20 October 2018
Moisturizers come in various types and are equally effective for eczema patients as long as they are used regularly. Photo: Internet
Moisturizers come in various types and are equally effective for eczema patients as long as they are used regularly. Photo: Internet

The right way to apply topical treatment

Young eczema patient Siu Yan came back for a follow-up appointment. Her skin condition was much improved but she still failed to apply the moisturizer properly.

The cream smeared all over her cheeks made her look like Santa Claus with a white beard, which definitely was not the way the doctor had recommended the topical treatment to be applied.

Moisturizers come in various types and are equally effective as long as they are used regularly. They can take the form of an ointment, which is harder, stays on the skin longer, and lubricates better. The ointment is used on a small area of dry and leathery skin.

Moisturizers also come in the form of a cream, which is softer and more easily absorbed by the skin. Cream is recommended to be used in a large area of slightly inflamed skin.

The third type is lotion, whose main ingredient is water. It has a gentle texture and can quickly seep into the skin.

Gels are very light and applied to the hairy areas of the face. And don’t forget sprays, which can cover a large area instantly but need to be spread out on the skin using your fingers for a more thorough application.

How much you should use for each application is measured by your fingertips. About half a gram of the product can be squeezed out from the standard 5-millimeter nozzle along the length of the fingertips. This is enough to cover an area of the skin the size of two palms.

For the whole face, it takes two to three times that amount. Make sure the moisturizers are applied evenly throughout the skin without concealing the original skin color and texture. Bear in mind that topical medications should only be applied to affected areas.

Moisturizers are meant to hydrate, lock in the moisture, repair and lubricate the skin. They are essential to prevent and cure eczema.

Non-medical moisturizers can be used once the skin feels dry and tight but they are typically applied every three to four hours. It is best to apply moisturizers after the skin has been lightly patted dry following a shower.

Research shows that patients with skin problems barely or never use moisturizers to treat their skin. But adults need about 30 grams of moisturizers while children need half of that amount every day, not just in the itchy part of the skin but also for the unaffected areas.

Even when the skin condition gets better, patients should not stop moisturizing their skin for protection and prevention of a relapse.

Parents can guide children in applying moisturizers, medical cream or sunscreen to the target areas with their fingertips. Smoothen the application with circular motions on the skin. They can also put the ointment or cream on their palms and rub it before applying it to the affected parts of the body.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Nov. 6

Translation by John Chui

[Chinese version 中文版]

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FHKAM (Medicine), specialist in Dermatology & Venereology

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