9 of the Best Eczema Treatments, According to Dermatologists

Itching for a way to relieve the symptoms of eczema? Experts say these creams, lotions, and ointments can help.
Don’t let eczema get you down.
Don’t let eczema get you down. / LaylaBird, E+ Collection, Getty Images
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If you’re one of the 31.6 million Americans who has some form of eczema, you’re probably itching for a solution. While potions work wonders for wizards, medical experts are more likely to recommend soothing lotions, creams, and ointments to help alleviate symptoms of the condition, which include severe itch, rash, redness, and sometimes even loss of sleep.

To find out more, we reached out to several board-certified dermatologists to explain what eczema really is and give us their top picks for the best eczema treatments you can try at home.

What Is Eczema?

Close-up of man with eczema on his elbow.
Atopic dermatitis is the most common type of eczema, but not the only form of it. / Tanja Ivanova, Moment Collection, Getty Images

Eczema is a chronic condition that can be hard to understand sometimes, especially because it doesn’t look the same for everyone.

“Eczema is a broad term that describes a skin condition when the skin becomes red, itchy, dry and sometimes flaky, which can affect any part of the body,” Dr. Marisa Garshick, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist and assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Cornell—New York Presbyterian Medical Center, tells Mental Floss.

According to Garshick, the most common form of eczema is atopic dermatitis, a chronic inflammatory condition that can lead to flare-ups of dry, itchy red patches all over the body. It can impact infants, children, and adults, and while it’s not contagious, it may make someone more susceptible to developing food allergies, asthma, and hay fever.

But there are many different types of eczema. A trusted dermatologist can determine what form you or a loved one might have, but here’s how it breaks down:

Form of eczema

When it starts



Atopic dermatitis

Typically begins in infancy or childhood, but can develop at any age.

Can occur anywhere on the body, but usually impacts the face, back of the neck, arms, elbow creases, and/or the backs of the knees.

Dry and/or itchy skin; scaly patches that that may turn into a red rash.

Contact dermatitis

Occurs as a reaction from something you’ve come into contact with; may result from something you were allergic to (i.e., latex), or from a chemical (i.e., bleach) that has damaged skin. Can take up to 48 hours to show symptoms and may occur at any age.

Hands, face, and the neck are common areas, but it depends on where an irritant came in contact with the skin.

Irritant contact dermatitis may cause blistering, skin swelling and/or cracking, ulcerations, and/or open sores. Allergic contact dermatitis may cause scaly, flaky skin, an itchy red rash, and oozing blisters.

Seborrheic dermatitis

May impact infants shortly after birth. It can also occur in adolescents and adults throughout life, too.

Usually the scalp, but may effect oily areas of the hairline, eyebrows, nose, upper back, and/or groin area.

Redness and scaly and/or oily patches on the scalp and impacted areas; dandruff.

Dyshidrotic eczema

Usually occurs in adults. Those who come into contact with heavy metals may be more prone to developing it.

Typically hands and/or feet.

Itchy, fluid-filled blisters may develop on the soles of feet or palms of the hands.


Repetitive scratching and/or rubbing on parts of the skin can lead to it; usually starts with an itch and worsens the more you scratch it. May occur as a result of atopic and/or contact dermatitis.

Arms, legs, back of the neck, backs of the hand, bottoms of the feet, scalp.

Severe, chronic, and intense itching; thick, raised patches may form, making impacted areas feel bark-like and/or leathery.

Nummular eczema

Occurs after a skin injury, like a burn or insect bite. More prevalent in adults with severe atopic dermatitis, but may occur with some children.

Usually arms and/or legs.

Coin-shaped spots or lesions that may ooze clear fluid, become crusty, and/or feel inflamed.

Stasis dermatitis

Typically occurs in older adults as a result of poor circulation, more likely to impact adults with varicose veins, congestive heart failure, and/or venous insufficiency.

Legs and ankles are most commonly impacted.

Itching, scaly skin; may cause ulcers and/or skin discoloration.

What Causes Eczema?

Woman scratching side of her face.
Harsh soaps, detergents, or other irritants may lead to a form of eczema. / PonyWang, E+ Collection, Getty Images

Eczema comes from the Greek word ekzein, which means “to boil over.” What triggers skin to “boil over” varies depending on the type of eczema you might have, but it usually stems from a combination of both genetic and environmental factors.

