Eczema is a chronic skin disorder that causes skin to become dry, cracked, and irritated on various parts of the body including on face, hands, feet, on scalp, and even around eyes and eyelids. The bad news is there is no cure for the disease. However, there are a number of treatment options you can use to obtain relief from eczema symptoms. Here’s a breakdown of what’s available and some self-care remedies that can prevent flare ups or minimize discomfort.
If you continuously suffer from patches of dry skin that is accompanied by a severe itch, chances are that you are suffering from Atopic Dermatitis (AD), more commonly known as eczema.
Home Remedies for Eczema:
Before incurring those expensive medical bills, feel free to try any of the following home remedies.
- Coconut Oil
One of the most common side-effects of suffering from eczema is the prevalence of extremely dry skin. Coconut is a natural moisturizer,  which can significantly reduce this symptom. Simply rinse the affected area with water, pat it dry and then rub some coconut oil on it. Feel free to do this as many times as you want.
However, coconut oil is no good for a very small fraction of the general population who are allergic to coconut.  If you show an allergic reaction to coconut oil, you should immediately discontinue its use and seek an alternate treatment.
Taking an oatmeal bath is one of the most gentle skin treatments known to man. Besides being a highly effective moisturizer,  this herb has anti-inflammatory properties as well  which can provide you with some welcome relief from the itch.
To apply this treatment, get a piece of cheesecloth or a muslin cloth and pour some oatmeal into it. Fill about 25 percent of the tub with regular hot water and then put the bag right below the faucet and let the tub fill all the way through. The water will take on a silky texture. Soak yourself in this bath for about 15 minutes, during which you can take the oatmeal bag and use it as a loofah all over your body. Once you are done, step outside and pat yourself dry.
- Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar (ACV) can provide you with a significant amount of relief from eczema. It has strong anti-microbial properties  that can prevent the afflicted area from suffering from secondary infection. It also contains beta-carotene  which is good for your skin as it helps in replenishing the dead skin cells from the area suffering from eczema. The anti-fungal properties of ACV can also help combat some of the environmental causes of eczema.
Undiluted ACV is harsh enough on healthy skin, using it in an undiluted form on the eczema may prove to be unbearably painful. You should mix ACV with water in a 1:1 ratio and apply that on an unaffected part of your skin. You should feel a minor sting, which should subside immediately. If the pain is persistent, dilute the solution further by doubling the quantity of water. If the solution is still painful, then your skin may be overly sensitive or you may be allergic to ACV; either way this treatment would not be right for you.
If you can tolerate the minor sting of diluted ACV, simple apply it to the affected area with a cotton at least twice a day. You can also add two cups of ACV and 1/3 cup of sunflower oil to a tub of bathwater and soak yourself in it a few times every week. Another option is to add a tablespoon of ACV to a cup of water and ingest it orally. It will not be easy on your palate, so you can make it more bearable by adding a little honey to it.
- Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil has strong anti-microbial properties  that reduces the likelihood of secondary infections on your eczema. There is anecdotal evidence that it helps reduce the eczema as well.
Just like ACV, using undiluted tea tree oil on your eczema would be a mistake that could inflame the area even further. That being said, there are several ways by which you can incorporate tea tree oil into your at-home treatment for eczema. You can add about 15 drops of tea tree oil and 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil to a tub of water to make a refreshing bath, which you can take up to twice a day. You can also add 20 drops of tea tree oil to ½ cup of extra virgin olive oil and apply that directly on your eczema.
Please note that before trying the tea tree oil regimen, use some diluted tea tree oil on a healthy part of your skin to make sure that you are not allergic to it.
- Aloe Vera
Aloe Vera is an herb with anti-inflammatory  and anti-microbial properties  which not only helps prevent an eczema outbreak, but also prevents the outbreaks being exacerbated by secondary infections. There are verified anecdotal evidence that backs up this claim. 
