Eczema is one of the most prevalent skin care concerns — according to the National Eczema Association, it affects roughly 31 million people in the U.S. alone or about 10% of the population. The condition can be anywhere from mild to severe, but it can be cumbersome trying to navigate ways to soothe the dry, itchy skin it causes. With the right ingredients and formulas, you may be able to catch some relief.
We reached out to dermatologists to learn all about eczema, what causes it and — most importantly — what you should be looking for in an eczema lotion. We also rounded up expert-recommended and highly rated eczema lotions that may help you find some relief.
Our top picks
- Best overall: CeraVe Daily Moisturizing Lotion
- Best for itchiness: Aveeno Eczema Therapy Daily Moisturizing Cream with Oatmeal
- Best for sensitive skin: Vanicream Moisturizing Skin Cream
How we picked the best eczema lotions
To pick the best eczema lotions, we used dermatologist recommendations. We took into account whether the lotion had any eczema-friendly ingredients, if it was formulated without ingredients known to trigger the condition, how lightweight it felt on the skin and value.
- Ingredients: We considered if the product contained any ingredients to soothe eczema, and if it was formulated with ingredients known to irritate it.
- Texture: We looked at each product's formula type (lotion, butter or cream) and how it affected its application and feel on the skin.
- Price: We included products with a range of price points, with some being more affordable and others being more high-end.
The best lotions for eczema in 2023
We found the best lotions that are safe for eczema-prone skin. Some of the products were recommended by experts, and some were chosen based on expert advice on what to look for. All of our picks are fragrance-free and made with restorative ingredients — like colloidal oatmeal and hyaluronic acid — that help heal, soothe and calm the skin.
Best Overall: CeraVe
The dermatologists we spoke to recommended this lotion from CeraeVe because of its ceramides. "This lotion has a unique blend of high-quality moisturizing agents (ceramides, hyaluronic acid and glycerin)," said Dr. Viktoryia Kazlouskaya, a dermatologist at Khrom Dermatology. "Specifically, ceramides play a key role in skin protection and barrier function," she added. The ingredients are released slowly during the day for all-day hydration, according to the brand.
Best Budget: Eucerin
Kazlouskaya says that the ceramides, colloidal oatmeal and licorice extract in this cream work to soothe irritated skin. It's also safe for children starting from three months of age, according to the brand, and offers a cooling sensation upon application that can feel calming on flare-ups.
This cream, recommended by Kazlouskaya, is made with colloidal oatmeal and ceramides, two heavy hitters when it comes to warding off eczema. "Avena sativa, or (oat) kernel extract, is a hallmark of Aveeno,” Kung noted. This occlusive ingredient "suppresses histamine release, plumps up the skin and restores the skin’s natural barrier," she explained. It also relieves dryness, itchiness and redness, according to the brand.
Vanicream’s products are designed with sensitive-skinned folks in mind. "Often when I don't know what skin care products may be irritating my patients, I advise them to stop using everything they have at home and substitute it with the Vanicream line of products until we can figure out what their irritants are," Kung said. "This is because Vanicream products — including this cream — are free of dyes, fragrance, parabens and formaldehyde releasers. If you're looking for something to re-introduce hydration back into your skin without further aggravating it, this may be a gentle option.”
Best Drugstore: Cetaphil
Kazlouskaya is a fan of this moisturizer from Cetaphil, as it contains colloidal oatmeal to restore the skin's moisture barrier and reduce the uncomfortable side effects of flare-ups. The formula is also free of parabens, fragrance and steroids, according to Cetaphil.
Best for Oily Skin: Sarna
Like a shaving cream but for eczema-prone skin, this anti-itch whipped lotion can be used by children two and older as well as adults suffering from eczema, the brand says. That's all thanks to the product’s gentle, fragrance-free formula that's formulated with 1% hydrocortisone for maximum relief. While some eczema lotions can feel greasy or sticky to the touch, Sarna says that this one absorbs into the skin quickly so you can get on with your day.
This thick yet non-greasy formula is fit for newborns and adults alike, says the brand. It's free of common eczema irritants like synthetic fragrances, sulfates, dyes and parabens, and uses colloidal oatmeal and prebiotic moisturizers to strengthen the skin barrier and minimize itchiness and dryness, according to Dove.
Kazlouskaya recommends this moisturizer, noting its hydrating ingredients of ceramides, glycerin and shea butter. It also contains thermal water from France, which, according to the brand, is known for its anti-inflammatory properties.
If you're looking for a dual-purpose moisturizer for the face and body, Kazlouskaya recommends this one. What makes it unique is the addition of Endolysin SA, "a small protein that fights 'bad' bacteria on the skin and balances the microbiome, helping to reduce itch in patients with eczema," says Kazlouskaya. It also contains traditional moisturizers such as glycerin, petrolatum, mineral oil and colloidal oatmeal.
What is eczema?
"Eczema is an inflammatory skin condition that, in its mildest form, causes redness, itching, irritability and dry skin," explained Dr. Elaine Kung, dermatologist and founder of Future Bright Dermatology. "For more severe forms of eczema, the skin can weep, blister, scale, crust or harden."
