Soothing the Itch: Effective Natural Remedies for Eczema


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Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a skin condition known for its flares of inflamed, itchy and dry patches of skin. For many families, it can be downright disheartening to manage. While it’s important to address potential triggers as soon as childhood eczema emerges, reducing inflammation at the skin level and supporting the skin barrier is also key in the management of eczema at any point in life. 

Standard treatments for eczema involve the use of topical corticosteroids or calcineurin inhibitors, but many people are concerned about these approaches, and for good reason. Prolonged use of high-potency corticosteroids may cause side effects such as skin eruptions or skin atrophy, and initial application of calcineurin inhibitors can cause local burning and stinging [1]. As a parent, you may be hesitant to go that route for your children, or you may want to find a more affordable alternative. Perhaps you’re one of the many people left searching for more natural eczema-care alternatives.

In this blog post we’ll navigate through some of the most common natural remedies for eczema, that offer gentle and sometimes more effective solutions. We’ll see which ingredients are supported by clinical studies and also provide insights into ingredients to steer clear of, while keeping holistic eczema care in mind.

Natural remedies for eczema

Natural ingredients that are used for eczema treatment and prevention are those with the ability to soothe dry, itchy skin. These remedies often focus on replenishing moisture, protecting the skin's natural barrier, and reducing inflammation. Some also have antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, or wound-healing properties.

While natural ingredients offer a gentle solution to eczema, for those with severe or moderate eczema, or if food allergies or eczema run in the family, topical products containing plant or food derivatives (e.g., coconut, oats) could trigger the allergy. In this case, alternative products should be considered. We recommend doing a patch test when trying a product for the first time. If you notice any signs of irritation or discomfort, discontinue use and consult your provider. 

Now let’s explore some of the natural ingredients commonly used for the treatment of eczema.

Hypochlorous acid (HOCl)

Protecting delicate eczema-prone skin from infections is crucial, given its compromised barrier function. Whether it's a minor cut or an eczema patch, these vulnerabilities make it easier for bacteria and fungi to creep in and multiply. Enter hypochlorous acid (HOCl)—not to be confused with sodium hypochlorite or bleach. HOCl, often found in HOCl spray or gel products, is a gentle yet powerful antimicrobial agent that's gaining recognition among parents as a skin savior. 

Contrary to its intimidating name, HOCl is devoid of any sting, odor, or taste, making it ideal for even the most sensitive skin. What’s more, HOCl is a compound naturally produced by our immune cells to fight harmful bacteria, making it a safe and effective solution for protecting against infections [2], [3], [4], [5].

HOCl has been clinically tested to be effective against Staphylococcus aureus [6], bacteria that are commonly found at high levels in eczema lesions [7], [8]. Besides, HOCl also suppresses inflammation, leading to fewer eczema lesions and reduced itching [9], [10].

Colloidal oatmeal

Colloidal oatmeal is made by grinding oat grain into a fine powder. It has been used for centuries to soothe dry, itchy, or irritated skin [11]. It’s approved by the FDA as an effective over-the-counter skin protectant [12] and it’s used in creams, lotions, and baths.

Certain properties make colloidal oatmeal a good option for eczema:

  • Anti-inflammatory and soothing properties: Colloidal oatmeal contains avenanthramides, which reduce the inflammation and itching associated with eczema [13], [14], [15].
  • Moisturizing and barrier protection: Colloidal oatmeal is made up of small size particles that can deposit on the skin and form an occlusive barrier when dispersed in water. Due to this property, colloidal oatmeal helps moisturize the skin and prevents moisture loss.
  • Prebiotic properties: Laboratory experiments show that colloidal oatmeal favors the growth of Staphylococcus epidermidis (skin commensal bacteria) significantly more than that of Staphylococcus aureus (bacteria often associated with eczema lesions) [16].
  • Hydrating and skin water retention: With its high concentration of starches and beta-glucans, colloidal oatmeal attracts water to the skin, helping it retain moisture.

Several clinical trials have shown that colloidal oatmeal creams work as well as prescription creams when it comes to improving eczema symptoms [17], [18], [19], [20]. And unlike standard moisturizers, colloidal oatmeal cream was shown to reduce the levels of Staphylococcus species on skin and to subtly increase microbiome diversity at lesion sites [19]. However, it's worth mentioning that all these studies were sponsored by Johnson & Johnson.

