Deciphering the best treatment for baby eczema amongst a grab bag of methods from traditional medicine to dermatologists is a head-scratcher for parents everywhere. Baby’s skin is too sensitive to undergo trial after trial of different eczema creams to find out which one works best — especially when all too many creams for baby eczema include impurities that do more harm than good. So what do dermatologists recommend for baby eczema? Some of it might surprise you...
What dermatologists are saying
Most dermatologists will recommend a multi-pronged strategy that includes consistent moisturizing, managing triggers and medication, usually corticosteroids. The standard of care in Western medicine is to prescribe a topical steroid. Although this works in the heat of the moment, it’s not a long-term solution.
Steroids are meant to suppress the immune response and calm inflammation temporarily, not cure the root causes of eczema. The keyword there is temporarily. You need ever-stronger steroids to address each new flare-up because eczema often comes back worse than before when the steroid treatment runs out. We’ve heard case-after-case of this from parents who turned to California Baby's steroid-free creams for baby eczema after growing exasperated with their little one’s ever-worsening eczema flare-ups post steroid use. Likewise, the other symptoms that can accompany eczema stick around, like respiratory allergies and gastrointestinal issues, because steroids don’t address the underlying conditions.
Traditional dermatologists also advise against diet change even if a food allergy is thought to have provoked the eczema. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), removing suspected food allergens can reduce the intake of vitamins and nutrients that your baby’s body needs. Unfortunately, with 30% of eczema cases being diet-related, refusal to look into what your baby eats may lead to chronic and worsening eczema. We believe you can address your baby’s potential food allergies and eczema triggers in a way that’s safe, healthy and effective when you take an integrative approach.
Integrating conventional and Chinese medicine
Your baby’s inflammatory response (so, eczema) is their immune system’s way of communicating that something is off. Silencing it with an immunosuppressant without further investigation can only help for so long. Low-dose topical steroids might be a good way to buy time but if you want answers, we recommend looking to an expert in both Western and Eastern medicines.
Chinese medicine views the body as an integrated system. The lungs and gut are understood as a pair and the skin exhibits manifestations of that pairing. It’s no surprise to that respiratory issues like allergies and asthma or gut issues like inflammation and constipation occur in conjunction with skin conditions. With this perspective, signals produced by the body become a clue rather than just a symptom. This approach sees the whole person (or in this case, baby), not just their eczema to try to understand why this is happening.
This approach is particularly useful for parents trying to suss out their baby’s triggers — be it food intolerance, environmental allergies, skincare products or sudden changes in the weather. Working under the guidance of an integrative doctor to comprehensively allergy test, eliminate potential triggers and strategically reintroduce them will give you, the parent, more insight and ultimately more tools for managing your baby’s eczema.
Steroid-free creams for baby eczema
An integrative approach puts you in the sweet spots between modern and traditional Chinese medicines — the best of both worlds. But there is no right way, there is only the way that’s best for you and your little one’s specific situation. No matter which path you take, knowledge is empowerment. While you’re on this brave journey of parenthood, we’re here to make some decisions a little easier with steroid-free, plant-based alternatives for topical relief.
Both our Eczema Cream and Eczema Shampoo & Body Wash are formulated without known triggers and common allergens but it’s what they’re formulated with that’s so exciting for eczema sufferers of all ages. Our organic, gluten-free colloidal oatmeal binds to the skin to create a protective barrier that seals in moisture to quickly calm and relieve irritation. Organic calendula and aloe vera add another layer of soothing and moisturizing benefits to our lineup of steroid-free cleansers and creams for baby eczema.
Ingredients and treatments to use with caution
Not all eczema creams are created equal. In fact, some ingredients and treatments should be avoided altogether, in our opinion, either because the risks outweigh the benefits or the current scientific research doesn’t actually support their efficacy (looking at you bleach baths). In most cases, there simply are better and safer options than turning to the list below.
