Cosmetics and eczema

Knowing which products to avoid and which are safe for regular use can help make caring for the sensitive skin that comes with eczema crystal clear.

  • Avoid drying agents that can irritate skin and prompt flare-ups.
  • Fragrance-free is always your best choice.
  • Anti-inflammatories can reduce swelling and redness.

[3 MIN READ]

Putting on makeup in the morning is a standard part of the day’s routine for many women. But for the millions of women with eczema, that rather ordinary process is often complicated by the dry, scaly, irritated skin they experience with every flare-up.

Eczema is a skin condition that causes different areas of your skin—typically your face, inside your elbows and behind your knees, and your hands and feet—to become irritated, dry, itchy, and red. Eczema is not contagious and its cause is unknown.

Treatment for eczema includes medication, skin creams, light therapy and a best-practices skin care regimen. Avoiding allergens, irritants, and other triggers found in commonly used products helps prevent flare ups and the dry, rough skin that accompanies them.

Reading the labels of the cosmetic and skin care products you use is one of the best ways to ensure you’re staying away from anything that presents a potential problem.

Reading the labels of the cosmetic and skin care products you use is one of the best ways to ensure you’re staying away from anything that presents a potential problem. But what exactly is it that you’re looking for?

In general, choose makeup that’s labeled hypoallergenic or made for sensitive skin. Here’s an overview of some of the ingredients you should stay away from and a few that could do your skin some good.

What to avoid

If you’re dealing with eczema, the last thing you want to use is a product that kicks your eczema into overdrive. Besides staying away from known allergens and irritants, you should also watch out for:

  • Drying agents like salicylic or glycolic acid, sulfates, and alcohol can irritate your skin and prompt an eczema breakout.
  • Fragrances of all kinds, especially those labeled “artificial” can wreak havoc on your skin—especially if it’s sensitive to chemicals or other man-made ingredients. Fragrance-free is a much better choice.
  • Exfoliators and wrinkle reducers like alpha hydroxy, beta hydroxy, and retinol should be used with caution to avoid overuse and irritation.
  • Sunscreen that uses oxybenzone can damage your skin. Instead, choose a mineral-based sunscreen with titanium dioxide or zinc oxide.
  • Preservatives like parabens, formaldehyde, and phthalates, and phenoxyethanol can provoke skin irritation and inflammation or worsen your existing symptoms.

Make it a habit to check the label carefully—especially when using a new product—to verify the product is safe for you to use. 

What to include

The National Eczema Association (NEA) has compiled a list of products that have received the NEA Seal of Acceptance. Some of the ingredients used for products on the “approved” list include:

  • Moisturizers with ingredients like shay butter, lanolin, and hyaluronic acid help hydrate your skin and protect it from damage.
  • Anti-inflammatories like niacinamide, ceramides, or lipids help reduce and prevent redness and swelling.
  • Herbal botanicals like calendula, marshmallow root, or rose can help heal your skin naturally and improve its overall condition and tone.

For many women, finding cosmetic and skin care products that don’t make their symptoms worse is a never-ending battle. Make it a habit to check the label carefully—especially when using a new product—to verify the product is safe for you to use. 

Find a doctor

The dermatologists and skin care experts at Providence understand how difficult it is to feel confident when you’re in the midst of an eczema flare-up. If you’re trying to manage eczema or another skin condition, talk to your doctor. You can find a Providence dermatologist or skin care expert using our provider directory. Or you can search for a primary care doctor in your area.

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Related resources

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National Eczema Association

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional’s instructions.

About the Author

The Providence Body & Mind Team is dedicated to providing medically-sound, data-backed insights and advice on how to reach and maintain your optimal health through a mixture of exercise, mindfulness, preventative care and healthy living in general.

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