If you’re struggling with baby eczema, you’re not alone. Here are 12 natural home remedies for Baby Eczema that have worked for other parents like you.
When babies are in the womb, they are in a protected, enclosed environment, where nothing harms or irritates them. However, once they’re out in the world, it’s a whole different ball game! Now, they are exposed to all kinds of materials, vapors and fluids, and this can take a toll on their delicate systems.
One thing most new parents struggle with is skin issues in newborns. This can range from dry skin to diaper rash, but one of the most common and most worrying is eczema.
What is eczema?
Eczema is an inflammatory skin condition that results in patches of skin becoming dry, itchy and irritated. This generally happens when the skin’s protective barrier becomes weak, which could be because the body produces insufficient fatty cells called ceramides. As a result, moisture escapes from the skin faster, and it becomes more sensitive to external triggers.
The most common form of eczema is atopic dermatitis which is chronic and more severe than plain dry skin. It can occur anywhere on the body, but is most commonly seen on the face, hands and feet, as well as in skin folds like inside the elbows or behind the knees.
Eczema affects people across the world and the National Institute of Biomedical Genomics (NIBMG) states that at least 1 in 5 Indian children suffers from eczema. Baby eczema is also called infantile eczema. The Indian Pediatrics Journal reports that eczema in children may have increased in the past 30 years. Eczema is most common in children under the age of five.
What does Baby Eczema look like?
Baby eczema appears as extremely dry, chapped or rough skin. The patches can be quite itchy and cause a great deal of discomfort. The color of the patches differ based on skin tone. On babies with light skin, eczema may appear as red patches, while they look purple or brown on babies with darker skin.
While baby eczema may look similar to cradle cap, they are not the same. Cradle cap appears only on the scalp or face, is not as irritating and usually disappears by 8 months. Baby eczema is seen mostly on the cheeks, inside the elbows and behind the knees. It can also appear anywhere the skin has had contact with a trigger, like eczema around the mouth after eating certain foods.
Eczema looks different in babies and in toddlers or older children. While baby eczema is usually on the face, hands and feet, eczema in toddlers is seen on the neck, eyelids, wrists, ankles and around the mouth.
Why causes Baby Eczema?
The truth is that the causes of eczema are still fairly unknown, but it is believed to have a strong genetic factor. Babies with a family history of eczema, asthma or allergies are more likely to get the condition. People with overactive immune systems also have a higher chance of suffering from eczema.
In many cases eczema is a result of an allergic reaction, and often appears alongside other childhood allergies like food allergies, pollen allergies, asthma or pet allergies. Common environmental triggers for eczema include:
- Cold air
- Too much heat
- Excessive sweating
- Drool due to teething
- Soaps and detergents
- Fabrics like wool or polyester
- Seasonal pollen
- Pet Dander
- Cigarette smoke
Most children outgrow eczema by age 5, while some experience occasional flare ups well into adulthood. Some studies state that eczema may be linked to behavioral disorders like autism or ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).
Baby eczema can be diagnosed by a pediatrician who will suggest further treatment. Currently there is no cure for eczema, and treatment generally consists of managing the symptoms like dry skin. If you do not wish to try OTC medications, here are a few natural home remedies that can help soothe your baby’s eczema.
12 Natural Remedies for Baby Eczema
1. Colloidal Oatmeal
Colloidal oatmeal is one of the most effective natural remedies for baby eczema, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Colloidal oatmeal is also known as Avena sativa, since it contains avenanthramides, a compound that can reduce inflammation. Studies have shown that colloidal oatmeal isn’t just anti-inflammatory, but it has antioxidant properties as well, This means that it can reduce itchiness and scaling due to eczema, while also speeding up the healing process.
Colloidal oatmeal is basically oats ground to a very fine powder, and it is often applied as a paste or mixed into a bath. To use as a paste, mix a quarter cup of colloidal oatmeal with enough water to make a paste and apply directly on the affected areas. To use as a bath, simply mix in some colloidal oatmeal to lukewarm bath water and let baby sit in it for 10-15 minutes.
Colloidal oatmeal can be bought at select health stores or online. You can also make it at home by grinding plain, unflavored oats to a very fine powder. Colloidal oatmeal is generally safe for babies, but should be avoided if there is a family history of gluten intolerance or wheat allergy.