How to make a colloidal oatmeal bath

  • Place about 1 ½ cups of quick oats, steel-cut oats, or thick-cut oats into a blender or food processor. Blend until the oats turn into a fine powder.
  • Check if the consistency is adequate by stirring one tablespoon of blended oats in a bowl of warm water. If the water turns into a uniform, milky color your colloidal oatmeal is ready. If the oats sit on the bottom of the bowl and the water doesn’t turn milky, you need to blend the oats a little more.
  • Pour the colloidal oatmeal directly into a bathtub filled with lukewarm water, or first into a muslin bag or pantyhose.
  • Enjoy your colloidal oatmeal bath! Check the soak-and-seal method section below to maximize moisture retention.

Sunflower seed oil

Sunflower seed oil (Helianthus annuus oil) has protective, soothing, and moisturizing properties that make it a valuable natural remedy for eczema. Its amazing skin benefits come from different components:

  • Anti-inflammatory properties: Sunflower oil contains linoleic acid, which can help reduce skin inflammation associated with eczema.
  • Moisturizing: It’s rich in fatty acids that help moisturize and hydrate the skin.
  • Strengthening the skin barrier: Sunflower oil can stimulate the body's natural ceramide production, which can help improve the skin barrier and reduce the risk of developing eczema.
  • Protecting the skin: Rich in antioxidants, including vitamin E, which can help protect the skin from environmental stressors and premature aging.

In a clinical trial involving babies and toddlers, sunflower oil showed comparable efficacy in alleviating eczema symptoms when compared to a topical steroid cream [21]. Another trial evaluated the effectiveness of applying a topical steroid cream either alone or in conjunction with sunflower oil. Incorporating the oil led to a higher relief of symptoms and allowed to reduce the frequency of use of the steroid cream [22].

Another study comparing the effects of sunflower oil and olive oil on the skin barrier of adults found that sunflower seed oil preserved skin integrity and improved hydration without causing redness, whereas olive oil which caused a reduction in integrity and induced mild redness [23].

One advantage of sunflower oil is that it is non-comedogenic, meaning it won't clog pores, and is generally safe for most skin types. However, those with allergies to ragweed pollen, nuts, or sunflower seeds should conduct a patch test before using sunflower oil products, as they may experience sensitivity.

It’s important to use sunflower oil sourced with a cold-pressed method. This involves crushing the seed and forcing out the oil. Heating methods, in which the oil is obtained with high temperatures, destroy most of its beneficial properties. Sunflower oil distillate (SOD) produced through distillation of sunflower oil is particularly effective at reducing inflammation.

Virgin coconut oil

Coconut oil is extracted from the kernel (or meat) of mature coconuts, harvested from the coconut palm (Cocos nucifera). It contains high levels of lauric acid, a fatty acid with anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties [24], [25].

A couple of studies have reported the efficacy of virgin coconut oil (VCO) in eczema [26], [27]. One study with children compared VCO to mineral oil and found that VCO was better at preventing skin water loss and at relieving eczema symptoms [27]. Another similar study with adults reported that symptoms and levels of Staphylococcus aureus on skin were significantly lower when applying VCO compared to olive oil [26].

Calendula oil

Calendula officinalis oil is extracted from calendula flowers, otherwise known as marigolds. It has been used for centuries as a medicinal plant, due to its wound-healing, antifungal, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties [28]. Some of its uses for skin include:

  • Diaper rash [29], [30]
  • Acute dermatitis caused by irradiation [31]
  • Wound healing [32]

While studies on the efficacy of calendula oil in treating atopic dermatitis are lacking, it remains a popular choice in folk medicine because of its perceived benefits. It can be found in many forms, including calendula cream, salve, and ointment.

Calendula is generally considered safe for most people, and side effects are rare. However, some people may experience a skin rash with topical use, which could indicate an allergy to the herb. If you or your little one have allergies, particularly to plants in the Asteraceae or Compositae family (such as ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigolds, and daisies), it’s essential to consult your provider before using calendula.


Tallow is a rendered form of animal fat, specifically the hard fatty tissue that surrounds the organs of ruminant animals like cows and sheep. It’s solid at room temperature, and it’s rich in nutrients like conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), fat-soluble essential vitamins A, D, E and K, and both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

While there aren’t any studies to back up tallow’s effects on eczema, some TikTokers claim it works wonders for the skin. You can find it in certain varieties of tallow balm or skin creams. That said, tallow is not regulated by the FDA as skin care, so if you want to give it a try, it’s important to buy it from a trustworthy source to avoid problems with purity, preservatives, and stability. Also be cautious as there’s limited evidence that those with cow's milk allergy or sensitivity may also react to beef tallow [33], [34].

Being an extremely oily substance, tallow may not be suitable for everyday use, and it can have an odor that you may find off-putting. It’s important to test tallow products on a small area of skin (wrist or inner elbow) before applying them to more sensitive areas such as the face or neck.


