Eczema, an inflammatory condition of the skin also known as atopic dermatitis, is a highly visible, touch-and-go skin-care issue that causes skin on the face and body to become red and itchy at the slightest triggers: stress, sweating, dry conditions (like central heating in winter), irritants in skin-care products, and even steamy showers. Little adjustments can help: All of the experts we consulted recommended five-minute showers with lukewarm water and switching to products that are fragrance-free, hypoallergenic, and clear of harsh chemicals. Serious cases of eczema will require prescription treatments, but some patients can get by with an over-the-counter treatment filled with “emollient, humectant ingredients like ceramides, petrolatum, shea butter, glycerin, hyaluronic acid, and squalene,” which will rehydrate and restore any dry, cracked skin caused by eczema, according to Dr. Corey L. Hartman, founder of Skin Wellness Dermatology in Birmingham, Alabama. “For eczema-prone skin, hydration is the name of the game,” he says. And since eczema is essentially just inflammation to the skin, products with additional ingredients like colloidal oatmeal and petroleum will soothe and protect the skin from further damage or irritation.
Because reading ingredients lists can be confusing, especially if most are completely unpronounceable, we did the dirty work for you by having dermatologists and people with firsthand experience tell us their favorite and most-recommended lotions, creams, and balms for eczema-prone skin. Most of them have received a seal of acceptance from the National Eczema Foundation, so they won’t exacerbate the condition and will keep your flare-ups at bay.
What we’re looking for
Serious cases of eczema will require prescription treatments, but some patients can get by with an over-the-counter one filled with “emollient, humectant ingredients like ceramides, petrolatum, shea butter, glycerin, hyaluronic acid, and squalene,” which will rehydrate and restore any dry, cracked skin caused by eczema, according to Dr. Corey L. Hartman, founder of Skin Wellness Dermatology in Birmingham, Alabama. “For eczema-prone skin, hydration is the name of the game,” he says. And since eczema is essentially just inflammation of the skin, products with additional ingredients like colloidal oatmeal and petroleum will soothe and protect the skin from further damage or irritation.
Eczema treatments tend to be on the affordable side, but we’ve noted how much you’re getting in each bottle or tube and how much it costs per ounce.
Best overall eczema treatment
Ingredients: Petrolatum, glycerin | Price: 16 ounces (approx. $0.87 per ounce)
Half of the dermatologists we spoke to brought up Vanicream, which we’ve already ranked as our best moisturizer for dry, sensitive skin, as a particularly good treatment because it’s essentially free of anything that could irritate your skin, including fragrance, lanolin, parabens, formaldehyde, dyes, and more. “It tends to be well-tolerated by even those with particularly dry, sensitive skin,” says Hartman. As a notoriously finicky condition, eczema can flare up easily with just one wrong ingredient — and take a while to go back to normal — so our dermatologists think it’s better to be cautious with your creams and stick to a completely hypoallergenic product. Marisa Garshick, an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Cornell, New York Presbyterian Medical Center, recommends the lotion version, too, which is also “free of the most common allergens that can worsen eczema.” It has a thinner texture than the cream, so it’d be much better for the summer, when you can settle for something a little less heavy-duty, since cold weather wreaking havoc on your skin is less of a factor.
Best everyday eczema treatment
Ingredients: Ceramides, hyaluronic acid, glycerin | Price: 19 ounces (approx. $0.90 per ounce)
Because this cream (which we’ve written about many, many, many times before) contains ceramides, which Hartman calls “the building blocks of a healthy skin barrier,” it will provide your dry, itchy skin the protection it needs to stay hydrated. Hartman also particularly likes the ointment-like texture that’s “non-greasy” and thinks it “should be a part of every eczema treatment plan.” Thanks to the hyaluronic acid and glycerin, too, it’ll be exceptionally hydrating, keeping your skin soothed for longer stretches of time.
