Eczema on face: Best creams and what to avoid
Our faces are, for most of us, the last place we want to have eczema. It is our most distinguishing body part which we generally spend the most amount of time caring for. We preen it, we nurture it, and we are identified by it.
Eczema can occur on any, and sometimes every, part of the body. Unfortunately for many people, the face is the area which seems to attract the worst and prolonged bouts of eczema, bringing misery into the lives of less fortunate sufferers.
Creating sometimes disfiguring images of the person who lies underneath, the symptoms can include swollen and crusty eyelids, split mouths, shedding, and burning red skin that could fry an egg.
In actual fact, eczema on the face most commonly occurs in infants, and because the majority of people with eczema are under the age of five years old, then eczema on the face is one of the most common areas to present with this unfortunate symptom.
Why do we get Eczema on the face?
Well, the skin on the face is far more sensitive than the rest of the body, and in some places is very thin and prone to faster absorption of toxin and allergen exposure.
There are a number of potential triggers that we can speculate over and test their effects by elimination. These include:
Run off from shampoos, hair dye and styling products (sprays etc)
Allergic reaction to nickel in eyelash curlers, tweezers, mobile phones
Transporting allergens (fragrance, soaps, nickel etc.) from the hands to the face from touching – and we touch our faces up to 136 times per day!
As you might already know, there are various types of eczema, so determining the actual type of eczema you’re dealing with can help you work out how to tackle the task of getting rid of it.
If eliminating one of the above triggers improves the condition, then this is wonderful and you can enjoy a face with no eczema! Otherwise if the eczema is persistent, then your condition is potentially atopic, and may require a more holistic form of treatment.
When searching for the best cream for eczema on the face, it’s important to understand up front that it may take a while before you find a cream which works for you - especially if the condition is atopic.
Do your research, read reviews, and search the ingredient lists. There are often many eczema/allergy-triggering ingredients lurking in some of the most common eczema creams on the market, incredible as that may sound, these manufacturers put more emphasis on the bottom line rather than ensuring the ingredients are totally free of irritants.
While I understand that almost anyone can have a reaction to some ingredient, be that natural or otherwise. There are certain ingredients added to products that are known to cause irritation to even strong eczema-free skin.
So the first thing I want to give you is a list of ingredients to save into your phones or in your note pads that you should avoid when it comes to creams for your face. Simply because the skin on your face is 1) more sensitive, 2) more absorbent, and 3) if you do react to a cream, then let’s keep the flare somewhere less conspicuous - not on your beautiful face!
10 skin care ingredients to avoid
1. Alcohol – Wonderful for killing off bacteria and keeping the skin clean, it will also kill off the beneficial microbiomes on the skin and not only that, but can severely dry and irritate sensitive skin. So if you have sensitive skin then these petroleum derived alcohols should be on your ‘how to not eczema’ list.
Identified as benzyl alcohol, denatured alcohol, ethyl alcohol, ethanol, isopropyl alcohol, methanol, and SD alcohol 40.
2. Colors/dyes/pigments – Serving no helpful purpose in our skin care, colors can cause skin irritation and are a suspected carcinogen to humans.
This ingredient can appear as FD&C or D&C Blue E131 (for example). Find a comprehensive list here.
3. Fragrance – Artificial fragrances are very common aggravators to many inflammatory conditions, and eczema is no exception. It’s unfortunate that when you see the name ‘fragrance’ on your ingredient list, there is no way to tell what the actual ingredients of that fragrance are! No thanks, smarty pants!
4. Parabens – Known endocrine disruptor and found in 90% of human breast cancer tumors, this common preservative is identified on the ingredient list with the prefix of: butyl, ethyl, isobutyl, isopropyl, methyl, or propyl.
5. Phthalates – Diethyl phthalate found in moisturizers are yet another endocrine disrupting ingredient, which for many eczema sufferers will cause havoc with their often already exhausted adrenal glands.
6. Propylene glycol – This oven degreaser ingredient can strip the skin of its natural oils and is known to cause eczema break outs, hives and general irritation to the skin. An organic alcohol which is best left out of our skin care regime.
7. Secondary ingredients – This one is hard to identify simply because secondary ingredients do not have to be listed in the ingredients list. But the trouble is that secondary ingredients can still harbor many inflammation causing qualities.
For example, if you see ‘Aloe Vera’ listed on the ingredient list, it could harbor various irritating secondary ingredients including citric acid, potassium sorbate, sodium benzoate, and sodium sulfite.
Another example would be Organic Calendula Officinalis Extract which can be sold with secondary ingredients glycerine, potassium sorbate, and sodium benzoate.
Make sure to check the manufacturer doesn’t use these secondary ingredients and source 100% organic products for better quality assurance.
8. Sulfates – Ammonium Lauryl Sulphate (ALS) and Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS) are found in aqueous creams and also used to create the ‘lather’ we are all so addicted to. Unfortunately these ingredients are known to cause irritation and even eczema in certain individuals.
9. Sunscreen chemicals – Some of the chemicals found in most sunscreens are known to cause problems for sensitive individuals. Ingredients such as PABA, avobenzone, ethoxycinnmate, homosalate, and benzophenone are all known to be easily absorbed by the body.
