Adding the right natural and plant-based products to your eczema skincare routine can significantly help minimise flare ups and improve your skin health. Here is how.
For a long period of my life I used to struggle with atopic eczema, which during my teenage years was further exacerbated by cystic acne. Having to deal with a weakened skin barrier characterised by acne and very dry and itchy skin patches due to my skin’s severely reduced lipid content and inability to retain moisture was a roller coaster ride everyday. And, without the supply of internal moisture, cell turnover slows dramatically, leading to skin dryness and itchiness and in some cases, skin cracks and bleeding, since eczema reduces the skin’s ability to stay hydrated.
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Years later, I learned through reading clinical research papers that people with atopic dermatitis (AD), one of the most common forms of eczema, have a greater chance of developing health related conditions such as asthma, hay fever, and food allergies.
Whilst many people outgrow eczema in their childhood, some adults continue to experience mild to severe eczema symptoms throughout their lives, since there is still no cure for the skin disorder that tends to run in families.
Treatment involves a management programme geared towards minimising symptoms that can be triggered by stress, which is the main culprit for me, skin irritants, environmental factors, allergens, wool, synthetic fabrics, hormonal changes, or skin infections.
For these reasons, many eczema sufferers tend to be careful about toxins, bacteria, skin irritants, and any beauty products that they choose to apply on their skin to avoid irritating their fragile stratum corneum, which is the outer layer of the skin (epidermis). It serves as the primary barrier between the body and the environment.
In my case, after numerous failed attempts to treat eczema with medication and traditional high street beauty products that caused me more harm than good in light of their harsh chemicals, I decided to go back to basics by tapping into the healing powers of nature.
And of course, Mother Nature did not disappoint. Thanks to a healthier diet and lifestyle and an improved skincare routine, with a greater focus on high quality minimally processed natural ingredients and effective plant-based formulas, I have significantly reduced my eczema flare ups to once or twice a year.
Drawing on my personal experience with atopic dermatitis, below is a curated list of information resources on natural beauty, and eczema friendly cleansers, moisturisers, face and body oils, soothing creams, and sunscreens to help you on your own healing journey.
There is something for everyone and for every budget. At the end of the day, the best eczema friendly products are the ones that work for you, as we are all unique individuals.
The skin saviours
Knowledge is power; getting access to the right information from credible sources empowers you to transform your life from the inside out. So, before you start making any dietary and lifestyle changes or tweaking your eczema prone skincare routine to improve your skin health, take time to understand the concepts of natural beauty and natural remedies by reading the right books and doing your online research. These will enable you to better appreciate in layman terms the science behind how your body functions, your interconnectedness with nature, and how to harness its healing powers.
Aside from reading clinical research papers, I very much like immersing myself into fully illustrated step-by-step guides on organic beauty recipes and healing herbs from pioneering natural & organic beauty brand Neal’s Yard Remedies. The practitioner-led beauty brand was leading the clean beauty movement long before going “natural” became a celebrity trend.
Its team of cosmetic scientists, homoeopaths, naturopaths, and natural health activists explain in simple terms how to properly use healing herbs, natural foods and ingredients for various skin ailments, including eczema, to better support your overall health and wellbeing.
I highly recommend their highly educational guides to anyone who wants to better grasp how natural foods support our immune system, and if you want to start experimenting safely with homemade beauty recipes and herbal remedies for eczema, and other daily beauty regimes.
The gentle face and body cleansers
When you are dealing with eczema, use milder cleansers on your face compared to your body, because the skin is thinner and more sensitive than the skin on your body. The key to this is to keep your eczema prone skincare routine relatively simple so that you have a solid understanding of how your skin reacts to the skincare ingredients that you use regularly.
The cleansing oils: when you want to safely remove your makeup to minimise skin irritation, find a product with coconut oil as the key ingredient.
My two go-products at the moment are either 100% extra virgin raw organic coconut oil from Nurifi or the affordable vegan and fragrance-free Typology 7-Ingredient Cleansing Oil.
Due to its high content in lauric acid combined with its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, coconut oil helps protect and can soothe the skin, reduce irritation and itching. Additionally, coconut oil can effectively reduce the presence of bacteria, viruses, and fungi and lower the risk of skin infections.
Typology formula is enriched with Caprylic/Capric triglyceride and Polyglyceryl-4 Oleate, two coconut naturally derived ingredients aimed at facilitating makeup removal and the rinsing off process, leaving skin feeling soft and hydrated. Other natural ingredients found in the dermatologically tested formula include sweet almond oil to nourish and improve skin elasticity and sunflower seed oil to protect the skin against free radicals whilst cleansing it.
