Eczema is the most common childhood skin condition, with one in five children in the UK being affected by it. It can be incredibly distressing for both kids and parents, with uncomfortable, itchy lesions often resulting in sore, broken skin that may weep or even bleed, and in some cases, become infected. This can then affect your child’s sleep and mood.
Most GPs will prescribe a bath emollient. However, a new trial published in the British Medical Journal has found “no evidence of clinical benefit” from these bath additives.
Charlotte Vohtz, the founder of Green People, a brand specialising in natural and organic skincare, says: “Babies and children are far more sensitive to their surroundings than adults. Even tiny amounts of synthetic ingredients in lotions, creams, shampoos and other skin preparations can spark off allergic reactions, which in some cases may cause eczema, so it’s vital to be clued up on what you’re applying on your child’s skin.
“There are a host of ingredients that you should avoid, from fragrance, chalk, mineral oil, parabens and triclosan (an antibacterial in soaps and lotions),” she adds.
Relying on steroid-based products can also thin the skin, so finding alternatives that soothe eczema is a better long-term solution for your child. The NHS advises that any children under the age of 10 should not use steroid creams unless prescribed by a doctor.
Anyone who suffers with eczema cannot keep water normally in their skin, so it evaporates. However, ointments and creams give skin the water they need to reinforce the skin barrier, so hydration and moisturisation should be top of the list of priorities.
The good news is, it’s estimated that about two thirds of children outgrow their eczema by the time they are three-years-old, although they may always have a tendency for dry skin.
Dermatologist Dr Anastasia Therianou explains that “atopic eczema tends to run in families. If one or both parents have eczema it is more likely that their children will develop it too.”
However, it’s not all doom and gloom. We enrolled an army of eczema-prone mini testers to try steroid-free products that claim to fight the itch. Here are the solutions that actually work.
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Aveeno dermexa emollient cream
Aveeno is the magic word on everyone’s lips when you mention eczema. And rightly so. Its oat-based moisturising formulas have been calming skin for years. This emollient cream is super hydrating while also being gentle enough to use even through flare ups. It’s light and easily absorbed while also restoring calm to your child’s raw skin and giving immediate comfort. It’s packed with avenanthramides – an antioxidant found in oats – that will reduce inflammation long after you’ve applied it. If your child has a particularly bad patch of eczema, smother them in this stuff for instant relief. In addition, there’s a new gorgeous smelling calming comfort range that will encourage relaxation while also giving your child Aveeno’s signature oat-based moisturisation.
Buy now £8.50, Boots
Westlab soothing bath salts
If bathing tends to leave your child’s skin feeling dry and incurably itchy, add these bath salts to the tub for a soothing soak. The facts speak for themselves as one packet is sold every three seconds in the UK.
These "dead sea" salts are completely natural and packed with magnesium sulphate which helps to relax muscles, reducing stress that may trigger skin flare ups. Sting-free and causing no irritation, even to open wounds, they dissolve instantly in the bath, so your child won’t feel any scratch while they’re bathing in the tub.
To reap the benefits of a salt bath, be generous with how much you pour in – aim for 250g for a 10 minute soak. They also aid in a better night’s sleep, which is always an added bonus when it comes to kids’ bedtime. And finally, the bath salts are just as effective on adult’s dry skin as they are on children’s, so you’re getting real bang for your buck.
Buy now £4.99, lookfantastic
Weleda baby derma white mallow body lotion
A pioneer of organic skincare, this reputable brand continues to produce some of the best natural formulas around. And this skin-friendly baby body lotion is no exception. The mild, fragrance-free formula is great for applying on your little one post-bath to keep their hydration levels high and control itchiness. It's packed with organic white mallow and pansy extracts to soothe your baby's dry skin. The pleasant milky texture absorbs instantly, leaving no greasy residue or stickiness. The lotion also contains organic coconut oil which hydrates with a cooling effect, while the borage seed oil and organic safflower seed oil ensures your baby’s skin barrier is well protected. Although this is used by many baby’s that suffer with eczema, this is much better suited to those who have a mild skin disorder or just very dry skin.
Buy now £12.95, Holland & Barrett
Although the word serum may throw you somewhat, this light textured formula is a great choice for children that may be reliant on steroid creams that you’re keen to wean them off.
This was originally formulated for adults and children with diabetes, who are prone to developing dry and sensitive skin. This family-friendly serum is hard-working, fuss-free and works well on both face and body. At just 50ml, if your child has large outbreaks of eczema or severe dry patches on their body, you’re going to need more than one bottle.
It has a pleasant cooling effect thanks to the peppermint extract, while the wasabi and burdock leaf deliver a heavy dose of comfort and moisturisation. It’s even suitable for babies from one month upwards. Although a little goes a long way, you don't get a lot of product for this price point.
Buy now £15.00, Sos Serum
Little B alcohol-free hand cleansing gel, 250 m
While washing your hands more regularly and using hand sanitiser is paramount in the current climate, it can exacerbate eczema and dry skin conditions and be painful to use on sensitive skin. With this in mind, Bramley, a long-established British skincare brand, has created an alcohol-free cleansing gel that contains soothing aloe vera, antibacterial tea tree and lavender essential oils. We can vouch that it doesn’t cause even the smallest of wail from your little one. It’s also gorgeously fragranced with peppermint essential oils that remind us of after dinner peppermint creams. Plus, it’s suitable for children from aged six months and comes in a pump dispenser which means there’s very little waste or spillages.
Buy now £12.00, Bramley Products
Mustela stelatopia replenishing cleansing wipes
Although we are well aware that wipes are not the best eco-friendly purchase, when it comes to baby bums, they’re undoubtedly an essential in every parent’s arsenal. But what about the baby or child that has a skin condition that makes wiping them clean a very painful and traumatic experience? Enter these cleansing wipes from skin-friendly brand Mustela. They work as well on bums as they do on faces and hands and without a tear or red patch in sight.
