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Best Natural Eczema Cream for Babies: Myths, Facts & Dermatologist Treatment

April 25, 2022
Baby Skincare Book on Natural Eczema Cream
Dr. Teo Wan Lin’s free e-book Dermatologist’s Guide to Baby Skincare is available on Amazon.

If you are searching for the best natural eczema cream for babies, chances are you may have heard some bad things about traditional eczema treatment. If you are based in Singapore, the hot weather does trigger off eczema flare ups in both babies and adults. In this article Singapore dermatologist, Dr. Teo Wan Lin, shares her top tips on eczema management. She includes important scientific facts about natural eczema cream or remedies, which is important if you wish to get facts right.

How common is eczema and what causes eczema flare ups?

Eczema is common in Singapore as it is worldwide. However, Singapore’s hot and humid climate modifies the skin microenvironment. For many with dry sensitive skin issues, humidity can improve the skin condition. Conversely, a dry temperate climate can trigger off their skin flare ups. Increased water loss through the skin occurs in dry climates. This is known as trans epidermal water loss. Singapore is a very humid country. Those who suffer from eczema benefit from increased environmental humidity. 

Effect of air conditioning on eczema. Keep cool but avoid using air conditioners. 

In Singapore’s hot weather, many individuals end up being in air-conditioned environments for prolonged periods. Air conditioning increases the rate of water loss through the epidermis. This is especially if there is no humidifier in the environment. 

Avoiding triggers is part of natural eczema treatment that does not involve drugs

The causes or triggers of eczema are mainly environmental. Food allergy is rare and tends to affect only children below the age of four. Even then, accompanying symptoms such as diarrhoea, swelling of the throat, and the airways must accompany the symptoms in order for it to be considered a true allergy. Most eczema cases are actually triggered off by environmental changes. A reduction in humidity, for example prolonged exposure to an air conditioned environment, increases water loss. Use of harsh soaps which strip the skin of its natural protective oils, bacterial infections for example due to poor hygiene can also trigger off flare ups.

The commonest trigger is actually dust in the environment. Literally all eczema patients have dust mite allergy and routine testing is not carried out by dermatologists. Methods of dust mite reduction include getting rid of carpets, stuffed toys and awareness of the certain types of animal fur that can trigger off a flare up. Using a HEPA filter can also reduce the amount of airborne particulate allergens in the environment. Sweat triggers off eczema flare ups. So one should avoid heat and high temperatures. While humidity is beneficial, increased environmental temperature causes more  sweating. For eczema sufferers, sweat actually contains urea, lactate that worsens the eczema flare ups. 

Identifying risk factors for eczema, start using a moisturiser early

Lifestyle does affect eczema, Inadequate sleep, disturbed sleep patterns, a poor diet, stress; these are all factors that can directly trigger off eczema flare ups because it is controlled by the immune system. 

On top of that, we know that eczema itself is predominantly a genetic condition so if there is a family history of sensitive skin, allergic rhinitis, asthma, one can be at a higher risk of acquiring eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis. Eczema does not just occur in individuals who are genetically predisposed. With age, the functions of the skin can also deteriorate and constant exposure to certain soaps, as well as environmental contractions can reduce the integrity of the skin barrier.

Always use a good ceramide dominant moisturiser. Ceramides are the fatty lipids that cement the cells of your skin. This reduces the chance that environmental allergens can penetrate the skin and trigger off a flare up. When this barrier is deficient, that’s when you can develop eczema. If your symptoms do not disappear after using a moisturiser, you should see a board certified dermatologist.

Healthy diet: natural way to support eczema treatment 

Fatty fish, plant oils, evening primrose are rich in omega 3 fatty acids and can support a healthy skin barrier. For those under the age of 4, there could be  possible food allergies. Parents will need to discuss with dermatologist case by case. If the body is unhealthy, the skin as an organ will be affected. Hence, a healthy diet is recommended. 

Natural Eczema Treatment by a Healthy Diet
Dr. Teo Wan Lin is the author of Edible Beauty, a complete dermatologist guide to foods beneficial for skin.

Why is there a concern about medical treatment for eczema? What is a natural eczema cream?

Many people have heard misleading information on the internet about steroid withdrawal syndrome. Most of the time, these cases are not managed by dermatologists and have a poor outcome. Topical anti-inflammatory agents are not just steroid creams. There are non-steroidal creams known as calcineurin inhibitors. There are also those with natural functional ingredients derived from plant extracts. These are anti inflammatory and can be incorporated in moisturiser creams for eczema patients. 

It is important to know how eczema is treated by dermatologists.  Board certified skin doctors follow a treatment protocol, based on evidence-based medicine. They first assess the severity of the eczema, starting with topical medications such as topical steroids or other immunomodulators. These can be steroid-sparing alternatives. The emphasis on a natural eczema cream is not scientific.

The definition of a natural eczema cream itself is arbitrary. Most people think it must be from a plant or a food. However, such ingredients may not only be toxic, but also not effective eczema treatment. For example, most essential oils used for aromatherapy or naturopathic purposes are caustic to the skin. Eczema patients must avoid all of it.

A common additive peppermint essential oil is an example. While it can provide a minty, cooling sensation to relieve itch. Peppermint essential oil can worsen eczema. Rather, dermatologists recommend using menthol extract in small concentrations. This can be extracted and formulated as part of eczema skincare. The above is an example of how a natural eczema cream can actually worsen eczema. 

