Home remedies and natural treatments can soothe the dry, itching skin that comes with eczema.
People can use creams, natural products, and dietary and lifestyle changes to manage or prevent eczema flares, especially in the winter, when symptoms tend to be at their worst.
Natural substances, such as aloe vera gel and coconut oil, can moisturize dry, broken skin. They can also combat inflammation and harmful bacteria to reduce swelling and prevent infection.
Natural remedies cannot cure eczema, but they can help manage the symptoms and prevent flares. This article looks at the best natural remedies for eczema.
Aloe vera gel
A person can use aloe vera gel directly from the plant.
Aloe vera gel is derived from the leaves of the aloe plant. People have used aloe vera gel for centuries to treat a wide range of ailments. One common use is to soothe eczema.
A systematic review from 2015 looked at the effects of aloe vera on human health. The researchers reported that the gel has the following types of properties:
- immune system-boosting
The antibacterial and antimicrobial effects can prevent skin infections, which are more likely to occur when a person has dry, cracked skin. Aloe’s wound-healing properties may soothe broken skin and promote healing.
How to use it
People can buy aloe vera gel in health stores or online, or they can purchase an aloe vera plant and use the gel directly from its leaves.
Choose aloe gel products with few ingredients — others can contain preservatives, alcohol, fragrances, and colors, all of which can irritate sensitive skin. Alcohol and other drying ingredients could make eczema worse.
Start with a small amount of gel to check for skin sensitivity. Sometimes aloe vera can cause burning or stinging. Generally, however, it is safe and effective for adults and children.
Apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is a popular home remedy for many conditions, including skin disorders.
The National Eczema Association (NEA) reports that apple cider vinegar may help with the condition. However, they recommend using caution, as the vinegar’s acids can damage soft tissue.
No research has confirmed that apple cider vinegar reduces eczema symptoms, but there are several reasons why it could help:
Balancing the skin’s acidity levels
Vinegar is highly acidic. The skin is naturally acidic, but people with eczema may have less acidic skin than others. This can weaken the skin’s defenses.
Applying diluted apple cider vinegar could help balance the skin’s acidity levels, but vinegar can cause burns if it is not diluted.
In contrast, many soaps, detergents, and cleansers are alkaline. They can disrupt the acidity of the skin, which can leave the skin vulnerable to damage. This may explain why washing with certain soaps can cause eczema flares.
Studies have found that apple cider vinegar may fight bacteria, including Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus. Using apple cider vinegar on the skin could help keep broken skin from becoming infected.
How to use it
Always dilute apple cider vinegar before applying it to the skin. Undiluted vinegar can cause chemical burns or other injuries.
People can use the vinegar in wet wraps or baths, and it is available in most supermarkets and health stores.
To use apple cider vinegar in a wet wrap:
- Mix 1 cup of warm water and 1 tablespoon of the vinegar.
- Apply the solution to cotton or gauze.
- Cover the dressing in clean cotton fabric.
- Leave it on the area for 3 hours.
To try an apple cider vinegar bath soak:
- Add 2 cups of apple cider vinegar to a warm bath.
- Soak for 15–20 minutes.
- Rinse the body thoroughly.
- Moisturize within several minutes of leaving the bath.
Bleach in the bath
Although it may sound dangerous, research indicates that bleach in the bath can improve eczema symptoms due to its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects.
Bleach can kill the bacteria on the surface of the skin, including S. aureus, which causes staph infections. This may restore the microbiome of the skin’s surface.
The conclusions of a 2015 review indicated that bleach baths could reduce the need for topical corticosteroid or antibiotic treatments. However, other research found no benefits of bleach baths, compared to regular baths.
How to use it
To make a bleach bath for eczema, use regular-strength (6 percent) plain bleach and try the following:
- Add half a cup of bleach to a full bathtub of water or 1 teaspoon of bleach per gallon of water.
- Pour in the bleach while the bath is filling.
- Soak for 5–10 minutes.
- Rinse the body thoroughly with warm water.
- Gently pat the skin dry.
- Use lukewarm water to prevent the skin from drying out, and moisturize immediately after drying.
If a person experiences any discomfort, irritation, or redness, they should stop using bleach in the bath. People with asthma or breathing problems should refrain from taking bleach baths, due to the strong fumes.
Colloidal oatmeal, also known as Avena sativa, is made from oats that have been ground and boiled to extract their skin-healing properties.
A 2015 study reports that colloidal oatmeal lotion had antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, resulting in improved:
- skin dryness
- itch intensity
According to the results of a randomized controlled trial, a colloidal oatmeal moisturizer worked better than a control.
How to use it
- Add powdered colloidal oatmeal to a warm bath and soak.
Choose a colloidal oatmeal product that has oats as the only ingredient and avoid those with fragrances or additives. People can buy pure colloidal oatmeal from health stores or online.
