Different Types of Moisturizers for Eczema

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: March 2024 | Last updated: March 2024

Atopic dermatitis is sometimes also known as eczema. The condition damages the barrier of the skin. The barrier is the skin’s outermost layer. When the skin barrier is damaged, the skin has a harder time protecting against allergens, bacteria, and irritants. Having eczema also means the skin loses water more often, which leads to dryness, redness, and sensitivity.1,2

Moisturizers are an important part of treating and managing eczema symptoms. Moisturizers provide several benefits, including:1,2

  • Helping repair the skin barrier
  • Combating the water lost through the skin
  • Increasing the hydration of the skin
  • Treating and preventing dry skin
  • Helping control itchiness, redness, cracking, and thickening of the skin (lichenification)

What are the different types of moisturizers?

There are several types of moisturizers. All of these products are mixtures of lipid (fat) and water. The types include:1

  • Ointments
  • Creams and lotions
  • Skin barrier creams

Ointments are often the first topical treatment for eczema. They have the highest content of oil (a lipid) and tend to feel “greasy.” Examples of ointments are petroleum jelly (Vaseline®) and mineral oil.1,3,4

Other very good options for people with eczema are creams and lotions. Creams and lotions are emulsions of water in lipids. They contain stabilizers to keep the ingredients from separating. Although creams and lotions can be less greasy than ointments, some contain other ingredients that may sting or irritate eczema.1,3

Skin barrier creams contain lipids and ceramides, both of which occur naturally and are key to reinforcing the skin barrier. Skin barrier creams provide a protective layer on the skin. This allows eczema to heal.1

Not all moisturizers are good for people with eczema. Some contain added fragrances and preservatives. These ingredients can actually do more harm than good on sensitive skin. Talk to your skin doctor (dermatologist) if you have questions about which moisturizer you should use for your eczema.1,2

What are the ingredients in moisturizers?

Just as there are different types of moisturizers, there are different ingredients used to heal the skin and lock in moisture. Moisturizer ingredients fall into 3 main categories:3,4

  • Occlusives
  • Emollients
  • Humectants


Occlusives are heavier substances that form a protective layer on the skin. They seal in moisture and prevent water loss. They also act as a shield against external irritants.3,4

Examples of occlusives include:3,4

  • Beeswax
  • Petrolatum
  • Fatty acids
  • Mineral oils
  • Shea butter
  • Lanolin
  • Silicone derivatives


Emollients are designed to smooth and soften the skin, reducing roughness and preventing water loss. They create a protective barrier on the skin’s surface, which is beneficial for people with eczema.3,4

Examples of emollients include:3,4

  • Ceramides
  • Cetyl alcohol
  • Stearyl alcohol
  • Lanolin
  • Jojoba oil


Humectants are moisture-attracting compounds that help to draw water into the skin, keeping it hydrated. Examples of humectants include:3,4

  • Glycerin
  • Hyaluronic acid
  • Lactic acid
  • Panthenol
  • Sodium PCA
  • Urea

If you have eczema, prioritize key ingredients

Because many people with eczema have very sensitive skin, it is important to know what ingredients are in your skincare products. The following ingredients have been proven to help soothe and treat eczema.3-6


Glycerin is a humectant. It attracts and retains moisture in the skin. Glycerin is commonly found in many moisturizers, so keep an eye out for this eczema-friendly ingredient.3,4

Hyaluronic acid

Hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring substance in the body. This acid plays a crucial role in maintaining skin hydration and elasticity. It is also a humectant, which means it attracts and retains moisture. Hyaluronic acid offers a lightweight, nongreasy option for those with eczema and sensitive skin. It is commonly found in:3,4

  • Moisturizers
  • Serums
  • Other skincare products

Jojoba oil

Jojoba oil is an emollient that closely resembles the skin’s natural oils. It is extracted from the seeds of the jojoba plant. This oil is rich in vitamins and minerals. Jojoba oil helps to soften the skin and can provide relief from eczema symptoms. It absorbs easily and does not clog pores.5


Some moisturizers contain niacinamide, a form of vitamin B3. Niacinamide:3

  • Reduces inflammation and dryness
  • Strengthens the outer layer of the skin
  • Improves the production of keratin (a protein) that strengthens and softens skin

Shea butter

Shea butter is a rich, natural ingredient derived from the nuts of the shea tree. It is known for its moisturizing and anti-inflammatory properties. Shea butter is a fantastic choice for those with sensitive skin and eczema. It contains fatty acids that nourish and strengthen the skin’s protective barrier, reducing dryness and promoting healing. Shea butter can be used in moisturizers to relieve irritated and inflamed skin.4

Aloe vera

Aloe vera is a succulent plant known for its thick, fleshy leaves that contain a gel-like substance. This gel has many medicinal properties. For centuries, aloe vera has been used for its soothing and healing effects on the skin.6

Aloe vera is rich in vitamins, enzymes, minerals, and amino acids. It is anti-inflammatory and can help calm irritated, inflamed skin. It can also help alleviate pain and itching associated with eczema flare-ups. But research has shown that aloe vera may not work for everyone.6

What are the best moisturizers for eczema?

The best moisturizers for eczema are those that cater to the unique needs of sensitive and irritated skin. Look for products that are “hypoallergenic” (less likely to cause an allergic reaction). Seek out products that contain gentle and effective ingredients that help repair the skin barrier, like the ingredients listed above. Avoid products that have irritants such as fragrances and harsh chemicals.1,2,4

Over-the-counter brands that offer eczema-friendly moisturizers are:1,2

  • Aquaphor®
  • Aveeno®
  • Cetaphil®
  • CeraVe®
  • Eucerin®
  • Vanicream®

Check out the National Eczema Association's eczema product directory to find more hypoallergenic brands and products.

How often should I moisturize?

People with eczema should moisturize their skin regularly to help manage the condition and prevent flare-ups. Moisturize at least twice a day. Moisturizing after a bath or shower is especially good for locking in moisture. Applying moisturizer when the skin is still slightly damp can enhance its absorption and effectiveness.1-3

Consult with a dermatologist or allergist

If you have eczema, there are many moisturizer options for managing your symptoms. Because preferences vary, you should choose the moisturizer that works best for you. When trying out a new product, remember to patch-test (use on a small area of the skin) to make sure it does not cause any irritation or unwanted side effects. If you are not sure what type of moisturizer is best for your skin, talk to your dermatologist or allergist.1

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