Childhood eczema cannot be prevented by daily moisturiser use, study finds

Using moisturisers on newborn babies does not prevent eczema as previously thought, according to a major new study.

The Barrier Enhancement for Eczema Prevention study (BEEP), which is published today in The Lancet, was led by experts from the School of Medicine at the University of Nottingham, with contributions from Imperial College London and the Universities of Bristol, Dundee, East Anglia, and Sheffield.

Eczema is a very common skin problem affecting around one in five children in the UK. Eczema usually starts in infancy, and a generally dry skin is often one of the first symptoms in babies who go on to develop the condition.

It is thought that a faulty skin barrier could be the first step in the development of eczema. Moisturisers improve skin barrier function by providing a covering to the outermost layer of skin and trapping in water.

The Barrier Enhancement for Eczema Prevention study (BEEP), which is published today in The Lancet, was led by experts from the School of Medicine at the University of Nottingham, with contributions from Imperial College London and the Universities of Bristol, Dundee, East Anglia, and Sheffield.

Eczema is a very common skin problem affecting around one in five children in the UK. Eczema usually starts in infancy, and a generally dry skin is often one of the first symptoms in babies who go on to develop the condition.

It is thought that a faulty skin barrier could be the first step in the development of eczema. Moisturisers improve skin barrier function by providing a covering to the outermost layer of skin and trapping in water.

Much progress has been made in recent years on the treatment of severe eczema, but the goal of preventing eczema from developing in the first place remains elusive. Other small studies suggested that moisturisers from birth might prevent eczema, and we were surprised when our large study showed no effect at all. Whilst this is disappointing for sufferers who thought that was an option for their children, we can now recommend that this advice is not given to parents and begin looking at what other possible preventative options there may be. It is important not to confuse our study on moisturisers for eczema prevention with the use of moisturisers for people who have eczema, where the evidence of benefit is much greater”.

The study was funded by the National Institute for Health research (NIHR) Health Technology Assessment Programme.

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