Atopic dermatitis, the most common form of eczema, causes intense itching and rashes -- primarily on the legs, arms and face. According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, 30 percent of the U.S. population suffers from this skin condition. Dermatologists recommend many treatments for symptom control, but this skin problem may never completely go away. Aloe vera, when applied topically to irritated skin, may provide temporary relief for some people, but it is not a cure -- nor the only treatment that may be needed. Always speak with a medical professional before beginning a new treatment regimen and remain mindful of personal symptoms of eczema.
A Natural Choice
Aloe vera, a succulent plant with gel-filled leaves, is commonly used for conditions such as sunburns and psoriasis. Its role and effectiveness as an eczema treatment is not as clearly understood. However, aloe vera is a natural choice that may effectively manage the common symptoms of eczema, such as itching and burning. Even though aloe vera has been used for centuries as a natural healing agent for various skin conditions, most of the proof for its usefulness comes from anecdotal evidence -- such as personal testimonies.
When the skin is inflamed, a calming remedy such as aloe vera gel may ease the irritation. Aloe vera has been shown to have strong and effective antiinflammatory properties, according to a May 2016 article published in "Advances in Wound Care." A study published in the April 2014 issue of "Pharmacognosy Magazine" demonstrated that aloe vera had a more significant antiinflammatory effect 48 hours after application, indicating some of this gel's benefits may be delayed, rather than immediate.
Eczema often manifests itself as dry patches on the skin, and moisturizing lotions are most often used to relieve the associated itchiness. Historically, aloe vera has been considered a skin moisturizer, and research published in the November 2006 "Skin Research and Technology" proves this hypothesis. Researchers found that aloe vera hydrates the skin by having a humectant effect -- acting as a skin barrier that prevents water loss. This study also noted formulations with at least 0.25 percent aloe vera extract were effective after just one application, but all aloe vera concentrations improved hydration after 1 to 2 weeks of use.
Be Mindful of Allergies
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, if you have eczema, you are also more likely to have allergies. People affected by eczema may experience contact dermatitis, which means the skin is easily irritated when it comes in contact with such things as detergents, hair and skin products and soaps. If you have eczema, your skin may be more sensitive to different types of moisturizers and treatments, so test new products, including aloe vera gel, on a small area of your skin to determine if skin irritation develops.
Not a Cure
Aloe vera is not a cure for the burning and itching that eczema causes. If used properly, it can temporarily relieve symptoms and may be more helpful when used in conjunction with other treatments recommended by a dermatologist. To help calm your eczema, follow your doctor's advice -- such as staying away from your eczema triggers, wearing non-irritating fabrics and staying on top of a regular treatment regimen.
Aloe vera is commercially available as a juice or supplement and as a topical gel. Aloe vera gel is meant to be applied topically to the skin for relief of eczema -- the juice or supplement form is not a treatment for eczema, and aloe vera gel can pose safety risks if consumed. Aloe vera is a natural product that is considered a common remedy, but if it causes further irritation or burning, discontinue use and consult with a medical professional. When using any alternative agent for skin irritation, talk with a dermatologist to ensure a personal plan for treatment is in place. See your doctor if you have painful cracks in your skin, widespread rash, fever, crusting or oozing sores, or if eczema is a new symptom and you need guidance on how to treat this condition.