The best way to treat your eczema with Aloe Vera would be to get hold of some leaves of the aloe plant, slice off the rinds to take the leaf apart and apply the natural gel directly on the afflicted area. You can also incorporate this gel into smoothies and other beverages  to fortify your body against eczema from the inside. If you cannot get hold of any aloe leaves, then visit your local drugstore and get yourself a bottle of 100% pure aloe and apply it on your eczema as often as you please!
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Besides being a vessel for delivering the tea tree oil treatment as mentioned earlier, olive oil is an effective treatment for eczema in its own right. Olive oil has anti-inflammatory properties  due to the presence of a compound called squalene  that can help reduce the flare-ups.
Besides combining with tea tree oil, you can combine 4 oz. of olive oil with a tablespoon of sugar or honey and apply it on the affected area and leave it on for a few hours. You can cover the area with gauze and medical tapes so that you do not disturb the application. You can also mix extra virgin olive oil with baby lotion to make an effective treatment.
There is strong anecdotal evidence that combining cabbage leaves with extra virgin olive oil will make a highly potent treatment for eczema. Wash the cabbage leaves thoroughly and then let it dry naturally. Immerse these cabbage leaves completely in olive oil and leave it for a few hours so that the leaves become soft after absorbing the oil. Apply the leaves on the afflicted area, cover it with gauze and help it stay in place with the help of medical tapes. Leave it on for about three hours. Take it off and then wash the area with lukewarm water.
- Jojoba Oil
Jojoba oil is another great natural moisturizer that would be ideal during the early stages of an eczema outbreak. What make it so good is that it consists of long chain fatty acids and its chemical composition is very close to that of sebum, the natural oil produced by our skin.
Before applying jojoba, rinse the affected area gently with water and pat it dry. Apply a thin film of jojoba to the afflicted area and massage it gently for a little bit, so that part of the oil gets absorbed into the skin right away. This should be done at least three times every day.
- Shea Butter
Shea butter is an exceptional moisturizer, which can help combat the dry and leathery skin that eczema tends to leave you with. On top of that, its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties will help fortify the affected area against secondary infection. The large concentration of fatty acids acts as a barrier against environmental irritants, thus reducing the frequency and the duration of the breakouts.
Simply take a liberal quantity of Shea better and keep applying it on the affected area during the course of the day. For best results, it is preferable that the Shea butter you use is completely organic. It does have a strong smell associated with it; hence it is advisable that you use it indoors!
- Emu Oil
For maintaining good hygiene, it is advisable to wash your hands with a strong anti-bacterial soap during the course of the day. This is unfortunately a double-edged sword for those who are suffering from an eczema outbreak on their hands. Soap is a drying agent, which can wreak havoc on an area that is already dry due to eczema. Using emu oil can significantly reduce the damage caused by the repeated (albeit necessary) use of soap. Besides being an odorless, yet effective moisturizer, studies conducted by the University of Tehran (Iran) and Indiana University gives some veracity to the fact that it is an effective treatment for eczema as well!
Feel free to use a few drops every time you wash your hands. You may use it on eczema outbreaks on other parts of your body as well, however do note that it is a little pricey and any of the other treatments mentioned in this article would be far easier on the pocket!
If you are a vegan or a vegetarian, you may have to skip this treatment as emu is a flightless bird native to Australia and emu oil is produced by processing the fat of the same.
- Manuka Honey
Manuka honey is yet another slightly pricey, yet highly effective treatment of eczema. It is produced in New Zealand by bees that pollinate the Manuka bush, which is native to the archipelago. Manuka honey has really strong antibacterial properties, which can help prevent the affected area from suffering from secondary infections. Scientific studies have shown for it to be effective against even advanced cases of eczema.
For best results consume 1 tablespoon of Manuka honey, two to three times every day. Also apply it as a topical ointment on the inflamed area, make sure that you cover the area with gauze and medical tapes right after application.
