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  • Share your skin goals and snap selfies

  • Your dermatology provider prescribes your formula

  • Apply nightly for happy, healthy skin

How to treat eczema

Derm-approved advice on how to deal with itchy, irritated skin caused by eczema.

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Curology Team
Apr 30, 2019 · 7 min read

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We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.
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Here at Curology, our medical providers do not treat eczema. Our focus is on acne, rosacea, and anti-aging skincare. Fortunately, we’re still here for you with advice from our team of skincare professionals! We’ll always do our best to help you with expert advice and more resources on the Curology blog.

Eczema is an itchy, irritating skin condition that affects one in 10 people in their lifetime.¹ Atopic dermatitis, which is the most common form of eczema, is more often seen in young children,² but it can affect adults as well.

Eczema is a chronic relapsing and remitting inflammatory disorder. It’s often intensely itchy and can flare up due to various triggers. Because many people don’t initially understand their triggers, eczema can be debilitating. It can cause physical and emotional stress—even sleep loss. To make matters worse, it’s not uncommon to experience both eczema and acne at the same time, and unfortunately, some of the best acne treatments can actually irritate eczema.

Luckily, there is plenty you can do to alleviate the symptoms of eczema. Here we’ll explain more about this condition, its causes, and how you can manage its symptoms.

A knee with dermatitis

Getting to know eczema 

Eczema is a type of dermatitis, which simply means skin inflammation. There are different types of eczema, but the term usually refers to atopic dermatitis, the most common type of eczema. Atopic dermatitis affects up to 25% of children and 2-3% of adults.³

Eczema often presents as a chronic skin condition that begins with intense itching that's aggravated by scratching. It can flare up due to specific triggers, which vary from person to person. Symptoms of eczema include red,itchy, dry skin, and severe cases may include raised patches of skin that appear scaly. Dyshidrotic eczema presents with blisters as well.⁴

Currently, there’s no cure for eczema, but it can be managed. Start by paying attention to what’s in the skincare products you use and anything else that comes into contact with your skin (such as the detergent you use to wash your clothing and linens). Consult your dermatology provider if these simple measures don’t help.

What causes eczema?

There are multiple factors that can trigger eczema, and they vary from person to person. Anything that impacts the skin’s ability to retain moisture and protect you from irritants is a possible culprit, including bacteria, allergens, or environmental factors. According to the  National Eczema Association, while we are unsure what the exact causes of eczema may be, risk factors and triggers for eczema flare-ups include the following:⁵ 

  • Dry skin

  • Heat

  • Humidity

  • Sweating

  • Certain soaps and laundry detergents

  • Dust and pollen

  • Allergens in food

  • Stress

Managing eczema: Prevention is key 

For those living with eczema, preventing flare-ups is essential to a more comfortable (and less itchy) life. Eczema symptoms often worsen in response to triggers like the ones listed above. Identifying and avoiding these triggers can help manage your condition.

If you’ve ever heard of the “eczema diet,” it’s because research shows that there may be a link between the condition and one’s diet.⁶ This may be due to food allergies and intolerances causing flare-ups. However, this is only true for some eczema sufferers, as not everyone is triggered by foods.

food-promote-brain-power

Wondering what to eat if you have eczema? Our dermatology providers recommend a healthy, well-balanced diet rich in lean protein, whole grains, fruits, and veggies. Your medical provider may recommend a food elimination diet to identify triggers,⁷ but this is not suggested for everyone.

In one study, participants who removed white flour products, gluten, and nightshade vegetables, such as tomatoes and peppers, from their diet saw an improvement in their eczema symptoms. In the same study, participants who added vegetables, fruits, organic foods, and fish oil to their diet also saw improvement.⁸

Acne and eczema: Is it possible to have both?

