Natural Remedies for Baby Eczema: Which Ones Work? A Review of the Evidence
We know from experience that watching your child suffer the constant itch and irritation of baby eczema is frustrating. It doesn’t help when you feel there is little you can do to make the itch go away and while the the doctors have a cupboard full of conventional remedies, they don’t always work as quickly, or well as we parents would like.
A combination of natural remedies and the prescriptions from our doctor really helped us to control our kids’ scratching, especially during the all to frequent flare-ups. To make sure we were really helping our son we did some research into which traditional and other natural remedies for baby eczema actually make a difference.
Here is our run-down of the evidence supporting the most popular natural remedies for baby eczema:
Cold pressed coconut oil
We’ve heard good things about coconut oil from customers and it has worked wonders on our daughter’s dry skin. As well as being an effective moisturiser, there is good scientific evidence that coconut oil has anti-bacterial properties that substantially reduce the risk of infected eczema. Worth a try, especially if your baby’s eczema is prone to infections.
Cold pressed sunflower oil
Another effective natural moisturiser, sunflower oil is rich in essential fatty acids which are readily absorbed through the skin. It is thought that a lack of essential fatty acids can contribute to some cases of baby eczema. There is evidence that sunflower oil helps to improve the barrier function of the skin and is anti-inflammatory – great when you are looking for a natural moisturiser to help your eczema baby get some relief.
If your baby suffers from colic as well as baby eczema, try massaging their tummy using coconut oil or sunflower oil (or even a mixture of both). Moisturised skin and a more comfortable belly all in go! It’s common sense, but worth repeating – using oil on your baby may relieve their itching but will turn them into slippery little bundles – please take extra care when picking up your baby after applying any oil to their skin!
Vitamin B12 cream
There has been some interesting research which shows that creams containing vitamin B12 can be really effective in controlling eczema symptoms. Clinical trials to date have been on a small scale but the results look promising, so this could be worth a try.
Marigold flowers (Calendula officinalis) have been used to promote healing and treat skin conditions, including eczema for centuries. Calendula cream is believed to benefit eczema by reducing inflammation, eliminating bacteria and helping the skin heal. While the effectiveness of using calendula as a natural remedy for baby eczema has not been scientifically proven, research has indicated that it can reduce inflammation and encourage healing and it has also been proven to be effective in treating eczema resulting from radiotherapy. My mum used it to treat our cuts and grazes when we were kids and, come to think of it, I can’t remember any of them getting infected. Worth a try, especially for broken skin, but do make sure you choose a cream without any chemical nasties that could irritate sensitive skin.
Colloidal oatmeal (ground oats) has been used to relieve itching and skin irritation for millennia. A number of small trials suggest that oatmeal does indeed relieve eczema symptoms by reducing inflammation and normalising the skin pH, but the evidence isn’t conclusive. As with all eczema remedies it seems to work for some but not others. Given that it is so simple and cheap, we think this is a natural remedy that’s worth trying. Just put a handful of colloidal oatmeal (or porridge oats whizzed in a food processor) into a sock and hold it under the tap while running the bath. The bath water will take on a milky appearance. Once the tub is full, you can leave the sock in the bath for your baby to play with. Alternatively, our kids love the bath powder from ItchyBaby which is made from colloidal oats with lavender oil.
A number of customers have told us that they have had great results from visiting the Salt Cave clinics. These clinics use a technique called ‘halotherapy’ which is popular in Eastern Europe and Russia. High-grade salt micro-crystals are diffused into the air of the treatment rooms where the action of the salt particles on the skin decreases itching and irritation, and can result in a marked improvement in eczema symptoms. Research shows that this treatment is particularly effective during flare-ups. The Salt Cave clinics have dedicated children’s rooms and carers are free, so definitely worth investigating if you have eczema as well! A cheaper alternative may be a dip in the sea: we have a family history of sea water clearing up eczema although do be cautious as sea water can also irritate eczema prone skin in some people – and will sting if it gets into open scratches.
Evening Primrose Oil and Borage (Star Flower) Oil
For a while, taking supplements of these oils, which are rich in essential fatty acids, was thought to help reduce eczema symptoms. But recent studies have cast doubt on their effectiveness. Although there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that they can make a difference, the practicalities of giving these supplements (which usually come as capsules) to babies and children coupled with inconclusive evidence suggests that it’s probably best to stick with a good, varied diet.
Studies have suggested that if eczema gets worse during winter, a lack of Vitamin D may be a trigger. Up to 25% of UK children are thought to be deficient in vitamin D so if your eczema baby seems to suffer more in the gloomier months of the year, it’s definitely worth trying a children’s multivitamin supplement containing plenty of vitamin D. The current Department of Health recommendation is that all kids between 6 months and 5 years old should take a good quality daily multivitamin supplement.
This is another natural remedy with inconclusive evidence. However, taking probiotics is generally considered beneficial, so it might be something to try. This is especially true if your baby has a history of colic or reflux in addition to eczema as there is mounting evidence that probiotics can be helpful in the treatment of both. Be aware that probiotics aim to build up a healthier flora in the gut so they do take at least a month to take effect and, as with all supplements, the quality of probiotics varies widely and there is an element of ‘you get what you pay for’.
Like conventional medicines, natural remedies which work for one eczema baby may have no effect on another. All you can do is experiment with the various alternatives to see which natural remedies help your eczema baby the most. However, it’s important that you do not give up on conventional medicine – new treatments and developments do come along so stay in touch with your GP. Some doctors are more sympathetic to natural remedies for baby eczema, and will support you – but even if you find your doctor is dismissive of an alternative approach, that doesn’t have to stop you searching for something that works for your eczema baby.
Want to read more? These are our sources:
- A great review of the scientific evidence supporting natural remedies for eczema published in Practical Dermatology
- Study looking at the effectiveness of probiotics in treating colic published in BMC Pediatrics which used these probiotics
- Effectiveness of Calendula in treatment radiotherapy induced eczema published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology
Which natural remedies have worked for your eczema baby?
Here at ScratchSleeves we don’t just share our experiences of bringing up an eczema child and favourite allergy friendly recipes, we also manufacturer and sell our unique stay-on scratch mitts and PJs for itchy babies, toddlers and children. We now stock sizes from 0-10 years in a range of colours. Visit www.ScratchSleeves.co.uk for more information.