About Emollients

What are emollients?

Emollients soothe, protect and prevent dry skin. They can help relieve itching and when skin is broken, they can even help to repair it. They’re an essential part of your skincare routine should you suffer from eczema or psoriasis and in some cases, can reduce the need for topical corticosteroids. Most people can keep their eczema under control completely just by using an emollient.

Frequently asked questions

What causes dry skin?

There is no single cause for dry skin. Over washing with harsh soaps which removes the skin’s natural oils, cold weather and low humidity and ageing are all common triggers. But dry skin can also be caused by certain medical conditions such as diabetes, hypothyroidism and malnutrition. 

What is eczema?

Eczema is the collective term for a group of non-contagious dry skin conditions that affect around one in five children in the UK and one in 12 adults. While it primarily affects children, you can ‘grow’ out of it, although symptoms can return later in life.  In mild cases the skin can become itchy and scaly but more severe cases of the condition can result in weeping, crusting and bleeding. Source: www.eczema.org

Why have I got eczema?

Atopic eczema can be genetic and while the exact cause of the condition is unknown, it’s thought to be linked to an overactive response by the immune system to an irritant. Some people may find that certain things trigger a ‘flare up’. This could be anything from hot or cold weather to exposure to a particular household product. Too much stress or a bad cold can also cause the condition to get worse.

Can I catch eczema?

Eczema is not contagious but it can be inherited (i.e. passed down through the family).

What is psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a dry skin condition that causes flaky patches of scaly skin to appear, most commonly on elbows, knees, scalp and lower back.  This happens when the skin cells multiply faster than normal and cause red, raised plaques that are covered with silvery scales. According to NHS figures (2016) it affects around 2% of the UK population and is most common among adults under 35 years. Other side effects can include discoloured nails that can detach from the nail bed and some sufferers go on to develop psoriatic arthritis.  Psoriasis is not contagious.

What are topical steroids?

Topical steroids are gels, creams, lotions and ointments containing corticosteroids, which are hormones that reduce skin inflammation and irritation. Available in different strengths, they are prescribed to treat a wide range of skin conditions including eczema and psoriasis. Milder side effects can include a burning or stinging sensation at first. More serious side effects can be thinning of the skin and changes in skin colour if used over a prolonged period of time.  Topical steroids are not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women or young children.

What are emollients?

Emollients are non-cosmetic moisturisers that soothe, protect and prevent dry skin. They can help relieve itching and when skin is broken, they can even help to repair it. They’re an essential part of your skincare routine should you suffer from eczema or psoriasis and in some cases, can reduce the need for topical corticosteroids.

How do emollients work?

Emollients form a protective oily layer on the skin surface and trap moisture which improves skin hydration and helps the healing process.  

How do I apply an emollient cream?

Always wash your hands first to remove any bacteria. This is especially important if your skin is dry or cracked. To reduce the risk of infection you can decant your cream from a large tub with a desert spoon. The cream should then be applied to the skin in smooth downward strokes in the direction of hair growth. Never rub.

Can I use an emollient with a topical steroid?

Aquamax emollient is very gentle and is not known to interact with your topical steroid treatment. In fact research has shown that some people using a good quality emollient product have been able to avoid the use of topical steroids altogether. For best results, most dermatologists recommend applying steroid cream first then waiting 30 minutes before emollient application.

What is sodium lauryl sulphate?

Sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) is an inexpensive chemical detergent that’s found in many mainstream personal hygiene products. It makes skin easier to clean by breaking up the natural oils. SLS has been identified as a major skin irritant. It’s also used in some household products including carpet cleaner, washing up liquid and laundry detergent.

What are parabens?

Parabens are chemical preservatives  that are found in many toiletries, including deodorant, shampoo and lipstick. The most commonly used are propylparaben and methylparaben, which can increase the shelf life of a product for months, even years. They can, however,  be absorbed into the body through the skin and evidence suggests they can act as a skin irritant. Parabens also possess the ability to mimic the action of the female hormone oestrogen and can disrupt the body’s endocrine system (responsible for producing the hormones that regulate metabolism, growth, tissue function, sleep and mood –among other things). There is also concern that paraben exposure may increase the risk of developing breast cancer (source: www.breatcancercareuk.org.uk).

What are lipids?

Crucial to the skin’s barrier function, lipids are fats that help keep moisture in and harmful bacteria out.

How can I stop my skin itching?

Scratching itchy skin can actually make the problem worse. Instead try patting or tapping the area to break the itch-scratch cycle. Avoiding hot baths and showers can help too and it’s best to avoid heavily perfumed shower products and body lotions. A cold compress held over the itchy area can help alleviate symptoms as can avoiding ‘itch-inducing’ clothing, such as manmade fabrics or coarse woolly jumpers. Using an emollient regularly is very important if you skin is particularly dry and flaky. If the problem persists or you experience whole body itching with no obvious cause, you should visit your GP immediately as it could be a symptom of a more serious condition.

Can I use Aquamax when I’m pregnant?

Yes. You can use Aquamax throughout all stages of pregnancy and lactation and it’s gentle enough to apply delicately to baby skin too.

Can I get Aquamax on prescription from my GP?

Aquamax Cream and Aquamax Wash are both available at Sainsburys Pharmacy, Amazon.co.uk and from selected chemists nationwide. Your GP can also prescribe it to you.

How often should I apply Aquamax?

The key to managing any serious dry skin condition is to apply an emollient regularly. Keep a tub of Aquamax cream at home to apply as frequently as needed and carry the handy 100ml tube with you for when your skin feels dry on the go. Soaps and detergents can be very drying, so always wear gloves to wash up and use Aquamax wash on your hands and in the shower.