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Emollients

Dr Roger Henderson
Reviewed by Roger HendersonReviewed on 29.04.2024 | 2 minutes read
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Emollients are moisturising 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 can come as cream, 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, but the GP can prescribe them depending on your condition. If you are using emollients for dry skin, then you will usually be asked to buy them. If you have eczema or psoriasis, they can be prescribed.

How do I apply the emollient?

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.

What are examples of emollient creams?

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

Which emollient should I start with?

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

Creamier emollients include: Diprobase, Cetraben and Oilatum.

Greasy creams include: Epaderm and Hydromol.

Very greasy: 50/50 liquid soft and white paraffin.

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.

##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. There have unfortunately been cases where someone has died from burns caused by this. 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 Roger Henderson
Reviewed by Roger Henderson
Reviewed on 29.04.2024
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