October is Eczema Awareness Month, and Ready, Set Food! is here to help with tips for baby eczema care. Although there's no cure for baby eczema, and no substitute for a daily bath and moisturizing routine, these natural remedies may help you soothe your baby's eczema and manage flares.
Beyond giving baby a daily bath and using the right moisturizer, there are several natural remedies (home remedies) available to help soothe your baby's eczema. Some of these remedies may also help treat flare-ups, especially if flares become severe.
These remedies aren't cures for baby eczema, but they will help comfort your baby and make managing eczema symptoms easier. Always ask your dermatologist first, though, before using any of these remedies on your baby's skin. Keep in mind that every baby is different, so what works to treat one baby's eczema may not work for your own baby. And remember---regular bathing and moisturizing is always the most important part of any baby eczema treatment. Now, let's cover several natural remedies for baby eczema.
Get more answers to common questions on eczema from this video presented by Mustela and Board Certified Dermatologist Dr. Latanya Benjamin:
Coconut oil is an effective natural moisturizer for treating baby eczema. Coconut oil helps baby's skin hold in moisture, because of the fatty acids it contains. It can also ease the swelling and redness that eczema causes, and can even keep certain bacteria from growing on baby's skin.
Virgin cold-pressed coconut oil works especially well because it is not heat processed, and doesn't contain any irritating chemicals. One randomized clinical trial showed that applying virgin coconut oil to children's skin for eight weeks helped improve their eczema symptoms, more so than mineral oil did.
If you choose to use coconut oil, be sure to select one where coconut oil is the only ingredient. Since coconut oil is solid at room temperature, you'll need to soften it a bit before rubbing it on baby's skin. Apply the coconut oil like you would any other moisturizer, including after baths and during flare-ups.
Wet Wrap Therapy
Wet wrap therapy involves dressing your baby in damp cotton clothing after bathing them and applying moisturizer to their skin. The wet layer of clothing helps baby's skin retain the moisture from the bath, to treat severe eczema flares and help prevent infections.
After bathing and moisturizing your baby, soak cotton pajamas in a bucket of water to make them slightly damp, and dress your baby in these pajamas. (You can also use damp cotton socks or a wet dressing to treat smaller areas of baby eczema.) Then, cover the damp layer of pajamas with a layer of dry pajamas. Keep your baby in the wet dressing for at least 2 hours, or for the entire night if possible.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology and the National Eczema Association, colloidal oatmeal may help soothe your baby's skin when they have eczema. This is because colloidal oatmeal contains avenanthramides, which studies have shown can help reduce inflammation.
Colloidal oatmeal can be mixed into a bath or applied on the skin as a paste.
Colloidal oatmeal is simply finely ground oats. Since they're ground up so finely, the oats will stay mixed into bathwater instead of settling at the bottom of the bath.
You can find colloidal oatmeal at health and beauty stores (make sure the oatmeal package says "colloidal oatmeal," and that the oats are the only ingredient).
You can also make colloidal oatmeal on your own, by grinding up unflavored quick oats or slow cooking oats into a fine powder using a food processor. (Again, make sure oats are the only ingredient in the oatmeal you grind up.)
If you decide to use colloidal oatmeal in baby's bath:
- Measure out ⅓ cup colloidal oatmeal for the bath.
- Add the oatmeal to a bath of lukewarm water, as the bath is filling up.
- Let your baby soak in the bath for as long as your dermatologist recommends (many dermatologists recommend 10-15 minutes).
- As with all eczema baths, pat your baby dry to leave moisture on the skin, and apply moisturizer immediately afterwards.
If you decide to use colloidal oatmeal to make a paste:
- Mix around ¼ cup colloidal oatmeal with water.
- Apply the paste directly to baby's skin.
Applying honey to your baby's eczema areas may help moisturize their skin and treat flares, although we don't yet have conclusive evidence that it's a reliable eczema treatment for babies. Honey is an ingredient in some popular baby eczema balms, but can also be used on its own as a home remedy.
Honey has antibacterial properties, and 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). One small study's results show that Manuka honey may be effective for treating eczema, but this study involved only adults and wasn't a randomized trial.
If you plan to use honey as an eczema treatment, apply a small amount to your baby's affected eczema areas, and aim to leave it on for at least several minutes. Or, mix it into colloidal oatmeal paste.
Like coconut oil, shea butter contains fatty acids that help moisturize the skin and keep existing moisture from escaping. Shea butter also contains vitamin A and vitamin E, and has anti-inflammatory properties that can help soothe skin and calm eczema flares. Plus, the skin absorbs the moisture from shea butter relatively quickly, for possible rapid relief from flares.
Shea butter can be found in many eczema moisturizers, but you can also purchase and apply shea butter on its own, as a natural remedy.
More research is needed on shea butter as an eczema treatment. Still, early results of studies look promising. In one evaluation, a cream containing shea butter and colloidal oatmeal was shown to improve eczema symptoms. Another study, although small, 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.
Diluted Bleach in the Bath
If your baby's eczema regularly flares up, a dilute bleach bath--- a bath where a small, gentle amount of bleach is mixed in---may help.
A bleach bath helps clean off harmful bacteria that may cause your baby's eczema to flare up, including the bacteria responsible for staph infections. Research shows that bleach baths may not only clean off this bacteria and reduce infections, but also directly stop eczema flares.
As the American Academy of Dermatology recommends, use ¼ cup of regular strength bleach for a standard tub that will be half full of water, and one teaspoon of bleach per gallon of water for a baby tub.
Measure out the bleach with the measuring spoon or cup, and pour it into the bath as the tub is filling up with water, to make sure the bleach is fully diluted.
Then, bathe your baby for the length of time that your dermatologist recommends. Make sure plenty of bleach water gets on all areas of your baby's body. Use a washcloth to gently apply the bleach water to baby's head, neck, hands and feet.
Like with all natural eczema treatments, always ask your dermatologist before starting a dilute bleach bath treatment. For more details on how to give your baby a bleach bath, check out our article on bathing eczema babies.
Natural ingredients in eczema moisturizers
These natural ingredients commonly show up in moisturizers for baby eczema, including moisturizers approved by the National Eczema Association. However, not all of them are clinically proven to treat baby eczema.
Calendula: Calendula comes from the marigold flower, and may help reduce inflammation when applied as part of a baby eczema moisturizer. It has been used for many years to treat various skin conditions, including baby eczema. Studies haven't yet proven it effective, though.
Aloe Vera: Aloe vera has antibacterial and antimicrobial properties that help fight skin infections. It may also help to soothe dry skin. So, it has been used in moisturizers to help treat baby eczema. Although its antibacterial properties are proven, more research is still needed on aloe's effectiveness on baby eczema.
Vitamin B12: One randomized controlled study has shown that topical vitamin B12 (applying vitamin B12 to the skin) improves eczema symptoms in children.
Another key piece of baby eczema care is to identify and remove your baby's eczema triggers. Read this article for more on the triggers that may cause your baby's eczema to flare, and check out this article for more on caring for your baby's eczema.
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