Suitable from birth, they’re thicker than regular wipes and drenched in a nourishing formula that is alcohol-free, fragrance-free, paraben-free and hypoallergenic. They work well in a single swipe, meaning there’s no unnecessary rubbing that can inflame or irritate your baby’s skin. They also make a great alternative to the usual soft cotton wool and water that parents tend to use on their newborn.
Buy now £6.50, Escentual
Avene xeracalm oil
This cleansing oil wash will minimise the tight dry feeling that your child may experience from being in water for too long. Like all of this French dermatological brand’s products, it's powered by thermal spring water that brings calm and balance to the skin by fighting inflammation. Lightweight yet nourishing, the oil texture makes a skin-friendly alternative to harsher shower and bath gels. Use as you would a regular shower gel and then pat your child’s skin dry with a soft towel and avoid rubbing at all costs. We particularly love to use this product in the summer, when your child is more likely to be immersed in water for long periods of time, in swimming pools, paddling pools or the sea. Add this to your holiday toiletry list now.
Buy now £16.50, Boots
Childs Farm sensitive scalp shampoo
This gentle cleansing shampoo will stop even the itchiest of scalps from flaring up and causing irritation after washing. It contains naturally-derived cleansing agents and is infused with aloe vera to calm your child’s scalp. Not only is this reasonably priced, dermatologist and paediatrician approved (making it eczema friendly) but it’s also packed with natural ingredients that leaves your child’s hair tangle-free, super soft, and shiny too, plus it smells great. It received a big thumbs up from our mini tester who also liked the bright and fun animated packaging.
The shampoo also comes in a super handy travel pack, which is often hard to find with kids’ products. There’s also a hair conditioner in the range that is equally as kind to scalps and leaves little ones with tangle and static free hair. And if that’s not enough, it can be used on newborns too, which makes it a great choice for treating cradle cap without any rubbing, combing, or even picking.
Buy now £5.00, Childs Farm
Green People organic babies baby wash and shampoo
Looking for a body wash and shampoo that is mild enough to use on your child daily? Plump for this this bathtime must have. Packed with skin-loving ingredients that calm and heal, such as aloe vera, chamomile and lavender, it will gently cleanse your child’s body and scalp without stripping your child’s skin’s natural oils. This works well as a great compliment to your child’s bedtime routine without causing the irritation or dryness that is usually associated with eczema. Kids will love this product too, thanks to its fun-packaging and gorgeous smell.
Buy now £9.00, Green People
Salcura Bioskin junior outbreak rescue cream
This award-winning kid-friendly range was first developed after high demand from parents due to the success of its dermasprayâ, which treats eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis, and rosacea. Soon after, this cream became its bestseller. It contains unique ingredients such as zeolite (a volcanic mineral) and jojoba, which help support and improve your baby’s skin barrier. The natural ingredients work to bind the moisture in the skin, while also flushing out allergens that cause irritation in the first place. This non-stinging, super-hydrating cream really lives up to its reputation, we saw a distinct difference in our child’s skin in just two weeks.
Buy now £19.99, Salcura
Dermalex eczema treatment
Developed by dermatologists to treat mild to moderate atopic eczema symptoms, this three-in-one cream controls itching, redness and dryness while upping moisture levels. Its clever and unique formulation activates your child’s skin’s own repair system while also offering hydration. The lotion absorbs quickly so it can be applied comfortably day and night and won’t rub or stain your child’s clothes. Unlike many dermatologist formulas, it’s steroid-free and suitable for use on babies and children from the age of eight weeks, which makes this a popular no-frills choice.
Buy now £17.15, Dermalex
The Organic Pharmacy ultra dry skin cream
If you’ve managed to look beyond the hefty price tag, this deeply nourishing cream is said to increase skin moisture levels by 80 per cent. It’s packed with a cocktail of organic oils (neem, chamomile, tamanu, and chickweed) to calm and restore the driest of skin. The ultra-rich cream has a thick consistency making it better suited when slathered on before bed so that the greasy formula doesn't transfer and stain clothing. Consider this your child’s emergency cream when their skin needs a weighty amount of TLC. With the addition of calming aloe vera and squalene, your child will feel instant relief as soon as you apply. Plus, it doubles up well as a hardworking moisturiser for parents too – a family-friendly multi-tasker.
Buy now £45.00, The Organic Pharamacy
Dove derma care moisturising wash
Newly launched, this skincare range has been developed with paediatric dermatologists and has been approved by the National Eczema Association. We quickly fell in love with this prebiotic loaded, oatmeal-based body wash that has the perfect texture – not too runny but not too thick either. On contact with your child’s skin, it lathers up well and creates a bubbly foam, which will guarantee will put a smile on their face. Who doesn’t love bubbles in their bath?
The ultra-gentle formula means it can be used without caution – even on sore and open patches of eczema – plus it doubles up well as a shampoo. Locking in moisture for 24 hours after application, it encouraging less itching and healthier skin for your child. Suitable from newborns upwards, this tear-free body wash may not look fancy, but it’s an absolute must-have for every family bathroom, especially with kids that suffer from eczema.
Buy now £4.66, Boots
The verdict: Eczema treatments for children and babies
It comes as no surprise that the Aveeno dermexa emollient cream takes the top spot for protecting, treating and stopping the dreaded itch on our mini testers. Our children's skin had visibly improved within weeks of applying the cream every morning and night. This no-nonsense formula will be the best investment you’ve spent on improving your child’s skin health. Parents and children also loved the Westlab soothing salts that changed bathtime from tears and tantrums to smiles and laughter – without a single itch.
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