10. Urea (synthetic) – Also known as diazolidinyl urea, DMDM hydantoin, and imidazolidinyl urea, this man-made form of Urea is so easily penetrated into the skin barrier as it mimics the natural urea of our bodies, which allows it to transport other harmful chemicals from the cream into the blood stream.
11 beneficial ingredients for the sensitive eczema face
Now you know what ingredients you should run a mile from, here is the time to start learning about what ingredients are not only neutral or good for your skin, but can also aid in helping calm the sensitivities, inflammation and redness of eczema.
Please keep in mind, as I mentioned earlier, it is possible to have an allergy/sensitivity to many things which can include the ingredients I am about to list. But for the many, these ingredients are known heroes for the angry eczema skin.
1. Beeswax – Its waxy coating over the skin forms a much needed, gentle moisture barrier to keep the skin better hydrated. Antibacterial and anti-inflammatory to help keep the eczema at bay, this wax is also laden with Vitamin A which has antioxidant and immune boosting properties.
2. Bisabolol – Alpha-bisabolol is the isolated compound of the Chamomile plant which has wonderful anti-inflammatory effects, is deeply healing and moisturizing while inhibiting collagen-breakdown enzymes (keeps you younger for longer!) and even possesses anticancer properties.
Bisabolol also increases the penetration capacity of other ingredients within the cream to further enhance the healing properties of the product which is why it’s important to make sure your product only contains good ingredients!
3. Cocoa butter – Often used on its own; coco/cocoa butter contains the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant rich Vitamin E, as well as offering superior moisturizing benefits while being well tolerated by many eczema sufferers. Best purchased pure and cold pressed.
4. Colloidal oatmeal – Very soothing and nourishing to inflamed skin, colloidal oatmeal is a not uncommon in the salves and creams of companies who have done their research into products which actually help quell the itch. Gentle enough for the sensitive eczema on the face.
5. Green tea leaf extract – Boosts the healing ability of the skin and is naturally rich in antioxidants; green tea extract has been shown to help keep the skin less inflamed, stimulate microcirculation, and even maintain the health and life-span of the collagen within the skin.
6. Natural honey – You may have already heard of the virtues of honey for eczema, but it seems that its benefits continue to amaze us!
Manuka honey brings medicinal food up to a whole new level. Among many of its amazing qualities, it contains the most amount of beneficial enzymes (which also create a natural antibacterial quality) over any other honey on the market. Not only that, but Manuka honey can be soothing and healing for inflammation and wounds on the eczema skin.
While you should never use directly on the face, it can be very beneficial when diluted well with other creams such as a Shea or cocoa butter or in a pre-made product.
7. Neem – For the skin, neem is bought as an oil and provides for many people a very soothing and eczema-friendly ingredient indeed. (Not an essential or carrier oil)
8. Oils – Certain essential and carrier oils in cream/salves can be very beneficial for the skin. Read here for more information on some of the best essential oils for helping eczema.
Some of the most commonly use oils in eczema creams are avocado, chamomile, calendula, coconut, borage, lavender, and sunflower.
9. Shea butter – High in good fats and anti-inflammatory properties, Shea butter is another great moisturizer and is commonly well tolerated by the sensitive eczema skin on the face.
10. White tea extract – Packed with antioxidants and collagen protecting components, this gentle ingredient is a definite benefit to any face cream designed to help nourish the eczema skin.
11. Zinc – More accurately, zinc oxide, is very helpful to eczema skin as it helps to reduce redness and flaking, as well as providing antipruritic (anti-itch), antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties.
The added benefit is that zinc provides a level of UV protection from the sun, which is very important in a face cream as this is where we are most prone to showing signs of aging and sun damage.
Finally - A selection of some of the best creams for eczema on the face
This isn’t by any means a comprehensive list, but here are some products which include components of the above beneficial ingredients that I have either personally used and can vouch for their efficacy on my very sensitive skin, or were helpful to the faces of other eczema sufferers.
Aloe Vera – Store in the fridge for even more cooling relief
Bria Organics Relief Repair Replenish Skin Cream – A very moisturizing cream for dry eczema on the face
Elaj – A relatively new product that is very soothing to dry and angry eczema and topical steroid withdrawal symptoms
Emily skin soothers balm – A cream to help tame the redness and heat from angry eczema
Manuka honey cream – Manuka honey has exceptional medicinal qualities for eczema, including antibacterial and antimicrobial strength as well as being nutrient dense with immune boosting benefits. Find Manuka honey in a good quality product such as the Manuka Honey Skin Cream by the Eczema Company.
Odylique Ultra Rich Balm – A very rich balm to nourish very dry eczema on the face
Organic calendula salve – A healing salve for the broken eczema skin
Sudocream – To help dry out the ooze and tame inflammation
I do understand that while it can be daunting and difficult to limit the amount of synthetic and natural irritants from the plethora of products we experiment with, the best we can do is educate ourselves and test them with the greatest of caution.
Meanwhile, support your bodies with the best nutrition you can, the cleanest air, clearest water, and light exercise to give your body a holistic overhaul which supports your immune system and your health at a cellular level for the best possible chance at healing your eczema and keeping it away for good!
* The term ‘cream’ is often interchangeable with many other names like lotion, ointment, balm, moisturizer, emollient, salve, and so on. For this reason I have discussed the ingredients and products relating to these treatment options.
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