“Eczema is generally due to inflammation of the skin, but some triggers include dryness of the skin, stress, or if the skin comes into contact with something that can be irritating,” Dr. Garshick says. Common irritants include harsh soaps, detergents, chemicals (including acids or cleaning products), clothing with a rough texture (such as wool), and intense heat. Environmental triggers like smoke, air pollution, and cold and/or dry weather may also play a part.

Dr. Karan Lal, a board-certified dermatologist based in Arizona, says that in terms of genetics, many people with eczema possess a mutation in filaggrin, which is a protein that helps support the epidermis and boosts skin’s ability to naturally maintain hydration. “This [mutation] allows irritants and allergens to enter the skin and cause inflammation.”

People of all ages can struggle with eczema, too. The American Academy of Dermatology estimates that around 25 percent of all children have atopic dermatitis at some point, and that approximately 60 percent of people with eczema develop some form of it during their first year of life. “Most kids with infantile-onset eczema outgrow the disease by age 5, while around [one-fourth of] patients tend to continue on to have eczema and/or sensitive skin,” Dr. Lal says.

However, adults can develop eczema even if they didn’t have it as children. About 1 in 4 adults have adult-onset symptoms, and about 6 percent of folks with eczema get it after the age of 60. Dr. Lal says that while adult-onset eczema was once thought to be rare, dermatologists are seeing it more and more these days. 

How to Manage Eczema

Woman putting lotion on her hands
Creams and lotions can replenish hydration and help skin stay moist. / Elena Popova, Moment Collection, Getty Images

When it comes to managing eczema, keeping skin moist is important. It helps protect the outer layer of skin, which is damaged if you have eczema, making you susceptible to bacteria, irritants, and allergens.

With this condition, it’s often challenging for the skin to retain hydration, so finding the right moisturizer is key. Be sure to check that the cream and/or lotion has the National Eczema Association’s Seal of Approval and doesn’t have any ingredients from their “Ecz-clusion” list, like bacitracin, benzocaine, or citrus extract. Eczema treatments that are scented or that contain chemical UV absorbers (like certain types of sunscreen) should also be avoided.

Dr. Garshick recommends looking for moisturizers that contain ceramides, which help to support the skin barrier, as well as hyaluronic acid to boost moisture retention. Dr. Howard S. Goldberg, a board-certified dermatologist and medical director at the Massachusetts-based Cosmetic Dermatology & Aesthetic Laser Center, recommends fragrance-free moisturizers for sensitive skin and suggests applying moisturizer immediately after showering.

According to Dr. Goldberg, brands like CeraVe, Aquaphor, and Cetaphil are all good to consider. However, it is best to see a dermatologist to confirm what type of eczema you have before you invest in something, to make sure it will help with your specific condition.

The Best Expert-Approved Eczema Treatments

Best Eczema Cream Overall: Vanicream Moisturizing Skin Cream; From $6

Best eczema cream: Vanicream Moisturizing Skin Cream is seen
Best overall: Vanicream Moisturizing Skin Cream / Vanicream / Amazon

According to Dr. Garshick, this moisturizing cream is an overall great option for those with dry or sensitive skin, as it is free of dyes, fragrances, parabens and more, which reduces the potential for skin irritation. It helps to soothe and hydrate the skin without leaving a greasy residue behind. Better still, it’s non-comedogenic, meaning it doesn’t block pores and can be used on the face or body.

Buy it: Amazon

Best Splurge: La Roche-Posay Lipikar Balm AP+ Intense Repair Body Lotion; From $29

Best eczema lotion: La Roche-Posay Lipikar Balm AP+ Intense Repair Body Lotion is seen.
Best lotion: La Roche-Posay Lipikar Balm AP+ Intense Repair Body Lotion / La Roche-Posay / Walmart

Dr. Lal strongly recommends this super-hydrating lotion. “[It] has shea butter and thermal spring water that help the skin barrier,” he says. Dr. Garshick also likes this fragrance-free lotion, which she claims is rich in moisturizing ingredients including glycerin, a “known humectant [that] draws moisture in.” The non-comedogenic lotion is safe for use on the face and body.

