If you live with eczema, you probably treat your symptoms with a variety of eczema creams. To learn more about these creams, and how they should be used, read on.
What is eczema cream?
Eczema cream is a term that describes any moisturiser or medicated treatment applied to the skin to ease the symptoms of eczema. Applying creams to the skin is vital when you have eczema, as the condition is caused by dryness in the skin.
Some eczema creams can be bought without needing to speak to a pharmacist or doctor. Other eczema creams can be obtained in your local pharmacy, bought online or require a prescription from a doctor.
What types of eczema cream are there?
If you have eczema, you probably manage your condition using a combination of emollients and topical corticosteroids. Emollients should be used daily, while topical corticosteroids should be used during a flare-up of symptoms.
Emollients are cleansers and moisturisers tailored towards dry skin. They create a protective barrier, trapping water in the skin and reducing inflammation and itching. They should be applied liberally across the body at least twice a day.
Emollients are not the same as cosmetic moisturisers, as they aren’t fragranced and aren’t designed to treat any other skin complaints, such as acne or wrinkles.
Emollients come as:
- Bath/shower oils
If your eczema symptoms are mild, you may only need to use lotions and creams. These emollients contain a lot of water, which means they are quickly absorbed and non-greasy.
If your eczema is more severe, and you have very dry, itchy and thick patches of skin, you should use ointments, as these contain a high fat content.
Which emollient is right for me?
There are lots of emollients available on today’s market, and it can often be confusing trying to find the exact product for you. Although everyone is different, and what may work best for you may not be as effective for someone else, there are still products and brands available that can help to treat eczema.
Emollients and eczema creams:
- Dermalex eczema – steroid free, this emollient helps to relieve itchy and dry skin, while moisturising and preventing new flare-ups.
- Eumovte – can help you to break the itch and scratch cycle with a 24 hour moisturising action. When purchasing this product online you will need to answer a set of questions, these will allow us to make sure that this treatment is suitable for you.
- Oilatum cream – soothes and hydrates eczema prone skin to relieve itching.
If you are still unsure visit your local LloydsPharmacy and speak to one of our Pharmacists.
Topical corticosteroids are medicated creams, lotions and ointments applied directly to areas of the skin affected by eczema. They are available in different strengths, and only need to be used when symptoms have flared up.
Topical corticosteroids for eczema range from mild to very potent – a common mild steroid treatment is hydrocortisone is formulated to treat mild to moderate eczema.
How should eczema cream be used?
Different eczema creams are used in different ways. How and when you apply your eczema cream will depend upon whether you’re going through a flare-up, how bad your symptoms are, and where on your body the affected areas are.
If you’re not going through a flare-up of symptoms, or if your eczema is very mild, you should simply use emollients. Emollients should be used every day at least twice, but ideally more often, especially if you have very dry skin. You should use a large amount and apply it all over your skin, smoothing it in the same direction your hair grows.
If you are experiencing a flare-up, you should use emollients and topical corticosteroids. Apply a layer of emollient first, wait for it to soak into the skin, and then use your corticosteroid cream or lotion. This should be applied only to the affected areas, as directed in the product’s patient information leaflet. Typically, you will have to apply corticosteroids once or twice a day.
Other things to consider include the following:
- Most eczema creams should be reapplied every 3-4 hours; when applied liberally in this manner they will help moisturise the skin and reduce symptoms
- Ointments and eczema creams containing humectants can be reapplied less frequently than other varieties (6-8 hours)
- Potent corticosteroids are usually only used on thick skin and are prescribed by a doctor; for the face or genitals a milder corticosteroid should be used
- Emollient ointments cannot be used on weeping or hairy skin; in these circumstances you should use a lotion
- Aqueous cream is no longer recommended to treat eczema
You should always speak to a pharmacist or doctor before you start using eczema creams, to make sure you’re using the right kind at the right strength.
Can eczema cream be bought over the counter?
Certain eczema creams can be bought over the counter, while others will require a prescription.
If you’ve seen a doctor about your condition you might be entitled to emollients on a prescription. If you live in England, this may allow you to obtain your emollients for a cheaper price than without a prescription; elsewhere in the UK you will be able to get them for free.
If you haven’t got a prescription for emollients you will be able to pick them up in a pharmacy. You don’t always need to buy emollients over the counter (i.e. by talking to a pharmacist), but it’s worth having a short chat with the pharmacist before you make your purchase to ensure the product is suitable.
Most topical corticosteroids need to be obtained with a prescription. Notable exceptions are mild or moderately potent treatments containing hydrocortisone or clobetasone butyrate, such as Dermacort, HC45 or Eumovate. You can buy these over the counter after having a short conversation with the pharmacist and they deem it appropriate, or order them online from LloydsPharmacy after answering a couple of questions.
More potent corticosteroid treatments such as hydrocortisone butyrate and clobetasol propionate will usually require a prescription, and you shouldn’t try to obtain them without speaking to a doctor.