Every once in a while, an ever so puzzling “eczema season” comes about for some of us. Typically featuring a disproportionate increase in newfound rash, flare-ups… Or as I like to put it, my eczema is back and raging! My own eczema woes actually began rather late in life, in the form of a stubborn patch on my ankle. Then in bizarre fashion, it moved on to my face — particularly my eyelids (A real bummer!). Since then, it has shown itself in nooks and crannies; from common spots like my elbow crease, behind my neck and back, to somewhat awkward places like in between my fingers and recently, a unicorn appearance on my belly.
Whenever “eczema season” swings by, so begins another tedious hunt for products that can soothe, treat and protect itchy/inflamed skin. My fellow eczema buddies will know — the sting of weeping eczema sores is quite a singular, agonising experience. In my first episode of adult eczema, I remember going down a list of drugstore recommendations, derma-skincare and even TCM. Eventually, my eczema needed more help beyond what was available over-the-counter and I went on steroids. My eczema has since been far more manageable (it even takes breaks); which has also allowed me some leeway to experiment with eczema-safe formulas.
So here’s an affordable guide to some of our trusted products for eczema/eczema-prone skin, for top to toe, tried and tested. From long-running cult favourites to promising new players, keep these eczema-friendly gems on your radar!
A Gentle Reminder
Unfortunately, this non-exhaustive guide is not catered for severe eczema. It is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the expertise of a qualified health provider if you have any questions, including concerns related to using any of the mentioned products. Particularly for irritated/reactive skin, we highly recommend conducting a patch test before starting on a new product.
At A Glance: What Is Eczema?
Eczema is a condition characterised by patches of inflamed, itchy, cracked and rough skin. The most common type of eczema (that this guide predominantly addresses) is Atopic Dermatitis. The word “dermatitis” refers to inflammation of the skin.
Common Symptoms Of Atopic Dermatitis (Eczema)
While eczema symptoms can vary widely depending on type (see this guide on the types of eczema, includes photos), age and severity, the most typical symptoms of atopic dermatitis include:
- dry, scaly skin
- flushed skin that may also be inflamed
- itching and stinging
- blisters, open, crusted, or weeping sores.
Do note that eczema symptoms may differ for people with darker skin, read more about that here!
Who Can Develop Eczema?
Anyone really. That said, most people develop the condition before the age of 5, although an estimated 60% of children with eczema can expect the symptoms to wane in adolescence. Unfortunately, adults who suffered from eczema in their childhood can continue to grapple with sensitive, dry and eczema-prone skin. On the other hand, it’s also possible to have an adult onset of eczema (I speak from experience).
What Causes Eczema?
While the exact cause of eczema remains unknown (regrettably), doctors believe it to be a combination of genetic (particularly in infant/childhood cases) and environmental factors. To revisit my “eczema season” speculation, there are certainly environmental factors that can trigger/worsen symptoms:
- Irritants e.g. soaps, shampoos, detergents, cleaners etc.
- Allergens e.g. dust, fur, mould etc.
- Microbes e.g. bacteria, viruses etc.
- Hot and cold temperatures e.g. very dry, cold weather, also includes perspiration in very warm conditions
- Foods e.g. dairy, wheat, eggs, nuts etc. (Read more about eczema and diet here!)
- Stress (*While not a direct cause of eczema, stress can worsen symptoms. Read more about the link between stress and eczema here.)
Suitable for: Very dry, irritated to atopic sensitive skin.
If you find that your eczema tends to flare up right after showering (likely attributed to warm showers and the loss of moisture), this shower oil could be the solution. Intensely nourishing and powered by a Skin Barrier Therapy™ patent, Bioderma’s Atoderm shower oil promises to instantly soothe, repair and protect your skin’s lipid barrier. While oil-based, this soap-free formula is non-greasy and provides a comfortable cleanse for even the most delicate skin.
Suitable for: Dry, sensitive and eczema-prone skin.
If you’re looking for a full range of products formulated for eczema-prone skin, here's a brand to wish list! New in Singapore and originating from South Korea (where it has been the leading brand for sensitive skin since 2007), Derma B is committed to developing topical solutions for sensitive skin. Like the rest of its high-performing line, the Daily Moisture Body Lotion is powered by Derma B’s patent technology, MLE (Multi Lamellar Emulsion)Ⓡ; a revolutionary hydration science that simulates the skin barrier to repair, fortify and lock in moisture.
*Tip: Switch the Daily Moisture Body Lotion for its less rich version, the Mild Moisture Body Lotion if you prefer something lighter in the morning. Alternatively, for even deeper hydration, try Derma B’s Mild Moisture Milk Oil (with a milk protein and amino acids complex).
Suitable for: Sensitive, eczema/eczema-prone skin.
A personal favourite -- I consider this a big must-have! Formulated at the National Skin Centre (it's a locally-developed miracle worker), Suu Balm is a steroid-free, non-sticky cream that replenishes moisturise and rapidly relieves itch. Menthol is the main highlight: the formula delivers an instant soothing, cooling sensation for immediate comfort. Suu Balm is designed to break the itch-scratch cycle, something my fellow eczema buddies will know is a *major* challenge (the more you scratch, the worse the flare ups).