Acne is one of the most common skin conditions treated by dermatology providers. Although it most often affects adolescents, it is not uncommon in adults and can arise in children. Acne happens when pores become clogged with excess oil and dead skin cells. Bacteria (C. acnes), thrives in this environment, resulting in blackheads, whiteheads, and inflammatory lesions like papules, pustules, or cysts.⁹

Acne and eczema are both usually diagnosed through a history and physical examination. While they are treated differently, they can occur together. Dermatology providers will usually diagnose eczema based on your skin’s appearance, in addition to your personal and family history. A skin biopsy may be done to rule out other skin conditions, if necessary. Although it is manageable, eczema is a chronic condition. Acne is diagnosed by a medical provider based on the skin’s appearance and a discussion of risk factors, including hormones, medications, family history, and menstruation (if applicable).

red-cheecks-diatesis-allergy

A treatment plan for acne may include over-the-counter and prescription topical treatments containing ingredients such as tretinoin, benzoyl peroxide, and salicylic acid, as well as oral medications, such as isotretinoin and antibiotics.¹⁰ These treatments may have associated side effects such as skin irritation and dryness. Eczema is typically treated with moisturizer and topical anti-inflammatories, such as topical corticosteroids.¹¹

Although both acne and eczema may cause irritated, inflamed skin, they have different symptoms, causes, and treatments. For example, acne typically isn’t itchy, while eczema may be very itchy.

If you have a propensity for eczema, you’ll want to be careful with anti-acne treatments. These could potentially worsen dryness and redness. In some cases, you may want to clear up facial eczema before focusing on acne treatment.

Dos and don’ts of caring for eczema

We understand that caring for your eczema can be challenging. In addition to identifying and managing your triggers, here are some helpful dos and don’ts: 

Do: Try to identify triggers for your skin, so you can avoid them. Switch to gentle cleansers for your body and face, and swap out your laundry detergent for one labeled as fragrance-free and safe for sensitive skin.

Don’t: Over-exfoliate. It may be tempting to slough off all that dry, itchy, flaky skin, but that only makes matters worse. The best approach is to treat your skin as gently as possible while you let it heal.

Do: Moisturize at least twice a day. Just make sure you’re using a moisturizer with ingredients that won’t further irritate your skin or clog your pores! We can help you determine if any of your products contain irritating or pore-clogging ingredients.

Don’t: Take super-hot showers. Hot water dries out your skin and leaves its outer surface damaged and vulnerable, which may contribute to eczema flare-ups. Instead, opt for shorter, cooler showers.

Moisturizers for eczema

If you’re looking for the best over-the-counter eczemacream or treatment, it may depend on your individual situation and symptoms. It can be helpful to look forproducts that have the National Eczema Association seal of approval. Here are some moisturizer recommendations from our experts to get you started:

  • The Curology rich moisturizer: Curology’s rich moisturizer provides deep hydration and contains hyaluronic acid to reduce the appearance of signs of aging, such as fine lines and wrinkles. 

  • Eucerin Eczema Relief Body Cream: Eucerin’s unscented Eczema Relief moisturizer helps improve hydration and replenish the skin barrier to relieve and soothe eczema-prone skin.

  • Gold Bond Eczema Relief Medicated Hand Cream: This eczema relief cream from Gold Bond contains 2% colloidal oatmeal to temporarily protect and help relieve minor skin irritation and itching due to eczema.

  • La Roche-Posay Lipikar Eczema Soothing Relief Cream: La Roche-Posay’s cream for the face, hands, and body targets itching, dryness, redness, and roughness caused by eczema. It replenishes essential lipids and provides instant and long-lasting (48-hour, to be exact) moisturization. 

  • Avene XeraCalm A.D Lipid-Replenishing Cream: Great for the whole family, this lipid-replenishing cream helps nourish, soothe, and calm dry, itchy skin. It also helps support the skin’s defense system.

  • Aquaphor Healing Ointment: Popular with many dermatology providers, Aquaphor Healing Ointment is a multi-purpose product that is excellent for repairing dry skin, chapped lips, cracked hands and feet, and more. 

  • EltaMD Moisturizer: EltaMD Moisturizer helps retain the skin’s moisture for at least 12 hours. Intensely occlusive, this moisturizer absorbs deeply and helps calm inflamed, irritated, flaky skin. 

  • Bioderma Atoderm Intensive Balm: This moisture-replenishing body balm from Bioderma helps comfort dry skin. Intensely nourishing, it’s recognized by the National Eczema Association.

  • COSRX Hyaluronic Acid Intensive Cream: Formulated with hyaluronic acid to help deeply hydrate the skin, this cream is not oily or heavy.

  • Honest Company Sensitive Face + Body Lotion, Fragrance Free: This dermatology-tested Honest Company cream is fast-absorbing, non-greasy, calming, and soothing. It is designed for all skin types and has a fragrance free option. 

