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Best face cream for eczema 2023: Nourish chapped, cracked and irritated skin

Soothe and nourish parched, flaky skin on the face and body with these moisturisers for very dry and eczema-prone skin

A facial moisturiser is an essential part of any skincare routine – and if your skin tends to feel dry and tight after washing, you’ll know that a decent moisturiser can be invaluable for keeping skin soft and comfortable. 

For those who suffer very dry skin that’s prone to chapping and cracking – perhaps owing to a skin condition such as eczema, environmental factors or medications – then a specialist emollient cream is essential to heal, moisturise and protect the skin’s own natural barrier to prevent further damage. 

Products designed for very dry and damaged skin contain ingredients that seal in moisture and nourish the skin from within. They also form a protective barrier over dry and delicate skin, and can help dry and cracked skin to repair itself over time, while also reducing itchiness and sensitivity.

Below, we round up some of the best facial moisturisers for very dry skin; but first we run through the causes of dry skin, and how you go about picking the best moisturiser for you.

READ NEXT: The best hydrating serums

Best face creams for eczema: At a glance

How to choose the best face cream for very dry and eczema-prone skin

What causes dry skin?

Characterised by a feeling of tightness, visible flakes or scales, and sometimes soreness and cracks in the skin, dry skin tends to release water into the atmosphere more quickly than normal. Skin on both the face and body also tends to become dryer as it ages, since the body’s production of natural oils slows down, while inherited skin conditions such as eczema and dermatitis can cause patches of dry skin across the face, particularly on the cheeks and chin or around the lips and eyelids. 

Certain medications (such as antihistamines and medicines to treat high blood pressure or cholesterol) can result in temporary dryness, flaking and itchiness. You may also find you experience dryer skin at certain times of the year; in particular, in winter, when the central heating is on more often; or in summer, as a result of air conditioning. 

To care for dry skin, avoid harsh detergents and hot baths or showers, which can strip your skin’s natural moisture. Apply a moisturiser throughout the day, especially after bathing, showering or swimming. Hydrate from the inside as well – drinking plenty of water will help keep dry skin replenished.

What ingredients should my moisturiser for dry skin contain?

Facial moisturisers made for very dry skin will contain a higher proportion of emollient oils and butters to nourish and soften the skin. They’re usually thicker than a typical face cream or lotion, and take a little longer to fully absorb into skin. 

If your dry skin is cracked and damaged, you may want to look for skincare ingredients such as vitamin E, an antioxidant that helps reduce inflammation and irritation so that your skin can repair itself. Shea butter, squalene and oatmeal are all natural emollients that you’ll often find in moisturisers for very dry skin; oatmeal is also an excellent anti-inflammatory, useful for treating inflamed and irritated skin. Occlusive ingredients such as jojoba oil, lanolin and petrolatum help to seal in the moisture and prevent it escaping into the air, so that the emollients can do their work. 

Steroid creams (such as hydrocortisone) are used for the treatment of eczema, and should only be used under the direction of a doctor. Non-steroid emollient creams can be very useful in the treatment of eczema and dermatitis, in between or in addition to prescribed treatment courses. Zinc cream can be good for treating skin that’s already chapped or cracked. 

Those with sensitive skins should avoid products with artificial fragrances; you might also prefer to avoid parabens. These are preservatives that are often used in skincare products to prevent bacteria growth, but parabens such as ethylparaben and propylparaben have been associated with skin irritation, so if your skin is already inflamed then you might want to steer clear. We’ve noted below where products are paraben-free.

How should I apply my facial moisturiser?

Apply your facial moisturiser in the morning, at night, and as many times as you need to throughout the day to keep your dry skin feeling comfortable. If your skin is very dry in a particular area, such as around the mouth, you may need to apply your face cream after eating and drinking to keep the protective skin barrier intact. Carry your cream with you so you can reapply regularly if the weather is very hot, cold or windy (which can cause chapped skin), or if you’re in an environment with dry air, such as a centrally heated or air-conditioned building.

Apply a generous amount of cream or ointment and rub in well, paying particular attention to very dry areas of the face. Some creams and ointments take a while to sink in or leave a slight white “cast” for a few minutes after applying, so you’ll want to allow a few minutes for your cream to be absorbed before applying makeup. At the other end of the day, a good dollop of your favourite cream before bed will help damaged skin to soften and repair overnight. 

How we test face creams for eczema

At Expert Reviews, we know that hands-on testing provides readers with the most complete information about a product. As such, we personally test all of the face creams for eczema that feature in the roundup below on our own, dry and eczema-prone skin, following the directions on the packaging.

We use the creams as directed for one week and note the results on skin texture and comfort, as well as any additional benefits such as improved softness, firmness and reduced itchiness. We consider a product’s feel in use and its smell, how quickly the formula sinks into the skin, and any greasiness above and beyond what can be reasonably expected of an emollient product. We note how the skin feels immediately after use (or the following morning, in the case of products designed for overnight use), and the effects on skin hydration and comfort with repeated use.

READ NEXT: The best cleanser for dry skin

Best face creams for eczema you can buy in 2023

1. La Roche-Posay Cicaplast B5 Soothing Face and Body Balm: Best for soothing rough and irritated dry skin

Price: £14 | Buy now from Look Fantastic

La Roche-Posay’s Cicaplast range is formulated with shea butter and vitamin B5 (panthenol) to help calm and heal irritated skin. Dermotalogically tested, this soothing balm is excellent for use on dry patches, chapped, cracked and inflamed skin, insect bites and rashes. Cicaplast is also free of fragrance and hypoallergenic, making it suitable for use on even the most sensitive skins, including babies from one week old. 

