Q. I suffer periodically from eczema. Recently a new shampoo set off a bad bout. The rash went down my neck, across my shoulders and onto my arms. The itching was driving me crazy!
I went to the Internet and saw your article about Maalox for diaper rash. I didn’t have Maalox, but I did have Pepto-Bismol. I dabbed it on my shoulders and neck, and the itching stopped immediately. Two days later, the rash has almost disappeared.

A. Thanks for sharing your innovation. We’ve never heard of putting Pepto-Bismol on the skin to relieve irritation or itching.
Eczema tends to be a recurrent problem for many people. We offer advice on supplements and dietary approaches as well as nonprescription creams that can soothe eczema in our Guide to Skin Care & Treatment.

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  1. Tobi

    I used the pepto on my 1 year old. Her bottom and face were so red dry and itchy. Nothing else I tried worked, not only did she stop itching but her rash was gone by morning.

  2. Ally

    I have psoriasis, and my uncle told my grandma about Pepto-Bismal. Well, when I was itching like crazy, I put it on, and it was instantly relieved!! I couldn’t believe it, considering that prescription creams for itching do nothing. I don’t think that it will clear it, but as long as the itching stops, I’m good!

  3. sydellesb

    I have had a recurring rash on my buttocks for about 2 years. Dermo Dr.’s salve eventually clears. However, must use and apply 3-4 times a day, and takes well over a month to (sometimes) clear. He calls it a ‘virus’. (When in doubt?) I am on my way to the Pepto Bismol aisle. Will let u know.

  4. Peggy

    I have been getting a rash on my hands and elsewhere on my body for the last several summers. I have had no success with the treatments the doctors had been giving to me. I read about using Pepto bismol on eczema and figured that it couldn’t hurt, well, it worked like a charm!!!!! When a sign of the rash appears, I use the pepto bismol and it heals it almost immediately! Thanks for the suggestion.

  5. dianne

    Is Pepto Bismol Gluten-free?

  6. Gabriele

    Pepto-Bismol may have worked because it contains magnesium and salicylic acid. The magnesium would have a drying effect (epsom salts is magnesium and is not just good for muscular soreness but also calms the skin it seems) and salicylic acid is anti-inflammatory.
    When I lived in an area that was full of poison oak, putting pepto on the exposed area before the rash started to produce the oils seemed to lessen the duration and itch of the rash. Certainly was more effective than calamine.
    Since the rash occurred after a shampoo I would like to call your attention to propylene glycol. It seems to be in everything from coconut (to keep it moist) to the simplest baby shampoos to flavored sodas. The more expensive the face cream, chance are the more propylene glycol there is in it. It’s considered relatively benign but I think once someone becomes sensitized to it, it keeps coming back.
    Propylene glycol is a humectant. It works to keep things moist, and to keep things in suspension. I don’t know why I react to it, but I do. I had made a batch of cookies, adding moist coconut. I licked the bowl. When my husband came home he asked me what had happened–my face had been itching at when I looked in the mirror it was all swollen up, dry and continued that way for some time. It was also very sensitive, the only thing I could put on my skin was Vaseline, and when I put it on it would be absorbed in 10 minutes (and I put it on thickly).
    I knew to take Vitamin C and zinc to detoxify my system when exposed to poison oak (it really does help, got that from Adele Davis) so the next day I was ok. Move ahead to the gift of a friend, some Avon (she sold it) cream. It’s supposed to keep mosquitos away. It made my arms break out with a bad rash. Third time: bought a store-made cream pie. Mrs. Swollen face again.
    Decided I needed to do some research and found out the common ingredient in all these was propylene glycol. Started reading labels and avoiding it with good results. Didn’t think about baby shampoo. Bad move, but ti helped confirm that pg was the offending chemical.
    It’s in so much you really have to do your homework (I went into a major LA health-food store and their entire unit (4’x5′) did not contain one item I could use.
    Little things that may indicate a sensitivity to PG:
    puffiness (bags) under the eyes–but not all the time
    slight itching around the mouth after eating certain foods (cheap ice cream for me)
    The pluses for me (have to have a sense of humor about it):
    I can only eat expensive ice cream (poor me)
    I can’t go to Avon or Mary Kay parties
    If there’s a food I don’t want to eat (pot luck, etc) I can ask if there’s any prepared items in it–oops! sorry! can’t eat it.
    Now back to the shampoo issue. I think the reaction would have been so strong because you used hot water which opened the pores and whatever soap was in the shampoo would have cleaned all the protective skin oil off the skin so the irritation factor was that much greater.
    And one more note: if there is propylene glycol in a topical medication, it can cause weeping eczema. My gyn had prescribed something which ended up being worse than what it was supposed to treat. OTC disposable douches contain PG sometimes—AVOID.
    Hope this helps you with your situation. You might trying doing a test-a little shampoo on a band-aid someplace on your arm after washing it (to duplicate the environment of the shampooing…. see what happens.

  7. Jon S.

    Will this work on psoriasis too?

  8. Dru

    Anita, you need to ask your doctor to do a tTG-antibody test. If that is positive, the chances are very high that you are gluten intolerant or may have celiac disease. To treat this you will need to avoid eating anything with wheat, rye, barley, or oats (although there is now gluten free oats). Digestive enzymes will not help this condition. Your doctor will probably want to do more tests, including a celiac panel and possibly a biopsy of your small intestine (done under light anesthesia through a small tube inserted into your throat).
    Some doctors are now saying that the biopsy is not necessary because the positive antibody tests show that you are having a reaction to the proteins in gluten. I urge you if you do have the biopsy and it is negative, to try the gluten-free diet anyway. Gluten intolerance is serious and can affect many organs of your body, but many people have stomach pain, gas, and bloating as you do. Despite its seriousness, you are lucky if you discover that this is the cause because it is cured with a gluten-free diet, instead of risky medicines. There are many gluten free products, including food, cookbooks, and self-help books available to you.

  9. Anita

    Do you have an effective digestive enzyme that you could recommend to me? And, hopefully, it is reasonably inexpensive. I have pain in my stomach and intestines on a regular basis, with lots of gas and bloating. I feel I need help in digesting my meals. I tend to eat healthy. Thank you so much.

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