Chamomile has anti-inflammatory and soothing properties. German chamomile oil (Matricaria chamomilla or Matricaria recutita), specifically, has been shown to reduce inflammation and allergic reactions in laboratory and animal studies.

There is only one small study on chamomile’s effects on eczema, which found it to have moderate effectiveness compared to hydrocortisone cream [35]. 

While further research is needed to fully evaluate the effectiveness of chamomile in managing eczema, its anti-inflammatory and skin-regenerating properties make it a promising natural treatment option. It’s no wonder then that chamomile is becoming a popular ingredient in skincare lines, included in many lotions, creams, and facial products for sensitive skin.

A word of caution, however—chamomile can cause allergy symptoms and can cross-react with ragweed pollen in individuals with ragweed allergies.

Bonus: the soak-and-seal method

Choosing the correct bathing technique can also help alleviate eczema symptoms. The soak-and-seal method aids with moisture retention, which is essential for skin health. It’s a great way of preparing your skin to receive your chosen moisturizer and maximize its effectiveness. In a clinical trial, two daily baths followed by this method helped reduce symptoms among children aged 6 months to 11 years with moderate-to-severe eczema [36].

The soak-and-seal method involves the following steps:

  1. Soak in a tub of lukewarm (not hot) water for 15-20 min
  2. Use a gentle, hypoallergenic cleanser and avoid scrubbing the affected skin
  3. To dry, pat the skin lightly with a towel and leave it slightly damp
  4. Apply an eczema–friendly lotion all over the body to seal in moisture. Do it within three minutes to prevent the skin to become even drier
  5. Wait a few minutes for the moisturizer to absorb before dressing

Skincare ingredients to avoid with eczema

Between added fragrances and hidden ingredients on product labels, many skincare items marketed for eczema may actually trigger skin flares. The list of ingredients to avoid is long but here are a couple to highlight:


Also known as petroleum jelly and sold as Vaseline, petrolatum is a mixture of mineral oils and waxes that forms a jelly-like substance. Its main ingredient is petroleum. Many eczema moisturizers contain petrolatum among their ingredients. 

Petrolatum may contain potentially harmful contaminants called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) [37]. These are more likely to be found in unrefined petrolatum, so it is essential to use products from reputable sources.

Some brands use petrolatum that is free from PAHs and toxins, and meet the strict purity requirements of international pharmacopeias. Make sure to check with the manufacturer if this is the case when buying a product containing petrolatum.


Artificial fragrances contain chemicals that can irritate sensitive skin and disrupt the endocrine system [38]. Fragrances may also be listed as parfum, aroma, perfume oil, scent, aroma chemicals, and essential oils [39], [40].

Although some essential oils like lavender oil are commonly used to calm the skin, they may be too strong for some babies and irritate their skin. It’s recommended to dilute essential oils with a neutral carrier oil, and also test the skin before using a product with such ingredients.

Other potentially harmful ingredients

Potentially harmful ingredients that are commonly found in skincare products include:

  • Benzalkonium Chloride
  • Parabens
  • PEGs or polyethylene glycols (e.g. PEG-40 Stearate)
  • Petrolatum-derived ingredients (petroleum, mineral oil, paraffin)
  • Phthalates
  • Phenoxyethanol
  • Sulfates [39]

You can check the level of toxicity of a product or a specific ingredient in EWG’s Skin Deep®, a database where skin care products and ingredients are ranked according to a two-part score that takes into account hazard levels and data availability. You want to avoid products and ingredients with a high EWG score.

Take a holistic approach to managing eczema

As we’ve seen through the research above, many natural remedies for eczema offer a gentle and holistic way to manage symptoms, often with fewer side effects compared to conventional treatments. Every skin is different and it’s important not to get discouraged easily. Explore different products until you find which one is the most appropriate for you, consulting your healthcare provider as needed.

Also keep in mind that eczema is a complex condition whose root cause may lie in genetics, environmental allergens, imbalances in the gut microbiome, or in a combination of factors. It’s ideal to address all potential triggers as early as you can. A staggering 60% of eczema cases begin in a baby’s first year [41], and eczema often precedes the arrival of other immune conditions such as asthma and allergies—a cluster of conditions known as the atopic march. Growing evidence points to any imbalances in gut bacteria potentially related to this progression of conditions

Fortunately, a gut microbiome test can often help you identify and correct these imbalances with recommendations for specific probiotics and lifestyle changes. Be encouraged that through patient persistence and the help of natural remedies for eczema, it is possible to find relief and healing from the inside out.

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