Dermatitis is a term that covers a multitude of symptoms and causes, from childhood eczema to itchy skin triggered by your new perfume, but whatever the cause, what’s the best cream to use on it?
The best cream for dermatitis is the one that works for you.
That applies whatever kind of dermatitis you have, whether it’s chronic eczema or contact dermatitis caused by a nickel necklace. Although the dermatitis might be caused by different things, and may look different from person to person, the way it affects the skin is the same.
What is dermatitis?
Dermatitis is a catch-all term for skin irritation anywhere on the body. There are several different kinds of dermatitis, some caused by contact with an irritating substance (pollen, nickel, detergent etc), and others caused by more abstract things, like the weather or anxiety, but they all involve the skin getting inflamed and itchy, and the impairment of the skin barrier function.
How is dermatitis treated?
Whatever the cause, a treatment plan for dermatitis tends to be the same:
- Avoiding whatever caused it
- Calming the itch
- Protecting skin from moisture-loss or further damage
Once you’ve identified your triggers and have eliminated them as far as possible, the next step is to keep your skin protected and in as good a condition as possible. Whether or not your dermatitis is severe enough for other medication (steroids, immunosuppressants, antihistamines etc) it will definitely need daily care to keep it at bay.
Here are four vital things that a dermatitis cream should be doing:
Protecting the skin
The main way of managing dermatitis involves the regular use of emollient creams or oils, which can help support the healthy functioning of the skin barrier. How does that happen? Well, if your own skin barrier is damaged, fragile or not functioning as well as it might, a good cream can form a layer over your own damaged skin to protect it from external irritants, acting like a kind of sticking plaster or raincoat over the leaky skin!
Preventing moisture loss
A good cream can also lock moisture into the skin where it’s needed, by preventing evaporation through damaged skin.
Feeding the skin
If you’ve chosen a cream with plant oils and extracts, it can also feed the skin with all sorts of vital nutrients - vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and essential fatty acids - which the skin can use to build stronger defences. The skin regenerates itself in a continual cycle of making new skin cells and shedding the old, so giving it the building blocks directly can help regulate that cycle.
- Calming the itch
The final thing a good emollient cream for dermatitis can do is to soothe the inflammation and stop the sufferer scratching! The itch-scratch cycle perpetuates the problem, with itchy skin getting damaged, and the damage causing more moisture loss, more vulnerability to irritants and allergens, and more inflammation. Making a barrier over broken skin and preventing moisture loss is part of the anti-itch solution, but Balmonds creams also include natural anti-inflammatories in the form of herbal tinctures that can double down on the effect.
Creams that tick every single one of those boxes are good choices, but there are some other boxes they need to tick, too.
And that’s more about what they don’t do, than what they do.
What should dermatitis creams be free from?
They shouldn’t contain irritants that will exacerbate the condition. What irritates skin will vary from person to person, but common problems include perfume (fragrance/parfum), preservatives, colours, emulsifiers, and other additives which can make paraffin-based creams look, smell and feel nice.
Other problems include natural ingredients; people prone to dermatitis can be sensitive even to plants and natural ingredients, such as coconut, nuts, herbal essential oils or tinctures.
Which brings us back to the original statement: the best cream for dermatitis is the one that suits you! It may not be the same one that works for your friend with dermatitis, and you may find dermatitis on different areas of the body responds to different products. Whatever you use, always patch test new moisturisers before widespread use.
Recommended creams for dermatitis:
Balmonds Daily Moisturising Cream
with shea butter and calendula
Balmonds Intensive Hand Cream
with shea butter and sea buckthorn oil
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.