Best natural remedies for eczema

Home remedies and herbal therapies will soothe the dry skin that comes with eczema, with scratching.

People may use creams, natural products and changes in diet and lifestyle to relieve or avoid eczema flares, especially in winter when symptoms appear to be at their worst.

Natural substances such as aloe vera gel and coconut oil can cause dry, broken skin to moisturise. In addition, they can combat inflammation and harmful bacteria to reduce swelling and prevent infection.

Natural remedies are unable to cure eczema but they can help manage the symptoms and prevent flares. This article looks into the best natural eczema remedies.

Aloe vera gel

Aloe vera gel
A person can use aloe vera gel directly from the plant.

The aloe vera gel is made from the plant’s seeds. For decades, people used aloe vera gel to treat a wide variety of ailments. One common usage is eczema calming.

A 2015 systematic review looked into aloe vera’s effects on human health. The researchers reported that the gel has the following characteristics:

  • antibacterial
  • antimicrobial
  • immune system-boosting
  • wound-healing

The antibacterial and antimicrobial effects will prevent infections of the skin that are more likely to occur when a person has raw, cracked peel. The healing properties of Aloe’s wound can soothe broken skin and promote healing.

How to use it

Select aloe gel products with few ingredients— others may contain preservatives, alcohol, fragrances and colors that may all irritate sensitive skin. Alcohol and other ingredients from the drying process can make eczema worse.

To test for skin sensitivity start with a small amount of gel. The aloe vera can sometimes cause burning or stinging. Nevertheless, it’s generally safe and effective for both adults and children.

Apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar for many conditions, including skin disorders, is a common home remedy.

The National Association for Eczema (NEA) states that apple cider vinegar will help with the disease. I also recommend caution, however, as the acids of the vinegar may damage soft tissue.

No study has confirmed apple cider vinegar reduces the symptoms of eczema, but there are several explanations why it might help:

Balancing the skin’s acidity levels

Vinegar is highly acidic. Of course the skin is acidic, but people with eczema may have less acidic skin than others. This can weaken the defenses in the skin.

Applying diluted apple cider vinegar may help balance the levels of acidity in the skin, but if not diluted, vinegar can cause burns.

Conversely, there are many alkaline soaps, detergents, and cleansers. They can interfere with the skin’s acidity which can make the skin susceptible to injury. This may explain why washing with certain soaps may cause flares of eczema.

Fighting bacteria

Apple cider vinegar has been shown to be capable of fighting bacteria, including Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus. Using apple cider vinegar on the skin can help prevent infection of broken skin.

How to use it

Dilute apple cider vinegar indefinitely before adding it to the skin. Undiluted vinegar can be responsible for chemical burns or other injuries.

The vinegar can be used by people in wet wraps or baths, and is sold at most supermarkets and health stores.

Apple cider vinegar should be used in a wet wrap:

  • Mix 1 cup of warm water and 1 tablespoon of the vinegar.
  • Apply the solution to cotton or gauze.
  • Cover the dressing in clean cotton fabric.
  • Leave it on the area for 3 hours.

To try an apple cider vinegar bath soak:

  • Add 2 cups of apple cider vinegar to a warm bath.
  • Soak for 15–20 minutes.
  • Rinse the body thoroughly.
  • Moisturize within several minutes of leaving the bath.

Bleach in the bath

Although it may sound dangerous, research suggests that bleach in the bath may improve symptoms of eczema because of its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects.

Bleach on the skin surface can kill the bacteria like S. Aureus which causes infections with staphs. This may restore the surface of the skin microbiome.

A 2015 study suggests that bleach baths may minimize the need for topical corticosteroid or antibiotic treatments. Other research, however, found no benefits from bleach baths as compared with normal baths.

How to use it

Using regular-strength (6 per cent) pure bleach to create a bleach bath for eczema and try the following :

  • Add half a cup of bleach to a full bathtub of water or 1 teaspoon of bleach per gallon of water.
  • Pour in the bleach while the bath is filling.
  • Soak for 5–10 minutes.
  • Rinse the body thoroughly with warm water.
  • Gently pat the skin dry.

Using lukewarm water to avoid drying out of the skin, and moisturize immediately following drying.

If a person experiences some pain, irritation or redness, the use of bleach in the bath will stop. People with asthma or breathing problems, due to the strong fumes, should refrain from taking bleach baths.

Colloidal oatmeal

Colloidal oatmeal, also known as Avena sativa, is produced from ground and boiled oats to recover the properties of their skin healing.

A 2015 study reported that the lotion of colloidal oatmeal had antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, leading to improvement of:

  • skin dryness
  • scaling
  • roughness
  • itch intensity

According to the results of a randomized controlled trial, a colloidal oatmeal moisturizer worked better than a control.

How to use it

In a warm bath, apply powdered colloidal oatmeal and soak.

Choose a colloidal oatmeal product that only has oats and avoid those with fragrances or additives.

Colloidal oatmeal is usually safe for all ages but it should be avoided for people who are allergic to oats. Individuals with gluten allergies should be vigilant, as oats are often mixed with wheat.

Baths

Bathing is an important part of treatment for eczema. When a person has a skin condition like eczema, the skin needs extra moisture because the outer layer doesn’t work as it should.

Washing can often dry out the skin for some, and make eczema worse. This can happen if:

  • using water that is too hot or cold
  • using the wrong soap
  • not moisturizing afterward

Avoid bathing too frequently. Most babies and children need bathing once or twice a week.

