Colin Solves Your Problems 12: Moisturizer for Eczema

Hi Colin,

I found your blog while doing research to find the most effective and safe OTC moisturizers for my son’s eczema.

I was so happy to find an informative, scientific yet understandable blog that I’ve spent an hour reading through your posts. Thank you very much for all the work you do, keep the posts coming!

Anyway, I’ve come across studies showing urea and ceramides are beneficial in helping restore the moisture barrier in eczema sufferers.

Right now, I’ve started using Aveeno Eczema Care cream (which has ceramides) on my son, and it along with a herbal cream and Live Clean non-petroleum jelly are keeping his flares under control. The Aveeno, however, does not contain urea.

So I was wondering: Will I see a better effect if I used a cream with both ceramides and urea?

Not easy to find as those I’ve seen online are mostly in European countries. The closest I’ve found here in Canada is Excipial Lipolition with urea and lipids, but I’ve yet to confirm if the lipids include ceramides.

Thanks in advance for your attention to my question.

All the best,


Hello Lexi and thanks for your query and your kind words.

You have asked quite a lot of questions there so I’ll be brief in each reply, although there is quite a bit more that could be said. First of all, urea. Urea is very popular in Germany and seems to work very well though I have only very limited experience of it myself. It seems to work as a humectant in a similar way to glycerol. Ceramides are part of the skin’s barrier function and it has been shown that ceramide levels are very low in dry skin. It does seem reasonable to think that adding extra ceramides ought to be helpful. I haven’t seen any really convincing evidence that they actually work the way they are supposed to do. The argument that suppliers of these materials make is that you have to use exactly the right kind of formulation to get them to absort intot the skin in exactly the right way. I am open to being persuaded but I don’t think there is any convincing published study to back up the idea at the moment. I think a review of where we are with ceramides sounds like a good topic for a future blog post.

But just because their benefits haven’t yet been shown doesn’t mean those benefits don’t exist, so if you have a problem they might solve it would seem to be worth giving them a try. Just bear in mind that if they are going to work you should see some benefit pretty quickly, certainly within a week. If they aren’t doing anything switch products.

There is another approach altogether, which is to add something to the skin that stimulates ceramide production. I got interested in an oatmeal fraction that a group in San Diego were looking at a few years back that seemed to do something like that. But I haven’t heard anything about it for a while so it may have proved a dead end. ( was the paper if you want to look into it further.)

As to combining urea and ceramides, they ought to work very well together. They both work in different ways so they should work well together. I’m afraid I don’t know anything about that Canadian product you mention. Let me know how you get on with it if you try it.

All the best,


6 thoughts on “Colin Solves Your Problems 12: Moisturizer for Eczema”

  1. I’ve said this before, possibly even here, but isn’t the problem with cosmetics and non-pharmaceutical products as well as those on the borders that the industry avoids the need to run clinical trials by making only minimal claims, hence there is a dearth of evidence because the companies cannot afford to let slip evidence that proves their products have medicinal and/or other physiological effects. In other words, in hunting around for a treatment, patients are essentially left fending for themselves and trusting the vague claims of products that are not licensed as pharmaceuticals but sold as cosmetics or health aids instead? Just asking.

    1. You are right David, but it isn’t a very common problem. Having any kind of effect across the skin barrier is a tough thing to do. The closest call is retinol, which I have heard dermatologists suggest ought to be regulated. (One did so in public at a cosmetic scientists’ meeting, which I thought was a bit bold.) This does have a measurable physiological effect and has shown statistically significant results in a clinical trial. But you need to use pretty economically challenging levels for long periods of time to see any effect.

  2. Hi Colin,

    My son also suffers quite severe eczema. I have used oatmeal in his bath – chopped in the blender until it is almost powder and put in old tights. It was ok but not brilliant. What I found really efffective was using dead sea salts. With this you have to put in quite a lot of salt in a standard bath, about 500g. I did it for him for his evening bath a few months ago. The next evening I checked his arms and the eczema had cleared up almost completely. I recommend it for anyone suffering from eczema.

    Colin, hows the exercising coming along?

    1. Hi Rebecca

      A lot of people find both Dead Sea Salts and trips to the Dead Sea itself helpful for both eczema and psoriasis. The science is frustratingly sketchy on the subject. I’ll be blogging on how I am getting on with the exercise soon.

  3. Hello Colin, I have been reading your site quite a bit over the last couple of months. I had a reaction to a 98% natural face moisturiser, it has been suggested the essential oils were the irritant.

    The skin would not calm down or take in moisture and my GP was not that helpful and now says I have hives. I have been using a very simple plain moisturiser with no fragrance :

    Ingredients: Water (Aqua), Shea Butter (Butyrospermum Parkii), Apricot Kernel Oil (Prunus Armeniaca), Glycerine (Vegetable Glycerine), Emulsifying Wax, Vitamin E (Tocopherol Acetate)

    I am not sure it is doing that well. Anyhow I am posting because my GP recommended Aveeno Moisturiser (colloidal oatmeal) but it has some things in it I am not sure about. I read this post and wondered if the following product contained the oat that you write about above:

    Emollient Cream
    Rhealba® Oat Seedling Extract ? Helps to reduce inflammation and soothes the skin
    Filaxerine®, omega-6 (essential fatty acids) and vitamin B3 ? Helps to restore the skin’s natural protective barrier
    Glycerin ? Hydrates

    I am sure this isn’t a full list of ingredients. Does this sound like a ‘safe’ product to you?

  4. I found the full list of ingredients: 🙁

    Water (Aqua), Mineral Oil (Paraffinum Liquidum), Cyclomethicone, Glycerin, Peg-12, Glyceryl Stearate, Oenothera Biennis (Evening Pimrose) oil (Oenothera Biennis), Peg-100 Strearate,Myreth-3 Myristate, Polyacrylamide, Niacinaminde, 10-Hydroxydecenoic acid, Avena Sativa (Oat) leaf/stem extract (Avena Sativa leaf/stem extract), Benzoic acid. BHT, C13-14 Isoparaffin, Chlorphenesin, Disodium Edta. Laureth-7, Phenoxyethanol, Triethanolamine.

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