There are seven different types of eczema, some of which are more common than others (like atopic dermatitis and contact dermatitis). Each type of eczema has its own unique form of treatment, but in all cases, the condition isn't contagious. Before you try any lotions for symptom relief, you should always consult your dermatologist about your best treatment options.
What causes eczema?
According to Kung, eczema is the result of a complex interplay between a person's genetics and their environment. "Eczema involves an overactive immune response to environmental triggers like pollen, sun exposure and prolonged exposure to hot water," she said. It doesn't help if your skin barrier (the outermost layer of skin responsible for shielding the skin against such factors) isn't in tip-top shape. “An impaired skin barrier makes people more susceptible to these environmental irritants and allergens," Kung explained.
Extreme weather conditions can also trigger or worsen eczema. Extremely hot or cold temperatures can cause irritation and weaken the skin barrier, making it less apt to protect your skin and lock in moisture. This also applies to water temperature, so stick to lukewarm water when you bathe or shower (versus piping hot or freezing cold).
As far as eczema's genetic component, some research suggests that the two are connected. Studies have found that atopic dermatitis (one form of eczema) is linked to other inflammatory conditions like asthma, allergies, and hay fever. This means that if you have eczema, you may be at a greater risk of developing one of these conditions and vice versa — but not in all cases.
How to apply an eczema lotion
Application method is unique to everyone, but generally speaking, "moisturizers help skin retain moisture, so they are most effective when applied on damp skin after a shower," Kung said. That being said, you should also treat dry, irritable, cracked skin as often as needed — your lotion application shouldn’t just be limited to post-shower.
How to help prevent eczema breakouts
How can you keep your skin barrier intact so that it can actually perform its skin-protecting duties and keep eczema at bay? For one, keep exfoliation — especially physical exfoliation — to a minimum. Products that fall into the category of physical exfoliation include cleansing scrubs with solid particulates, mechanical facial brushes, sonic devices and micro-exfoliating rollers, Kung said. While these may remove the top layer of dull-looking skin, Kung explained they can be too abrasive and may disrupt the skin barrier.
Chemical exfoliants (including those that contain alpha-hydroxy acids like lactic and glycolic acid as well as beta-hydroxy acids like salicylic acid) should also be kept to a minimum. If you're eczema-prone, aim for exfoliating acids in lower concentrations (under 8%) and use them no more than a few times a week.
How to shop for eczema lotions
Though eczema can be finicky to treat, dermatologists told us that lotions can help make the condition more manageable. There are two main formula types to be on the lookout for: ones that reduce and soothe the symptoms of eczema (like inflammation, dryness and itchiness) and ones that work to repair and maintain your skin barrier function.
One ingredient that's common among products geared toward healing eczema is colloidal oatmeal. The ingredient, which is made of ground-up oat kernels, helps relieve the common side effects of eczema such as inflammation and itchiness as well as keep your skin barrier intact to prevent future damage and moisture loss. One study found that even low amounts of colloidal oatmeal helped soothe inflammation and strengthen the skin barrier among eczema patients.
Just as important as what's inside an eczema lotion is what's not in it. Kung said to avoid irritants, allergens, solvents, surfactants and sensitizing preservatives if you're battling eczema, as these can trigger a flare-up. Specifically, the National Eczema Organization recommends avoiding products containing fragrances (a common contact allergen), essential oils and plant extracts (which can lead to skin rashes) and ethanol (or alcohol, which can cause drying, stinging, or burning in people with sensitive skin).
Severity Of Eczema
If you're looking to get rid of the discomfort associated with eczema, go for humectants like hyaluronic acid, glycerin and panthenol that work to attract and hold water in the skin, according to Kazlouskaya. Emollients like butters, oils and ceramides can also help make the skin smoother by filling in the "gaps" between skin cells, Kazlouskaya explained, and they're ideal for inflammatory skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis as they can help relieve itchiness, dryness and scaling on the skin. To strengthen your skin barrier, Kazlouskaya said to opt for occlusive ingredients like lanolin, squalane, petrolatum jelly and mineral oil — these create a film on the skin's surface and prevent transepidermal water loss (or TEWL).
When choosing a product for your eczema-prone skin, keep in mind the time of year. "While lotions are good for summer and hot weather, thicker, richer textures such as creams, ointments and balms should be used in the winter time," Kazlouskaya said. And if moisturizing alone doesn't help control your eczema, you may find it helpful to pay a visit to your dermatologist.
Meet our experts
At Select, we work with experts who have specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also take steps to ensure all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and without undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.
- Dr. Elaine Kung, MD, FAAD, is a board-certified dermatologist and the founder of Future Bright Dermatology in New York. Her areas of research include treating dermatologic conditions as well as aesthetic procedures.
- Dr. Viktoria Kozlovskaya, MD, PhD, is a Pittsburgh-based dermatologist who is double board-certified in dermatopathology and dermatology. Her areas of experience are in medical and cosmetic dermatology.
Why trust Select?
Select writer Michelle Rostamian has more than 10 years of experience covering beauty and skin care topics. Rostamian has tested dozens of skin care formulas, including lotions for eczema. For this story, Rostamian spoke to two board-certified dermatologists. Based on their guidance and recommendations, Rostamian reviewed the features of several eczema lotions from brands like CeraVe and Aveeno.