Q. Are there any simple treatments for severe eczema other than steroids? I just hate to keep smearing steroid cream on my skin all the time.
A. Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a skin inflammation that may be red, itchy, crusty or blistered. Although topical steroid creams are effective for eczema, chronic use can thin the skin, leading to permanent stretch marks and prominent blood vessels.
Another option might be oolong tea. One study showed that it improved eczema in patients who drank it (Archives of Dermatology, Jan. 2001).
We discuss a number of other approaches to easing eczema in our Guide to Skin Care. They include probiotics, dietary changes, Pycnogenol and CamoCare, as well as high-tech light therapy.

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  1. Patient

    After reading all comments below, and the exhaustive list and wide variety of cures and treatments, I feel like I’ve watched several episodes of Dr. Oz in a row! Most commenters are just so absolutely, positively certain that their solution will work for you, guaranteed.

    That concept is ill-conceived because it overlooks the basic knowledge you all have about what works for your body; your unique set of genetics and conditioning, and how you react to certain medicines, topical products, lotions, foods, and chemicals contained in each.

    If you’re looking here for help, as I was, I’d hate to say look elsewhere because many natural treatments are listed below, and they would be preferable to me, and possibly most people nowadays.

    However, I would caution new readers on this health issue to proceed with extreme caution. Some suggested or “guaranteed” cures could actually be harmful to you, in light of your own unique set of circumstances.

  2. Suzie

    Has anyone tried ACV [apple cider vinegar] internally daily [ 1 tsp in glass of water] as well as soaking the eczema sites with ACV and Epsom salts [I used 1 cup ES + 1 cup ACV in warm water} ?

    I used it on my husbands feet soaking for 20 min 2x daily during the summer and his feet healed and have remained clear. Took about 6 weeks. His doctor was amazed and passed on the info to his fellow docs.

    We also take a good Probiotic [gut health is key], D3, C, Multi, Fish oil [Krill oil] B-complex, Astaxanthin, COq10 and Magnesium daily [very important] and eat an Organic whole foods diet with Organic grass fed beef, chicken, eggs and fresh water wild caught fish using Himalayan pink salt and coconut oil for cooking [organic and non-GMO]. It has made a huge difference! Hope you all find relief. OH, and by the way, you can use ACV [dilute with water if you have open sores] on the scalp to relieve itching. For drying areas you can rub with organic cold pressed coconut oil [instead of steroids and creams] to promote continued healing.

  3. Mimi

    I’ve been without wheat, dairy and citrus for over 40 years. Also have a “healthy” diet, mostly whole grains, fruit, vegetables and some meat. However, after my dermatologist prescribed a steroid for a small patch of irritated skin, I broke out in what was later called nummular eczema. Not wanting to continue with steroids after a biopsy was inconclusive, I tried homeopathy which did not seem to work. I then tried a recommendation from another naturopath called Kamedis PSO Medis body cream which at least seemed to quiet the severe itching and burning of the continually spreading lesions on my arm, hand and legs. This cream used twice a day appeared to “fade” the angry red areas for a time and controlled the itching and burning.

    Reviewing Adelle Davis’ “Let’s Eat Right To Keep Fit” to look for more help with this rash that I have never before in my life had had, I read about the need our bodies have for certain fats that our bodies cannot make and need us to supply from what we eat…linoleic acid, which is absolutely essential to life itself. She mentions safflower oil furnishes 85 to 90 per cent of our requirements. She also cautions that a B-vitamin deficiency may also cause eczema. So, I’ve added this oil to my diet and will also try to determine what foods may also be causing an allergic reaction contributing to the eczema. What triggered this is still a mystery to me.

  4. Michael

    Dear Sue,
    If you do read this message and your condition is still the same, I strongly recommend you
    1. Clothes washing. Do two cycles in the machine. The first with the very very mildest of baby washes, the second without any detergent. The residue left on my clothes from the single washing cycle gave me grief until I identified the cause.
    2. Never use a softener to wash your clothes.
    3. Do not use Biological washing powders, only baby mild washes.
    This will help greatly, as it did me.
    Best wishes,

