A happy woman shows off her hands and arms which are free of eczema

Eczema Treatment

Request prescription eczema treatments to effectively manage your symptoms and reduce flare-ups.

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    Request treatment easily without any face-to-face appointments

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    Effective treatment to manage eczema and prevent flare ups

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    Free delivery as standard

Available from £30.00
About this service

Eczema is a common skin condition that can cause itchy, inflamed and irritated skin. People who have eczema will often have times where symptoms get worse (flare-ups). Finding the right treatment can help soothe these flare-ups, giving relief from being itchy and sore. Eczema cream comes in 2 main types: emollients and topical corticosteroids.

If you’re not sure if you have eczema, you can get a quick diagnosis with our photo diagnosis service without booking an appointment or leaving your home.

Dr Louisa Draper

Medically reviewed by

Dr Louisa Draper

Last reviewed: 12 Jul 2021

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How it Works

About Eczema

What is eczema?

Eczema is a non-contagious (does not spread from person to person) skin condition that can cause the skin to become inflamed and itchy. The most common form, known as atopic eczema, affects 1 in 10 adults and 1 in 5 children in the UK. Eczema is different for every person, so knowing what type of eczema you have can help when finding treatment.

What causes eczema?

Eczema can be caused by a variety of factors, such as genetics and skin type. If one or both of your parents have eczema, you are more likely to develop symptoms yourself. While the cause of eczema may not be known, there are certain things that may trigger your symptoms.

These include:

  • allergens or environmental factors like pollen, pet fur, foods, and weather changes
  • materials that come into contact with the skin, like fabrics
  • irritants like perfumed soaps, detergents, and bubble bath
  • skin infections
  • hormonal changes such as pregnancy or periods

What are the symptoms of eczema?

When looking at the symptoms of eczema, it is important to note that eczema is different for everyone. Eczema can show on any area of the body at different times, but most commonly affects the insides of the elbows and the backs of the knees, the hands, the face and the scalp. The most common symptom is itchy skin, which can get worse if you continue to scratch the area.

Other symptoms may include:

  • discoloured, inflamed skin
  • swelling
  • dry skin
  • crusty or oozing skin
  • scaly, rough patches of skin

What does eczema look like?

Eczema can look different each day and will look worse during flare-ups. The skin may look inflamed and in some cases the skin can crack, producing clear fluid (known as weeping). The skin can look scaly and flaky, which can be mistaken for dry skin. Some types of eczema cause a blistering effect or changes in skin colour.

What is eczema cream?

Eczema cream is the name for a number of different medicated creams or moisturisers, which are made to help treat the symptoms of eczema when used on the affected areas of skin.

Why does eczema cream help?

Eczema cream helps as it can reduce the symptoms of eczema, reducing itching, dryness, swelling, and redness or other skin colour changes. They are helpful during flare-ups, where it may be harder to stop yourself from itching. Using some eczema creams daily will also reduce the number of flare-ups you get.

What types of eczema cream are there?

Eczema can be treated with two main types of cream: emollients (moisturising treatments which soothes the skin) and topical corticosteroids. Depending on how severe your eczema is, these creams can be used alongside each other, to reduce symptoms and prevent flare-ups. If your eczema is less severe, you may only need emollients.

How emollients work

Emollients should be applied on a daily basis and are used to prevent dry skin, which will make eczema symptoms worse. The benefit of using an emollient is that it can be used as often as needed, ideally 3 to 4 times a day. Emollients work by providing moisture, which prevents inflammation and flare-ups, and soothes the symptoms when they happen.

Types of emollients

There are several different types and brands of emollients, which all work to soothe and heal the skin.

  • Aveeno lotion is used as required and is applied directly to dry areas of the skin. It works by moisturising these areas with soothing ingredients, such as oatmeal. Regular use can prevent irritation and dryness and is effective in preventing eczema flare-ups.
  • Cetraben cream is an effective solution to eczema and was the first skin care range approved by the British Skin Foundation. It locks in moisture and repairs the skin barrier, protecting against eczema triggers and moisture loss. Cetraben can be used as needed on dry, itchy skin.

How topical corticosteroids work

Topical corticosteroids are moisturisers that contain a steroid, used directly on affected areas of skin. Steroids reduce inflammation of the skin, which can reduce redness, swelling, and itching during flare-ups. These are used sparingly and as instructed on the packet, or by a healthcare professional, as they can have side effects if used too much.

Types of topical corticosteroids

  • Hydrocortisone cream can offer effective relief from itching, irritation and inflammation caused by eczema flare-ups. This is used sparingly, 1 to 2 times a day for a maximum of 1 week.
  • Eumovate cream is a suitable treatment for short term use of eczema flare-ups. This is used sparingly, 2 times daily to the affected areas of the skin, for up to 7 days.

Both of these creams also come in ointment form.

What is the best eczema cream?

Each eczema treatment has its own benefits. Creams are more effective for eczema that is weepy and moist. Ointments are greasier and thicker than creams, making them better for those with dry, flaky areas of eczema.

Emollients are best for dry, itchy skin that needs some added moisture. If you have sensitive skin, Aveeno lotion contains natural ingredients and is great for everyday use. Cetraben cream works better for those with very dry skin, as creams are slightly thicker and last longer than lotions.

During flare-ups, hydrocortisone cream is effective as a mild strength steroid treatment. Eumovate cream is a moderate steroid treatment and may work better if your flare-up is more serious, but you need to be assessed by a doctor.

If you have never used eczema cream before, or don’t know which one you need, our doctors can recommend and prescribe the best treatment for you.

How do you use eczema cream?

Typically, emollients are used as often as needed, whereas topical corticosteroids are used during flare-ups, 1 to 2 times daily for 7 days maximum. Emollients are used all over the body, whereas topical corticosteroids should only be used on the area of the flare-up, and never on the face.