Instead of searching for a natural eczema cream for babies, you should look for one which is dermatologist formulated. It will be effective and safe on baby’s skin.

Using the best baby moisturiser is one part of treatment. Dermatologists emphasise that how often and how you apply moisturisers is equally important. 

Best natural eczema cream / moisturiser therapy with wet wraps

Wet wrap therapy is the gold standard with an aggressive regimen of skin barrier repair with a good ceramide-based moisturiser. There are ways to increase absorption of the creams. One of the commonest methods is using wet wrap therapy. This is when the skin increases its ability to absorb what is applied on the surface when a layer of damp material such as cotton, is placed on top of the skin. The technique is commonly recommended in paediatric eczema. In addition, the method does not require any medications and relies on a good moisturiser to achieve the desired effects.

Not all rash is eczema. If you are searching for a natural eczema cream or remedy online, chances are you have noticed a rash on your baby. The top tip from our dermatologist is – be wary that it may not be eczema. Consequently, it is not relevant to be searching for a natural eczema cream or for eczema treatments for that matter.

Not all baby rashes is due to eczema 

The lay person may find it difficult to differentiate between eczema and other types of rashes. They are not expected to self-diagnose. When in doubt, they should always consult an accredited dermatologist. However, here are some tips which can help you navigate your symptoms better.

If you have a sudden onset rash that spreads from the body to the rest of your limbs, this should not be regarded as eczema. It could be a viral related rash known as a viral exanthem and it is dangerous for a parent to assume that that is eczema if it is happening to their child. This is because viral exanthems are associated with underlying infections and it is important to seek medical attention for these infections.

Eczema tends to be chronic. It can start early on in the child’s life and usually affects the elbows and the knees, thinner areas of the skin around the neck and parts of the face. These areas can be very itchy. Parents may notice a child or infant rubbing themselves on surfaces to relieve themselves of the itch. Overtime, this can develop to areas of thickened skin from being red and flaky, to being thick and rough. This is a process known as lichenification. The important thing to do is regardless of whether you have been diagnosed with eczema before, is to use a good ceramide-based moisturiser. 

Dangers of natural eczema cream or remedies

I would not recommend natural eczema cream or herbal remedies that are being marketed for eczema. These often contain essential oils which are in fact irritating to dry sensitive skin when used in inappropriate concentrations and also lanolin-based moisturisers which, first of all is very animal-unfriendly and also can contain residues which are irritating to eczema prone skin. Using apple cider vinegar, any food or plant product raw are commonly purported natural eczema creams. There are myriad of home concoctions available online for treating itch or alleviating dryness. Be warned that these naturally eczema creams can potentially lead to serious harm.

What you can do for mild eczema treatment without medications 

If you have mild symptoms, you can use this method first. Relieve itch by applying your moisturiser cold. The lower temperature helps to cool skin. The cooling sensation distracts your itch receptors and this can reduce the discomfort. Also, instead of scratching, you can pat your skin or tap it. Scratching destroys the protective layer formed by your skin cells and can set the stage for worsening infections. 

Steroid phobia: sometimes it is necessary to use steroids for eczema. 

Dermatology is the practice of evidence-based medicine for the treatment of skin conditions. Eczema is not just a dry skin condition that the lay person can self-medicate and treat using natural eczema creams, hoping it will go away. It is important to correct this perspective because eczema always starts off being mild and it does get very severe. The most severe form of eczema is known as erythroderma, also known as the red man syndrome and these cases do not happen overnight.

Mild to moderate eczema must be treated aggressively with a combination of appropriate ceramide dominant moisturizers, wet wrap therapy with topical immunomodulators which include topical steroids. However, these must be closely monitored when prescribed by a dermatologist because there is always a risk of inappropriate use leading to side effects such as skin thinning and a phenomenon known as tachyphylaxis where the medicines actually stop working. Dermatologists are well-versed in the management of eczema with topical steroids. 

Steroid phobia is a term coined by dermatologists to describe the harmful effects of misinformation about topical steroids. This is what causes parents to avoid medical treatment altogether. As a result, there is a very poor outcome and will require stronger medications to bring the eczema under control. 

Rather, it is a balance we strike. At our clinic, we focus on a proactive treatment approach that emphasises using techniques of application, as well as biomaterial applications. This enhances the effects of moisturiser therapy. We also focus on plant extracts which have proven anti-inflammatory properties. These extracts, consequently, constitute some basis of a natural eczema cream that is commonly referred to. They can help to wean patients off topical steroids faster. Ultimately, if you are under the care of a dermatologist, he or she maintains responsibility for effective and safe eczema treatment. 

Best natural eczema cream: what ingredients should you look out for in an eczema product?

There is a concept known as the prescription emollient device coined by Lawrence Eichenfield, a paediatric dermatologist. A prescription emollient device is the best type of moisturiser for dry skin types, especially those who are prone to eczema. Essentially, there is a dominant ceramide component which can be animal-derived or as is our brand’s preference, plant-derived from seed oils known as phytoceramides. This is probably as close as we can get to a true natural eczema cream. Together with anti-inflammatory botanicals, the cream performs a steroid-sparing role in a sense that it does reduce reliance on topical steroids which is the ultimate goal of treatment.

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