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, doused in 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 contract 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, and/or doesn't go away quickly (i.e. within a couple weeks). Some people may benefit from steroids or prescription creams, like Eucrisa, while others may just need to change up their routine. (The biggest misconception Dr. Gohara says patients have about eczema? "That you can’t be irritated by or allergic to something that you have used for many years," she says. Turns out, you can be.)
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 treatments real women swear by.
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.
Last winter, when my eczema was at its worst, I would pop into Sephora, reach for 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.
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.
"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.
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.
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.
Plot twist: This is not an eczema treatment, but it is the only sunscreen I can use when my skin is flaring up. Given that you're reading an article about beauty products, you probably already know how vitally important it is to wear sunscreen every day (yes, every day, rain or shine)—and not just a foundation with SPF, but bona fide sunscreen in its own right. The sun is the number-one ager of skin, and if you slather on sunscreen you'll also be protecting yourself from skin cancers. (Win-win.) So, for those days where you can't bear to put anything but Aquaphor on your irritated skin—but you know you have to wear sunscreen too—try this.
"Wait, Neosporin?" I hear you say. "Isn't that an antibiotic?" Yes, but Neosporin also has a line of very serious-looking "Eczema Essentials" skincare products that promise to reduce pain, scarring, inflammation, itching...any symptoms of eczema that are causing your distress. Consider this not an eczema treatment, per se, but a way to reduce its symptoms.
"This is mild and moisturizing," says Dr. Gohara, who says Dove is her go-to cleanser recommendation for patients with eczema. (Pro tip: Get the unscented kind.)
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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