teapot with two small cups

Q. I am suffering terribly with eczema, aka atopic dermatitis. That’s what my dermatologist calls my dry, red, itchy nasty skin. The doctor thought I might have an infection as well, and I have tried Bactroban antibiotic ointment as well as all kinds of oils including emu oil, coconut oil and pricey moisturizers.

I avoid antibacterial handwashing liquid and all products that leave a soap residue. I use fragrance-free detergent for my laundry but I am still suffering. The itching is unbearable and makes it hard to sleep. I fear that I will soon have to start taking prednisone, which scares me. Do you have any recommendations?

A. Why not start with oolong tea? Here are some messages we have received from other readers:

“I have never written to anyone like this but feel compelled to share my results. I went to some of the best dermatologists in the US – including flying from Florida to the top one at Harvard/Mass General. They gave me all sorts of remedies for eczema, including antibiotics.

Then I tried your recommended oolong tea – went off all the other creams, etc. and it worked great. The eczema is 90% gone in 10 days. Thank you very much.”

“During a discussion of possible remedies for eczema on your program, someone mentioned that drinking oolong tea reduced their symptoms. I had suffered for years with a spot of eczema on my ankle about the size of a softball. At times it was raw; other times a little better, but it was a constant presence for years.

“I had tried every over-the-counter treatment with no luck and had completely given up hope that it would ever go away. With no expectation that oolong tea would work, I started drinking it a couple of times a day for about a month. The eczema disappeared. That was over a year ago. I stopped drinking the oolong tea long ago, and the eczema has not returned. I am simply amazed. And I can not thank you enough for that home remedy.”


We also think that eczema requires industrial-strength moisturizer. The best ingredient we can think of is high-concentration urea. The makers of Udderly Smooth Udder Cream have formulated Extra Care 20 with 20% urea. Anything stronger would require a prescription.

If you have tried something that really helps your dry skin/eczema, please let us know. We would like to share your success with others. Comment below please.

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  1. B.b.

    I use plain ole cheap vinegar. It softens the skin and gets rid of dark spots. Once it drys, there is no vinegar smell. It also brightens your wash and gets rid of odors. I put glass bowls of vinegar around if I smell an odor. You do not smell the odor or vinegar.

  2. Sharon B.

    It is the latex. I am allergic to latex and have very very bad eczema and dry skin. Always tell every doc you go to, first thing that comes out your mouth. That’s why you get itchy and you your self have to use latex free gloves.

  3. CH

    I am going through a terrible bout of eczema right now so much so that my co-workers make fun of what has happened to my hands. They told me to get some workout gloves to cover them up. Don’t you just love adults? Just ordered two bars of unscented goat’s milk soap, and I can’t imagine why I had forgotten the power of this soap. The Dermatologist in town doesn’t take our insurance, so it’s $95.00 per visit for the steroid, and antibiotic prescriptions. From now on its me and the goat’s milk.

  4. Diane

    I overhead a conversation about a dog who was allergic to everything & scratched herself raw. The other person, who had been thru it all, got the special shampoo recommended by Vet, but the secret ingredient in it a person can buy themselves at any drugstore. It is called HIBICLENS. I went out & got some myself .. just to see if it helps with my itchy bumps that just mysteriously pop up. I’ve thought I had bed bugs, hives, poison ivy, and am now resigned to MYSTERIOUS & HOW can I find out what is going on?

  5. cd

    For whatever it’s worth: My doctor’s dog had the same ongoing skin problem and they couldn’t figure it out. When they adopted a second dog – a puppy — a few months ago, the first dog’s skin problems completely resolved and have not returned.

  6. lor

    Is the Oolong tea in a drink form or a cream??

  7. OB

    My German Shepherd female got raw hot spots & scratched all her hair off until we discovered she had an allergy to corn.
    When we found her a food with no corn in it, she cleared up beautifully and had no more troubles.

  8. PP

    Mike, thank you for your research. Question for you, or anyone who knows about it–what about the Sodium Laureth Sulfate found in my body wash, or the moisturizing liquid hand soap? I feel the one is less drying than soap for bathing, and am using the liquid hand soap for convenience and keeping from gumming up the plumbing!

  9. Kris

    I have oolong tea, having heard of it a long time ago….they say it tastes like coffee so do I brew it like tea but use cream and sugar as I do coffee, which I LOVE….I have eczema bad on my hands, the itch is incredible and they are so dry and painful…I did learn to ALWAYS wear gloves washing dishes and such…but like someone said rubber can affect “you” even when I go to the dental hygienist..who is protected with all the gear….her gloves itch my face and nose and I have to stop and scratch a lot…I know its either rubber (gloves) or laytex, I can never remember which it is…and when I told this to a lady at church, she said the swim cap bothered her….
    I have taken Rx from the dr over many years….but it makes my hands like a hard plastic and when they crack and bleed, I wish I never used it (Rx)…like I said the itch is incredible and stress affects me and makes it WORSE! appreciate all the helpful comments!

  10. Brent

    I live in Texas and Had dried cracked hands for years and used many different lotions and prescribed creams with little and only temporary success.
    I signed on as a crew member on a sail boat crossing the Gulf of Mexico from Houston to Florida which took 10 days in rough and cold weather. We had lots of spray from rough seas and my hands were often wet with salt water.
    Within a week of returning home my hands were totally cured and the condition only returns but with minor conditions that clear up quickly with a little lotion or hand cream.
    Am looking for more crew opportunities!

