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Moisturising creams

This section will look at:

  • What are moisturising creams and how do they help?
  • Are moisturising creams safe?
  • Answers to common concerns about moisturising creams
  • When and how to use moisturising creams
  • Finding the right moisturising cream for you
  • Taking part in our ‘2 week challenge’

You may find you know lots of this already. Have a look and see for yourself - some of the tips and information might surprise you.


Top tip!

This section starts off with the basics but covers much more than that. So don't get put off by the first few sections if you have been treating your eczema for a while!


Watch this video to find out about how to use moisturisers to keep control of eczema.

Click here to read a text version of the video

Moisturising creams

Moisturising creams (medical moisturisers) are better for eczema than the cosmetic moisturisers you buy at the shops. Some cosmetic moisturisers have colours or perfumes that can make eczema worse.

What are moisturising creams?

Moisturising creams are medical moisturisers. Your doctor may call these creams ‘emollients’. They come as lotions, creams, ointments or gels, but together we will call them ‘moisturising creams'. Lotions and creams are 'thinner' than ointments or gels. There is more information about this later on in this section.

Are natural products good to put on eczema?

No, because some natural products, like olive oil, have colours, perfumes, or other things that can make eczema worse. This is why it is important to only use a moisturising cream on your skin.

Moisturising creams have been made just for eczema. They do not have anything in them that will make eczema worse. Just things that make it better!

What are they and are they safe?

Why use moisturising creams?

Moisturising creams form a barrier over the skin to protect the skin and keep control of eczema. Click on the buttons below to find out more:


How do moisturising creams help?

Moisturising creams form a barrier over the skin to protect the skin and keep control of eczema. They help to:

  • Stop eczema flare-ups by keeping out things that may irritate the skin
  • Make the skin soft by locking water in the skin
  • Stop itching
  • Reduce soreness
  • Keep out infections, which are more likely in dry skin

Read the evidence

Are they safe?

Yes, moisturising creams are very safe. They are mainly a mixture of oils and water. They don’t harm your skin. Millions of people across the world use them.

Read the evidence

If I forget to put them on for a few days, I really notice the difference in my skin. It gets really dry and I will often get a flare-up


Is there a fire risk?

Moisturising creams can catch fire if they soak into clothing, bedding, or bandages and then come into contact with fire (e.g. from a candle, cigarette or cooking hob). Although the risk of this happening is low, you should take extra care if you are using them in large amounts and you are a smoker or live with one. Try to keep away from fire, flames, and cigarettes.

Wash your clothes and bedding regularly at the highest temperature allowed for the fabric. This temperature will be written on the fabric’s care label. Try to use plenty of washing detergent and an extra rinse cycle if you have one. Washing like this will reduce the build-up of moisturising creams on fabrics, but will not remove it completely.

The fire risk is very small if you follow the advice above. If you are worried about using these creams, then you may want to speak to your pharmacist, doctor, or nurse.

Using moisturising creams every day

Using moisturising creams every day is the best way to protect your skin and prevent flare-ups in the future.

Moisturising creams help the skin, even when you can’t see any eczema. They help keep your skin smooth and supple so it can cope with everyday things that might cause a flare-up.

I just put it on a couple of times a day and I’ve noticed my skin looks loads better and I don't get any bad flare-ups.


Common concerns

Click on the boxes below to find out the answers to some common concerns about moisturising creams.

I don't have time to put on moisturising creams

Moisturising every day can take time. Many people find it difficult to fit moisturising creams into their daily routine.

You may find it helpful to look at the ‘studying and work’ section where these issues are discussed in more detail.

I find that the best times to put on my creams are in the morning, after my shower, and just before I go to bed at night. I’m more likely to put them on if I plan when I’m going to do it each day.


My moisturising creams sting when I put them on

Moisturising creams may sometimes sting the skin when first put on. This will happen when:

  • the skin is very dry or cracked
  • you are having an eczema flare-up
  • you have not yet got control of your eczema using flare control creams

Stinging normally settles down after a few days as your skin repairs itself. If the stinging doesn’t go away after a few days, then you may want to tell your doctor. It may be that you are having a reaction to an ingredient in the cream. You may need to try a different moisturising cream.

There are plenty of different creams to try, so you don’t need to settle for the first one. You can try the 2 week challenge later in this section to help you find a moisturising cream that works for you.

