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Allergic eczema is a chronic skin disorder that results in itching, redness, darkening, cracking, thickening and scaling of the skin. The cause can be an allergic reaction to a chemical where it contacts the skin or an associated feature of food or environmental allergies. A prominent characteristic of allergic eczema is disruption of the normal skin barrier. Breakdown of the protective surface of the skin causes allergens to penetrate, resulting in inflammation of the skin. It is debated whether skin barrier dysfunction is the cause or the effect of eczema. In either event, restoration of the normal skin barrier is a foundation of eczema therapy. Moisturizers not only have a beneficial cosmetic use on normal skin but also have a vital medicinal effect on eczema. There are a myriad number of moisturizers to choose from, including some newer formulas available only by prescription. Excellent moisturizers have several ingredients that perform specialized functions. Occlusives work by blocking evaporation from the skin. The gold standard, possibly the most effective and least expensive is simple petrolatum, also known as Vaseline. After immersing the skin in water, an occlusive ointment is applied to seal the skin, preventing evaporation and keeping the skin well hydrated. Lanolin waxy substance produced by the skin of sheep and dimethicone function in the same way. Substances that absorb moisture are called humectants. Hyaluronic acid is a normal component of skin that is lost in eczema and with aging. It can absorb many times its weight in water, drawing water back into the skin restoring depth and resilience. Urea, which is a natural substance in our bodies, is not found in high amounts in the skin, but is similar to hyaluronic acid in soaking up environmental moisture and drawing it into the skin. Restoration of depleted skin components may also improve eczema. Fatty substances that are diminished in chronic eczema include fatty acids, cholesterol and ceramides. Several new moisturizers with these components are available only by prescription. Studies have shown that they are as effective as low-intermediated strength topical steroids. With a spotlight on allergy, it is important to find moisturizers that are free of dyes, parabens, fragrances and formaldehyde releasing preservatives. These are some of the most common causes of contact allergy. Also, be aware that moisturizers promoted as anti-aging have sunscreens, many of which are contact allergens. Your allergist is uniquely trained to find the cause of your eczema and select proper treatment.