Home Remedies to Treat Eczema

By Rebecca Campen, M.D., J.D.
Content provided by the Faculty of the Harvard Medical School

Question:

Are there any home remedies that I can use for eczema?

Answer:

Eczema can be a chronic disorder characterized by pinkness of skin, scaling, and itching. It may also be a temporary condition caused by exposure to certain irritants, such as dish detergent or perfumed soaps or lotions, or to substances such as poison ivy that may cause an allergic reaction in your skin.

Avoiding skin irritants is the first step in treating eczema:

  • Don't use perfumed products such as spray perfumes and fragrant soaps or moisturizers.

  • Wear rubber gloves when you wash dishes.

  • Wash your face with your hands instead of a washcloth, which may have detergent residue.

  • Put laundry through an extra rinse cycle to eliminate laundry detergent residue that can cause skin itching.

The location of the eczema is often a clue to the source of the irritation. For example:

  • Upper chest. Skin pinkness and irritation on the upper chest and around the neck can suggest contact sensitivity to jewelry or spray perfume.

  • Ring finger. Irritation around the ring finger can suggest sensitivity to the ring or to soap caught underneath the ring.

  • Arm pit: Irritation under the arms can suggest sensitivity to the perfume in a deodorant.

If your skin is itchy, but you are uncertain as to the underlying irritant, eliminate current products until your skin is under control. Once your skin is no longer irritated, you can try your products again one at a time, a week or two apart, to see which one may be irritating your skin. In the meantime, use a mild, unscented soap for bathing and an unscented moisturizer if your skin is dry. Applying an unscented lotion containing menthol can help relieve itching, and applying over-the-counter hydrocortisone to red, itchy areas can be helpful.

Persistent, chronic eczema is more difficult to treat and may require prescription strength medications. Eczema can also become infected with scratching, requiring oral antibiotics on occasions. Other conditions can sometimes masquerade as eczema. See your doctor if skin redness and irritation do not resolve. Effective treatment depends upon correct diagnosis.

Last Annual Review Date: 2008-07-28T00:00:00-06:00 Copyright: Copyright Harvard Health Publications

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