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Home » Dermatology » How to stop eczema’s vicious itch-scratch cycle

An emollient cream repairs the skin’s barrier and may provide instant relief to eczema patients. But to stop flare-ups, emollients must be used frequently and liberally.

The word ‘eczema’ is derived from a Greek word meaning ‘to boil over’. This is apt; it’s a good description of the red, inflamed, itchy patches that can occur on the skin with eczema flare-ups, be they mild, moderate or severe.

Actually, eczema isn’t just one condition: it’s the umbrella name for a group of skin complaints, which include atopic eczema and contact eczema (or dermatitis).

It’s very common; it can occur in both childhood or adult life, and its many and varied triggers may include food allergies, cold weather, and household irritants such as house dust, central heating and air-conditioning.

How emollient creams work to treat eczema

Managing the symptoms associated with eczema may be a challenge, particularly in children.

But it’s important to manage it well, because when inflamed skin is broken it becomes open to superficial skin infections.

So starts a vicious itchscratch cycle: the more external aggravators invade broken skin, the more inflamed and uncomfortable it becomes, and the greater the temptation to scratch it.

The key to effective management is repairing the integrity of the skin barrier with an emollient cream, like Ultrabase®.

With one application of an emollient you may feel a soothing relief from irritation — but you can’t stop using it at that point. In order to reap the benefits of an emollient, you must apply frequently and liberally. The more emollient you apply the more likely you will minimise the continuous itch-scratch cycle. Emollients like Ultrabase® lock in the moisture; leaving the skin feeling hydrated.

Frequent applications are necessary for optimum relief

It is important to use an emollient in a way that suits you and your lifestyle, so that doing so it becomes less of a chore.

Some emollients have a bland and clinical smell, but emollient cream Ultrabase® has a citrus-rose oil scent that makes it more enjoyable to use, while leaving your skin feeling rehydrated and refreshed.

Keeping your skin cool in the summer and protected all year round

In summer, it’s important to moisturise after sun exposure to avoid dry and dehydrated skin. But we shouldn’t forget that healthy skin maintenance is crucial throughout the year.

In the heat of the summer sun, our skin can suffer. We don’t even have to be doing serious sunbathing for it to feel rough and dehydrated.

And while it’s important to drink plenty of water to keep internally hydrated when the weather heats up, we have to look after the health of our skin from the outside.

Every skin type is susceptible to damage in the sun and while lighter skin tones are more at risk, those with darker tones aren’t immune.

So get a good sun block (factor 30 or above) and – this is the thing most people forget– make sure you moisturise regularly to maintain the integrity of your skin barrier.

Cooling and soothing benefits of a menthol in aqueous cream

An aqueous cream such as Menthoderm® contains a concentration of menthol, an ingredient that elicits a cooling sensation when applied topically and is known to alleviate symptoms of dry, itchy, irritated skin.

It’s free of Sodium Lauryl Sulfate which can aggravate certain skin conditions, including eczema, and is often used as an alternative to after sun lotions.

The menthol in aqueous cream leaves skin feeling rejuvenated, moisturised and refreshed, but it’s not just for use in summer.

Applying a cream such as Menthoderm® gives a cooling effect to alleviate itchy symptoms of obstetric cholestasis in pregnancy, Also, women going through the menopause can use it to soothe the surface of the skin, wherever they feel a hot flush; and it can be used to cool down heated skin during or after sporting activity.

In winter, central heating can have a drying effect on the surface of our skin and we can’t get away from it either, because heating is on in our cars and offices, too.

The constant flow of dry air – and other factors such as detergents and perfumes – can have a very drying effect on our skin. It’s important to always take care of it by moisturising.

The fact is that healthy skin maintenance is crucial throughout the year. It might not be so obvious, but our skin is under pressure even when the sun isn’t shining.

Ultrabase is available from all good pharmacies and

You can also find more information on the above products from

Ultrabase® is a white cream containing white soft paraffin 10% w/w. Uses: Ultrabase® is a moisturiser that can be used as an emollient. It can also be used to dilute dermatological preparations and as a vehicle for other dermatological medicines. Additionally, it may be alternated with topical corticosteroids when the latter are being gradually withdrawn, and may be continued alone after complete withdrawal of the topical corticosteroid. Dosage: The cream should be smoothed onto the skin as often as required. Contraindications: Hypersensitivity to any of the ingredients. Warnings and Precautions: Contains stearyl alcohol which may cause local skin reactions. Contains methyl parahydroxybenzoate and propyl parahydroxybenzoate which may cause allergic reactions. Instruct patients not to smoke or go near naked flames – risk of severe burns. Fabric (clothing, bedding, dressings etc) that has been in contact with this product burns more easily and is a serious fire hazard. Washing clothing and bedding may reduce product build-up but not totally remove it. Side Effects: Hypersensitivity skin reactions including erythema and pruritus have been reported. Package Quantities: 500g pump dispenser. Basic NHS Costs: £8.67 (500g). Legal Category: GSL. Marketing Authorisation Number: PL 19876/0014. Marketing Authorisation Holder: Derma UK Ltd, Toffee Factory, Ouseburn, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 2DF, UK. “Ultrabase” and “Derma UK” are registered Trade Marks. Date of Revision of Text: August 2019.Please refer to the full SPC text before prescribing this product. Adverse events should be reported. Reporting forms and information can be found at
Adverse events should also be reported to Derma UK on +44 (0)191 375 9020.

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