Best lightweight cream for eczema
Ingredients: Prebiotic water, colloidal oatmeal, niacinamide | Price: 13.5 ounces (approx. $1 per ounce)
For something lightweight but effective, Garshick suggests this La Roche-Posay Lipikar cream with added colloidal oatmeal for the itch. “It contains a high concentration of prebiotic water, which may have a role in improving the skin microbiome that’s linked to inflammation and irritation of the skin.” Niacinamide is another ingredient in it that can be helpful for calming redness and inflammation.
Best SPF for eczema-prone skin
Ingredients: Prebiotic oat | Price: 12 ounces (Approx. $1.88/ounce)
To keep skin protected, dermatologist and founder of FryFace Dr. Fayne Frey tells her patients, “First and foremost, sunscreen. Daily application of sunscreen protects the skin from sun damage and skin cancer. Like brushing your teeth, sunscreen should be something you do every single day.” For patients with eczema, Frey recommends a hydrating lotion from Aveeno. It has a high SPF rating of 60 (well above the 30 minimum that she recommends to patients) and includes hydrating prebiotic oat to soothe irritated skin. It’s also suitable to use on the face, and shouldn’t break you out, either: Frey also recommends it to her patients who are acne-prone.
Best luxury treatment for eczema
Ingredients: Shea butter, bisabolol | Price: 6.7 ounces (approx. $10 per ounce)
Dr. Lily Talakoub, founder of Mclean Dermatology and beauty app Derm to Door, calls the Augstinus Bader body cream “one of the most soothing creams I have tested for eczema.” It’s pricey, to be sure, but we’ve made a case for the rather exorbitantly priced brand numerous times before (the Cut has called its face cream “the secret to rich-person skin”), and it works: The exceptionally creamy texture, jam-packed with shea butter and natural oils, “helps repair the natural barrier of the skin and hold moisture in the skin.” It’s free of sulfates, mineral oil, fragrance, parabens, phtalates, silicone, and petrochemicals, so it’ll be gentle on your finicky skin.
Best ointment for eczema flare-ups
Ingredients: Ceramides, hyaluronic acid, petrolatum | Price: 3 ounces (approx. $4 per ounce)
For something thick and heavy during particularly harsh flare-ups, Garshick suggests using CeraVe’s ointment, instead of the cream. Like the cream, the ointment contains an ample amount of ceramides to protect your skin’s barrier. And Maral Skelsey, the director of the Dermatologic Surgery Center of Washington, points out that it’s also lanolin free and unscented but has a higher percentage of petrolatum than the cream, so it’ll feel more like Vaseline being rubbed in rather than a creamy texture that blends right away.
Best heavy ointment for eczema flare-ups
Ingredients: Petrolatum | Price: 14 ounces (approx. $1 per ounce)
And then there’s always the “cult favorite” Aquaphor, which Hartman calls “the most matte, most elegant of the petrolatum products on the market.” Because it contains a high percentage of petrolatum, mineral oil, glycerin, and panthenol, Aquaphor will protect the skin as well as “trap in moisture better than most,” as Hartman explains. Dermatologist Dr. Susan Binder is also an Aquaphor advocate, and advises that it’s “great when used immediately after the shower or bath to lock in moisture and help heal dry, cracked skin,” (though Bider warns that it can feel “a bit greasy.”) As it’s such a heavy-duty ointment, both experts recommend it for use during a flare-up, when skin is in crisis.
Best balm for eczema flare-ups
Ingredients: Colloidal oatmeal, glycerin | Price: 11 ounces (approx. $1.50 per ounce)
“The dryer skin gets, the more likely the eczema flares,” says Skelsey. It’s why your first line of defense for eczema-prone skin should be a thick, gentle moisturizer. She likes this itch-relief balm from Aveeno (which we’ve covered before) because it’s “fragrance free, hypoallergenic, and has colloidal oatmeal, which helps heal skin” and stops the incessant itching that eczema sometimes causes. As an added bonus, she mentions that the added soy helps fade dark spots that eczema can leave behind.
