Not all moisturizers are created equal when it comes to baby eczema treatment. While some moisturizer ingredients will help baby's skin, other ingredients may make baby's eczema worse. In this article, we're breaking down beneficial ingredients to look for in baby eczema moisturizer, and alerting you to ingredients you should avoid.
Along with a daily bath, moisturizing your baby's skin regularly is key if your baby has eczema. You'll need to moisturize within three minutes of a daily bath or regular water spritz to properly seal the moisture into baby's skin, before it can evaporate. Moisturizer is also an important way to soothe baby's skin when their eczema is flaring up.
Learn more from Pediatric Allergist Kanwaljit Brar, MD, about atopic dermatitis or eczema and how it’s treated:
But not all moisturizers are created equal when it comes to baby eczema treatment. While some moisturizer ingredients will help baby's skin, other ingredients may make baby's eczema worse.
In this article, we're breaking down beneficial ingredients to look for in baby eczema moisturizer, and alerting you to ingredients you should avoid.
8 Best Ingredients To Look For
Look for moisturizer ingredients that mimic and supplement the skin's natural barrier of fats, cholesterol and fatty acids. This barrier is the way the skin typically holds in moisture, but it's compromised in babies with eczema, so it needs support from moisturizer.
Also look for anti-inflammatory ingredients that help ease flares.
Here are some examples of helpful eczema moisturizer ingredients with these features.
Ceramides are lipids or fats of the skin. Along with cholesterol and fatty acids, ceramides form the skin barrier that helps keep moisture in the skin and harmful substances out.
Using moisturizer with ceramides helps supplement the ceramides in your baby's skin, because people with eczema produce much lower amounts of ceramides than people without eczema.
Moisturizers with ceramides often indicate they are "for eczema" on the front label. Still, you'll need to check the ingredients to make sure that they have ceramides.
2. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil isn't just an effective natural moisturizer ingredient for soothing baby eczema--- it's an effective moisturizer all on its own, that quickly hydrates the skin.
Coconut oil also helps baby's skin hold in existing moisture because of the fatty acids it contains. Mainly, it contains lauric acid, which brings some added bonuses. Lauric acid is a fatty acid that can keep certain bacteria from growing on baby's skin, as well as fight yeast, viruses, fungi, and other pathogens. So, coconut oil is more than just a moisturizer--- it's anti-microbial!
In addition to moisturizing, coconut oil can also ease the swelling and redness that eczema causes. So, it also has anti-inflammatory properties.
Virgin cold-pressed coconut oil works especially well because it is not heat processed, and because it doesn't contain any irritating chemicals. One randomized clinical trial showed that applying virgin coconut oil to children's skin for eight weeks helped moisturize their skin and improve eczema symptoms, more so than mineral oil did.
When using coconut oil as a moisturizer, it's best to choose an option where coconut oil is the only ingredient. Coconut oil is solid at room temperature, so you'll need to soften it a bit before applying it to baby's skin. Rub in the coconut oil like you would any other moisturizer, including after baths and during flare-ups.
3. Shea Butter
Shea butter contains fatty acids that help moisturize the skin and keep existing moisture from escaping (similar to coconut oil). The skin absorbs the moisture from shea butter relatively quickly, so shea butter may help rapidly soothe and moisturize baby's skin.
Shea butter also contains vitamin A and vitamin E, and its anti-inflammatory properties can help calm eczema flares.
Shea butter is an ingredient in many commercial eczema moisturizers, but you can also purchase and apply pure shea butter on its own, as a natural moisturizer
More research is needed on shea butter as an eczema moisturizer, as studies are limited and have been small. Still, early results of studies look promising. One small study suggested that shea butter may be as effective as creams with ceramides in moisturizing eczema babies' skin.
Note: Even though shea butter is a tree nut product, there have been no known cases of someone having an allergic reaction from shea butter applied on the skin.
Honey may help moisturize eczema babies' skin and treat flares. We still need more evidence to prove that it's a reliable eczema treatment for babies. But some of its natural properties are promising.
Honey has antibacterial properties. So, it may help fight against infections, including staph infections (which are common in eczema babies and which may be directly linked to baby eczema flares). Even if we don't know how much it helps, honey as a baby eczema moisturizer ingredient won't hurt.
5. Oat Ingredients
As the National Eczema Association reports, oat ingredients may help soothe your baby's skin when they have eczema, including when they're an ingredient in moisturizer. This is because oats contain avenanthramides, which studies have shown can help reduce inflammation. Oat ingredients may also help relieve itching.
Colloidal oatmeal, or oat flour, is best for eczema relief, but other oat ingredients are also beneficial.
6. Cold-Pressed Sunflower Oil
According to the National Eczema Association, cold-pressed sunflower oil (also called virgin sunflower seed oil) "has anti-inflammatory properties to help soothe itchy and inflamed eczema skin, and can improve skin hydration and preserve the integrity of the skin’s natural barrier." So, it's a good choice as a baby eczema moisturizer ingredient.
Calendula comes from the marigold flower. When applied as a baby eczema moisturizer ingredient, it may help reduce inflammation. It has been used for many years to treat various skin conditions, including baby eczema. Studies haven't yet proven it effective, though.
8. Aloe Vera
Aloe vera has antibacterial and antimicrobial properties that help fight skin infections. It may also help to soothe dry skin. So, it often shows up in baby eczema moisturizers. Although its antibacterial properties are proven, more research is still needed on aloe's effectiveness on baby eczema. Regardless, it isn't harmful to an eczema baby's skin.
Top Ingredients To Avoid
Some common moisturizer ingredients can actually make baby eczema worse, or have other potentially harmful effects on eczema babies. Avoid these ingredients!
Alcohol can sting and burn your baby's skin. It's often found in moisturizing creams. It's best to choose moisturizing ointments instead, because ointments usually don't contain alcohol.
Fragrances and scents are common skin irritants that can make baby eczema worse. Choose a moisturizer that's unscented instead.
Like fragrances, dyes are another common irritant that can make eczema worse.
4. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
Sometimes abbreviated as SLS, sodium lauryl sulfate is yet another skin irritant that often appears in moisturizer. Avoid this ingredient as it dries out the skin.
5. Essential Oils
As the National Eczema Association reports, essential oils often have heat and chemicals added to them when they are extracted. Because of this processing, essential oils can irritate eczema babies' skin. (Essential oils are different than cold-pressed oils. Cold-pressed oils generally won't irritate baby's skin.)
6. Allergy-Causing Food Ingredients (e.g. peanut, tree nuts, soy, wheat)
Peanuts, tree nuts (like almond), soy, and wheat are common types of allergy-causing foods that sometimes show up in moisturizers. Using moisturizers with ingredients like these may put your baby at greater risk for a food allergy, according to one theory--- the dual allergen exposure hypothesis.
According to the dual allergen exposure hypothesis, exposing baby to common allergy-causing foods through the skin may increase your baby's risk of developing allergies to these foods.
If a certain food allergen passes through your baby's skin barrier often enough, this may lead your baby to develop an allergy to that food.
Babies with eczema already have a compromised skin barrier, so it's easier for substances like allergy-causing foods to pass through. This may put babies with eczema at increased risk for a food allergy if these foods come in contact with their skin, like when they are applied as a moisturizer ingredient.
Wrapping Things Up
Hopefully, this list will help you choose moisturizer ingredients that help soothe your baby's eczema. As always, though, ask your pediatrician and dermatologist about the moisturizers they recommend. You can also check out the National Eczema Association for specific brands and types of baby moisturizers that have received the Association's approval.
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