2. Virgin Coconut Oil
Coconut oil has many benefits for babies and kids, and it is an excellent option for eczema too. Coconut oil is a well known natural moisturizer and contains fatty acids that helps lock moisture in skin.
For baby eczema, it is recommended to use 100% extra-virgin coconut oil for it to be truly effective. Virgin coconut oil is cold-pressed and does not undergo heat processing, which makes it more beneficial. Virgin coconut oil fights inflammation, improves the skin barrier, reduces irritation and can even prevent bacteria from entering the skin.
To use coconut oil as an eczema remedy, apply it directly to the affected areas after bathing and before bed. Just 8 weeks of use have shown considerable improvement in eczema symptoms in babies. Virgin coconut oil is safe for everyone except people who are allergic to coconuts.
3. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar may seem like a surprising solution for baby eczema since it is highly acidic, but this is exactly why it works. Most soaps and cleansers are alkaline, which is why they are more irritating to skin with eczema as they disturb the skin’s acidity levels. On the other hand, apple cider vinegar (ACV) can help balance the skin’s acidity.
The National Eczema Association of America recommends ACV as a natural remedy for baby eczema. However, since it is highly acidic, it needs to be diluted before being used on baby skin. Never apply undiluted ACV on bare skin – it can cause burns. To use ACV as a remedy for eczema, add a cup of it to lukewarm bath water and let baby sit in it for 15-20 minutes.
Honey has been used for treating various illnesses since centuries, and is a part of many traditional medicine systems. It has a host of skin-friendly properties, like being anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory. Honey can fight staph infections which are commonly seen in baby eczema. Its anti-inflammatory properties can soothe irritated skin and hasten the healing process.
Manuka honey is the best kind of honey recommended for treating baby eczema, as it has special benefits. It can be directly applied to the affected area, or mixed with colloidal oatmeal to form a paste. Please remember that any kind of honey cannot be fed to babies under one year of age as it can cause serious illnesses like botulism poisoning.
5. Aloe Vera Gel
Aloe vera is considered a natural moisturizer and is also soothing to skin, due to which it is used as a natural treatment for sun burn. This is exactly why aloe vera gel makes for a good remedy in treating baby eczema, especially since it contains antibacterial properties which can prevent infection. Aloe vera may also improve the skin’s healing time.
While aloe vera gel is easily available to buy, it is recommended to use pure aloe vera gel straight from the leaves of the plant. Aloe vera gel can be applied directly to the affected skin after bathing, and it can be reapplied throughout the day as needed. Aloe vera gel can also be mixed with coconut oil, olive oil or turmeric for added benefits. The paste can be left on the skin for 20 minutes and then washed off.
6. Cold Pressed Sunflower Oil
Sunflower oil, extracted from sunflower seeds, is commonly used in our kitchens, but it can also help treat baby eczema. Cold pressed sunflower oil contains fatty acids that can improve the protective function of the skin’s barrier. As a result, it locks moisture in and prevents infection. Sunflower oil can also reduce inflammation which results in soothed, less itchy skin.
Be sure to use cold pressed sunflower oil for best results. It can be applied directly on the affected skin after bathing and massaged into the skin. Massaging sunflower oil on the tummy has also been proven to reduce symptoms of colic. Sunflower oil can also be mixed with extra virgin coconut oil for a more potent combination. Avoid sunflower oil if there is a family history of allergy to sunflower seeds.
7. Wet Wrapping
Wet wrapping is a treatment method recommended by many experts to soothe an eczema flare-up and offer instant relief from itchiness and irritation. Wet wrapping basically involves applying a moisturizer on the affected areas, followed by wet bandages. This creates a thick protective layer that is cooling and soothing to skin while not letting moisture escape.
For wet wrapping, first bathe baby with a mild, fragrance-free cleanser or just water, and pat dry. Apply lots of moisturizer over the affected skin. Soak bandages in lukewarm water and squeeze out the excess water so they are still damp. Wrap the wet bandages over the moisturizer so it is snug but not too tight. Cover this with another layer of dry bandages. You can leave it on for as long as it stays moist or overnight.
If the baby’s eczema is all over the body, you can soak baby clothes in water instead of bandages. You can also add apple cider vinegar here, by diluting 1 tablespoon of ACV with 1 cup of water and using it to soak the bandages.
