Fight flakes, dryness, and itchiness from eczema with these expert-backed creams.

By Brittany Loggins
June 02, 2020
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In case you're not so familiar, eczema is a frustrating skin condition that causes dry, rash-like irritation that can eventually even led to painful sores and blisters. "Clinically, it can look like inflamed red skin, dark-colored patches, scaly, rough or leathery skin or oozing crusting skin," explains Marie Hayag, M.D., a New York-based dermatologist and founder of Fifth Avenue Aesthetics. "There are different types of eczema, but the most common type is atopic dermatitis or 'classic' eczema that usually presents with pink, itchy, dry or inflamed skin," she adds.

Eczema is so common that Dr. Hayag says around one in 10 people will develop eczema at some point in their lifetime. While the cause of eczema is not entirely known, a combination of genetic, environmental, and immune triggers are involved, says Dr. Hayag. And even though there is no cure, thankfully, eczema can be controlled using medication, proper skin care, trigger avoidance, and coping mechanisms, she adds.

If you struggle with eczema, you know just how difficult it can be to find creams and lotions that offer relief for the dryness, redness, and itchiness that comes with the condition. To make life easier, keep scrolling for what to know when shopping for moisturizers, as well as the best eczema creams, ointments, and lotions, according to a dermatologist. (Related: The Absolute Best Moisturizers for Dry Skin, According to Dermatologists)

How to Find the Best Eczema Cream?

When considering over-the-counter creams, Dr. Hayag suggests keeping an eye out for occlusives, humectants, and emollients. "Occlusive ingredients to look out for are petrolatum and silicone derivatives such as dimethicone," says Dr. Hayag. "Humectants are hygroscopic (or water-attracting) moisturizers that actively pull and absorb water and hydrate the outer layer of the skin," she adds. You're likely to find humectants, such as glycerin and hyaluronic acid, in many of the skin-care products already in your arsenal. Shea butter, colloidal oatmeal, and ceramides are all emollients that are great for moisturizing the skin, as well. (Related: There's a Difference Between "Moisturizing" and "Hydrating" Skin-Care Products)

Those with eczema should lean into moisturizers that have high oil content over water content, as this will actually draw more water into the skin and reduce water loss. An ointment is actually a far better option over a lotion, notes Dr. Hayag. Why? Ointments have the highest oil content of all the products, so they don't generally burn when they're applied to sensitive skin and are very good at sealing in moisture, she explains.

Ointments with high oil content typically are the ones that feel greasier, a tell-tale sign you're on the right track. "Products high in oil content, such as petroleum jelly and mineral oil, are particularly good for treating eczema," says Dr. Hayag. That said, if you don't like the feel of petroleum jelly, a cream is your next best option. "Creams are second to ointments in the amount of oil they contain and are also very good at sealing in moisture," points out Dr. Hayag. And since they contain less oil, they are also less greasy to the touch. (Related: Electrolyte Skin Care Is Like a Sports Drink for Your Face)

If you're looking specifically to relieve flare-ups, Dr. Hayag recommends creams featuring ingredients such as pramoxine hydrochloride, niacinamide, and hydrocortisone, which work quickly to soothe itchiness and irritation.

Best Prescription Eczema Creams

Dr. Hayag often prescribes topical steroid creams to her clients due to their effectiveness in rapidly treating redness, inflammation, and itchiness. Specifically, she likes calcineurin inhibitors such as tacrolimus (Protopic) and pimecrolimus (Elidel) for reducing the immune response that causes these irritations. These are great non-steroidal creams that help maintain control of eczema and decrease the number of eczema flare-ups, she adds.

She also recommends crisaborale (Eucrisa) as a non-steroidal cream that can be used in children as young as 2-years-old, and mupiricin ointment, which is a topical prescription antibiotic for staph infections commonly found in eczema patients. (Related: The Best Moisturizers for Every Skin Type)

Best Over-the-Counter Eczema Creams

Since eczema needs to be diagnosed by a physician, scheduling an appointment with your doctor is a good first step. But if you're looking for a nourishing, hydrating product to help treat dry, irritated skin without seeing a professional, there are plenty of moisturizers you can buy online without a prescription—although some are better than others. Just be sure to avoid creams, lotions, and ointments containing fragrances and perfumes, and patch-test products on your skin for 24-48 hours before going ham and applying it all over, advises Dr. Hayag.

