Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is an inflammation of the outer layers of the skin. This inflammation leads to a painful red, itchy, and scaly rash that can cause breaks in the skin. It is a common condition in children that they may outgrow or may continue into adulthood. Although the exact reason is unclear, eczema is believed to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
Researchers from Japan wanted to examine whether using a daily skin moisturizer could decrease the risk of eczema in newborns with high risk of developing eczema. The trial, published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, found that the daily application of moisturizer for newborns reduced the development of eczema in these infants.
This randomized trial included 118 1-week old newborns with a parent or sibling with eczema. The newborns were randomly assigned to a group that received a daily application of an emulsion-type moisturizer or a control group for 32 weeks. Skin health was measured by a blinded dermatologist at 4, 12, 24, and 32 weeks of life.
After the trial, the study concluded that participants who received daily moisturizer maintained intact skin for a significantly longer period of time than the control group. By 32 weeks of life, 32% fewer infants that received moisturizer had eczema compared to infants in the control group. Two of the participants in the control group accidentally received and used the intervention and were reclassified into the control group. During the trial, eight families withdrew and a dermatologist withdrew an infant from the study due to an unrelated skin issue.
A randomized trial is considered the most reliable form of research. Researchers can manage many of the factors that can affect the outcome and have a group to compare treatment to nontreatment outcomes. Certain factors in the design and execution of the study can affect the reliability of the outcomes. In this study, there were some changes in the group assignment and the parents were aware of who had treatments and who didn't which may have affected how they care for their child. These factors may affect the outcome.
More studies will need to be done to determine if the moisturizer is truly effective at preventing some eczema. If you have a family history of eczema, talk to your newborn's doctor about what steps may help reduce your newborn's risk.
American College of Allergies, Asthma, and Immunology
National Eczema Association
Atopic dermatitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated July 25, 2014. Accessed November 6, 2014.
Eczema: How to help your child avoid the itch. Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics website. Available at: http://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/skin/Pages/Eczema.aspx. Updated March 31, 2014. Accessed November 6, 2014.
Horimukai K, Morita K, et al. Application of moisturizer to neonates prevents development of atopic dermatitis. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2014 Oct;134(4):824-830.
Infants and toddlers. National Eczema Association website. Available at: http://nationaleczema.org/eczema/child-eczema/infants-toddlers/. Accessed November 6, 2014.
Last reviewed November 2014 by Michael Woods, MD