Creams for Eczema Treatment in Children

Woman applying face cream to daughters face
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Moisturizers are one of the more popular and most effective treatments for eczema, both to prevent and treat eczema flares. But with so many different moisturizers on the market, it can be difficult to determine which are best.


In general, eczema is characterized by an impaired skin barrier, which leads to increased sensitivity, itching, dryness, and inflammation. Helping skin heal and retain moisture are crucial for stemming progression to more serious issues (such as infections or possible sensitivity to allergens) in this common condition.

While occlusive ointments, such as petroleum jelly, will help ease discomfort in kids, they won't correct the root problem, which is a damaged skin barrier. Heal the skin's barrier, researchers say, and symptoms will ease.

Effective Creams

The best way to do this is by supplementing the skin's own natural composition of ceramides, cholesterol, and fatty acids. Ingredients that help calm itching and inflammation, frequently oat-based, are likely to be helpful as well. There are a number of good moisturizers that fit the bill, many designed especially for babies and children, including: 

  • Aquaphor Healing Ointment
  • Cetaphil Baby Moisturizing Lotion
  • Aveeno Baby Eczema Therapy Nighttime Balm
  • Cutemol Emollient Skin Cream
  • Mustela Dermo-Pediatrics, Stelatopia Emollient Balm
  • CeraVe Moisturizing Cream
  • CeraVe Baby Healing Ointment
  • Triple Cream Eczema Care
  • Eucerin Eczema Relief Body Creme

Other options exist as well. Check the National Eczema Association's list of approved children's products for other ideas.

Ingredients to Look For

Ingredients to look for: oat, ceramides, plant oils such as jojoba and evening primrose, urea, shea butter, aloe, cholesterol, and squalane. (Choose products with plant-derived squalane if you prefer to avoid animal products.)

Avoid, if possible, allergens (such as nut-based ingredients), as well as alcohol and sodium lauryl sulfate, or SLS: while they're common in product formulations, they are skin irritants.

Proper Application

In addition to choosing the right moisturizer, you have to use it properly to control your child's eczema.

Most importantly, don't use hot water in your child's daily bath or shower. Hot water can make dry skin worse and make healing more difficult. Additionally, follow the "three-minute rule": put moisturizer on your child's skin within three minutes of getting out of the bath or shower. This quick response helps to trap the moisture from the bath or shower into your child's skin before it has a chance to evaporate.

To get the full benefit of a bath/using a moisturizer, it can also help if you gently pat your child's skin dry, so that it is still a little damp when you apply the moisturizer. Vigorously drying the skin with a towel may irritate skin and make the moisturizer less effective.

Try using a lotion for daytime, and ointments or heavier balms before sleep.

Parents and children sometimes prefer lotions because they seem to be easier to apply, but an ointment is often the best at trapping moisture into your child's skin.

In addition, avoid bar soaps unless they're specifically formulated for eczema. Use a mild, moisturizing soap substitute, such as Vanicream's Gentle Wash for Baby, at bath time instead.

EpiCeram and Atopiclair

If the products above don't help ease your child's symptoms after a few days, check with your doctor or a dermatologist. Nonsteroidal prescription creams and lotions are also available to help moisturize your child's skin.

These include EpiCeram and Atopiclair. They may be more effective long term than over-the-counter creams for some children with eczema since they use patented formulations designed to repair the skin's barrier function.


In addition to applying your child's moisturizer immediately after a bath or shower, it can also help if you:

  • Use a fragrance-free moisturizer that is in ointment or cream form.
  • Avoid moisturizers that contain alcohol and SLS: they can be drying or irritating.
  • Continue to use a moisturizer every day, even when your child's eczema is under good control.
  • Apply a moisturizer several times a day, not just after baths and showers.
  • After your child goes swimming, be sure to rinse him or her off and then quickly apply a moisturizer.
  • Consider using wet dressings or wet-to-dry dressings right after you moisturize your child's skin when she or he has hard-to-control eczema flares.
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  1. Elias PM, Wakefield JS. Therapeutic implications of a barrier-based pathogenesis of atopic dermatitis. Clin Rev Allergy Immunol. 2011;41(3):282-95. doi:10.1007/s12016-010-8231-1

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