Affordable moisturisers are effective in atopic eczema: A randomised controlled trial

  • C Hlela
  • N Lunjani
  • F Gumedze
  • B Kakande
  • NP Khumalo


Background. Many patients depend on moisturisers issued by public health services in the management of atopic dermatitis (AD).
Methods. In a randomised controlled trial of patients with mild to moderate AD, aged 1 - 12 years, study 1 compared aqueous cream v. liquid paraffin (fragrance-free baby oil) as a soap substitute, all patients using emulsifying ointment as moisturiser, and study 2 compared four moisturisers, emulsifying ointment, cetomacrogol, white petroleum jelly and glycerine/petroleum (proportion 1:2; ‘the 1:2  moisturiser’), all using fragrance-free baby oil as soap substitute. Assessments were one quality of life and three AD severity scores, at baseline and weeks 4, 8 and 12. Differences were compared using repeated measures of analysis of variance.
Results. In both studies (120 children randomised, 20 in each group of the two trials) disease severity scores declined with time. The only significant difference was in one AD severity score (SCORing Atopic Dermatitis) in study 1, both at baseline and over time (p=0.042 and p=0.022). The groups did not differ with regard to topical steroid use or side-effects. Itching from baby oil applied as soap was reported by four patients in the two studies, the petroleum jelly group had more dropouts than the 1:2 moisturiser group, although this was not statistically significant, and 110 patients (91.7%) completed the trial.
Conclusions. The small sample limits generalisability, but the duration was longer than in most AD moisturiser studies. Fragrance-free baby oil as a soap substitute may be better tolerated (if irritation occurs) as a bath additive. The 1:2 moisturiser may be preferable to white petroleum jelly, but both are equivalent to cetomacrogol and emulsifying ointment. Use of accessible moisturisers could reduce the cost of managing mild to moderate AD.

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2078-5135
print ISSN: 0256-9574