8. Cool Compress
This is a great way to offer your baby instant relief from severe itchiness. The application of something cold to itchy, irritated skin will instantly cool it down and soothe the flare up. It works by contracting the veins and reducing pain. For babies, simply dip a clean washcloth or towel in cold water, squeeze out the excess water and hold it to the affected area. Keep it on till the irritation subsides.
Although it is called a cold compress, you can also go extremely cold by using an ice pack. However, an ice pack should never be used directly on bare skin. Always wrap an ice pack in a clean towel before applying to the skin. After removing the compress, apply moisturizer abundantly all over the affected area.
9. Shea Butter
You’ve probably seen shea butter as an ingredient in many moisturizers, and it’s because it is a naturally hydrating substance. Shea butter contains fatty acids, Vitamins A and E and anti-inflammatory properties that locks moisture in skin and soothes it at the same time – checking two important boxes for baby eczema.
Shea butter is easily absorbed into the skin, so it can be directly applied on the affected area. Several studies have showed that it works excellently for eczema when combined with colloidal oatmeal. Although shea butter is derived from a tree nuts, it is generally not known to cause allergies.
10. Chamomile Bath
Just like a cold compress or a wet wrap, quick baths can also help relieve the itchiness and irritation of eczema-affected skin. It provides the skin with an instant burst of moisture, and cools the area down. However, it needs to be a short, lukewarm bath – keeping the skin in water for too long can dry it out and make eczema worse.
Babies generally need to be bathed just twice a week, but eczema babies may benefit from short, 10-minute baths more frequently. To make the most of the bath, try adding some chamomile, which has anti-inflammatory properties. Chamomile contains compounds like bisoprolol, chamazulene and apigenin, which are known to soothe skin and also heal any wounds which may have arisen due to itching. Soak 5 tea bags in a warm bath for 15 minutes and then let baby into the bath.
11. Anti-inflammatory Diet
Most experts agree that eczema is basically an inflammatory skin condition, and the inflammation could arise due to a variety of reasons. One way to prevent frequent eczema flare ups is to have a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods, which can curb the body’s response to inflammation.
Babies may not be able to have all foods, depending upon their age and where they are in their weaning journey. However, some safe anti-inflammatory foods you can include in baby’s diet are turmeric, cinnamon, flax seeds, leafy greens, lentils and fish. Foods that can trigger inflammation are wheat, eggs, soy and dairy, so you should watch out for reactions when your baby has these.
12. Avoiding Triggers
This isn’t exactly a remedy for baby eczema, but much of taking care of it is to identify the triggers causing eczema in your child and to take steps to avoid them as much as possible. It is helpful to note down everything your baby eats as well as the products you use for your baby so you can identify if any of these are causing a flare up.
Be sure to note down things like baby soap, clothing brands or fabrics, detergent and others. Some parents also note down if they are wearing perfume or a candle was burnt in their home that day. Doing this meticulously will help you deal with baby eczema by preventing it in the first place.
Do’s and Don’ts for Baby Eczema
- Make note of the things your baby eats and uses on a daily basis to identify triggers.
- As far as possible, keep your home clean as well as smoke and dust-free.
- Choose light, cotton or organic fabrics for baby’s clothing.
- Put on soft eczema gloves or mittens on baby’s hands
- Keep baby’s skin moist at all times.
- Cut baby’s nails and keep them trimmed to prevent scratching.
- Always dry baby by patting dry with a soft towel.
- Apply a moisturizer or eczema treatment right after bathing to lock the moisture in.
- Keep baby’s sleeping area comfortably cool.
- Use water for cleaning and soap only when required, like after a bowel movement.
- Use a gentle cleanser meant for eczema skin instead of regular soap
- Over dress baby.
- Rub baby skin to dry it.
- Let baby scratch the affected skin.
- Let baths go beyond 10 minutes.
- Scrub skin while bathing.
- Try a new remedy without consulting your doctor.
Call your doctor right away if:
- Baby’s eczema is accompanied by a fever
- The eczema rash looks crusty, is cracked or if it’s oozing blood or any fluid
- Baby can’t sleep because of the itching and discomfort
- No matter what you try, the irritation doesn’t subside