8 Proven Home Remedies for Eczema

Health Writer
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Itching for change? So are the more than 30 million Americans who have eczema, an occasionally debilitating condition that causes skin to become agitated, red, and sore.

Stress, dry air, soaps, and sweat can all trigger an outbreak. Some people can resist the itch, but others scratch till it bleeds, making the problem worse.

There’s no cure for eczema (a.k.a. atopic dermatitis), but there are plenty of ways to control the unwanted effects. Prescription medications, light therapy, and creams and ointments can all heal the skin and prevent future flare-ups.

While a trip to the pharmacy isn’t the only answer, some highly touted natural remedies are bogus. Not so, however, with the following eight. They’re proven to effectively keep your eczema symptoms at a simmer.


Coconut Oil

No wonder this natural moisturizer has become so popular: It has antibacterial properties that can reduce staph bacteria on skin, helping to prevent infections during flare-ups, according to the National Eczema Association.

Pick a bottle labeled “virgin” or “cold pressed,” as other oil extraction methods use chemicals that can irritate the skin. You can also try sunflower oil, says Debra Jaliman, M.D., an assistant professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, who recommends organic versions of both.

Rub on the oil after your shower, she says, when your skin is damp and can better absorb it.


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Oatmeal

Not exactly the kind you eat with berries in the morning: For your bod, you want colloidal oatmeal, a finely ground form of oats you can find at drugstores or online, such as Aveeno Soothing Bath Treatment with 100% Natural Colloidal Oatmeal. Adding it to the tub can ease itching after a 15- to 20-minute soak.

Alternatively, mix about ¼ cup of colloidal oatmeal with enough water to make an easily spreadable paste, then rub it on your itchy skin. The mixture will bind and form a protective barrier to hold in moisture. It also has anti-inflammatory benefits.


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Baking Soda

Like colloidal oatmeal, baking soda can quickly relieve eczema symptoms. Add a quarter cup to your bath and soak for 15 minutes max, or apply it to your skin as a paste.

Apple cider vinegar has a similar effect. Simply pour 2 cups into your tub and bathe for 15 minutes. Vinegar will help kill off the bacteria causing your eczema, according to the National Eczema Foundation.


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Evening Primrose Oil

Research is mixed on this one, but some studies show a modest reduction in itching among people who take an evening primrose oil supplement.

The oil, which comes from the plant’s seeds, contains omega-6 fatty acids and gamma-linolenic acid. Both may help prevent inflammation linked to eczema.


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Wet Wraps

If your skin is especially itchy or painful, apply gauze soaked in water. Not only does it relieve the pain, but it can help topical medications work better.

Follow these steps: After a bath, apply a fragrance-free moisturizer, then any medicated lotions your dermatologist has prescribed. Next, moisten strips of white, cotton gauze with warm water and wrap them around the skin. Put a dry layer of clothing on top for protection. Keep the wraps on for a few hours or even overnight.


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Probiotics

Your body’s largest organ (yep, the skin) has its own microbiome colonized by millions of bacteria that protect against invading pathogens. And just like the microbiome in your gut, it functions best when the bugs that live there are in balance.

Research suggests “bad” bacteria on the skin may drive inflammation. It makes sense, then, that topical probiotic treatments could restore equilibrium.

Truth is, the data isn’t 100% clear. Although one recent placebo-controlled study found no benefit, other research showed that high doses (3 to 50 billion CFu/d) of Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Bifidobacterium lactis, and Lactobacillus acidophilus hold promise.

The National Eczema Foundation notes that probiotic supplements are unregulated, so your best bet is adding probiotics to your system through food. All three of the probiotics mentioned above are common in yogurt, and a recent study found that women who ate 12 ounces of low-fat yogurt every day for nine weeks had reduced inflammation.


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Massage

Stress often makes eczema worse, so getting a rubdown may help. While there’s not a ton of research on massage and eczema specifically, two studies on children found that the touch therapy reduces redness, thickness, scaling, and itchiness.

Dr. Jaliman vouches for it personally. “I suffer from eczema and have found massage helpful,” she says, adding that any type is beneficial—even deep tissue.

Call the massage therapist in advance to make sure the lotions they use during the massage aren’t ones that trigger flares, as up to 15 percent of people with eczema are sensitive to scented products. If you have any doubt, bring your own.


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Acupuncture or Acupressure

Inserting acupuncture needles into already irritated skin sounds like a bad idea, but research suggests otherwise. Same with acupressure, a related treatment where hands and fingers replace needles.

Want to try a quick acupressure trick at home? One study found that pressing the “LI11” spot—an area on the outside of the left arm at the end of the elbow crease—with a BB-sized metal ball for three minutes, four times a week, can reduce itching.

Researchers speculate that these therapies may alter signals to nerve cells that transmit both pain and itchiness.