- Argan Oil
Argan oil is produced by crushing the kernels of the argan tree, which is native to Morocco. Its benefits for the skin in general is well-known, hence it is often a key ingredient for many high-end skincare products.
Argan oil is extremely rich in Vitamin E (anti-inflammatory agent), Omega 6 Fatty acids (highly effective skin moisturizer), sterols (another anti-inflammatory agent) and polyphenols (anti-microbial agent). Thus it makes sense that argan oil would be a slightly expensive, but potentially decisive ally in your battle against eczema. Apply it as a topical ointment on the affected area for as long as you would like!
- Neem Oil
Neem oil is obtained by processing the fruits and seeds of the neem tree (Azadirachta indica), which is native to the Indian sub-continent. Neem oil is a highly effective emollient, which means that it that it helps fill up the gaps created by the dry skin that is typical of eczema and prevents moisture from escaping the skin. Its anti-bacterial properties prevent the occurrence of secondary infections.
The best way to incorporate the treatment is to pour a few drops of neem oil into a bathtub filled with lukewarm water and soaking in it for about 15 minutes. You can take this neem bath at least a couple of times a day.
However, neem oil is extremely strong and should not be directly applied to the eczema in an undiluted form. Doing so may result in a somewhat harsh reaction.
Digestive dysfunctions in the intestinal tract is another cause of eczema as well. If you have an eczema outbreak while facing issues with your digestive system, then please note that it is not a coincidence. In such a situation, topical treatments will only provide you with temporary relief and you need to fix your digestive system to be rid of the condition for an extended period of time.
Probiotics are natural bacteria that provide a necessary boost to your digestive system. There are several nutritional supplements available at your chemist or even at the local grocery store, which can help you with your probiotic intake. If you have some free time on your hands then you can brew yourself some kombucha tea or some water kefir, both of which are really good sources of probiotics. Having a side of sauerkraut with your meal can also provide you with your daily dose of probiotics.
- Fermented Cod Liver Oil
Fermented cod liver oil is another great nutritional supplement that can help you heal your eczema from the inside. It is rich in Vitamins E, which as mentioned earlier has highly effective anti-inflammatory properties. It is best to incorporate this with your breakfast.
Chamomile tea may have a very mild taste, however that should not cause you to underestimate its ability to be an effective cure for eczema. This herb usually come in two forms, namely Anthemis nobilis and Matricaria recutita, both of which has significant anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory properties. This can greatly build up your immunity and prevent your eczema from developing secondary infections.
Simply fill a cup with hot water and put a chamomile tea bag in there and let it sit for a couple of minutes. Once the liquid turns golden brown, take out the tea bag and keep it on a clean plate, thus allowing it to cool down. Add a tablespoon of honey to the liquid, stir it well and enjoy the beverage.
Once you have consumed your cup pf chamomile tea, the tea bag should have reached room temperature. Take off the string from the bag, put it on the affected area and hold it in place using medical gauze and tapes for about thirty minutes. Try to follow these step at least twice every day.
- Homeopathic Treatments
Homeopathic system of medicine was established by Dr. Samuel Christian Hahnemann, a German physician in the late 18th century. It believes in providing patients with mild doses, with the strength and the regimen to be adjusted based upon the patient’s response to the medication. Most of the homeopathic treatments are made from natural ingredients and usually does not have any side effects.
There are several homeopathic medications available, depending upon the nature and the severity of the eczema outbreak. For example, Rananculus Bulbosus or Rhus Tox may provide relief where the region of the affliction has turned especially hard or a thick crust may have formed. Staphysgaria is recommended if the eczema outbreak occurs on the head or the face or if the affliction is accompanied by a violent itch. Natrum Muriaticum provides relief when there is some oozing from the afflicted area and Calcarea carb is recommended for children suffering from eczema.
Please note that scientific studies probing into the effectiveness of the homeopathic treatments are still inconclusive. However, if you want to go down this route, it is highly recommended that you seek the help of a qualified homeopath.