Best lotion for eczema
Ingredients: Shea butter, glycerin, niacinamide, prebiotic water | Price: 13.5 ounces (approx. $1.50 per ounce)
“Treatment of eczema revolves around maintaining and rebuilding the skin barrier,” says dermatologist Karan Lal. To help keep the skin barrier healthy, he recommends this lotion from La Roche-Posay. “It keeps skin moist for up to 48 hours and helps to rebalance part of the skin’s microbiome,” he says. “It’s not as greasy as petrolatum and it’s easy to apply and reapply.” It contains lots of hydrating ingredients like ceramides, shea butter, and glycerin, along with niacinamide, which helps with hyperpigmentation and fortifies the skin’s barrier.
Best eczema treatment for the face
Ingredients: Colloidal oatmeal, shea butter, ceramides | Price: 1.7 ounces (approx. $16 per ounce)
For a face moisturizer, Garshick suggests First Aid Beauty (a favorite moisturizer of our eczema-prone beauty writer Rio) because it contains colloidal oatmeal for calming inflammation and itchy skin, shea butter to protect the natural skin barrier, and ceramides. The moisturizer is also noncomedogenic, so it shouldn’t block pores.
Best face wash for eczema
Ingredients: Shea butter, glycerin, niacinamide, prebiotic water | Price: 11 ounces (approx. $2 per ounce)
Foaming, fragrant face washes can be triggering for eczema, so Lal recommends a face wash that’ll both cleanse and hydrate simultaneously. He likes this one from La Roche Posay, which is specifically formulated for extra-dry, sensitive skin. It’s so gentle, it can even be used on babies as young as two weeks old. “I recommend this for newborns,” says Lal.
Best eczema treatment for hands
Ingredients: Glycerin | Price: 2 ounces (approx. $2.50 per ounce)
New York–based dermatologist Dhaval Bhanusali offered this tidbit about hand creams: “Neutrogena Norwegian Hand cream is pretty much universally loved by all dermatologists” because it has its skin soothers. The formula is slightly different from other hand creams in that it’s rich in glycerin, an ingredient he says is ideal for eczema-prone skin since it’s gentle, calming, and a humectant that draws water from the air to moisturize.
Best eczema treatment for flared-up hands
Ingredients: Beeswax, sunflower oil and shea butter | Price: 1.5 ounces (approx. $8.53 per ounce)
Strategist contributor Chelsey Pippin gets eczema flare-ups on her hands from time to time. But she prefers to avoid steroid creams — to her, they’re “greasy, smelly, and end with me leaving icky fingerprints on my keyboard, the fridge handle, the doorknob, my clothes, you name it.” Instead, she slathers this Naked Bee salve over the affected area. It’s made with — you guessed it — beeswax, as well as sunflower oil and shea butter. And its teeny metal tin makes it easy to carry around when you need to reapply.
Best hydrocortisone treatment for eczema
Ingredients: Hydrocortisone, aloe, vitamin E, triple oat complex | Price: 1 ounce (approx. $10 per ounce)
If you aren’t using a prescription-strength hydrocortisone for curbing inflammation, your next best bet is a cream with added steroids in it — though Emma Guttman, director of Mount Sinai’s Center for Excellence in Eczema, says they’re not nearly as effective. This Aveeno anti-itch ointment (with one percent hydrocortisone in it) came recommended by Garshick as a spot treatment for eczema: “In addition to the hydrocortisone, it contains a soothing triple oat complex.”
Some other eczema treatments we’ve written about:
• Dhaval Bhanusali, dermatologist
• Dr. Fayne Frey, dermatologist and founder of FryFace
• Marisa Garshick, an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Cornell
• Emma Guttman, director of Mount Sinai’s Center for Excellence in Eczema
• Dr. Corey L. Hartman, founder of Skin Wellness Dermatology
• Dr. Karan Lal, dermatologist
• Chelsey Pippin, author and Strategist contributor
• Maral Skelsey, the director of the Dermatologic Surgery Center of Washington
• Dr. Lily Talakoub, founder of Mclean Dermatology and beauty app Derm to Door
• Dr Kathy Taghipour, consultant dermatologist at DermConsult Clinics London
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