*Tip: The menthol is pretty strong on this one, so you want to make sure it doesn’t get into your eyes/mouth. For less menthol, try the same cream in its kids-friendly version!
Suitable for: Normal to dry and sensitive skin.
I personally found having eczema in between my fingers quite tough, because of the post-hand washing itch fest. A while ago I embarked on a quest to find the best hand cream for my eczema situation, by trying every single hand cream I could find in the DC office (the DC team being witness to my numerous “I’ve got eczema between my fingers, damnit!” soliloquies). I hereby present to you the victor: Bioderma’s Atoderm Ultra Repair Hand Cream *throws confetti*.
This ultra-reparative, soothing formula moisturises and calms damaged hands/nails. I particularly like its glove-like effect, which aims to provide a lasting soft and protective film. The hand cream lives up to its non-oily claims and absorbs quickly, without any residue. A single application of this hand cream will typically last me a good few hours -- marked improvement! Considering that at the height of my eczema woes my hands would feel unbearably dry at near hourly-intervals. That said, do note that this hand cream is fragranced, which might not work for all eczema conditions.
Suitable for: Sensitive, hypersensitive, allergic and irritated skin.
A familiar holy-grail and another product I’ll recommend in a heartbeat for eczema/eczema-prone skin! Avène’s Thermal Spring Water is gloriously uncomplicated. Its potency comes from -- simply -- unparalleled purity by being captured right at the source, to preserve optimum soothing and softening properties. Multi-functionality means you can use this mist to instantly comfort just about anywhere, which goes a long way for eczema flare ups. I personally like to use Avène’s Thermal Spring Water to calm heat-induced eczema flare ups on my face and body.
Suitable for: All skin types, in particular dry and sensitive skin.
This skin cleanser is an award-winning best-seller for good reason. Arguably Cetaphil’s most classic cult favourite, the Gentle Skin Cleanser is a superbly gentle, soap-free wash (for the face and body) that hydrates and soothes as it cleanses. The fragrance-free formula is also clinically-proven hypoallergenic and non-comedogenic. It pretty much checks all the boxes for an excellent eczema-friendly facial wash -- and a very affordable one at that!
Suitable for: Chronic dry, sensitive skin, including eczema, psoriasis and rosacea.
Whenever my eczema flares up, I find myself stripping back on my skincare routine. This usually means dwindling down to just a facial wash, toner and moisturiser. The Cetaphil Moisturising Cream is my personal go-to -- I think I’ve gone through three tubes of this! The ultra-mild and nourishing formula features extra-strength emollients and humectants for ultimate moisture retention. Apart from being non-irritating, non-comedogenic and non-greasy, the moisturiser is also free from some serious eczema triggers including fragrance, parabens and lanolin.
*Tip: Great things aside, I personally find Cetaphil’s Moisturising Cream rather rich ( albeit the non-greasy formula). As a facial moisturiser in Singapore’s weather, I’ll recommend using exactly enough instead of liberally.
Suitable for: Dry, sensitive skin.
Now here’s another newly arrived brand to delight in if you have sensitive skin! Designed for delicate skin, D Program has been the top sensitive skincare brand in Japan for 10 years running. Skin defence is at the heart of its product line, that aims to build resilience for healthy skin. The Allerdefense Cream offers comprehensive protection as a physical sunscreen and a neutralising shield against environmental aggressors (e.g. dust, foreign particles). The moisturising formula is non-oily, alcohol-free, fragrance-free, mineral oil free, paraben-free, colorant-free and can also double-up as a makeup base -- how many bonus points is that!
*Tip: Remember to pick physical sunscreens over chemical ones if you have eczema/eczema-prone skin.
Suitable for: Dry and sensitive scalps.
The most common form of scalp eczema is Seborrheic Dermatitis (which can show up in the form of dandruff). If you’re wrestling with a dry, itchy and irritated scalp, you might want to add this impressively mild shampoo and conditioner from Physiogel into your routine. This dual-functioning wonder offers a pH-balanced cleanse for sensitive scalps, while helping to revive and restore hair with added Panthenol. The hypoallergenic ingredients list is also free from preservatives, perfumes and colorants for a more skin safe formula.
*Tip: If you find your scalp eczema a recurring or long-running problem, it might be best to get a medically prescribed shampoo/cream to effectively treat the condition! However, using an over-the-counter gentle shampoo regularly can help to reduce scalp eczema flare-ups. Avoiding common irritants like chemical hair treatments (particularly harsh hair dye), strong soaps and very hot water can also ease irritation.
Just as the specific cause behind eczema remains unknown, there is also no guaranteed cure for the condition. While there are many treatment options available to help manage eczema, flare-ups will always be difficult. Given the prospect of needing to manage eczema as a lifelong ailment, I’ve found myself sieving out high-performing, yet affordable and accessible options. I hope this guide helps — and to you who might be journeying with eczema, take heart!
And take care,