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Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen MartinReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 2 minutes read

Emollients are moisturizing treatments applied directly to the skin to soothe and hydrate the skin. They cover the skin with a protective film to trap moisture and protect the skin. Emollients are often used to help manage dry, itchy or scaly skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. They are available as creams, ointments, lotions, gels and sprays. Some emollients can also be used as soap substitutes in the bath or shower.  All emollients are safe for babies, the elderly and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Doctor’s advice

Can emollients be prescribed?

All emollients are available to buy over-the-counter, but your doctor can recommend one depending on your condition. 

Always make sure you apply emollients as many times as possible, and at least 2-3 times a day. If you’re applying steroid creams too, be sure to apply the emollient first to make the skin supple and ready for other treatments.

Which emollient should I start with?

  • Examples of light emollients include E45, Aveeno, and Aqueous cream.

  • Creamier emollients include Diprobase, Cetraben and Oilatum.

  • Greasy creams include Epaderm and Hydromol.

Which emollient you start with depends on the severity of your skin condition and what you’ve already tried, so it can be worthwhile starting with lighter emollients and working your way towards greasier creams, as required, in a step-wise approach.

Pharmacist recommended products

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What are examples of emollient creams?

Examples of emollient creams that you can buy or can be prescribed are Diprobase cream, Zerobase cream, Cetraben cream and ointment, Doublebase gel, Aveeno cream and lotion, and Hydromol ointment. These are just a few examples, the list is long, and it often involves trial and error to find the right emollient for you.

Safety advice when using emollients

It’s very important to keep away from fire, flames and cigarettes when using all types of emollients (both paraffin-based and paraffin-free) because dressings, clothing and bedding that have been in contact with an emollient can easily catch fire. Although washing fabrics at high temperatures may reduce the build-up of an emollient, it doesn’t remove it completely.

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Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed on 19.10.2023
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