My skin gets spots after using moisturising creams

Some people can get sore red spots after using moisturising creams. This is because thicker moisturising creams can sometimes block the natural holes (pores) in your skin. It is more likely to happen on body parts with hair, such as your legs.

These spots should settle on their own. If they don’t or get worse, then you should talk to your doctor or nurse. You may need medication to treat them. You may also want to ask your doctor for a thinner moisturising cream.

Later in this section, there will be advice on the best way to put on your creams to stop this from happening again.



My moisturising creams rub off onto my clothes

Lots of people find that moisturising creams rub off onto their clothes. This won’t damage your clothes or affect your skin in any way, but you may not like the way it feels or looks. It may also mean you need to wash your clothes more often.

One way to stop moisturising creams rubbing off onto your clothes is to leave a little more time to let your creams soak in before putting on your clothes. It usually takes about 5-10 minutes for the cream to fully soak in.


You could try going into a warm room to make your creams soak in quicker. Some people with eczema find it helps if they wear loose clothing.

I always check my social media or eat my breakfast while I’m waiting for my cream to soak in.


Does my skin 'get used' to the moisturising creams

No, your skin does not ‘get used to’ the moisturising creams.

Using moisturising creams every day is the best way to look after your skin and prevent eczema flare-ups. Moisturising creams do not stop working the more you use them.

If you are having a flare-up, then you will also need to use flare control creams, as well as the moisturising creams, to get control of the eczema.

You can find out more about this in the ‘flare control creams’ section.

I am worried that other people can tell I have creams on

Some people with eczema worry about this. You may find that some moisturising creams can make the skin look shiny.

The skin might also look shiny if your moisturising cream has not fully soaked in. You may want to leave a little more time to let the creams soak in before going out. This usually takes about 5-10 minutes.

Some people find it helpful to use lighter creams when they are out and thicker creams when they are at home.

Sometimes I worry that people are looking at me and don’t like the way I look. But, as I got older, I started to notice that no-one is looking at me. No-one is thinking anything about it. No-one cares. And, if they do look, this doesn’t mean they are thinking bad things about me.


I forget to put moisturising creams on

It’s so easy to forget to put on moisturising cream every day, especially when you are really busy with school, university or work.

Many people with eczema find it helpful to set themselves a reminder. You could try setting an alarm on your phone or put a reminder on a post-it somewhere you will walk past to remind you.

Many people with eczema find it easier to remember if they make putting on moisturising creams part of their daily routine. You may find it helpful to put on moisturising creams at the same time each day. Perhaps after a shower, before you brush your teeth or before you go to bed.

You can try the 2 week challenge later in this section. This can help you get into the habit of using your moisturising creams every day. You can also set up email or text reminders so you don’t forget!


My moisturising creams are smelly or too greasy

Different moisturising creams smell and feel different. Most moisturising creams do not smell. If you don’t like the way yours smells, you may want to ask your doctor for a different cream. There are many different moisturising creams you can try.

They come in different levels of thickness and greasiness. People who use thicker or greasier creams find that they last longer and are good for very dry skin. It doesn’t really matter which cream you use, as long as you use it at least once a day.

If you find the cream is too greasy, then you may want to try using a thinner cream. You could also use a thinner cream in the daytime and a thicker one in the evening.

This section will give you advice on how to find the right moisturising cream for you.

When do I need to use moisturising creams?

Every day! Using them even when your skin is clear will prevent flare-ups in the future. Remember to keep using them even when you have a flare-up.

People with drier skin or more severe eczema may need to use moisturising creams more often. In general the drier your skin the more often you should use a moisturising cream. Moisturising creams cannot be overused

Top Tip!

If you are having a flare-up, then you will also need to use flare control creams, as well as moisturising creams, to get control of the eczema. Leave a gap of 20-30 minutes between applying flare control creams and moisturising creams.

I always make sure I have plenty of moisturising creams in the house, so I never run out.


Moisturising cream tips

Find a time to use them that works for you. This could be:

  • After you have a bath or shower, or after washing your hands if you have hand eczema
  • Before you come into contact with anything that may make eczema worse. This may be things like cold weather, pollen in a grassy field or wet or dusty activities.

When I’m really itchy, I find moisturising creams soothing. Putting them in the fridge makes them nice and cool which also really helps.