Steroids might have a place in your management strategy for your baby’s eczema as a last resort for severe cases, but the side effects can make them a double-edged sword. Your baby’s soft skin is highly absorbent and at an increased risk of developing systemic side effects like photosensitivity — especially with increased potency or prolonged use, a hard-to-break cycle that patients and parents frequently find themselves in.
Common localized side effects include thinning of the skin, rosacea, perioral dermatitis and acne to name a few. In rarer cases, steroid treatment can alter pigmentation, delay wound healing, make skin infections worse and lead to contact hypersensitivity. If you do opt for a steroid treatment, make sure you’re following your dermatologist’s dose and duration recommendations carefully to avoid overuse or accidental misuse.
Remember that in the realm of food, an allergy and a sensitivity are different. Food sensitivities can create bloating, gas and diarrhea while an allergy generates a more serious immune response that affects other organs in the body. Food sensitivities can be tolerated in moderation, but food allergies should be avoided. As much as 30% of eczema cases will develop hives, itching, respiratory issues and/or gastrointestinal issues after contact with a food allergen. Common food triggers of baby eczema are nuts, soy, dairy and gluten.
Skin Irritants in skincare products
Common allergens often show up in skincare products, too, including the food allergens listed above and harsh chemicals and contaminants. When looking for creams for baby eczema, make sure these ingredients are on your no-no list (they’re on ours!): Cocamidopropyl betaine, ALL sulfates (not just sodium lauryl sulfate or SLS), synthetic fragrances, parabens and chemical active ingredients in sunscreens (opt for mineral actives like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide instead).
We can’t sign off without really looking into this recommendation from dermatologists. Both the AAD and the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology recommend that parents dilute a small amount of bleach in a tub full of water and allow their little ones to soak for 10 minutes no more than twice a week if their eczema is believed to be triggered by yeast or bacteria, usually staphylococcus aureus.
Our immediate instinct is to keep bleach far away from our babies, a hesitancy backed by the difficulty of pinpointing a single trigger for eczema. A bleach bath would make eczema triggered by allergens, stress, sweating or irritants, for example, much worse. And, let’s just say it — using a product that directs the user to “wear gloves while handling, keep out of reach of children and not ingest” (even a small amount can cause mouth irritation and vomiting), doesn’t exactly scream baby skincare.
Like steroids, only turn to bleach baths in extreme cases and with explicit guidance from your doctor. Also like steroids, we think you have better, safer and more effective long-term options. Although some health professionals swear by the efficacy of bleach baths, a systematic review of available evidence published by the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology in 2017 found bleach baths were no more effective than bathing in water alone after four weeks of treatment.
Try this! DIY colloidal oatmeal bath for baby eczema relief
Colloidal oatmeal has a long history of beneficial use in dermatology with an excellent safety record and has demonstrated efficacy in protecting and relieving skin irritations such as eczema. It is also FDA approved for use to treat eczema afflicted skin.
Organic, gluten-free colloidal oatmeal isn’t just the star ingredient in our cleansers and creams for baby eczema. It’s also in our favorite DIY recipe for an ultra-soothing bath. It’s not the same oatmeal you eat for breakfast, but you can make it yourself using uncooked, whole oats from your local health food stores. Add in a little Calendula Extract and you and your little one are well on your way to eczema relief. Here’s how we do it:
First, the colloidal oatmeal:
- Grind whole oats into a fine powder using a food processor or blender.
- Test it! Add a small spoonful of the ground oats to a glass of water.
- Did it turn milky white? Voila! You’ve made colloidal oatmeal.
Then, the eczema-soothing bath:
- Not too hot! Short baths in lukewarm water are best.
- Sprinkle 1 cup of your DIY oatmeal under the running water.
- Soak your little one for 10 minutes.
- Gently pat dry with a towel — no scrubbing!
- Moisturize immediately after bathing with our
- Moisturize at least two more times a day with our Eczema cream.
DISCLAIMER: The information contained herein should NOT be used as a substitute for the advice of an appropriately qualified and licensed physician or other health care provider. The information provided here is for informational purposes only.