Buy it: Walmart

Best Eczema Cream for Itchy Skin: Aveeno Eczema Therapy Daily Moisturizing Cream With Colloidal Oat & Ceramide; From $16

Best oatmeal-based eczema cream: Aveeno Eczema Therapy Daily Moisturizing Cream With Colloidal Oat & Ceramide is seen.
Best oatmeal-based cream: Aveeno Eczema Therapy Daily Moisturizing Cream With Colloidal Oat & Ceramide / Aveeno / Amazon

Struggling with itchiness because of eczema? Dr. Garshick recommends this calming cream because it contains colloidal oatmeal, which is an emollient meant to soften and soothe skin. As the colloidal oatmeal binds to skin, it acts as a buffering agent against harmful outside irritants. This gives skin the chance to rehydrate, and thus reduces the likelihood of itchy breakouts.

Buy it: Amazon

Best Drugstore Pick: CeraVe Moisturizing Cream; $16

Best eczema drugstore treatment: CeraVe Moisturizing Cream is seen
Best drugstore find: CeraVe Moisturizing Cream / CeraVe / Amazon

You can find this cream in most drugstores, and it works to both hydrate skin and restore its natural barrier. Because it’s formulated with hyaluronic acid and three essential ceramides, it can combat dryness without leaving a greasy residue behind. It’s also fragrance-free and long-lasting. “The patented MVE delivery technology helps deliver moisturizing ingredients to the skin over 24 hours, keeping [it] soft and smooth all day, making it great for those with dry skin,” Dr. Garshick adds.

Buy it: Amazon

Best Eczema Ointment: Vaseline Original Unscented Healing Petroleum Jelly; From $5

Best eczema ointment: Vaseline Original Unscented Healing Petroleum Jelly is seen
Best ointment: Vaseline Original Unscented Healing Petroleum Jelly / Vaseline / Amazon

This is another tried-and-true drugstore favorite that Dr. Garshick recommends. She claims it not only helps to lock moisture in, but also provides a protective barrier for skin against harmful external irritants. “This [ointment] can be applied throughout the day as well as at bedtime,” she says. 

Buy it: Amazon

Best Eczema Lotion for Facial Use: Cetaphil Moisturizing Lotion for Dry to Normal Skin; $15

Best eczema treatment for facial use: Cetaphil Moisturizing Lotion
Best for facial use: Cetaphil Moisturizing Lotion / Cetaphil / Amazon

Dr. Garshick gives this lightweight lotion a thumbs-up for facial use because it contains niacinamide, panthenol, and glycerin to help provide 48-hour hydration. It also contains avocado oil, helping to calm irritated and sensitive skin.

Buy it: Amazon

Best Eczema Cream for Sudden Flare-Ups: Eucerin Eczema Repair Cream; $13

Best eczema treatment for flare-ups: Eucerin Eczema Repair Cream is seen.
Best for flare-ups: Eucerin Eczema Repair Cream / Eucerin / Amazon

This potent cream incorporates colloidal oatmeal and ceramides, and is enriched with licochalcone, which helps activate anti-inflammatory and detoxifying enzymes in skin to soothe away redness. Dr. Garshick says the cream is a great choice for sudden flare-ups and the daily moisturizer is gentle, non-greasy, and fragrance-free.

Buy it: Amazon

Best Eczema Cream for Kids: CeraVe Baby Moisturizing Cream; $9

Best eczema treatment for kids: CeraVe Baby Moisturizing Cream
Best for kids: CeraVe Baby Moisturizing Cream / CeraVe / Amazon

Developed by dermatologists, this thick cream contains ceramides, which strengthen and support the skin barrier. Plus, it’s fragrance- and paraben-free, making it, in Dr. Garshick’s words, a “great option for kids’ skin.” 

Buy it: Amazon

Best Eczema Treatment for Babies: Aquaphor Baby; $12

Best eczema treatment for babies: Aquaphor Baby
Best for babies: Aquaphor Baby / Aquaphor / Amazon

Whether they have chafed skin or a case of diaper rash, experts say this fragrance- and preservative-free ointment can work well for a baby’s gentle skin. Primarily a skin protectant, it contains 41 percent petrolatum, which helps buffer skin against irritation and enhance healing. According to Dr. Garshick, the ointment not only nourishes dry skin but also works great for little cuts and scrapes, too. 

Buy it: Amazon

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