Prescription Treatment Options
The severity of your condition will determine which treatment options work best for you. You should discuss the various remedies with your healthcare provider or dermatologist to figure out which ones will help you manage your eczema the best.
Emollients are typically thick, creamy moisturizers that form a barrier on the skin to help it retain moisture and protect it from environmental elements. These products contain oil, but the amount varies depending on the type. Ointments tend to have the most oil but can leave a greasy residue on skin, clothing, and bedding. Lotion tends to contain mostly water mixed with a little bit of oil, so they are not always effective at treating eczema because the water evaporates too fast. Cream moisturizers generally have a 50/50 mix of oil and water, but they may not be as useful for people with very dry skin.
Using emollients correctly is a critical part of obtaining the protection they provide. Apply the moisturizer at least twice a day, whenever your skin feels dry and itchy, and/or after taking a shower to lock in moisture. Avoid rubbing the emollient into the skin. Instead, gently smooth it on and work in the same direction the hair grows. During flare ups, use more than you normally would and on a more frequent basis.
Do not share your emollient with other people, and scoop the substance out of the jar using a spoon or use a pump dispenser to avoid spreading bacteria to the moisturizer and giving yourself an infection.
Barrier Repair Moisturizers
These are prescription-strength emollients prescribed to you by a doctor. They work by enhancing or replacing the skin’s natural barrier. Since skin affected by eczema doesn’t produce as many ceramides (fats that naturally occur in the skin), these creams contain lipids that form a barrier to keep moisture in and bacteria out. They are generally prescribed when regular emollients fail to provide relief.
A few popular ones are Atopiclair, Mimyx, Hylatopic Plus, and Epiceram.
This medication is made from steroids, which are hormones that naturally occur in the body. When applied topically to affected skin, corticosteroids can reduce inflammation, irritation, soreness, and itching. It can also reduce the urge to scratch, which will allow the skin to heal.
Topical corticosteroids come in three strength levels: mild, moderate, and high-dose. Your doctor will prescribe or recommend a medication based on the severity of your flare ups. Some of the more popular ones include hydrocortisone, clobetasone butyrate, and mometasone.
Unlike emollients, you usually only apply topical corticosteroids once per day, since there is no increased benefits associated with using it more frequently. In some cases, your doctor may recommend that you use this medication less often (e.g. weekends only) but over a longer period of time to help control symptoms and prevent flare ups.
The medication should be applied first and allowed to soak into the skin. This will take about 30 minutes, so wait to apply an emollient to the affected areas until that time has passed. However, you should continue applying moisturizer to unaffected skin right after taking a shower.
Only use the medication until two days after your flare up clears up. This will allow you to treat the inflammation that may continue under the skin after the visible symptoms have disappeared but minimize the side effects associated with the use of topical corticosteroids. These side effects include thinning of the skin, changes in skin color (lightening), acne, and increased hair growth. Any side effects that do develop while using the medication generally subside once you stop.
If topical corticosteroids are not effective at treating your eczema flare ups, you may be prescribed corticosteroid tablets. This is an oral medication designed to reduce inflammation inside the body and is typically only prescribed for 5 to 7 days to treat severe eczema flare ups.
Though this type of systemic treatment can be effective, it’s associated with a higher risk of side effects such as high blood pressure, changes in mood and behavior, and increased susceptibility to infections. You’ll need to work closely with your doctor to ensure use of this medication doesn’t threaten your health.
In some cases, the doctor may prescribe corticosteroid injections that are applied directly to the affected patches of skin. This is typically done in cases where the eczema outbreak and resulting inflammation is particularly severe.
Although eczema is not an allergic reaction, antihistamines can reduce or eliminate itching. This medication blocks histamine, a substance in the blood that stimulates the body’s immune response.