Ahead, the best eczema creams, according to a dermatologist.

Best Eczema Cream for Face: Avène Cicalfate Restorative Skin Cream

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If you're having a flare-up on your face, this cream should be your go-to. "It contains zinc oxide and copper oxide which promote a healthy healing environment, and because it is a thicker formula, it protects damaged, irritated skin from external irritants," says Dr. Hayag. This cream is especially good for healthcare workers with facial mask irritation during the coronavirus pandemic, she points out.

Best for Face and Body: Vanicream Moisturizing Lotion

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Perfect if you can't stand heavy, thick consistencies, this lightweight cream has a non-greasy, fragrance-free formula that's suitable for use on the body and face, making it a great option for people who prefer a low-maintenance moisturizing routine, notes Dr. Hayag. (Related: Best Body Lotion for Your Skin)

Best Lotion: Curél Skincare Extra Dry Skin Therapy Hydra Silk Moisturizer

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Smooth on this body lotion right after you hop out of the shower, as this is when your skin's ceramides are the most depleted, advises Dr. Hayag. "Ceramides are lipids naturally found in healthy skin and are essential to maintaining a healthy moisture barrier," she says. Unfortunately, over time, environmental factors, genetics, and lifestyle can all diminish ceramide levels in the skin, weakening the moisture barrier and thus leaving skin more prone to irritation, dryness, and inflammation, explains Dr. Hayag. This lotion not only helps replenish those ceramides, but it also draws additional moisture into the skin.

Best Balm: Aveeno Eczema Therapy Itch Relief Balm

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This thick balm won't feel as greasy as an ointment, but it's moisturizing and protective nonetheless. Dr. Hayag likes it because it contains colloidal oatmeal, a skin protectant that also helps maintain a healthy moisture barrier. (Related: 12 Soothing, Hydrating Oatmeal Products Your Skin and Hair Need)

Best Moisturizer: Peter Thomas Roth Water Drench Hyaluronic Cloud Cream Hydrating Moisturizer

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Dr. Hayag is a fan of this face cream for eczema breakouts. It's packed with hyaluronic acid (30 percent, to be exact), ceramides and antioxidants and will keep your skin hydrated all day. "It also contains Pentavitin, a proprietary ingredient that binds to the skin and keeps it moisturized even after washing," adds Dr. Hayag. Those with eczema will appreciate that it's free of alcohol, fragrance, and oil, as well.

Best Hand Eczema Cream: CeraVe Therapeutic Hand Cream

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This hand cream contains dimethicone, which Dr. Hayag describes as a skin protectant that blocks cold wind and other irritants from wreaking havoc on your delicate skin. It also has hyaluronic acid and ceramides, both of which help maintain the skin's natural moisture. (Related: The Very Best Hand Creams, According to Dermatologists)

Best Drugstore Hand Cream: Neutrogena Norweigan Formula Moisturizing Hand Cream

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The moisturizing ingredient in this affordable, drugstore cream is glycerin, which Hayag notes helps draw moisture from the skin deeper into the layers where dryness starts. While it might feel greasy at first, she notes that it easily rubs in and absorbs nicely.

Best Hand Mask: Aveeno Repairing Cica Hand Mask

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A quick fix for dry, irritated hands, this mask leaves hands feeling smooth, soft, moisturized, and protected after just 10 minutes, thanks to ingredients including oat extract, glycerin, and shea butter. (Related: The Best Sheet Masks for Every Part of Your Body)

Best Budget-Friendly Eczema Eye Cream: CeraVe Eye Repair Cream

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Not only is this eye cream loaded with hyaluronic acid and ceramides, but it's also cost-effective. "Ceramides and hyaluronic acid make this drugstore eye cream a cult favorite," says Hayag. "It hydrates the skin and helps restore the delicate skin barrier in the eye area, including the eyelids." (Related:

Best Anti-Aging Eczema Eye Cream: Peter Thomas Roth Vital -E Microbiome Age Defense Eye Cream

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If anti-aging is a top concern along with eczema, this product does double duty, minimizing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, while soothing dry, flaky skin. It gets Dr. Hayag's stamp of approval, because it supports a healthy microbiome, contains antioxidants, peptides, and pre and probiotics. (Related: The Best Anti-Aging Eye Creams, According to Dermatologists)