The rich formula contains a small amount of zinc – a mineral whose antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties promote healing of cracked and weeping skin. This also means the cream leaves a slight white colour on the skin, so you’ll need to give it a couple of minutes to absorb.  

Key details – Skin type: Very dry, chapped or eczema-prone; Size: 100ml; Paraben-free? Yes

Buy now from Look Fantastic

2. Epaderm Cream: Best for softening very dry skin

Price: £3.50 | Buy now from Superdrug

Epaderm Cream is a rich cream containing glycerin and paraffin to moisturise and soften very dry skin. It’s excellent for dry skins that become easily dehydrated or are suffering from winter weather. Fragrance- and colour-free, it’s suitable for all skin types, including sensitive and baby skins. 

Epaderm can also be used as a skin cleanser – simply apply when washing the face or body and rinse off for a moisturising cleanse that won’t disrupt the skin’s natural protective barrier. It also works well after washing or swimming, and can be used all over the face and body. The emollient formula will feel slightly heavy and greasy on normal or oily skin, but for very dry skin this is a deeply moisturising skin saver at an excellent price. 

Key details – Skin type: Very dry skin; Size: 50g; Paraben-free? Yes

Buy now from Superdrug

3. Boots Dermacare Eczema Treatment Cream: Best steroid-free treatment for eczema 

Price: £10 | Buy now from Boots

Developed as a steroid-free alternative to protect and heal dry, cracked and flaking skin, Boots Dermacare is a non-greasy cream that helps to relieve skin irritation associated with eczema and other dry skin conditions. The active ingredient is Ectoin, a natural molecule that helps maintain the correct water balance within skin, helping to improve the skin’s moisture content and comfort. 

The cream also contains protective ceramides, moisturising shea butter, squalene and glycerine, and soothing rice bran to calm irritation. Free of fragrance and parabens, the formula is suitable for all skin types, including babies from one month old. Particularly useful for eczema-prone skin, Dermacare is suitable for dry skin on the body, hands and face. 

Key details – Skin type: Very dry or eczema-prone; Size: 30ml; Paraben-free? Yes

Buy now from Boots

4. Aveeno Calm+Restore Oat Gel Moisturiser: Best daily moisturising cream for very dry skin

Price: £12 | Buy now from Boots

Aveeno’s lightweight gel moisturiser for the face combines the brand’s signature prebiotic oatmeal complex with calming feverfew, together with moisturising glycerin and beeswax. A natural antioxidant and anti-inflammatory ingredient, oatmeal helps to calm itching and flare-ups that result from eczema or other dry skin conditions, as well as repairing the skin’s barrier and improving overall skin health.

Aveeno’s fast-absorbing, lightweight gel formula sinks quickly into the face, leaving skin feeling fresh, hydrated and soothed. The cream is fragrance-free and dermatologist-tested, and suitable for use morning and night. In fact, since it contains occlusive ingredients that seal in moisture, a good layer of Calm+Restore will help soften skin overnight. An excellent choice for very dry, sensitive and itchy skin.

Key specs – Skin type: Very dry or eczema-prone; Pack size: 50ml; Paraben-free? Yes

Buy now from Boots

5. Aquaphor Advanced Therapy Healing Ointment: Best for dry and cracked skin

Price: £14 | Buy now from iHerb

Aquaphor’s dermatologist-recommended formula with lanolin and petrolatum helps repair dry and cracked skin, boost the skin’s barrier and lock in moisture. The ointment also contains vitamin B5 to help promote the skin’s own healing process. Great for chapped winter skin or for repairing cracks and minor cuts and burns, this no-frills formula moisturises deeply and protects against further damage.  

Aquaphor Healing Ointment is fragrance- and preservative-free and suitable for all skin types, including sensitive skins. It’s a great product for treating eczema flare-ups or dryness related to medications, and it’s also very good for healing chapped lips and other areas of roughness or dryness.

Key details – Skin type: Dry to extremely dry, eczema-prone; Pack size: 99g; Paraben-free? Yes

Buy now from iHerb

6. E45 Face Moisturiser: Best non-greasy face moisturiser for dry and sensitive skin

Price: £10 | Buy now from Superdrug

If you suffer from dry or eczema-prone skin, then you’ll probably already be aware of the E45 range. E45’s no-frills but highly effective range of products formulated to relieve dry skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis has been the go-to for those with very dry skins since the 1950s, and this recently launched moisturising face cream is a godsend for parched skins. 

Designed specifically for the face, this moisturising cream is fast-absorbing and sinks well into the skin without leaving a greasy residue. Softening glycerin and nourishing shea butter, together with jojoba seed oil, leave skin feeling supple and hydrated all day. Used daily, the cream improves the strength of the skin’s own barrier, helping it retain moisture more effectively for long-lasting softness. A great-value cream for very dry skins. 

Key details – Skin type: Dry to very dry, eczema-prone; Pack size: 50ml; Paraben-free? Yes

Buy now from Superdrug

7. Eucerin AtoControl Face Cream: Best eczema cream for the face

Price: £16 | Buy now from Boots

Eucerin’s AtoControl range is designed with very dry skin in mind – particularly those with a damaged skin barrier, which results in redness, irritation and scaly patches. AtoControl Face Cream contains natural emollient oils of evening primrose and grape seed, together with liquorice extract to soothe and repair the skin. 

Free of fragrance and parabens, this cream is also suitable for use on sensitive skins, including babies and children. Skin feels soft and smooth after use, and redness and itching is reduced. Ideal for use on eczema-prone skin, this is a great daily moisturiser for very dry skins, especially those that tend to redness and flaking. 

Key details – Skin type: Dry to very dry, eczema-prone; Pack size: 50ml; Paraben-free? Yes

Buy now from Boots

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