Many people all over the world suffer from eczema with symptoms ranging from tolerable to severe. There are many different medications that can be prescribed to treat eczema but sometimes they can be expensive or have side effects. Natural, at-home remedies may offer a nice addition to treating the symptoms of eczema including dry and itchy skin.
What Is Eczema?
According to the National Eczema Association, eczema is a condition that causes the skin to be itchy, red and inflamed. There are many different types of eczema but the most common is atopic dermatitis. Atopic dermatitis is a severe and chronic form of eczema that affects infants, children, teens, and can persist into adulthood. The true cause of eczema is unknown but the skin condition is activated by a combination of genes and environmental triggers. People with eczema tend to suffer from dry sensitive skin, itchiness, discoloration, inflammation, rough leathery or scaly patches, oozing and crusting. There has been research conducted that shows the sensitive skin of those with eczema can be controlled with the use of natural remedies including virgin coconut oil, sunflower oil, and even a mixture of olive oil, beeswax, and honey.
Coconut oil is a very popular household item that has many uses and may be soothing for eczema. Virgin coconut oil (VCO) contains vitamin E and a combination of medium fatty acid chains. VCO also does not induce any major pH alterations so it is considered to be safe. The National Eczema Association recommends using virgin or cold-pressed coconut oil because processed coconut oils may be treated with harsh chemicals that can irritate the skin.
VCO is believed to help reduce atopic dermatitis symptoms because it reduced the colonization of Staphylococcus aureus bacteria on the skin. S. aureus is believed to be involved in eczema flare-ups because it can promote skin inflammation and infection. A clinical trial that was conducted in the Philippines showed that topically applied virgin coconut oil improved atopic dermatitis.
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Sunflower oil is not as common as coconut oil but it has also shown to be beneficial when used in skin care products. Sunflower oil is also very high in vitamin E and triglycerides. The use of topical sunflower oil and creams has been shown to improve the skin’s barrier function, this may be because sunflower oil stimulates the body’s ability to produce ceramides. Ceramides are lipid molecules that are naturally produced and are found in the skin barrier. A clinical trial using sunflower oil cream found that after six months, there was a 50% reduction in atopic dermatitis among participants. According to the National Eczema Association (NEa), sunflower oil may have anti-inflammatory properties that could be beneficial to eczema. The NEA also recommends applying the sunflower oil to adult skin twice daily.
Olive Oil, Beeswax, and Honey
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Another fun but slightly messy remedy for eczema to try at home is a mixture of olive oil, beeswax, and honey. A study investigated the topical application of olive oil, beeswax and honey mixtures for treatments of psoriasis and atopic dermatitis. Treatment was applied to the skin three times daily for two weeks, they also tested three different mixtures with different proportions of olive oil, beeswax, and honey. After the two weeks, the honey mixture groups all showed improvement in pruritus (itching), scaling and oozing. The beeswax and honey both help reduce inflammation. Honey can also help to reduce pain, edema (collection of fluid in tissues or cavities), and scar formation, while also lowering colonization of Staphylococcus aureus like virgin coconut oil. Olive oil has been shown to exhibit antibacterial activity but olive oil alone can damage the skin’s barrier function so it should only be used on the skin in the mixture of beeswax and honey. The combination of these natural ingredients may be an appropriate treatment due to its anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. The study does relay that further studies should be conducted but it is a natural mixture that may be a helpful addition to conventional therapy.