What is the best way to put on moisturising creams?

Step 1

It is a good idea to wash your hands before you put creams on. This is because your hands may have bacteria on them that may make your eczema worse.

It’s best not to use your hands to scoop the cream from its tub. This can add bacteria to the tub. You can use a cream that comes in a pump dispenser or scoop the cream out of the tub with a spoon from the kitchen. Wash the spoon in hot water afterwards.

 pump dispenser

Step 2

Many people find it helpful to put on moisturising creams using downward strokes, in the same direction that the hair is growing. If you were to go in the opposite direction of the hair, the creams can block the hair follicles (small sacs from where your hairs grow). This can cause red and sore spots, which can become infected.

People find that stroking is best when putting on moisturisers, as rubbing can make you feel itchy.

downwards strokes

Step 3

You may want to try putting moisturising creams on areas of eczema or dry skin, or areas where eczema has been in the past. When your eczema is bad, you could try putting moisturising creams on over the whole body. Even on areas where there is no eczema or dry skin.

It is safe to put moisturising creams on cracked skin. You may find it stings at first, but this will stop as the skin heals.

I sometimes ask my mum or boyfriend to put creams on areas like my back, which is hard to get to myself. I don’t like asking for help but, if I don’t put creams on everywhere, I will be really itchy all day. And that's much worse!


Step 4

Put on a thick layer. Many people find moisturising creams work best when they put plenty on. You cannot overuse moisturising creams, but a lot of people use too little!

Wipe your hands on a towel and, if possible, wait for the cream to soak in.

thick layer

What if moisturisers are not working for me?

Some people don’t like using moisturising creams because they’ve used them in the past and didn’t see any change in their skin. Click on the boxes below to find out more about why you might not be noticing a difference:

1. Are you using moisturising creams often enough?

Many people find that their skin improves if they use moisturising creams at least once a day. You may need to use them more often if you have very dry skin or more severe eczema.

2. Have you tried using moisturising creams regularly for at least 2 weeks?

It can take a while to notice improvements in your skin. If you’ve used moisturising creams regularly for 2 weeks and it’s still not working, it may be worth going back to your pharmacist, doctor, or nurse to try another one. It is important to find a moisturising cream that suits your skin. Why not take part in our 2 week challenge? You can find out more about this later in this section.

3. Are you having a flare-up?

If yes, then moisturising creams may not be enough. You may need to get control by using flare control creams as well. You can find out more in the ‘flare control creams’ section for more information.

4. What if they still didn't work?

Even if you are using your creams correctly, there are things that can be making your eczema worse that are out of your control. For example, the weather, or stress.

The best thing you can do is to keep using your creams as part of your daily routine to keep your eczema under control.

If I keep to my routine, my skin is better but it's still not perfect


Finding the right moisturising cream for you

There is a huge choice of moisturising creams available in the UK. There is no evidence that one type of moisturising cream is better for eczema than another. The key is finding one that works for you and using lots of it every day. Your GP can prescribe these or you can buy them over the counter from a pharmacy. Many moisturising creams are available in a spray, pump dispenser, tub, or tube.

Top Tip!

Your skin might change as you get older or depending on the time of year. So think about changing moisturising creams if the one you are using isn’t helping anymore.

It felt like it took forever to find a moisturising cream that worked for me. One I tried felt horrible on my skin. Another just didn’t seem to do anything. The one I use now really helps my eczema and feels really cooling on my skin.


Different types of moisturising creams

You can discuss different moisturising creams with your pharmacist, doctor, or nurse. You can also buy moisturising creams from the pharmacist without a prescription from a doctor.

The four main types of moisturisers are: lotions, creams, gels and ointments. All types work to treat eczema but how they feel, or how quickly they sink in, can affect how well we use them.

Find out about the levels of greasiness in each cream

Many different moisturising creams are available, with different levels of greasiness. It is important that you choose one you like to use.

  • Ointments: These are usually greasy and see-through. They are usually better as they last longer on the skin and give better results on very dry skin.
  • Gels: These are a bit thinner than ointments.
  • Creams: These are white and contain water so are easier to smooth in. Some people find these more pleasant to put on, but these don’t last as long on the skin. They need to be used more often than ointments.
  • Lotions: These are similar to creams but thinner.
  • Sprays: A few people use these. They are even thinner than lotions.