The face and body washes: wherever feasible, when dealing with eczema flare ups, use a gentle face and body wash that is unscented, fragrance-free and dye-free, or if you can’t for practical reasons, use a cleanser that is mildly scented.
The vegan approved and fragrance-free face and body washes that currently stand out for me are the hand crafted Nurifi African Black Soap and Neal’s Yard Remedies Sensitive Soothing Cleansing Milk.
The traditional African black soap is renowned for its clinically proven antibacterial, antifungal, and moisturising properties, which help cleanse the skin without drying it out and support the treatment of many skin ailments, including acne, rashes, eczema, and psoriasis.
African black soap has been and remains my top skin saviour in my battle against cystic acne and eczema flare ups in light of its high content in moisturising raw shea butter, organic virgin coconut oil, and cocoa pods that act as gentle exfoliators.
The certified organic Sensitive Soothing Cleansing Milk can be a great addition to your daily eczema prone skincare routine. The gentle cleanser formula with organic borage oil to soothe and cocoa butter to nourish, will help remove everyday impurities without drying out the skin, leaving it cleansed and refreshed.
The face and body moisturisers
Finding a moisturiser that works can be quite tricky in light of your evolving skin and health needs. Listening to your body here is key, because what works today may not work tomorrow. Moisturisers are classified based on the amount of oil and water they contain. The more oil in a moisturiser, the better it usually is at treating eczema.
The face and body creams: LIHA Beauty raw unrefined Ivory Shea Butter and L’OCCITANE Shea Ultra Rich Body Cream, made with 25% shea butter to help relieve very dry and sensitive skin are some of the very best options for eczema sufferers to explore.
With its high concentration of fatty acids and vitamins, shea butter has proven extensive anti-inflammatory, healing and emollient properties, which help soothe irritated skin and form a protective layer that helps lock in moisture whilst keeping out impurities. Its anti-ageing properties are suggested to help promote collagen production.
The hand and foot creams: some people who suffer from contact dermatitis and varicose (a long-term skin condition that affects the lower legs) tend to regularly moisturise their hands and feet throughout the day to help soothe eczema symptoms. Having the appropriate hand and feet creams on the go is quite handy for them.
Neal’s Yard Remedies Lavender and Aloe Vera Cooling Cream and L’OCCITANE Shea Intensive Foot Balm are two highly nourishing, soothing, and hydrating formulas that are easy to apply and absorb into sensitive, dry and very dry skin.
Organic honey, almond oil, plantain tincture and nettle tincture infused with organic lavender oil and aloe vera in a soothing cream base contained in Neal Yard’s Remedies hand cream are ideal for people enjoying both indoor and outdoor activities and regular hand washes.
Formulated with 25% shea butter for its highly nourishing care, D-Panthenol, and allantoin, the Shea Intensive Foot Balm forms a protective film for dry to very dry skin, whilst helping to hydrate and smooth skin feet by locking in moisture thus reducing transepidermal water loss.
The Face and Body Oils
Plant Oils are great for our skin health because they tend to mimic the natural lipids present in our skin barrier. Lipids, which are in short supply in the skin of people with eczema, help to fill gaps between our skin cells caused by dryness or flaking, creating a smoother surface.
The face oils: There are two types of face oils that work well for anyone who suffers from eczema: the dry oil blend and the oily/acneic blend.
100% unrefined jojoba oil for oily and acneic skin and Antipodes Divine Face Oil Rosehip and Avocado Oil for dry to very dry skin tend to work very well at boosting hydration and moisturise in eczema prone skin.
Read More: 6 Best Tips To Treat Acne in Skin of Colour
Since I have an acneic eczema-prone skin, jojoba oil is a daily staple in my daytime and nighttime skincare routine. The base carrier oil sinks into the skin without leaving a residue and helps to moisturise the deepest levels of the skin. Jojoba oil helps regulate sebum production and it mimics the oil moisture that the skin naturally produces, which makes it a great option for people with really dry or cracked eczema.
Divine Avocado and Rosehip Face Oil (30ml) is specifically formulated as a daily hydrating oil treatment that protects against environmental damage whilst promoting a firmer complexion. The face oil has also been scientifically proven to support the production of Type 1 collagen production in skin cells by up to 51%, to help skin maintain a firmer and more youthful complexion.
The body oils: Put a bit of body oil on your skin before your shower or bath time or add a few drops in your moisturiser to smooth your skin and help seal in moisture after bathing or showering.