  5. ML

    First off, Tea tree oil is strong stuff! If you use the oil full strength on a rash, it may only serve to irritated the previously damaged skin. Coconut oil can also be too much for previously irritated skin, as my daughter found out. We had to wash it off after only a few minutes. Milk of Magnesia might work better. You could apply it at night & wash off in the morning. You can also apply moisturizer or Shea Butter over dried Milk of Magnesia.
    Next, there are many possible causes of eczema. In my family’s case, it was food allergies. For others, it may be chemical sensitivities or something else entirely. The key is to identify the agent or agents and remove them from your diet and/or environment. Healing your body (your skin, your gut, etc.) can help prevent outbreaks when there’s an accidental exposure.
    In our case, my kids and I were allergic to different foods but once we stopped eating those foods, the eczema went away. For my son, it was just gluten & corn. For my daughter it was those two plus milk. For me, it was nitrates, like those found in *cured* meat – like ham, bacon, and sausage. (Regular pork chops didn’t cause a problem; only meats cured with nitrates.) In my case, it took a loooong time to figure that out because nitrates were not on my radar. I thought for sure it was another food, and almost everything we were eating by then was natural, and not processed so no preservatives or colors to worry about… but I forgot about the ham we were eating. And the kids weren’t affected by the ham, so again, it didn’t pop up on my radar for about six months.
    In the meantime, my eczema worsened and went from one finger to eventually all ten and then up my hands to my wrists. Then my lower arms started sprouting raw spots and I feared my whole body would be consumed with it… til I systematically looked @ our diet & realized the ham was not natural. And then I recalled reading somewhere that people could be sensitive to nitrates. Jackpot!
    When the eczema stopped, it took a week or two to see some improvement. By the third week it was obvious that the skin was improving, but took another week or two to heal my kids completely. In my case, which was the worst, I had raw skin from fingertips to my wrist on both hands with a few splotches up to my elbows. It was about 4-6 weeks before all the splotches were gone & the red raw skin was mostly healed. Even then, I had no pigmentation – no age spots, no freckles, etc., on my hands & wrists for about 6 months after I healed up.
    So,it can take a lot of trial and error to uncover the offending food(s) or substances. So try removing common allergens from your diet for a few weeks & see if that works. If you suspect the offender is airborne, see if you can avoid it – remove all scented products from your house and invest in some high quality air filters. Remove chemical cleaners & products from your house, etc. And good luck.

  6. Hunnytree

    All well and good, Yan, but do you have the goods on how to cure the disease itself?
    I have been taking MSM, Milk Thistle, using Coconut Oil, Shea Butter (unrefined African) and something is helping – as the worst of it is starting to go away SOME,,,not all,,,,and the other day, I had a flare-up, after someone suggested tea tree oil, and I applied it, and lo and behold! it got worse overnight. So…..do you, Yan, have the answer?

  7. Yan

    Is it Vitamin B5? Is there harm to overdose?

  8. Yan

    But I don’t think it is good for you, it will irritate the problem skin and get eczema worse. That’s only a temporary relief, but cannot cure the disease itself

  9. Hunnytree

    This is crazy…but I accidentally found something that STOPS the itching. I was washing my eczema covered hands, and the water got somewhat too hot. Well, you know that weird-ness that happens sometimes when you go “it hurts so good”?
    Those patches on my hands and fingers that have eczema began to react rather violently to the hotness of the water and I got weirder and turned the heat UP. After a bit, I didn’t feel it as much as I had a minute or so before, and after I had pretty much taken all I could take, I turned the water off, sighed a sigh of relief and dried my hands. My hands did not itch for HOURS.
    I have now been doing that same thing methodically every time the itching starts again, and this is soooo wierd and strange, but it works!!! I have tried to analyze a possible reason why and I’m thinking… that burning sensation must be firing off all those nerve endings at once – BAM! – and when it’s over, they just want to retreat and rest a while.
    That’s the God’s honest truth. And truth be told, I will do ANYTHING to STOP the itching!!! And this is stopping it. I do have to say the only other thing that has really worked is the ACV and olive oil….but I get that same very irritating, burn-y sensation with the ACV…then the EVOO soothes it. Then I smell like a salad. My daughter said add some anchovies while I’m at it, why don’t I? Well, the HOTTTT water is wayyyyy easier, and dang if it doesn’t work!

  10. Sue

    I have had severe eczema; I was born with it. I have suffered throughout my life. I have used several of the things recommended on this site, that is, oolong tea, vinegar when it itches, and a mix of olive oil and baby oil. This is the first winter my hands are not swollen, continuously itchy, and cracked. Some years back, I also started with psoriasis. The vinegar has helped the itching. About the only time it starts up is when I sweat from exercising or from the heat in the summer. I am truly happy with the suggestions I found on this website. I do believe the oolong tea works.

    • Jenna

      I do the same exact thing!! I thought I was the only one that did that! It’s good to kno I’m not alone!?

  11. Monica

    My granddaughter has eczema. I have been able to keep it under control for the past 2 years with Aloe Vera Juice. Add one ounce to any juice twice a day. Although this worked great for the past few years, it is an issue right now (time of year?) I am going to try the Apple Cider Vinegar, sure hope it works.

  12. marla

    I had eczema as a child and it only lasted for a couple of years. Then it returned when I was about 60, I control it with Avon’s Moisture Therapy body lotion (for dry itchy skin), which contains colloidal oatmeal. I also bathe in colloidal oatmeal that I make in the Cuisinart by grinding regular oatmeal to a powder.
    I just turned 80 last week and I am still controlling the problem with this method. The bath method I use only occasionally as it does dry the skin somewhat. The lotion stops the itching immediately.

