Struggling to find an effective emollient for your baby’s sensitive and eczema-prone skin? We understand, we’ve been there, and we’ve got some great tips for you!
Eczema-prone babies tend to have more sensitive and more fragile skin than most, both because they have an overactive immune system that creates inflammation, and because babies with eczema seem to lack enough of the substances such as filaggrin and natural oils needed to make a robust and effective skin barrier.
The combination of an impaired barrier and an overactive inflammatory response results in their skin reacting to all kinds of normal things (carpets, pets, dust, soap) and getting easily inflamed, as well as losing more moisture to the air, getting drier and more fragile, and letting in more external allergens and irritants.
Itchy, inflamed skin gets scratched, scratching causes more damage, and damaged skin loses more moisture and lets in more irritants, leading to the itch-scratch cycle which can be so hard to break. But breaking the cycle is absolutely key to getting on top of the seemingly endless flares of childhood eczema, and the best way to do this is with emollients.
What can emollients do for eczema-prone skin?
An effective emollient works on four different but equally important levels to stop the itch-scratch cycle.
Lock moisture in
A good, thick oil-based emollient, such as an ointment or balm, will provide a semi-waterproof barrier over dry, damaged skin, to reinforce your own skin defences. Broken or thin skin can lose rapidly moisture to the air, but moisture is desperately needed to build an effective barrier to the outside world; without it, the skin simply can’t repair itself effectively. So covering skin over with an oily layer acts as a kind of tarpaulin over a leaky shed roof - although in reverse as it keeps water IN the skin!
The higher the oil content, the more effective the emollient will be at controlling trans-epidermal water loss.
Keep irritants out
The layer of emollient not just locks water into dry and thirsty skin, it also keeps those pesky itchy irritants out! If dust, pet dander, pollen, or detergents get through the skin’s weakened defences and into the bloodstream, they can set off a reaction that leads to histamine release, inflammation and itch! So a good thick layer of oil-based emollient is literally protecting the body when the epidermis itself needs some extra support.
Calm the itch and allow healing
One obstacle to healing an itchy patch of eczema is the constant need to scratch! An oil-based emollient works to stop air getting to the skin, lessening the feeling of itchiness. It will also act to some extent as a sticking plaster, keeping microbes out, and providing a good safe moist environment for the skin cells to do their job of repairing the skin barrier.
Eczema-prone skin is depleted skin; it often lacks the nutrients it needs to build new skin cells, on its continual cycle of repair and regeneration. In fact, the skin usually renews itself every 3-4 weeks, but needs a constant supply of vitamins, essential fatty acids and other nutrients to do its job. A really good natural emollient can deliver nourishing plant-based oils and vitamins directly where they’re needed with each new application. Think of it as a vitamin supplement that you apply topically!
We’re pleased to say that Balmonds Skin Salvation ticks all those boxes! It has extra features too:
It’s free from irritants: unlike many conventional eczema creams, Skin Salvation is free from preservatives and perfumes that can aggravate eczema further.
Doesn’t sting on application: because it’s oil-based not water-based, it is unlikely to sting on application, even on broken skin, which is really useful if you’re trying to apply emollients to an upset baby, already in pain, who really doesn’t want their eczema cream put on.
Contains natural anti-inflammatories: Balmonds uses anti-inflammatory herbal tinctures in Skin Salvation: chamomile. Calendula, chickweed and nettle, all of which are renowned for their skin-calming properties.
In conclusion a natural, unperfumed, oil-based ointment is probably the best emollient you can put on your baby’s eczema-prone skin! Unlike paraffin-based emollients, a natural salve doesn’t need extra additives like scent-maskers or emulsifiers to make it nice to use. Everything in it is there for the purpose of breaking the itch-scratch cycle and supporting the repair of damaged skin.
Ultimately, the point of emollient treatment is to apply the cream regularly throughout the day and night; there’s no point in keeping on applying a cream that hurts them, or that causes more flares, or that they don’t like the feel of.
Go with whatever works for your baby, because the best eczema cream is one that you and your baby like best.
Recommended products for babies prone to eczema
Balmonds Skin Salvation
with hemp and beeswax
If you require medical advice we recommend you always contact your healthcare professional.
If you or someone you are caring for seems very unwell, is getting worse or you think there's something seriously wrong, call for emergency services straight away. For general medical advice, please contact your healthcare professional, this article does not contain or replace medical advice.
Do not delay getting help if you're worried. Trust your instincts.