Find out about the evidence for different moisturising creams

No one type of moisturiser is better than another. The best moisturiser for you is the one that works best for you.

The Best Emollients for Eczema study looked at 550 children and the type of moisturisers they used over 16 weeks. The children were given a group at the start of the study to use either a lotion, gel, cream or ointment. A health professional examined their skin and their parents kept a diary about their child’s eczema for a year. The results showed that the type of moisturiser used made no difference to the childrens’ eczema.

To find out more about the study you can look up: The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health: Lotion versus gel versus cream versus ointment emollients for childhood eczema: a pragmatic randomised, phase 4, superiority trial

Lists of the different moisturising creams you can get:

You may not be able to get all of these prescribed in your area. You could take photos of these lists as a reminder.

Ointments (thick)

  • Diprobase Ointment
  • Emulsifying Ointment
  • BP White soft/Liquid paraffin 50/50
  • Hydrous Ointment
  • Zeroderm Ointment
  • Cetraben Ointment
  • Epaderm Ointment
  • Hydromol Ointment
  • Paraffin White soft
  • Paraffin Yellow soft
  • QV Ointment


  • AproDerm Gel
  • Isomol Gel
  • Doublebase Gel
  • Doublebase Dayleve Gel
  • MyriBase Gel
  • Oilatum Gel
  • Zerodouble Gel


  • AproDerm Cream
  • Aquamol Cream
  • Aquamax Cream
  • Epimax Cream
  • Hydromol Cream
  • Ultrabase Cream
  • Unguentum M Cream
  • Cetraben Cream
  • Epaderm Cream
  • Oilatum Cream
  • QV Cream
  • Zeroveen Cream
  • Zerocream
  • Zeroguent Cream
  • Diprobase Cream
  • Zerobase Cream
  • E45 Cream - this contains lanolin (wool fat). Some people are allergic to this
  • ZeroAQS Cream

Lotions (light)

  • Cetraben Lotion
  • E45 Lotion - this contains lanolin (wool fat). Some people are allergic to this.
  • QV Lotion
  • Vaseline Lotion
  • Diprobase Lotion
  • Aveeno Lotion
  • Dermol 500 Lotion - this contains chemicals that act as an antiseptic. Some people find these chemicals irritate their skin.

A few people use sprays. They are even thinner than lotions. Ask your health professional if you would like to use sprays.

You can find information on how to read the labels on the packaging of your treatments in the ‘other resources’ section.

Common questions about types of moisturising creams:


Why shouldn't I use Aqueous cream?

There is a moisturiser called Aqueous cream, which should not be used by people with eczema. It contains sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), which can make eczema worse.

Why can't my doctor prescribe the cream I want?

You can ask your doctor for different creams, but they may not always be able to give you the exact one you want. This is because doctors have a list of creams that they can give their patients. If the cream you want is not on this list, then they cannot give it to you. Chances are they’ll be able to prescribe a very similar one.

I use an ointment on my face because it’s so dry, but put the cream on everywhere else because it’s quicker.


2 week challenge

The 2 week challenge is a way you can test how well moisturising creams work by choosing a moisturising cream and using it every day for 2 weeks to see how much difference it makes to your skin. This can also help you find a cream that works for you. It’s simple – you just need to use your moisturising creams every day! There will be a chart that you can you use to record when you use moisturising creams and how your eczema is. You can also set up reminders if you like.

Start the 2 week challenge now

Golden rules of moisturising creams


Moisturising creams(emollients)

What are they for?

These creams are used to keep control of eczema. They help to:

  • Stop eczema flare-ups by keeping out things that may irritate the skin
  • Make the skin soft by locking water in the skin
  • Stop itching

Most people with eczema will need to use moisturising creams every day.


Usually they need to be used at least once a day.  The drier your skin is, the more often you should use a moisturising cream. 

How often? 

The drier your skin is, the more often you should use a moisturising cream. 

How much to apply?

Put on a thick layer. Moisturising creams cannot be overused.

How long for?

Always. Use moisturising creams even when your skin is clear will prevent flare-ups in the future.

Are they safe?

Yes. Moisturising creams are very safe. They are used by millions of people with eczema across the world. Sometimes people find they irritate or sting. You may need to find one that works for you.

This is the end of the section on moisturising creams. Click here to view the section on flare control creams or you can browse the menu at the top of this page.