  11. Ronald S.

    I recently adopted an Anatolian Shepard rescue dog. She has a terrible skin allergy condition which I have been working with the vet to address. She was on prednisone and recently started Atopic 100mg. We are adjusting her diet. She scratches herself raw and has scratch to bare spots. I will try your recommendations. She cannot continue like this.

  12. Mina W

    My mother’s remedy for the cracks in dry skin on the hands in winter:
    She took chemistry from Linus Pauling at Berkeley. So when he said massive doses of Vitamin C cured almost everything, she tried it.
    And years later, when I asked, she said that when she had had enough Vitamin C she didn’t get those annoying cracks in the skin on her hands.
    (She was fair-skinned Irish-English ancestry, and lived North of Seattle. Some time outside in winter, but covered-up.)

  13. Mike G.

    Though I fortunately do not have eczema I have had a problem with dry skin for many years especially in the winter when the air gets dry from the cold temperatures. I use my hands a lot in my work and have particular problems when the skin of my fingers crack from being too dry, causing very painful razor-like cuts which makes it extra difficult in working with them. I noticed that some ‘moisturizer soaps’ seemed to work better than others in combating this problem and did a little research on this including calling some of the companies that make the soaps and discovered a difference that has been a big help to me along these lines.
    Apparently any soap that is made from the ‘traditional’ chemical base used for many years to make what we now call ‘soap’, (Sodium Tallowate and/or Sodium Palmitate), whether it has moisturizers in it or not will have more of a drying action to it. The traditional soap chemical base apparently dissolves and takes away more of the skin oils with it vs. a newer synthetic based soap formula, (Sodium Isethionate), which has a milder fat dissolving action and less of a drying effect on the skin.
    The two soaps I presently use demonstrate this well in that one of them I use as my ‘winter soap’ while the other as my ‘summer soap’, when for me the stronger fat dissolving action of it helps to clean my sometimes pretty dirty hands quicker, in the summer this doesn’t cause me problems due to the overall better, less dry condition of my skin with the warmer temperatures.
    This soap is simply Dove’s ‘Sensitive Skin’ moisturizing soap which has strong moisturizers but uses more of the traditional chemical soap based formula and has a more drying action on my skin. What I use in the winter or when the temperatures start to turn generally colder is Oil of Olay’s ‘Shea Butter’ moisturizing soap which has the shea butter for moisturizing but is also a solely synthetic based soap and has a milder less drying action to it, such that if I exclusively use it during the cold months I don’t have any of the problems with the painful ‘cracking fingers’.
    If I use the Dove soap, even with it’s powerful moisturizers, not too mention other even stronger soaps for too long during the colder months the painful cracking problem will start to come back. I do use moisturizing cream at night before bed on my hands too, but through trial and error have learned over time that the type of soap I use makes the biggest difference. Hope this helps!

  14. Beverly M.

    I’ve had eczema for years and years. A friend suggested I try lye soap when washing my hands. I did and it cleared it up and I use it all year round now and I haven’t had a breakout patch as long as I use it. I ran out of the soap and didn’t use it for a few months and eczema patches started on my hands again. I buy nicely wrapped bars of this soap at an antique mall…. I was horrified at the thought of using lye soap on my hands but these bars of soap are really easy on the hands and are a miracle as far as I’m concerned. It works a lot better than the creams I’ve gotten at the dermatologist’s office.

  15. TTPOL

    I do not have serious eczema but it arises periodically on my hands. I have tried all of the remedies that I know of–including dietary restrictions– and the one that cleared my eczema quickly and thoroughly was Udderly Smooth Udder Cream Extra Care 20, WITH 20% UREA.
    I was amazed at the almost instant pain relief, followed by total clearing within a few days. The Udderly Smooth cream without the urea was good for simple dry skin but didn’t cure the eczema. I ordered this product for those on my Christmas list and highly recommend it to anyone with eczema or any other skin problem. Thank you, once again, People’s Pharmacy!

  16. John

    I have not heard of Oolong Tea for dry skin. On my own, I have experimented with brown bottle Listerine in a spray bottle that I use after I get out of the shower. I spray my “hot spots” followed by a light application of Cetaphil cream. Hence no more expensive visits to the Dermatologist and expensive tubes of steroid creams that don’t work.

  17. Wayne S.

    I suffered with eczema (atopic dermatitis) for near on 18 years. I tried every remedy in the book, including oolong tea, without any success. Then last year, August 2011, I changed my diet (I weighed a little more than 200lbs and needed to lose weight) to exclude all grains and sugars. Within a week my eczema had completely cleared up and has not returned. As an aside, I now weigh 155lbs and I’m still grain and sugar free.

  18. Rick B

    Interested in learning more. I have had a number of different opinions. I’ve had one walk in clinic think that I had bed bug bites. Recently the dermatologist did a biopsy on one of the red scaly spots on my leg and it came back negative. Then I have been prescribed a type of steroid cream. It seems that I suffer more when the heat is on in the winter. In the summer it seems to go away. It also seems that anything with elastic or rubber in the clothing aggravates it and makes it itch worse. I will try the oolong tea and see if I get any relief. I think it is eczema, but I find that the opinions vary depending who I see for it.

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