How do I apply eczema cream?
Typical day-to-day treatment for eczema will be to apply a good moisturiser, which moisturises dry skin and ideally also soothes and calms irritated skin. Emollients are moisturising treatments applied directly to the skin to soothe and hydrate it. However, some are used as soap substitutes so need to be washed off so make sure you know whether you are using a leave on or wash off emollient.
When the skin is irritated, inflamed or gets infected GPs often recommend corticosteroids (or steroids) which are anti-inflammatories. However, increasingly studies show that regular topical use of steroid cream can lead to serious local, systemic and psychological side effects. Alternatives without these side effects exist which have natural anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial ingredients in such as Manuka honey or oil, Silver, Chamomile and St Johns Wort.
Eczema creams may be available as a cream, ointment or lotion. Lighter creams or lotions tend to be better for skin that is moist and weepy, or for large areas of skin, and heavier balms or ointments tend to be better for dry or flaky skin.
Ideally apply cream after a bath or shower while the skin is still damp so some of this moisture can be retained.
Finally, a few words of caution – always test a new cream on a small area of skin to check it’s not going to cause a problem before you use it more widely, and try not to use any product long term without a break. Steroid creams in particular should only be used for short periods.
TO APPLY ALL TYPES OF ECZEMA CREAM
- First wash and dry your hands. This is really important – so you don’t rub anything that’s already on your hands onto your or others skin.
- Squeeze out the right amount of cream or if it’s in a pot use a small wooden spatula or spoon. If the cream is on prescription follow the instructions or ask your GP or pharmacist what the right amount is.
- As a guide, a fingertip measure (see picture at top) is enough to treat both sides of an adult hand.
- Smooth the eczema cream gently into the skin in the direction that hair grows. Don’t rub in an up and down or circular motion as this may cause irritation. It’s not a problem if you can still see some on the surface, it will soak in after a bit of time.
- Wash your hands after applying to each area. This means you won’t transfer any infection between areas and the cream won’t be on your hands for too long – this is particularly important if it’s a corticosteroid. If you are applying the cream for someone else (e.g., a younger child) you might want to protect your hands by wearing disposable gloves. But remember some people are allergic to latex.
- It’s important that the cream stays as clean as possible, so always replace the cap or lid of any eczema cream after using. That way you won’t accidentally introduce any infection when applying it.
- If you are using more than one skin cream to treat the eczema, then it might be more effective to apply them at different times of the day so one doesn’t reduce the impact of the other or leave at least 10 minutes between using them.
Finally, find a pretty notebook and write down a clear record of the eczema cream regime for anyone you are helping (from baby, teen to granny). That way you can sometimes hand over this task and give yourself a break. It also means you can keep a track of how much you are using which helps you work out when it is worse / better and if there might be particular times of year or triggers you need to be aware of.
Do let us know what works for you and maybe it will help others too!