Petroleum jelly is often used to treat eczema due to its ability to gently hydrate, moisturize, and heal injured skin. The ointment provides a thick protective layer to sensitive skin, which helps relieve itchiness, flakiness, and inflammation.
Read on to learn more about how petroleum jelly treats eczema, how to use it, and the potential side effects. You’ll also learn about some other natural treatment options.
The main ingredient of petroleum jelly is petroleum, which creates a protective barrier that helps your skin to retain moisture and heal. Petroleum jelly is hypoallergenic and has anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and antifungal properties, making it a viable option to prevent and manage eczema symptoms.
Eczema can cause broken skin, making it easier for irritants, allergens, and microbes to penetrate your skin barrier. This leaves your skin vulnerable to irritation, allergic reactions, and infection.
Petroleum jelly strengthens and repairs your skin barrier, which improves skin texture and appearance. Its thick consistency protects your skin and seals in moisture.
Moisturized skin also prevents scab formation, which speeds up wound healing. Plus, it may reduce itchiness, which can help you to scratch less.
Petroleum jelly is well tolerated and works well for sensitive skin, which makes it an ideal treatment for eczema flare-ups. Unlike some products that can sting and cause discomfort, petroleum jelly has moisturizing and soothing properties that alleviate irritation, redness, and discomfort.
To prevent eczema flare-ups, you must keep your skin moisturized.
According to a 2017 study, daily full-body use of a moisturizer such as petroleum jelly can help prevent atopic dermatitis flare-ups. In the study, petroleum jelly was applied to newborn babies daily for 6 months. It proved to be the most cost-effective moisturizer of the seven products studied.
You can use petroleum jelly to prevent and treat eczema flare-ups.
To lock in hydration, apply the ointment directly after a shower or bath while your skin is still damp. You can use petroleum jelly on its own or mix it with a moisturizer. If you don’t want to apply it to your whole body, you can just use it on the most irritated or sensitive areas.
Wet wrap therapy helps to seal in moisture and prevent irritants, allergens, and microbes from entering broken skin. It also helps prevent itching, scratching, and picking.
Here are the steps for wet wrap therapy:
- Moisten a gauze or cotton fabric with warm water until slightly damp.
- Cover the affected area with the dressing.
- Wrap a dry dressing over the wet dressing, such as gloves or socks for your hands and feet, or some type of cotton fabric, food-grade plastic wrap, or vinyl gloves.
- Leave the dressings on for a few hours or overnight.
While petroleum jelly offers many skin care benefits and is generally well tolerated, there are a few potential side effects to consider.
Allergic reactions to petroleum-derived products are possible, especially if you have sensitive skin. The first time you use petroleum jelly or any skin care product to treat eczema, do a skin patch test to check for adverse reactions.
To do a skin patch test:
- Apply petroleum jelly to a small patch of skin.
- Cover the area with gauze and keep it dry.
- If you experience any rash, irritation, or discomfort, remove the gauze and wash your skin.
- If you don’t develop any negative reactions within 24 hours, it’s likely safe for you to use petroleum jelly.
Petroleum jelly creates a protective barrier that locks in moisture, but it can trap microbes, oil, and irritants, leading to infection.
Petroleum jelly can also clog pores and cause breakouts.
To help prevent infection and breakouts, clean and dry your hands and the skin where it’s going to be applied before using the ointment. If you’re prone to acne, don’t put it on your face.
To prevent bacterial contamination, avoid dipping your fingers into the petroleum jelly jar. Use a disposable or sanitized spatula to scoop the product from the container.
There are lots of other natural options you can use to treat eczema flare-ups. You can experiment with different treatments to find the best one or combine several treatments.
Natural ways to treat eczema include:
- Colloidal oatmeal. Soaking in a lukewarm colloidal oatmeal bath may help soften and calm irritated skin.
- Evening primrose oil. Evening primrose soothes and moisturizes inflamed skin. Internal use may help to reduce inflammation. Talk with a healthcare professional first if you’re considering internal use of the oil.
- Coconut oil. Virgin or cold-pressed coconut oil may soothe and moisturize irritated skin. It has antibacterial properties that help to prevent infection, plus it may help reduce pain and inflammation.
- Sunflower oil. Sunflower oil strengthens your skin barrier to seal in moisture and protect against bacteria. It also improves skin hydration and alleviates itching and inflammation.
- Aloe vera. Aloe vera reduces inflammation and prevents bacterial and fungal growth, which is beneficial for irritated, broken skin. It may also promote skin growth and healing.
- Witch hazel. This soothing astringent calms inflammation, dries fluid, and relieves itching. Choose a witch hazel free of alcohol and additives.
- Apple cider vinegar. Apple cider vinegar may help to relieve inflammation, soothe skin, and prevent infection. You can use it as a moisturizer, facial toner, or hair oil. You can also add it to a warm bath or wet wrap.
- Calendula cream. Calendula cream may boost blood flow to inflamed skin, hydrate skin, and prevent infection.
- Acupuncture and acupressure. Both treatments may help soothe skin and relieve redness and itchiness.
- Relaxation techniques. Using relaxation techniques to manage stress may help prevent inflammation and flare-ups. Options include meditation, music therapy, and breathing exercises.
Petroleum jelly is an effective and cost-efficient treatment option to prevent and manage eczema flare-ups. It offers healing benefits that protect, moisturize, and soothe irritated skin. When purchasing petroleum jelly, read the label carefully to make sure it’s free of additives.
Reach out to a healthcare professional if you experience any negative reactions after using petroleum jelly to treat eczema or if your condition does not improve or worsens over time.