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Childhood eczema cannot be prevented by daily moisturizer use

The use of moisturizers on newborn babies does not prevent eczema, according to a study led by researchers at the school of medicine at the University of Nottingham in England.

The Barrier Enhancement for Eczema Prevention (BEEP) study published online ahead of print in The Lancet (Feb. 19, 2020) aimed to determine whether regular use of moisturizers had any impact on preventing the development of eczema in newborns.

“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,” said Dr. Hywel Williams in a press release. Dr. Williams is a dermatologist at the University of Nottingham, and lead author of the study.

“Other small studies suggested that moisturizers from birth might prevent eczema, and we were surprised when our large study showed no effect at all.”

It was thought that a faulty skin barrier could be the first step in the development of eczema and that moisturizers could improve the skin barrier functioning by covering the outermost layer while trapping in water. Some healthcare providers suggest parents regularly use moisturizers for newborns in an effort to prevent eczema.

The researchers investigated 1,394 newborn babies who were born to families with eczema, asthma or hay fever.

The babies were split into two groups: The adults in one group were advised to apply moisturizer all over the newborn every day until their first birthday while the adults in the second group were asked not to apply any moisturizer.

General skincare guidance was provided to both groups.

The study’s authors found no evidence to suggest the daily use of a moisturizer during the first year of life would prevent eczema in children investigated in the BEEP study.

“Whilst this is disappointing for [those] who thought that [moisturizers] 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,” Dr. Williams said.

“It is important not to confuse our study on moisturizers for eczema prevention with the use of moisturizers for people who have eczema, where the evidence of benefit is much greater”

Researchers did find a small increase in the risk of skin infections. Additionally, results of the BEEP study showed early indications that regular moisturizer use could increase the risk of food allergy.

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