Eczema anywhere on your body is a curse, but eczema on your face is a special kind of hell. It can come on suddenly, take forever to go away, and make you look and feel like you’ve been punched, burned, rubbed with poison ivy, or all of the above. To the uninitiated, it’s hard to explain how self-conscious facial eczema can make you—your face, after all, is what you’re presenting to the world, and to lose control of how it looks and feels is miserable.
“There are a lot of different kinds of eczema,” explains dermatologist Mona Gohara, M.D., an associate clinical professor at Yale University, who names atopic dermatitis, irritant contact dermatitis, and allergic contact dermatitis as just three examples. Each kind of eczema may benefit from a different treatment, which is why it’s important to see your derm to work out a personalized plan if your eczema is severe, unexpected, or doesn’t heal within a couple weeks.
Some people may benefit from steroids or prescription creams, like Eucrisa, while others may just need to change up their skincare routine. “All skin with eczema has a broken skin moisture barrier so I encourage my patients to look for thicker moisturizing creams, balms, and ointments,” shares Dr. Dustin Portela, a board-certified dermatologist at Treasure Valley Dermatology. Dr. Portela suggests staying away from synthetic fragrances and oils to avoid further irritating of your already inflamed skin. Whether you’re dealing with a flare-up, trying to avoid steroid creams, or just looking for something to calm your skin while you wait for this bout to pass, here are some tried-and-true drugstore eczema treatments we swear by.
1. Aquaphor Healing Ointment
The original, and still the best. Aquaphor is a petroleum jelly–based ointment that the pros recommend slathering on your skin immediately after a shower or bath to lock in moisture. It won’t leave irritated skin feeling even more irritated, and it’ll provide a barrier between your skin and anything that might hurt it (the weather, pollutants, etc). I like using the kind developed specifically for babies—to me, it’s the gentlest.
2. La Roche-Posay Lipikar Balm AP+ Intense Repair Body Cream
Eczema spreads—not between people, it isn’t chicken pox, but it can spread from your face to your body. If you’re skeptical about using a balm that works on your face and body, don’t worry, I was also looking at it weird. But the main ingredients of shea butter and niacinamide are safe and needed for any flare-ups on your body. “This product also has many clinical studies showing improvement in skin barrier and reduction of itch in patients with eczema,” says Dr. Portela.
3. CeraVe Healing Ointment
Holy grail! Hero item! Cult favorite! The CeraVe Healing Ointment is all these things for its benefits in locking in the needed moisture on the skin’s barrier. Another favorite of Dr. Portela, he loves this ointment for its benefits towards “cracked and fissured skin.”
4. Good & Gather Organic Refined Coconut Oil
The coconut oil craze may have passed, but using a touch of it—just a touch!—is still a good trick for calming down your skin. You can use more of it on your body if you get flare-ups there, but just use a fingertip’s worth for your face, focusing on the areas where your eczema is its worst. Bonus: It’s less than $5.
5. First Aid Ulta Repair Cream
Last winter, when my eczema was at its worst, I would pop into Sephora, reach for a sample jar, and dab some of this on my skin if it was feeling particularly itchy. But it’s actually worth stocking up on the super-effective product. You wouldn’t be alone—as Allure points out, a tub of Ultra Repair Cream is literally sold every minute.
6. Pipette Baby Cream to Powder
If it’s good enough for the gentle and sensitive skin of babies, it’s definitely good enough for eczema flare-ups. The National Eczema Association literally says so. The cream formula makes for easy application that transforms into a powder that is talc-free (thank you, Pipette).
7. E45 Liquid Paraffin
In the U.K., where I grew up, you put E45 on everything—diaper rash, a scrape, a burn, dry skin. It’s a little heavier than Aquaphor and Vaseline (and it goes on white, rather than clear, which can be frustrating), but it’s great for mild flare-ups. You don’t have to make a transatlantic trip to get it, either; it’s available on Amazon.
8. Eczema Honey Gentle Lip Balm
Eczema Honey is a line developed specifically for eczema sufferers, with a single, gentle product for each issue—one soap, one body cream, one bath bomb, and so on—and this lip balm does the job. You can use whether you get eczema on your lips or not, whether you’re flaring up or not—and it smells great, too.
9. Cortizone 10 Intensive Healing Lotion
This one isn’t for the faint of heart, but if you want to steer clear of steroid or prescription creams, try this during a flare-up—it’s for that moment that you can’t bear to itch anymore, but you also know that steroid creams won’t work for your skin.
10. Vaseline White Petroleum
“I love Vaseline,” says Dr. Gohara. “Especially around the eyes, where facial eczema can be very prevalent.” While Aquaphor is part petroleum jelly, part other ointments and oils, Vaseline is just pure petroleum jelly. (Again, if your skin is super-sensitive, go for the baby-friendly variety—the gentler, the better.) Vaseline goes on heavier than Aquaphor, since the latter is more easily absorbed by your skin, and it’s more of a protectant than a treatment. I’ve found Aquaphor works better for my eczema, but other sufferers swear by Vaseline, so it may be useful to experiment with both.
11. Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream
This Eight Hour Cream is legendary in skincare circles. While not developed for eczema specifically, I’ve found that a tiny amount of this goes a long way toward treating my issues—it’s thicker and stickier than most of the others on this list, but it also sits more comfortably on my sensitive skin than any other premium skincare product. In particular, if you get eczema on your lips (or have dry, cracked lips generally), this is perfect—make sure you get the fragrance-free kind.
12. CeraVe Moisturizing Cream
When it comes to a one-size-fits-all skincare lines for eczema-prone skin—as opposed to using different brands for cleansing, moisturizing, toning, etc.—CeraVe is widely considered the best. It’s gentle, well-established in the industry, and offers a range of products, from cleanser to hand cream to eye cream, that you can use without worrying about new ingredients upsetting your skin.
13. Dove Beauty Bar
“This is mild and moisturizing,” says Dr. Gohara, who adds that Dove is her go-to cleanser recommendation for patients with eczema. (Pro tip: Get the unscented kind.)
14. Eau Thermale Avène Cicalfate+ Restorative Protective Cream
So, miracle upon miracle, your eczema is gone. Hooray! But you know that one patch of dry skin that isn’t well-moisturized can kick-start the whole cycle again. Don’t fret: This moisturizer, the best I’ve tried in its field, will keep your skin hydrated for hours at a time. Unlike Aquaphor and Vaseline, which can result in skin shinier than the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz, this cream will go on light and leave you glowing (in the good way).
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