific but I'll admit I haven't tried going without.
posted by callmejay at 10:07 AM on April 15, 2004

Many times, you can cut through a lot of noice by limiting the sources of information from which Google draws. For example, adding a site:gov will only return US government-run sites. This works with any extension (edu, com,, and so one) and can also be used to specify sites (i.e.

Here is an article that warns against using over-the-counter topical "Chinese herbal creams" to treat eczema (aka atopic dermatitis) because many of them contain strong doses of prescription steroids without warning or authorization.

This page, on the other hand, seems to be very comprehensive and may offer valuable information on treating (and preventing) said condition.
posted by Danelope at 10:12 AM on April 15, 2004

Someone I know has been battling this for a long time and is now using a prescription medication called Elidel instead of hydrocortisone. Avoiding most regular soaps and cleansers appears to be essential as well. Look at a hippie grocery store or Body Shop for a "non-soap cleanser" and give it a try.
posted by scarabic at 10:16 AM on April 15, 2004

Thanks, all!
I didn't think about the newsgroups or the site-specification search.
(I wish there were a better way to search askme though: I tried "eczema" to no avail.)
posted by cowboy_sally at 10:21 AM on April 15, 2004

I also have serious eczema. I've tried nearly everything. Here are a few suggestions about what has worked for me.

--Allergy tests. Plural. I've taken multiple ones, and they've helped identify lots of stuff I'm sensitive to. Not wheat, but skin-exposure stuff.

--Try lots of soaps, especially soaps without any perfumes or dyes. I use a goats-milk soap produced by a local dairy. Find one that works for you.

--Moisturize right after you get out of the shower, without drying off. More effective that way.

--Eat well and minimize alcohol and coffee consumption. Drink water instead.

--I was in Victoria this past week, and tried a hemp balm cream that was great. Usually skeptical of the hemp, but it felt good. Anecdotal, I know, but worth a shot.
posted by jeffmshaw at 10:28 AM on April 15, 2004

Thanks for that link, Danelope. Very informative.
posted by callmejay at 10:37 AM on April 15, 2004

I was informed that persistent, continuous use of OTC hydrocortisone creams can lead to rosacea in the affected area in addition to the original eczema. My now-sunburned-appearing nose bears this out.

After reading the previous AskMe thread I started using fancy-pants moisturizers right after getting out of the shower. I now have more pimples, less flaking.
posted by mwhybark at 10:51 AM on April 15, 2004

I used to suffer from eczema. As I mentioned on the other thread, calendula cream was soothing.

But the best thing of all is NOT TO TOUCH IT. In my opinion the nature of eczema is that the more you scratch or touch it, the worse it gets. This includes things rubbing against it like your clothes (or your knees!) So the more you can do what seems to be impossible and not rub it, the better.
posted by skylar at 11:09 AM on April 15, 2004

mwhybark: I think you can get oil-free moisturizers or "non-comedogenic" or some such thing which won't cause pimples. Sunscreen too.
posted by callmejay at 11:11 AM on April 15, 2004

[I just want to interject here to say that the "wheat allergy" thing isn't new-agey or unscientific at all, (how I wish it was) it's called Celiac Disease, and if you've got it, unfortunately the skin rash is the least of your problems.]
posted by lilboo at 12:43 PM on April 15, 2004

My one-year-old had awful patches of eczema on his back and we keep them away by putting oil in his bathwater (a mix of canola and sweet almond oils -- both very mild) and moisturising immediately after with a very rich pharmacy-bought cream called Alpha Keri (in NZ). The main ingredients are lanolin oil and paraffin liquid, so you could find something smiliar quite easily. Lanolin is supposed to be a good catchall solution for skin problems.
posted by tracicle at 1:04 PM on April 15, 2004

callmejay: I am using an fancypants glop, um, "Origins Constant Comforter" which I took to be oil-free based on Origins marketing and my successful use of it earlier.

But I look closely at the ingreds and see there are indeed oils, though not as the primary components. It's still generally effective. However I note that the pimples do not occur in the areas that flake, but in areas that would otherwise be healthy - I think they are still producing bodily oil but the moisturizer is either trapping the oil or increasing the total amount to the point that the pimples are forming.

Ask MetaFilter: right up there with Queer Eye for hygiene tips.
posted by mwhybark at 5:12 PM on April 15, 2004

It's most likely something in the diet. Salves cover up or alleviate the discomfort, but the body is expressing itself and should be listened to.

Look for up coming time to devote a concerted effort into an elimination diet. The big offenders tend to be: Dairy, Soy, Citrus, Wheat/Corn/grains/sugar, Fish, Eggs.

Plan a weeks worth of meals around meat and vegetables, as unseasoned as possible. Drink water. Watch out for corn oils, butter etc. Shop the perimeter of your store, and don't eat anything processed (even deli meats).

While it can take several weeks for dairy proteins to leave the body, you should be able to see improvement in about a week. When you do introduce these common allergens, do so one category at a time. If it's wheat eat wheat for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Keep eating it and after a couple days introduce a second like dairy. Eating lots of dairy and wheat for a couple days. Keep going until you see a reaction. And it's possible you're sensitive to more than one type of food.

Also, refrigerated flax oil (don't heat or put on hot foods) is very healing to the gut. A pro-biotic would also beneficial. If your skin is showing signs of allergy, your insides are really in need of care.

Good luck to you!
posted by Feisty at 6:49 PM on April 15, 2004

An amusing dissertation on psoriasis.
4/1/2004 entry.
posted by johnny7 at 8:10 PM on April 15, 2004

soaps and (especially) detergents can be the culprit, try Dove products, that helped in my mother's case. Apparently swimming in the ocean helped my father. Nothing (except hydrocortisone) has head a serious effect on me, though the not touching rule is generally good.
posted by dagnyscott at 9:04 PM on April 15, 2004

Stress can also cause it to flair up.

One strange side note is that places where I used to break out with eczema, if I got a tatoo there, it never acted up again.
posted by drezdn at 10:38 PM on April 15, 2004

I know someone for whom Biolanyn cream has worked well against eczema, although the website makes it look like standard Internet snake oil.
posted by planetkyoto at 1:16 AM on April 16, 2004

We used a cream made of goat's milk on our 1 year old and it was nothing short of miraculous. Works for me too when I get stress-induced eczema. I could give you an address, but it's UK so probably not much use to you.
posted by Pericles at 3:19 AM on April 16, 2004

drezdn: That's interesting. Sometimes my tats swell up and get itchy. Maybe they're channeling your dander?
posted by mwhybark at 10:33 PM on April 16, 2004

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