  13. Jennifer

    Last night I didn’t get any sleep because the eczema on the bottom of my foot itched so bad, and the OTC steroid gel didn’t help at all. So today I took some advise that I found online. I put my foot over the bathtub and dumped white vinegar over my foot, and was careful to let it dry without toweling it off. The itch stopped immediately and completely, and so far (3 hours later) has not returned at all. The best remedy I’ve ever tried, and the least expensive! So if you haven’t tried WHITE VINEGAR for eczema itching, give it a shot!

  14. Nilah B.

    Last summer my 4 year old granddaughter was diagnosed with Vitiligo. It is when your skin looses pigmentation and causes white patches on the skin. Two doctors have told us there is no cure for this and that it may or may not spread. All they gave us was some prescription salve and just hope it doesn’t spread. I wondered if you or any of your readers have any knowledge of this autoimmune disease. Any information would be appreciated. Thank you.

  15. Melody

    I had eczema as a teen and young woman severely on my hands. Cortisone was always the cure, topically and shots.
    I read where cortisone is produced by the adrenal gland and pantothenic acid stimulates that gland. You can purchase it at a vitamin store. I took 1000 mgs and it stopped getting worse then I started taking 1500 mgs and it completely disappeared. As time went by, I took a maintenance amount. At 65, I only take it when I get a little scaly spot on my hand. Others have tried it and it works for them also.

  16. ff

    I have eczema and tried Neem oil and it worked within three days the problem was better…

  17. Cherry

    Cut out dairy (milk, ice cream, yogurt, etc.) and watch all of your skin problems disappear. No joke.

  18. Diane

    I had chronic eczema on my hands and body for 30 years. I was on an oral steriod (prednisone) for a short period of time as a teenager to try to get it under control, and used strong topical steroids as well for many years. When I approached perimenopause, I also started getting it on my face as well. I have been steroid free now for several years; I attribute this to taking 500 mg of evening primrose oil twice daily, installing a water softener at my house, using Cerave cleanser/moisturizer on my face and hands daily, and bathing with Dove Sensitive Skin Body Wash. I learned about the Cerave product from the People’s Pharmacy. For me, skin issues seem to take a long time to respond to new methods/products/supplements (at least 8 weeks).

  19. JD

    I dealt with Eczema for several years and finally cleared it up with apple cider vinegar (I used the cheapest store brand). I just dabbed some apple cider vinegar onto the area with a cotton ball a couple of times a day. Within days, the Eczema disappeared and has never returned in over two years.

  20. KEW

    I would recommend trying a gluten-free diet. Three of my friends who have suffered from psoriasis or eczema for years went on gluten-free diets and their skin cleared up within a few days. I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it myself!

  21. Susan

    I’m fortunate enough that I don’t have this condition, but my great nephew has suffered from it…coconut oil is fantastic applied topically for this…it soaks in really well.

  22. Amy G.

    I had a very itchy red rash each winter on my arms until I started taking a 1000 mg black currant seed oil capsule twice a day.

  23. Doug

    My mom had this problem as myself and my daughter. We are fair skinned and my mom used all the creams and none worked. She found out that getting a good sun tan every so often made the problem go away. My daughter and I also have the same results with sun and can use a tanning booth in the winter.

  24. Eh

    I suffer from eczema mostly in summer during the hot humid weather. The yellow Listerine keeps my eczema in check. I keep a bottle right next to me in the patio (also excellent to prevent itching after mosquito bites) and one in the bathroom.

  25. Cindy

    I have personally used and have read success stories of others using just ordinary coconut oil successfully. It reportedly has anti-fungal along with anti-bacterial properties. I use it externally and internally. It is the only sunscreen I use.

  26. JimP

    A number of years ago, a guest on the show mentioned that replacing regular milk with organic milk improved eczema. That certainly helped me. I was rubbing lots of cortisone cream on my chronically itchy, scaly elbows and knees in the winter. After switching to organic milk, it became a minor problem. Any minor outbreaks were treated with a moisturizing cream, with only infrequent use of the cortisone cream required.

  27. Noah T.

    I have eczema, dermatitis, seborrhea, psoriasis. Maybe even herpes simplex. All mildly, I believe. The itch is aggravating. Mine seems worse during the winter. Steroid Ointments, Benzocaine seem to work best for me. I like all teas. Tea and all of the other suggestions one may find are probably healthy if one isn’t allergic. I wish not to suffer the side effects of strong drugs. Like the cure is worse than the disease. “So”, For now, I do what is minimal and hope it doesn’t get worse. It is all part of being alive on the planet and I do not believe there is any magic only a lot of snake oil sales. So watch out for that.

  28. John

    Tumeric and brown bottle listerine helps keep my atopic dermatitis under control. I take a capsul of tumeric a day. And I rub brown bottle listerine over the affected areas immediately after getting out of the shower. I have not needed steriod creams for over three years.

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