Mild to moderate eczema sufferers who are looking for a cost-effective way to control and heal this skin condition without a prescription now have a new option to consider. A new study in the March 2009 issue of the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology finds that an over-the-counter moisturizer, Albolene(R) Moisturizing Cleanser is just as efficacious as a leading prescription moisturizer, Mimyx(R) in the reduction of dryness, scaling and itching related to mild to moderate eczema.
“It was very interesting to see that an over-the-counter moisturizing formulation that has been around for more than 100 years, was equally as efficacious as a more modern prescription moisturizing cream for the treatment of mild and moderate eczema,” says Zoe Diana Draelos, M.D., dermatologist and lead researcher/author of the study. “These results show that some over-the-counter moisturizers should be looked at more closely since they are proving to be effective ‘cosmeceuticals,’ helping to create real, physical changes in the skin.” This opens up opportunities to larger populations of sufferers of certain skin issues who have limited access to dermatologists or, even, prescription medications, she adds.
Eczema is one of the most common conditions that results in dermatologic visits, particularly for children. Most of the skin damage associated with eczema is not from the condition, itself, but comes as a result of the scratching due to the itchiness and irritation. Additionally, eczema is also a condition that returns if the skin is not cared for properly on a regular basis, so sufferers can help reduce the risk of flare-ups by keeping the skin moisturized, which means trapping the natural moisture in the skin thereby decreasing transepidermal water loss (TEWL).
Many common, over-the-counter skin moisturizers are now water-based to make them lighter to apply and easy to absorb by the skin, but this water content within the product doesn’t actually penetrate the skin’s deeper layers and cannot moisturize the skin.
“Water-based moisturizers cannot add water to the skin, and, ironically, can actually serve to dry out the skin further in some people because the continual wetting/evaporation of moisture from the surface of the skin produces skin damage,” explains Dr. Draelos. “Moisturizers that reduce TEWL are those that occlude, or trap, moisture in the skin due to their more oily ingredients, such as mineral oil, petrolatum and paraffin.” These types of moisturizers are great for the tens of millions of people with dry skin issues, like eczema, she adds.
The objective of this investigator-blinded study was to determine if there would be similarities in the improvement of eczema using either Albolene(R) Moisturizing Cleanser, available over the counter at stores nationwide, and prescription Mimyx(R) for the treatment of mild and moderate eczema (both topical products were combined with use of a 0.1% triamcinolone cream for moderate eczema and used alone for mild eczema). Fifty-nine/sixty (59/60) subjects who completed the four-week study were randomly assigned based on whether their eczema was mild or moderate, and used each of the test products on either one arm or one leg.
Their eczema was rated in terms of erythema, desquamation, lichenification, excoriation, stinging, itching, and overall assessment on a scale by both the patient and the investigator. “After assessing the subjects at weeks one, two and four, there was improvement in both groups; however, there were no statistically significant differences between the subjects using the OTC formulation or the prescription moisturizer,” adds Dr. Draelos. “In fact, the longitudinal assessment also found that both products induced resolution of the mild or moderate eczema by the end of the four-week study.”
The individual subjects also felt that Albolene and Mimyx performed comparably in terms of the healing of the eczema, when evaluating the redness, peeling, dryness, stinging, itching and overall assessment.
Albolene costs less than $10 for a 12-ounce jar versus the $100 or more for a small tube of Mimyx, yet each has been proven to garner the same results for mild and moderate eczema in use over a four-week period.
Patients should ascertain that the skin issue is actually eczema. “If the skin issue does not seem to resolve itself within two weeks, further medical evaluation is necessary to rule out other skin conditions that may require prescription therapy,” advises Dr. Draelos.