LIHA Beauty Idan Oil and Kora Organics Noni Glow Body Oil are two fast absorbing and non greasy moisturising oils that will luxuriate your skin, leaving it well hydrated and radiant.
For those who enjoy floral scents, Idan Oil as a natural, cold-pressed coconut oil infused with Tuberose flower, using a traditional African process of enfleurage, is the perfect option to go for. Packed with antioxidants and essential fatty acids of Rosehip Oil, Noni Fruit Extract, and Sunflower Seed Oil, Noni Glow Body Oil helps strengthen the skin’s natural defences against environmental pollutants whilst soothing dry patches.
The gentle exfoliators
Eczema exfoliation once or twice per week is helpful in the skin healing process, as it helps to eliminate dead skin cells that can cause further cracking and irritation. However, it is important to use gentle exfoliators to facilitate it.
For the body, I have found that the unscented traditional African Black soap is the best option for my problematic and eczema-prone skin due to its moisturising, antibacterial and gentle exfoliating properties that leave the skin supple, fresh and ready to soak in moisture.
For the face, those with acneic eczema prone skin ought to consider Argiletz French green clay which is known for its wound and heat rash healing properties and its ability to unclog pores and absorb excess sebum, and to naturally stimulate and brighten the complexion. This is a staple in my weekly skincare routine, which leaves me with a baby smooth skin finish, tighter pores, and a radiant face.
Antipodes Reincarnation Pure Facial Polish and Exfoliator tends to work well for dry and very dry eczema prone skin. The certified vegan formula blends avocado oil and jojoba beads to lift away lifeless skin, marigold bloom oil to nurture and repair while carrot seed extract, cedarwood and sweet orange essential oil help calm, clear and revitalise your skin’s surface.
When you are dealing with flare ups, consider going for a white cast free chemical or mineral sunscreen for sensitive and eczema prone skin to quickly help ease your skin irritation.
Childs Farm SPF 50+ Sunscreen Cream 125 ml and Aveda Daily Light Guard Defense Fluid for Skin SPF 30 30ml are two options for you to explore.
The dermatologist approved Childs Farm’s chemical sunscreen cream is a vegan society registered, fast absorbing, unfragranced, parabens and SLS free high protection cream formulated with physical filters (Titanium Dioxide) for sensitive and eczema-prone skin. The water resistant formula infused with hydrating aloe vera leaf juice is my go-to daily sunscreen to quickly get rid of eczema symptoms, and it never fails to deliver for me.
If you are staying indoors all day and you want to keep your face and décolleté well protected, the lightweight Aveda Daily Light Guard Defense Fluid for Skin SPF 30 30ml is the way to go. The non greasy vegan mineral sunscreen works very well for sensitive skin to deliver a dewy and silky finish.
Jennifer Berry (2019). Top 12 natural remedies for eczema, Medical News Today
Kat Gál (2018)- How to use coconut oil for eczema, Medical News Today
Mara Therese Padilla Evangelista MD et al., (2013). The effect of topical virgin coconut oil on SCORAD index, transepidermal water loss, and skin capacitance in mild to moderate pediatric atopic dermatitis: a randomized, double‐blind, clinical trial, International Journal of Dermatology
Fabian M. Dayrit, (2014). The Properties of Lauric Acid and Their Significance in Coconut Oil, AOCS
Sandeep R.Varma et al. ( 2019). In vitro anti-inflammatory and skin protective properties of Virgin coconut oil, JCTM
N. Sivaranjani et al. (2013). Role of Reactive Oxygen Species and Antioxidants in Atopic Dermatitis, ncbi,
Ikotun, A. A., et al. (2018). Studies on enhanced African black soap from Theobroma cacao (cocoa) and Elaeis guineensis (palm kernel oil).
Ikpoh, I. S., et al. (2012). Comparative studies on the effect of locally made black soap and conventional medicated soaps on isolated human skin microflora.
Toshihiro Akihisa (2010). Anti-inflammatory and chemopreventive effects of triterpene cinnamates and acetates from shea fat, ncbi
This blog post is not intended to provide diagnosis, treatment, or medical advice in any form or shape. Content provided on this platform is strictly for informational purposes only. This is based on my own research and reading of clinical studies on eczema and the beauty industry, keeping updated about new changes in the cosmetics market, and my personal journey of battling for over 25 years with atopic eczema. Please consult with a physician or other healthcare professional regarding any medical or health-related diagnosis or treatment options you might have. Information on this platform should not be considered as a substitute for advice from a healthcare professional. The statements made about specific products throughout this video are not to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease.