If you live with a long-term skin condition like eczema, you're aware of how easy it is for your skin to react to certain products, making it flare up at the most inconvenient times — and making you immensely uncomfortable.
Eczema, the common name for atopic dermatitis, is the most common form of chronic inflammation of the skin. Also called the "itch that rashes," the disease is known to make your skin dry, red and itchy. One in five children and up to one in 10 adults live with eczema.
"Eczema is an inherited, inflammatory skin disease," says Dr. Dina Strachan, a board-certified dermatologist in New York. She added that the condition begins in infancy and lasts your whole life.
Specifically, research shows that 60% of people with eczema experience their first symptoms by their first birthday, 75% experience symptoms by age five and up to 30% first get those symptoms as adults.
Eczema also makes you more sensitive to products such as creams, washes and perfumes; the wrong skin care products could trigger a flare-up and worsen symptoms, while the right ones could provide relief. To learn more, keep scrolling or use the links below.
What is eczema and what causes it?
Eczema is a common skin disorder that causes your skin to get dry, red and itchy, and may give it a blotchy rash.
"Scientists haven't really determined the cause of eczema. It's believed to be a mix of environmental and genetic factors," says Dr. Kemunto Mokaya, a board-certified dermatologist in Texas.
People with eczema have a "leaky" skin barrier that prevents their skin from retaining enough moisture. Without the protection of a healthy barrier to lock in moisture, their skin loses fluid, making it drier and more likely to get infected, or for harmful chemicals to enter the skin. That's why those with eczema are more easily irritated by common chemicals and allergy-causing substances.
What should I look for in eczema skin care products?
A daily moisturizing routine that helps lock in moisture is essential if you want to reduce symptoms and experience relief.
But you have to avoid any substances that can worsen your symptoms. Choosing skin care products is a balancing act: You have to avoid irritants while looking for ingredients that give your skin the moisture and cleansing it needs.
There are certain terms and labels you can look for to help with this choice. Products with these labels are more likely to help moisturize your skin without triggering a flare-up or exposing you to other health risks.
Fragrance-free. Any perfumes or scents can potentially irritate your skin; when in doubt, you are safer without them.
Non-foaming. Foaming cleansers tend to dry out your skin more, causing more irritation. Non-foaming products are typically gentler and less likely to strip your skin of all natural oils.
Hypoallergenic. Products with this label are formulated with minimal or no allergy-causing substances.
Sulfate-free. Products with sulfates can strip your skin of its natural oils and worsen irritation.
pH-balanced. This helps to keep your skin from losing its acidity and protects it from harmful bacteria.
If your symptoms continue to worsen or nothing you do to take care of your skin provides relief, it's a good idea to see your doctor, dermatologist or other medical professional. Many other conditions in addition to eczema can cause red, irritated skin, so your professional care team can take a look and advise you accordingly.
Best skin care products for eczema
Size: 1.4 oz | Key ingredients: Petrolatum
Need to soothe your eczema while traveling? This sleek, compact balm might be what your luggage is missing. The triple-purified petrolatum in the formula is designed to boost hydration for dry skin and helps moisturize cracks and irritation. Plus, the stick applicator makes it easy to care for your eczema symptoms in hard-to-reach spots (like your back).
“The Vaseline [All-Over Body Balm] is mess-free — you don’t need to rub anything at all. Just glide on and go. It absorbs easily so you all you feel is healthy, protected skin that stays hydrated,” says dermatologist Dr. Joshua Zeichner, who also heads up cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai Hospital’s department of dermatology.
You can experience eczema at any age, but finding products that are soothing and safe for younger children is particularly challenging. This full-body lotion from Eucerin can be used on kids as young as three months in addition to delivering 24-hour hydration, according to the brand. Dermatologist Dr. Marc Glashofer says the true rock stars of this cream are the colloidal oatmeal and ceramides.
“[These ingredients] help strengthen the skin’s protective barrier. In addition, this cream contains licorice root extract, a natural anti-inflammatory agent that helps reduce itching and burning of the skin. It is free of fragrances and dyes, too,” Glashofer tells us.
Size: 16 oz | Key ingredients: Petrolatum
This moisturizing cream provides all the nourishing your skin needs without any irritants or clogged pores. Its fragrance-free soothing formula earned a seal of acceptance from the National Eczema Association. Suitable for the whole family, it comes with a neat little pump to avoid spills, waste and smearing.
"I like this cream because it's extremely hypoallergenic and void of many chemicals that are known to cause eczema to flare up," Glashofer says. "It's also safe to use on all parts of the body and face and is relatively inexpensive."
Size: 7.3 oz | Key ingredients: Colloidal oatmeal, ceramide, glycerin, petrolatum
Want to take on itchiness, redness, dryness and irritation all at once? This cream helps tackle some of the most annoying symptoms of eczema; it's no surprise it received the National Eczema Association Seal of Approval.
"Aveeno eczema products are great. They're fragrance-free and their soothing, anti-inflammatory colloidal oatmeal decreases inflammation, while the emollients work to improve the barrier lipids," board-certified dermatologist Dr. Mary Lupo says.
Size: 1.7 fl oz | Key ingredients: Hyaluronic acid, glycerin
Dealing with dryness, redness and irritation? This hydrating moisturizer with a soothing gel formula can help with that. This oil-free lotion from Neutrogena is absorbed easily and also wears quite well under makeup.
"This ultralight moisturizer is loaded with hyaluronic acid, which acts like a sponge to hold in hydration. Hyaluronic acid can bind up to 1,000 times its weight in water, which is important, especially in dry and eczema-prone skin," Zeichner explains.
Size: 19 oz | Key ingredients: Ceramides, hyaluronic acid, petrolatum
Locking moisture into your skin, helping your skin regain its natural oils, and leaving your skin smooth, soft and nourished — all of these are tasks CeraVe Moisturizing Cream can help with.
This cream is full of hyaluronic acid while staying free of fragrance and irritants. This makes it a great option for those with eczema, according to Lupo.
“I love this cream because it uses ceramides, an essential ingredient that helps repair lipid-depleted, eczematous skin,” Lupo tells Shop TODAY.
When the going gets tough with eczema flare-ups, you'll want to have a fast-acting treatment on hand. This eczema therapy cream by Kamedis can be used on the face and body to calm and protect irritated skin.
"This cream combines skin-repairing ceramides and hydrating hyaluronic acid along with Chinese botanical extracts that have been shown to help soothe inflammation and rebalance the skin’s microbiome," says Zeichner.
Size: 13.52 fl oz | Key ingredients: Shea butter, glycerin, niacinamide
Tough skin conditions need dedicated solutions, such as this moisturizer from La Roche-Posay. This body moisturizer uses natural oils like shea butter, skin-identical lipids like Ceramide 3, and prebiotic antioxidant-enriched thermal water to lock in moisture on every inch of your skin.
It’s also a cruelty-free product suitable for babies, favorably reviewed by tens of thousands and recognized with the National Eczema Association with its Seal of Acceptance. It’s also safe for people receiving radiotherapy or chemotherapy.
“This is my all-time favorite. It is formulated with shea butter, glycerin, niacinamide (Vitamin B) and prebiotic thermal spring water. The thermal spring water helps to normalize the microbiome of eczematous skin, which is normally unbalanced and inflamed,” says dermatologist Dr. Vladyslava Doktor, founder of Skin Center Boston.
Size: 3 oz | Key ingredients: Colloidal oatmeal, sweet almond oil, glycerin, shea butter, sunflower seed oil
The thin skin on our hands is already prone to dryness; those with eczema are even more likely to encounter dry, cracked skin. This restorative cream is designed to protect and treat cracks and itchiness with the help of soothing ingredients like colloidal oatmeal and sweet almond oil.
"This brand is all about clean beauty and lacks many of the harsh preservatives you typically find in products. The colloidal oatmeal and soothing oils in this cream do a great job of repairing hands and dry cuticles," says cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Rita Linkner.
Size: 16 oz | Key ingredients: Sweet almond oil, glycerin, petrolatum
The dryness that comes with eczema can make your skin feel tight and sore. But this moisturizer comes complete with petrolatum, emollients like sweet almond oil, and humectants like glycerin, which are meant to lock in moisture. It’s a non-greasy, fragrance-free product that limits other breakouts like acne, and it can be used for your whole body.
“This petrolatum-based cream is a great way to rescue dry skin,” Linkner. “It has a great price point and comes in a readily accessible tub, so it’s easy to get it on your body post-shower every morning.”
Size: 0.5 oz | Key ingredients: Copper peptide complex, petrolatum, glycerin
Much like facial and body skin, lips can also experience eczema flare-ups and get dry, red and scaly. Linkner swears by this restorative balm that's formulated with a copper peptide complex.
"The copper antioxidant capacity of this product works to repair skin's broken down barrier fast. It's my favorite for patients who are prone to dry, peeling lips that crack at the corners," Linkner says.
Size: 6.76 fl oz | Key ingredients: Glycerin
The thermal spring water in this balm is meant to soothe skin, while evening primrose oil helps lock in hydration. Parks says it’s perfect for those experiencing the signature redness and irritation of eczema.
“This ultra-rich moisturizing balm is ideal for those with very [dry] to severely dry skin,” dermatologist Dr. Alan Parks tells us. “It directly targets itching, redness and irritation to nourish and restore skin.”
Size: 3.4 fl oz | Key ingredients: Glycerin
Cleansing your face is a critical step in one's skin care routine, but cleansers can be a bit abrasive on eczema-prone skin, which can lead to more redness and itching. The CLn Facial Cleanser delivers just the right amount of wash without the itch. This gentle face wash cleans and moisturizes at the same time with the help of glycerin — and it even has the National Eczema Association Seal of Acceptance.
"This product is uniquely formulated to cleanse sensitive and delicate facial skin and maintain skin’s moisture balance," Parks explains.
Eczema skin care products our editors highly recommend
Size: 13.5 oz | Key ingredients: Petrolatum, glycerin, panthenol (vitamin B5)
Associate SEO editor Kamari Stewart is a lifelong eczema sufferer and is always on the hunt for something that will provide relief. Recently, she decided to go back to the basics and try the classic Nivea Creme tin.
"This has been my holy grail for the past few weeks. After a particularly active trip to Europe where my eczema started to flare up, this cream has been a lifesaver," she raves. "It feels soothing and provides long-lasting hydration."
Size: 2 fl oz | Key ingredients: Ionized water, hypochlorous acid
Former Shop TODAY associate SEO editor Fran Sales was skeptical when she came across the description for this spray solution and its equally fanciful name. But after she saw its almost immediate results (and the fact that it’s often sold out on the brand’s site), she became a believer.
Magic Molecule is a single hypoallergenic, all-natural, alcohol- and fragrance-free solution that is said to help boost the healing of not just the symptoms of eczema, but also bug bites, pimples, sunburns, cuts and more. And that’s while being safe for even the most sensitive of skins — and yes, that includes babies. What’s more, it’s certified by the Eczema Association, is TSA-friendly and comes in a two-pack.
The secret ingredient is hypochlorous acid, something produced by white blood cells for healing purposes, and something that the brand replicated in an FDA-cleared lab.
Size: 6.65 fl oz | Key ingredients: Lavender, rosemary leaf extract, hyaluronic acid
Fran Sales, who's experienced the symptoms of hand eczema since childhood, found this gel-cream hybrid by "psychodermatology" brand Selfmade, a welcome change from the ointments and jellies she's used in the past.
"It looked surprisingly dissimilar to other occlusives I’ve used for my eczema, which are normally thick or greasy. Instead, this has the creaminess of a lotion combined with the lightness of a gel — a texture I was unused to but pleasantly surprised by," she says, adding that it also imparts a pleasant cooling sensation.
Size: 8 oz | Key ingredients: Colloidal oatmeal, glycerin, avocado fruit extract
Sales, as well as more than 5,000 other five-star reviewers, vouch for this FDA-approved, fragrance-free ointment to tackle eczema in both babies and adults with sensitive skin. (Note: It's also available in a subtle rosemary and lavender scent.) And Sales can attest that you can literally use this all over — including her lips!
Unlike petroleum jelly, which Sales often used to soothe eczema-related itching and dryness, this one functions similarly, but is a lot creamier and less sticky. It uses plant-based ingredients that include jojoba esters, colloidal oatmeal and camellia leaf extract. Plus, it's been tested by both pediatricians and dermatologists.
Skin care preferences and responses to products and ingredients often vary from person to person. And the sheer array of creams, cleansers and soaps can be a lot. That's why the Shop TODAY team took care with its selection of a range of great products backed by the following:
- Expert recommendations by dermatologists
- Medical experience
- Current research
- Personal experience
Meet our experts
- Dr. Vladyslava Doktor, DO, is a board-certified dermatologist and co-founder of Skin Center Boston. She focuses on integrative medicine and dermatology, skin cancer, rosacea and more.
- Dr. Marc Glashofer, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist who specializes in Mohs Micrographic Surgery and cosmetic dermatology. A published lecturer, Glashofer is based in West Orange, New Jersey.
- Dr. Rita Linkner, MD, FAAD, is a New York-based board-certified dermatologist who also serves patients in Miami, Aspen and more. She's also the founder and medical director of RVL Skincare.
- Dr. Mary P. Lupo, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist based in New Orleans. She has been a leading expert in non-surgical skin rejuvenation since 1983.
- Dr. Kemunto Mokaya, MD, MHS, is a board-certified dermatologist based in Houston, Texas. She's also a health science expert, mindset coach and speaker.
- Dr. Alan J. Parks, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Eastside Dermatology & Skin Care Center, where he is also medical director. He specializes in cosmetic and surgical dermatology and is based in Columbus, Ohio.
- Dr. Dina D. Strachan, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist, consultant speaker, coach and author based in New York. She's also an expert in biomedical informatics and health technology.
- Dr. Joshua Zeichner, MD, FAAD, is a board-certified dermatologist and frequent media speaker who specializes in treating acne, rosacea and more. He's also Director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research in Dermatology and an Associate Professor of Dermatology at the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.