Gleams & Notions

Creating Cosmetic Solutions for Eczema and Dermatitis

By Harvey M. Fishman, Consultant | June 2, 2008

Last month’s column provided details on acne. More maladies are dermatitis and eczema. Dermatitis is any type of skin inflammation not caused by an infectious agent. Eczema is chronic dermatitis and may result from a family history of asthma, hay fever, hives, etc. Dermatitis may result from an external natural source such as poison ivy, or from many other natural and synthetic chemicals capable of sensitizing the human skin. To treat dermatitis from external contacts, it is necessary to determine which substance or group of substances is responsible. Eczema may also result from internal chemicals circulating through the blood stream that produce inflammation of the lower layers and blood vessels of the skin. These irritating substances may be inhaled pollen or dust, or food or drugs taken orally, or by reaction to fungus or bacterial infections elsewhere on the body.    

Some precautions to take include avoiding sweating or overheating, scratchy materials such as wool or other irritants, harsh soaps, detergents, solvents; environmental factors that trigger allergies such as pollens, molds, mites, and animal dander and foods that cause allergies. Last, but not least, avoid stress (which is easier said than done). If chronic eruptions persist, psychosomatic and emotional factors may play an important role, and may perpetuate the itching and inflammation of the skin long after the original cause was determined. I recall that my daughter, at a very young age, when she was upset about something, would break out in a rash. A few hours after she was calmed down, the skin eruptions would disappear.
In order to prevent scratching, since eczema is usually dry and itchy, constant application of creams or lotions is recommended to keep the skin as moist as possible. It is suggested that the moisturizers be applied immediately after a bath (within three minutes) to lock in the moisture from the bath. These creams or lotions can also contain active ingredients to help relieve itching and soreness. A useful active ingredient is benzocaine, which at a minimum  of 5%, is a safe and effective remedy for pain and itch on the skin. Its beneficial activity occurs almost wholly within the skin and mucous membranes where it blocks the pain conducting nerve endings. A single application may quell pain and itching for 4 to 6 hours. Menthol in concentrations of 0.1 to 1%  will effectively control itching and pain. It can be combined with external anti-pain ingredients such as camphor. Menthol will penetrate broken and unbroken skin to reach sensory nerve endings. Allantoin, with its healing ability can also be used.  These anti-itch ingredients are called antipruritics.

Anti-Itch Cream

Ingredients:    %Wt

Cetearyl alcohol (and) sodium  cetearyl sulfate   15.0
Salicylic acid     0.4
Menthol     0.3
Water     q.s. 100


Stir constantly. Put water in batch tank. In separate container, melt the first ingredient at 70°C and add salicylic acid and menthol to it. When uniform, add to the water also at 70°C.  Cool to room temperature.
A bactericide, if desired, may also be added. The salicylic acid in this formula is a skin peeling agent that is widely used to treat skin disorders.
Cold compresses applied directly to itchy skin may also help relieve itching. If the condition does not improve, a nonprescription corticosteroid ointment can be used to reduce inflammation. Other treatments for more severe cases include the use of more potent prescription corticosteroid creams and antihistamines to help reduce the itching.

About the Author
Harvey Fishman has a consulting firm at 34 Chicasaw Drive, Oakland, NJ 07436,, specializing in cosmetic formulations and new product ideas, offering tested finished products. He has more than 30 years of experience and has been director of research at Bonat, Nestlé LeMur and Turner Hall. He welcomes descriptive literature from suppliers and bench chemists and others in the field.