Use of antihistamines can reduce nighttime scratching and give your skin a chance to heal. However, some brands of antihistamines can cause daytime drowsiness, so you should discuss non-sedating options with your doctor if you’ll be participating in activities where you need to remain alert (e.g. driving, operating machinery).
Bandages and Wet Wraps
If your eczema is particularly bad, covering the area with a wet wrap has been shown to quickly alleviate symptoms, sometimes within hours. This treatment involves applying corticosteroid medication to the affected skin and then wrapping it in special medicated bandages that have been wetted in water. The wrap allows the medication to better penetrate the skin as well as help the skin retain moisture. It may also reduce itching.
It is a labor intensive treatment because you’ll need to rewet the wraps at regular intervals when they start to dry out. Many times, nursing expertise is required to apply the wraps correctly, especially if they will be applied to the face. This is why this treatment primarily done in doctor’s offices and hospitals. If you suffer from severe flare ups on a regular basis, though, your doctor may teach you how to do this treatment at home.
Topical Calcineurin Inhibitors
These are non-steroid medicines that have the same effect as corticosteroids. They are applied to the skin to reduce itching and treat the rash associated with eczema by suppressing immune system activities. However, topical calcineurin inhibitors do not cause the same side effects associated with steroids such as acne, discoloration, thinning skin, or stretch marks. Because they suppress the immune system, though, you may have an increased susceptibility to communicable diseases such as cold as well as infections.
Protopic (tacrolimus) and Elidel (pimecrolimus) are two commonly prescribed medications in this category.
This treatment uses narrowband ultraviolet light to alleviate the symptoms of eczema outbreaks such as itching and inflammation. It also improves the skin’s ability to fight off bacteria and increases vitamin D production, both of which can help the skin heal and resist future outbreaks. Other forms of UVA light such as broadband, PUVA, and UVA1 may be used in certain situations, and medication may be in conjunction with phototherapy to enhance the effect of the ultraviolet light.
Phototherapy is typically prescribed to treat widespread and localized flare ups that do not respond to other types of topical treatments. Though it takes about 1 to 2 months of continuous treatments (about 2 to 3 times per week) to see results, approximately 60 to 70 percent of people who undergo phototherapy experience improvements in their symptoms.
Like any treatment, there is a risk of side effects, which includes burns, faster skin aging, and increased risk of skin cancer. You can also damage your eyes if you don’t wear eye protection during the treatment.
The cause of eczema is still unknown, but it is theorized that immune system dysfunction may contribute to the onset of the disease. An autoimmune disorder is when the body views its own tissues and organs as foreign matter and begins to attack them, causing systemic inflammation. Immunosuppression therapy, which primarily consists of various medications, inhibits the action of the immune system to reduce inflammation and resultant symptoms.
Some commonly prescribed immune suppression drugs include cyclosporine, methotrexate, and mycophenolate mofetil. While effective, many doctors and patients view the use of these medications as a last resort because the side effects can be severe. While using immunosuppressants, you have in increased risk of bacterial and viral infections, cancer, kidney damage, liver damage, high blood pressure, and you may experience gastrointestinal distress such as vomiting.
In general, these drugs are only prescribed for a short period of time to help patients get their eczema under control, and then they are switched to other treatments when the disease becomes more manageable.
Because the skin barrier is thin or non-existent, you have a higher risk of getting bacterial infections, especially if your skin is cracked or develops open sores. These infections can trigger eczema flare ups and worsen symptoms. To combat these infections, your doctor may prescribe oral or topical antibiotics.
It’s important to use the medication for the length of time prescribed; otherwise, drug-resistant strains of bacteria may develop and it’ll be harder to get rid of them.
Also called liquor carbonis detergens (LCD) and liquor picis carbonis (LCP), coal tar is a byproduct of carbonized or gasified coal. It contains a number of medicinal compounds that are useful for alleviating symptoms related to eczema, psoriasis, dandruff and other similar skin disorders. You can find a number of medicated shampoos, soaps, and ointments that contain coal tar marketed under a variety of brand names such as Denorex, Tegrin, T/Gel, and Neutar.
