cleansing and moisturising eczemaFor anyone without a skin irritation, cleaning the skin means soap (or some other detergent) and water. But if you suffer with eczema, soap should be avoided as much as possible, and exposure to water minimised. Soap and other detergents remove oils from the skin, leaving it dry and vulnerable - the last thing you need if you suffer with eczema. They may also contain additives, like perfume, which can irritate the skin. Strange as it may sound, water also has a drying effect - for much the same reason as soap. So how then should you be cleansing and moisturising eczema prone skin?

When you suffer with eczema the mainstay of your skin cleansing routine should be a cream, which is massaged gently into the skin and then rinsed off. A cream is a mixture of oil (usually a mineral oil, like soft paraffin) and water. Because oil and water don't mix, an additive known as an emulsifier has to be added to disperse the oil in the form of tiny invisible droplets within the water to make one layer rather than two. Suitable eczema washing creams for the bath or shower include Wash E45® and Aqueous cream BP.

Like all products containing water, creams can become contaminated by microbial growth, so it is especially important when you have eczema to opt for hygienic containers like pump dispensers to minimise this risk. Also be aware that emulsifiers and other additives can cause either an allergy symptom or irritation. However, there are several cleansing products for people with eczema besides the two mentioned above, so you're likely to find at least one that suits your skin.

A good allergy-friendly moisturiser is the other key product for daily eczema prone skin care. As the name suggests, a moisturiser keeps the skin from drying out. All moisturisers work in the same way - by providing a surface layer of oil which slows down the evaporation of water from the skin. You have three main choices of moisturiser - an ointment, a cream or a lotion. Ointments are composed of oil alone while creams, as explained above, also contain water. A lotion is just a cream with a higher water content. In general, it's best to use the product with the highest oil content you can cope with - because of the more oil, the better the moisturising action.

As explained above, microbes can grow wherever there is water so creams and lotions can become contaminated. What's more, preservatives - such as parabens - are often added to creams and lotions to slow microbial growth. You may find you develop an allergy to such additives or they may have an irritant effect on your skin. Some creams and lotions also contain perfume and lanolin, an extract of sheep wool used as an emulsifier. Both can cause allergy or irritation problems.

However, ointments are not without their drawbacks for eczema sufferers. Older children, adolescents, and adults have naturally oilier skin than infants and may find an ointment feels too greasy and uncomfortable for daily use. What's more, ointments may rot certain fabrics, including elastic. If your pants or knickers keep falling down, your daily moisturiser may be to blame!