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5 Top Tips for your Ideal Emollient

Your ideal emollient…


1. Is comfortable to apply and doesn’t irritate the skin

It’s really important that you like the feel of your emollient and want to use it whenever your skin feels dry and itchy. The emollient needs to be non-irritant, which means it should not sting or itch, feel uncomfortable or make your eczema worse. If you have been patch tested and you have contact allergies, check the labelling and make sure the emollient contains no additives that you are allergic to.

2. Treats dry skin and repairs the skin barrier

The formulation is really important, as your emollient needs to occlude and prevent water loss in order to repair the skin barrier. For example, if you have very dry skin, a lotion will not be effective, so you will require an oily cream or ointment. If your skin does not feel moisturised and you are needing to reapply after a couple of hours, you need a longer-acting formulation and should consider a humectant.

3. Fits in with your lifestyle

Your emollient needs to match your lifestyle. An ointment may be very effective at treating dry skin, but who wants to go to work or school feeling like a channel swimmer? So, maybe you can use a cream throughout the day and, for more intensive moisturisation, an ointment at night. A simple cream may be fine for a baby with eczema. Regular application is difficult for school-aged children or adults, but for a baby, cream can be reapplied at every nappy change, ensuring six applications a day.

4. Feels and looks pleasant and is easy to use

As the emollient is used every day it’s extremely important that it’s easy to use and cosmetically acceptable – in other words, that it looks and feels good. This includes packaging, such as a good pump, so that it can be easily dispensed. Older people may find some pumps difficult to use, especially if they have arthritis. Ointments can be messy and need to be decanted before use, as putting fingers directly in the tub can spread infection.

5. Is safe to use and available in adequate quantities

There is a safety warning for paraffin-based emollients, as they can pose a fire risk if a person smokes, or is near an open flame. Clothing and bedding that has come into contact with paraffin-based emollient should be washed regularly at a high temperature to minimise the fire risk. Emollients may also increase the risk of slipping – especially in bathrooms. Emollients need to be applied in adequate quantities. The weekly guidance is 250g for a baby or small child and 500g for an adult. So you need to know that you can get a regular supply of your chosen product.

  • If you're finding it difficult to get emollients on NHS prescription, please go here.
  • For more information about different emollients, please download our Emollients factsheet.
5 Top Tips for your Ideal Emollient...