In addition to reducing itching, coal tar contains an analgesic that alleviates pain. However, it has a strong smell, can stain fabric, and may irritate skin. You should only use it while under the care of a doctor who has experience treating patients with eczema to ensure you’re using it safely.
Psychodermatology is a fancy word for the management of skin disease by using various psychological methods. Since stress is a contributing factor to eczema flare ups, reducing stress in your life will be an important aspect of your treatment. Cognitive-behavior therapy techniques may also be used to help you stop participating in counterproductive behaviors such as scratching.
Common psychodermatology techniques include biofeedback, hypnosis, meditation, and methods that focus on relaxation such as deep breathing. They are safe to use and typically do not cause side effects. However, they can be time consuming, and it may take a while before you see results.
Bacteria on the skin are a constant concern when it comes to eczema. As mentioned previously, the lack of a barrier makes skin more prone to infections. Taking a bleach bath two to three times per week is an effective way to deal with this issue.
Pour 1/2 cup of bleach into a full bath of warm water (or a 1/4 cup for a half bath) and soak in the mixture for 10 minutes. Rinse off thoroughly, dry, and immediately apply moisturizer.
Bleach can irritate and even burn the skin, so it’s essential that you are careful with your measurements and rinse your skin completely. Also, avoid wiping your eyes with your wet hands; otherwise you may get bleach in them and cause damage.
If you’re leery about using bleach in your bath water, you can get the same effect by using vinegar instead. Simply add one cup to one pint of white or apple cider vinegar to a full bath of warm water. Soak for 10 minutes, rinse, dry, and moisturize.
Self Care Tips
While medication and other remedies are an important part of managing your eczema, self-care plays a vital role as well. Here are several things you should do on a consistent basis to help prevent flare ups and minimize symptoms when you do experience an outbreak:
- Shower or take a bath every day in warm water; the water should not be too hot or too cold as either extreme temperature can dry out skin
- Pat skin dry. Avoid rubbing as this can irritate skin and cause it to lose moisture.
- Apply moisturizer within three minutes of getting out of the bath to lock in the moisture your skin absorbed
- Moisturize multiple times a day or whenever your skin gets dry
- Only use mild soaps or soap-free cleansers that don’t contain perfumes or unnecessary preservatives and additives
- Avoid wearing clothing made from rough fabrics such as wool or synthetic fibers; stick to cotton and other soft fabrics
- Use a humidifier when the weather is cold and dry; the humidity in your home or office should be around 45 to 55 percent
- Avoid becoming too hot or too cold
- Take time to learn what your eczema triggers are and take steps to minimize their presence in your life
What causes eczema?
The exact cause of eczema is not known, but research indicates that it is caused by a combination of environmental and hereditary factors.
- Hereditary factors: Scientists have found a wide variety of genes that correlate with the incidence of eczema, such as fillagrin.  This goes to show that some people are just unlucky to be born with this condition and may pass it on to future generations.
- Environmental factors: There are a couple of theories that support this factor. One states that people who have never been exposed to certain bacteria because they have grown up in unnaturally clean environments can suffer from eczema once they move to more polluted environments.  There are studies which indicate that some people may show signs of eczema if they are exposed to house mites. 
Common Symptoms of Eczema
People suffering from eczema display a wide variety of symptoms, which can be summarized as under: 
- Dark patches of skin, which may be dry and sensitive as well
- Instead of dark patches, sometimes the skin may display some red rashes instead. These rashes will tend to show up over and over again and is usually accompanies with an intense itch.
- Sometimes the afflicted area may swell and may start oozing after some time. This may be followed by a crust.
- The area may become scaly, rough and leathery as well!
Just because you may be born with this condition does not mean that you have to deal with the discomfort and potential embarrassment for the rest of your lives. There are several home remedies that can save you some trips to the dermatologist’s office.