Leszek-Kobusinski/Shutterstock, Olga-Vorontsova/ShutterstockI’ve suffered with eczema for over 20 years. From my first year of life, the dry, scaly skin was all too familiar; every night, I would go through a nighttime routine of slathering greasy ointments and creams until the chunky layer of lotion became a whole other skin to me. The idea of short-sleeve shirts sent a shiver down my spine, and I often resorted to sweaters and jackets in 90 degree weather. When I was a kid, I even had to attend school with bandages wrapped around my inner elbows to prevent bleeding.
The perpetual itch lingering on my skin was like having a series of mosquito bites you can never scratch; do it and it just gets worse. Needless to say, it was not a pleasurable condition and I did all I could do to relieve it.
Fun fact: Pretty much every dermatologist you visit will look you sternly in the eyes and tell you there is no cure for eczema; it’s a chronic condition that you’ll just have to learn to live with. (Learn more about what common diseases you skin can reveal.) This is definitely not what anybody wants to hear because it’s partly true—there is no official “treatment” or magical antibiotic you can swallow to completely eradicate those red patches. But fear not: there are several remedies that can come pretty close.
After speaking with several different doctors, I was told to try the topical steroid hydrocortisone at an early age. Hydrocortisone is no foreign substance to eczema sufferers—the famed medication is commonly used to treat redness, swelling, and itching, so eczema symptoms fit its usage to a T. Unfortunately, relief is oftentimes temporary, and frequent application is highly discouraged for its strong chemicals.
I wanted something that would last longer, work quicker, and treat better. Several fellow eczema sufferers proclaimed the beauty of aloe and its ability to work wonders. At the same time, my doctor informed me that using too many different eczema treatments in conjunction with one another can actually be less effective, so I dropped the army of dermatitis tubes and oatmeal scrubs sitting on my counter and replaced it with just two: aloe and hydrocortisone.
This combination worked wonders for me; using aloe alone was not effective and using hydrocortisone itself was not long-lasting. The mixture of the two, however, was able to not only soothe my nagging itch, but expunge the scaly patches entirely.
Dr. Loretta Ciraldo, a Miami-based board certified dermatologist, offered up some insight as to why this can work. “As a general guideline, itchy eczema skin should be kept cool. Cortisone 10 ointment is usually very helpful as it hydrates skin while delivering 1 percent hydrocortisone which had previously been available by prescription only. Together, the combination of hydrocortisone and aloe vera brings cooling relief to the skin,” says Ciraldo.
Although raw aloe works best, we know it may not be ideal to start growing a garden of aloe plants on your windowsill. If you happen to do so, break open the thick part of the leaf and apply the gel directly onto the affected area. Otherwise, organic aloe from your local drugstore should do the trick just fine.
Keep an eye out for creams that combine the two elements into a single treatment; the one that I use from Equate is my holy grail go-to.
The treatment should only be applied to clean, freshly washed skin; directly after a shower is most ideal as it opens up your pores for easy absorption. From personal experience, applying ointment to dirty skin can aggravate your eczema even more, so keep the application strictly to the bathroom.
“To maximize results, soak skin… think of staying in a room temperature shower until your fingertips get all wrinkled,” says Ciraldo. “At this point your skin has replenished water levels back into the dry, eczema-affected skin. Pat dry and apply the 1 percent cortisone ointment to your skin while it is still damp.”
Keep in mind that everybody’s skin is different, so what worked for me might not work for the next guy—but the combo is definitely worth a try to those yearning for some instant effects.