NEA recommend that adults:

  • bathe or shower at least once a day
  • use lukewarm water
  • limit bathing to 10–15 minutes
  • avoid scrubbing the skin
  • use gentle cleansers instead of soaps
  • try different types of medicinal baths, such as those with baking soda, vinegar, or oatmeal

A long, hot shower will draw moisture and natural oils from the skin. Take shorter showers and keep the water at warm temperatures, not hot ones.

Be moisturized within 3 minutes of getting out after bathing. Pat the skin gently dry with a towel and apply an oil-based moisturizer before the skin has dried out completely. This may help seal off the shower or bath in water before it evaporates.

Apply moisturizer after the hands have been washed and dried to help prevent eczema flares.

Coconut oil

Coconut oil contains healthy fatty acids that can bring moisture to the skin so that people with dry skin and eczema can benefit.

Virgin coconut oil can also protect the skin by helping fight inflammation and improving skin barrier protection.

A randomized clinical trial investigated the effects of application of virgin coconut oil in children to the skin. The results show that eight weeks of using the oil helped the eczema symptoms better than the mineral oil.

How to use it

Upon washing, add cold-pressed virgin coconut oil directly to the skin and until multiple times a day. Use it to keep the skin moisturized overnight, before bed.

Extra virgin coconut oil is usually solid at room temperature but a person’s body’s warmth converts it into liquid.

People who are allergic to coconuts should not use coconut oil.

Honey

Honey is a natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory agent and it has been used by humans for centuries to heal wounds.

Conclusions of a study suggest that honey can help heal wounds and improve the activity of the immune system, suggesting it can help the body fend off infections.

Another review notes that honey is useful in the treatment of a variety of skin ailments, including burns and wounds, and has antibacterial potential.

Applied directly to eczema, though moisturizing the skin and speeding up healing, honey may help prevent infections.

How to use it

Try dabbing a little honey onto the area.

Tea tree oil

The manufacturers extract tea tree oil from the Melaleuca alternifolia tree leaves. This oil is often used by people to help with skin problems like eczema.

A study in 2013 discusses the oil’s anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and wound healing properties. It can help relieve dryness and itching of the skin, and help prevent infection.

How to use it

Also dilute essential oils onto the skin before using them. Try to mix tea tree oil with a carrier oil, like almond or olive oil, and then add the solution. Many products come in a diluted form of tea tree oil.

Dietary changes

Eczema is an inflammatory condition which causes the skin to become inflamed, red, and sore.

Many foods can increase or decrease inflammation in the body, and making a few main dietary changes may help reduce eczema flares.

Anti-inflammatory foods for example include:

  • fish
  • leafy greens
  • beans and lentils
  • colorful fruits
  • vegetables
  • turmeric and cinnamon

Inflammatory foods widely used include milk, eggs, soy and wheat. To help identify which foods may be problematic, try eliminating any of these from the diet and keep a food diary.

Gentle soaps and detergents

Many body washers and cleansers contain detergents that lead to a soapy lather. Detergents and other lathering agents, especially in people with eczema, can dry out the skin.

Owing to their alkalinity, bar soaps can be rough on the skin too.

Consider using a cleanser that’s gentle, no-lather, fragrance free. Avoid products with raw particles for scrubbing or exfoliating, as these can irritate the skin further.

Many people with eczema also find that switching to a laundry detergent that is more gentle, fragrant or color-free can help improve symptoms.

Try skipping fabric softener which lingers on clothes and often contains fragrances and chemicals which can cause irritation of the skin.

Avoid strong heat sources

Sitting next to a fireplace or near a furnace may feel good but it may make the symptoms of eczema worse. The hot, dry air will dehydrate the skin and make eczema more itchy.

During dry winter months use a humidifier and avoid getting too close to heaters and fireplaces.

Wrap up in cold weather

Hot, severe winter winds can dry skin and cause flares of eczema.

If temperatures are low, keep the skin warm. When eczema happens on the face, consider always covering the neck with a scarf.

Home remedies for eczema in babies and children

Many home remedies are suitable for children and babies but always speak to a doctor before using them on children of any age.

The following home remedies may help:

  • Avoid dressing a baby or child too warmly. Sweating can aggravate eczema or cause heat rash, which makes itching worse.
  • Use mittens to prevent infants from scratching their skin.
  • Apply a gentle moisturizer frequently to the affected areas, taking care not to get it in the eyes or nose.
  • Do not cover a baby’s face with a scarf. Infant car seat covers can help shield a baby from cold outside air. Check often to ensure that the baby is getting enough airflow.
  • Ask a doctor before trying apple cider vinegar or bleach in the bath of a baby or child.
  • Colloidal oatmeal baths are generally safe for children, but keep the bath water out of their eyes.
  • Avoid bathing them too frequently. Most babies and children only need bathing once or twice a week unless they are visibly soiled. Bathing less frequently may help prevent dry skin.
  • Use fragrance- and alcohol-free baby wipes. Many wipes contain irritating ingredients. Look for those without fragrance or alcohol and those that contain soothing ingredients, such as aloe vera. “Sensitive skin” wipes may be useful.
  • Use baby shampoos intended for children with eczema. Many eczema washes can sting the eyes, so look for eczema washes that are “tear-free” and carefully avoid the child’s eyes.

Outlook

There is no cure for eczema, but with home remedies, including natural gels and oils, medicated baths, and dietary changes, people can often manage their symptoms.

If eczema is serious or doesn’t respond to treatments at home, seeing a doctor could be a good idea. If a child or newborn develops a new rash, do so right away.

To treat the inflammation a doctor can prescribe steroid creams or other prescription medicines.

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