Barrier Creams for Eczema

By: Dr. Mark Becker

Barrier creams are non-steroidal medications that are applied to the skin for the treatment of atopic dermatitis, eczema, hand dermatitis and other inflammatory skin conditions (dermatoses).

Barrier creams help to protect and heal the skin, and stop the itch-scratch cycle that can lead to flares.

There are several brands of barrier creams that are available by prescription-only. These include:

  • MimyX® (N-palmitoyl ethanolamine, referred to as PEA). PEA is a naturally occurring essential fatty acid with anti-inflammatory properties that usually is deficient in patients with atopic dermatitis.
  • Atopiclair®  (hydrolipidic cream, 2% glycyrrhetinic acid).
  • EpiCeram® (ceramide-based cream)
  • Ceratopic® (ceramide-based cream)
  • HylatopicPlus® (ceramics, hyaluronic acid)

How are barrier creams used?

Barrier creams are frequently used alone to reduce the use of topical corticosteroids or calcineurin inhibitors. They may be prescribed for long-term use to provide maintenance therapy of the skin and prolong the time between flares.

Barrier creams may also be used in combination with other medications, such as topical corticosteroids, to shorten the duration of illness.

Barrier creams have an excellent safety profile and there is no age restriction on their use. And, unlike topical corticosteroids, they can be used as long as needed on any part of the body including the face, eyelids, underarm, inner elbow, inner knee, and groin.

How do barrier creams work?

Skin that is affected by atopic dermatitis functions differently from normal skin. It has a damaged upper layer (stratum corneum) that makes it more permeable to irritants and allergens and leads to increased water loss (evaporation) through the skin. Ceramides are the skin’s major water-retaining molecules. The amount of ceramides is also reduced in the skin of people with atopic dermatitis.

These barrier creams help reduce water loss and protect the skin from irritants. As a result, they support skin healing and prolong the time between flares of atopic dermatitis.