Colloidal oatmeal is generally safe for all ages, but people who are allergic to oats should avoid it. Individuals who are allergic to gluten should use caution, as oats are often processed with wheat.
Bathing provides the skin with essential moisture.
Bathing is an important part of eczema treatment. When a person has a skin condition such as eczema, their skin needs extra moisture because the outer layer is not functioning as it should.
For some, washing often can dry out the skin and make eczema worse. This can occur when:
- using water that is too hot or cold
- using the wrong soap
- not moisturizing afterward
- Avoid bathing too frequently. Most babies and children need bathing once or twice a week.
NEA recommends that adults:
- bathe or shower at least once a day
- use lukewarm water
- limit bathing to 10–15 minutes
- avoid scrubbing the skin
- use gentle cleansers instead of soaps
- try different types of medicinal baths, such as those with baking soda, vinegar, or oatmeal
A long, hot shower can remove natural oils and moisture from the skin. Take shorter showers and keep the water at a warm, not hot, temperature.
After bathing, moisturize within 3 minutes of getting out. Gently pat the skin dry with a towel and apply an oil-based moisturizer before the skin has fully dried. This can help seal in water from the shower or bath before it evaporates.
After washing and drying the hands, apply moisturizer to help prevent eczema flares on them.
Coconut oil contains healthy fatty acids that can add moisture to the skin, which can help people with dry skin and eczema.
Also, virgin coconut oil may protect the skin by helping combat inflammation and improving the skin barrier’s health.
A randomized clinical trial looked at the effects of applying virgin coconut oil to the skin in children. The results show that using the oil for 8 weeks improved the symptoms of eczema better than mineral oil.
How to use it
Apply cold-pressed virgin coconut oil directly to the skin after bathing and up to several times a day. Use it before bed to keep the skin moisturized overnight.
Extra-virgin coconut oil is generally solid at room temperature, but the warmth of a person’s body turns it to liquid. The oil is sold in health stores and online.
People who are allergic to coconuts should not use coconut oil.
Honey is a natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory agent, and people have used it to heal wounds for centuries.
The conclusions of a review confirm that honey can help heal wounds and boost immune system function, which means that it can help the body fight off infections.
Another review states that honey is useful for treating a variety of skin ailments, including burns and wounds, and that it has antibacterial capability.
Applied directly to eczema, honey could help prevent infections while moisturizing the skin and speeding healing.
How to use it
Try dabbing a little honey onto the area. Manuka honey products designed for wound care and skin application are also available in many drug stores and online.
Tea tree oil
Manufacturers derive tea tree oil from the leaves of the Melaleuca alternifolia tree. People often use this oil to help with skin problems, including eczema.
A 2013 review identifies anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and wound-healing properties in the oil. It may help relieve skin dryness and itching and help prevent infections.
How to use it
Always dilute essential oils before using them on the skin. Try mixing tea tree oil with a carrier oil, such as almond or olive oil, then apply the solution. Some products include tea tree oil in a diluted form.
People can find the oil in health stores or online.
Eczema is an inflammatory condition, which means that it causes inflamed, red, sore skin.
Certain foods can cause or reduce inflammation in the body, and making a few key dietary changes could help diminish eczema flares.
Examples of anti-inflammatory foods include:
- leafy greens
- beans and lentils
- colorful fruits
- turmeric and cinnamon
Common inflammatory foods include dairy, eggs, soy, and wheat. Try eliminating some of these from the diet and keep a food diary to help identify which foods may be problematic.
Gentle soaps and detergents
Laundry detergent can contain harsh chemicals that aggravate eczema.
Many body washes and cleansers contain detergents, which help provide a soapy lather. Detergents and other lathering agents can dry out the skin, especially in people with eczema.
Bar soaps can also be harsh on the skin because of their alkalinity.
Try using a gentle, no-lather, fragrance-free cleanser. Avoid products with rough particles for scrubbing or exfoliating, as these can further irritate the skin.
Many people with eczema also find that switching to a more gentle, fragrance- or color-free laundry detergent can help improve symptoms.
Try skipping fabric softener, which lingers on clothes and often contains fragrances and chemicals that can cause skin irritation.
Avoid strong heat sources
Sitting next to a fireplace or near a furnace may feel good, but it can make eczema symptoms worse. The hot, dry air can dehydrate the skin and aggravate the itchiness of eczema.
Use a humidifier during the dry winter months and avoid getting too close to heaters and fireplaces.
Wrap up in cold weather
Cold, harsh winter winds can dry out the skin and cause eczema flares.
Keep the skin covered when temperatures are low. Also, consider covering the face with a scarf if eczema occurs on the face.
There is no cure for eczema, but people can often manage their symptoms with home remedies, including natural gels and oils, medicated baths, and dietary changes.
If eczema is severe or does not respond to home treatments, it may be a good idea to see a doctor. Do so right away if a child or baby develops a new rash.
A doctor may prescribe steroid creams or other prescription medicines to treat the inflammation.