Curology is here for you 

Curology Custom Formula Cleanser Moisturizer and Lip Balm  - The vegan diet and acne: Is there a link?

If you think you’re experiencing eczema or another chronic skin condition, seek help from an in-person healthcare provider. But if you’re struggling with other skin conditions, such as acne, signs of aging, hyperpigmentation, or rosacea, we’re here to help. Our licensed dermatology providers may be able to assist you with these problems. 

Curology can help tackle skincare concerns and achieve your skin goals by pairing you with an in-house dermatology provider. After learning about your skincare needs, they’ll prescribe you a personalized prescription formula with ingredients for your specific concerns. 

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Our full line of skincare products are dermatologist-designed and tested to be non-comedogenic, dye-free, and paraben-free. They’re made to keep your skin happy and healthy. As a bonus, your subscription includes any additional products recommended by your dermatology provider, from cleansers to moisturizers and sunscreen.

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FAQs

What is eczema?

Eczema is a type of dermatitis, which simply means skin inflammation. There are different types of eczema, but the term usually refers to atopic dermatitis, the most common type of eczema. Atopic dermatitis affects up to 25% of children and 2-3% of adults.

What causes eczema?

  • Dry skin

  • Heat

  • Humidity

  • Sweating

  • Certain soaps and laundry detergents

  • Dust and pollen

  • Allergens in food

  • Stress

Acne and eczema: Is it possible to have both?

Acne and eczema are both usually diagnosed through a history and physical examination. While they are treated differently, they can occur together. Dermatology providers will usually diagnose eczema based on your skin’s appearance, in addition to your personal and family history.

What are the dos and don’ts of caring for eczema?

Do: Try to identify triggers for your skin, so you can avoid them. Switch to gentle cleansers for your body and face, and swap out your laundry detergent for one labeled as fragrance-free and safe for sensitive skin.

Don’t: Over-exfoliate. It may be tempting to slough off all that dry, itchy, flaky skin, but that only makes matters worse. The best approach is to treat your skin as gently as possible while you let it heal.

Do: Moisturize at least twice a day. Just make sure you’re using a moisturizer with ingredients that won’t further irritate your skin or clog your pores! We can help you determine if any of your products contain irritating or pore-clogging ingredients.

Don’t: Take super-hot showers. Hot water dries out your skin and leaves its outer surface damaged and vulnerable, which may contribute to eczema flare-ups. Instead, opt for shorter, cooler showers.

• • •

P.S. We did the homework so you don’t have to:

  1. Frazer, W., et al. Atopic Dermatitis: Diagnosis and Treatment.American Family Physician. (2020 May 15).

  2. Kolb, L., et al. Atopic Dermatitis.StatPearls. (2022 August 8).

  3. Lawrence, F., et al. Guidelines of care for the management of atopic dermatitis. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. (2014).

  4. Calle Sarmiento, P.M., Chango Azanza, J.J. Dyshidrotic Eczema: A Common Cause of Palmar Dermatitis. Cureus. (2020).

  5. Eczema Causes and Triggers. National Eczema Association. n.d.

  6. Katta, R., Schlichte, M., Diet and dermatitis: food triggers. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. (2014).

  7. Katta, R., Schlichte, M., Diet and dermatitis: food triggers. Ibid.

  8. Nosrati, A., et al. Dietary modifications in atopic dermatitis: patient-reported outcomes. J Dermatolog Treat. (2017).

  9. Zaenglein, A., et al. Guidelines of care for the management of acne vulgaris. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. (2016).

  10. Zaenglein, A., et al. Guidelines of care for the management of acne vulgaris. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. Ibid.

  11. Chong, M., Fonacier, L. Treatment of Eczema: Corticosteroids and Beyond. Clin Rev Allergy Immunol. (2016).

This article was originally published on April, 2019, and updated on January, 2023.

* Subject to consultation.

• • •
Our medical review process:We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.
Our policy on product links:Empowering you with knowledge is our top priority. Our reviews of other brands’ products in this post are not paid endorsements—but they do meet our medically fact-checked standards for ingredients (at the time of publication).
Curology Team Avatar

Curology Team

Donna McIntyre, NP-BC

Donna McIntyre, NP-BC

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