How often should I use eczema cream?

If you have eczema, eczema creams should be used as part of your daily skincare routine. Emollients should be used daily and there is no limit to how much these can be used. Topical corticosteroids should only be used during flare-ups, 1 to 2 times a day for up to 5 or 7 days, depending on which part of the body is affected. After this, speak to your doctor if your flare-up is not improving.

When should I use emollients?

Emollients are used during the day to provide moisture when you need it most. You can use them whenever your skin feels tight or dry, especially after showering, swimming, or exercising. Emollients are most effective after bathing or washing your hands, as your skin needs the most moisture after this. You should apply emollients straight after patting your skin dry.

When should I use topical corticosteroids?

Topical corticosteroids are usually prescribed to treat an eczema flare-up. You will then apply it for a short amount of time (up to 7 days) to reduce the flare-up. Try to leave 8 to 12 hours between doses. You should not use it if your skin is infected or if you have open sores. You should only use on sensitive areas of skin, like the face, if advised to do so by your doctor, and then only using a mild corticosteroid, for a maximum of 5 days.

How should I apply eczema cream to my skin?

Emollients should be smoothed gently over the skin, in the same direction that your hair grows. This prevents the hair follicles (where your hair grows) from blockages. Put on as much as needed to reduce dryness but avoid using too much, as this can cause you to feel greasy and sticky all day. These can be used all over the body.

Topical corticosteroids should always be applied to the skin in small amounts (often called fingertip units) and only to affected areas. Fingertip units (FTU’s) are measured on an adult finger. One fingertip unit is a single line of the cream that runs from the tip of the finger to the first crease on the finger. Ask your healthcare professional for further advice on this.

When using both emollients and topical corticosteroids, always apply an emollient first and leave it to dry for around 30 minutes before applying a topical corticosteroid.

Where can I get eczema cream?

Many emollients can be bought easily in supermarkets, pharmacies, or over the counter. Topical corticosteroids usually need a prescription or consultation with a pharmacist, as they are medicated and should only be used during a flare-up, following medical advice.

Can I get eczema cream over the counter?

Yes, most emollients do not need a prescription as they can be applied often and are safe to do so, but most topical corticosteroids normally need a prescription, or to be bought after consultation with a pharmacist.

Can I buy prescription eczema cream online?

Yes, through trusted and regulated sellers like Superdrug Online Doctor. The process is easy and can be done via our website:

  1. Choose the treatment you think is best for your eczema. If you aren’t sure, you can complete an eczema treatment form.
  2. Fill in an easy, secure medical questionnaire. Here, you will be able to answer questions about your symptoms and upload photos of the affected areas.
  3. One of the doctors will then review your questionnaire and decide which treatment is best for you.
  4. Your prescription eczema cream can then be dispensed for you to collect in store at any Superdrug, delivered to your home address, or collected at your local Post Office.
  5. If you have any further questions, you can contact a doctor via your account at any time, for free.

Eczema treatment side effects

Emollients treatments rarely have side effects, such as burning or itching. You may experience this within the first few days of treatment but this should settle as the skin heals. Steroid creams can have more severe side effects if not used properly, especially if too much is used, or the strength is too high. Eczema treatment can cause allergic reactions in rare cases and you must stop treatment and call 111 (or 999 in severe cases) if you develop signs of an allergic reaction.

Emollients side effects

Most common side effects include:

  • burning or stinging sensation on the skin that doesn’t settle within a few days of use
  • inflamed or blocked hair follicles, which may cause boils on the skin
  • oozing, swelling, or redness

Less common side effects include:

  • signs of allergic reaction such as wheezing, rash, or blistering
  • bleeding (only if inappropriate for your skin)
  • fever

If you find an emollient is burning or itching the skin severely, rinse off and stop use.

Topical corticosteroids side effects

Topical corticosteroids should be used as prescribed and sparingly, as this reduces the risk of serious side effects.

Most common side effects include:

  • burning or stinging sensation on the skin that doesn’t settle within a few days of treatment
  • inflamed or blocked hair follicles, which may cause boils on the skin

Less common side effects include:

  • stretch marks
  • a skin infection getting worse
  • acne
  • changes to skin colour
  • rosacea, a skin condition in which the face becomes flushed and red
  • signs of allergic reaction such as wheezing, rash, or blistering
  • increased hair growth around the affected area
  • thinning of the skin, which can cause the skin to be damaged easily

Rare side effects include:

  • Cushing’s syndrome, a condition which is caused when you have too much of a hormone called cortisol in the body, due to taking too much of any steroid medication
  • reduced growth in children

If you find a topical corticosteroid is burning or itching the skin severely, rinse off and stop use.

For more information on eczema treatments, read the patient information leaflet provided with your medication, or ask our doctors for advice.


7 Types of Eczema: What Do Atopic Dermatitis and Other Eczema Types Look Like? (2019) Everyday Health [Accessed 6 June 2021]

Allergies (2018) NHS [Accessed 7 June 2021]

Atopic eczema (2019) NHS [Accessed 6 June 2021]

Cushing's syndrome (2021) NHS [Accessed 7 June 2021]

Emollients (2020) NHS [Accessed 6 June 2021]

Emollients topical Side Effects (2020) Drugs.com [Accessed 7 June 2021]

Hydrocortisone for skin (2020) NHS [Accessed 6 June 2021]

Topical corticosteroids (2019) National Eczema Society [Accessed 6 June 2021] 

Topical corticosteroids (2020) NHS [Accessed 6 June 2021]

What is eczema? (2021) National Eczema Society [Accessed 6 June 2021] 

Patient Reviews