Fact Check

Can baby cream cure eczema?

A British hairdresser claims that Childs Farm Baby Moisturiser helped cure her eczema within two weeks.
A British hairdresser claims that Childs Farm Baby Moisturiser helped cure her eczema within two weeks. PHOTO: FACEBOOK/CHILDS FARM

Where: On Sept 13, metro.co.uk, the website of the free British newspaper Metro, carried a report headlined "Hairdresser claims 'miracle' £3.99 (S$7.20) cream helped cure painful eczema within two weeks".

The woman interviewed in the report has a long history of eczema, which had worsened after she started work as a hairdresser.

The story came with "before" and "after" photos of the hairdresser's hand, and quoted her as saying that she has used steroid creams and emollients but these had not got rid of the eczema. That is, until she found Childs Farm Baby Moisturiser. The same paper had earlier carried a story about a mother who claimed the same cream "cured" her daughter's eczema in a week.

Checked: Dr Tan Kian Teo, a dermatologist in private practice in Singapore, said the hairdresser's case is a common one, though it is hard to believe that her eczema went away after two weeks of applying a moisturiser.

The hairdresser may have irritant contact dermatitis or allergic contact dermatitis, said Dr Tan, who is with Skin Physicians at Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre and Loke Skin Clinic at Novena Medical Centre.

Irritant contact dermatitis is a type of eczema that is triggered by repeated exposure to strong substances. Allergic contact dermatitis involves an allergic response of the skin to a substance.

It can be difficult to differentiate the two. A skin patch test can be performed in an attempt to identify the allergen responsible in allergic contact dermatitis. There are standard patch tests and also more specific ones for occupations like hairdressing, said Dr Tan.

The hairdresser's eczema was obviously quite severe and chronic, because she previously required treatment with topical corticosteroids and moisturisers.

"The eczema becoming worse when she became a hairdresser was not unexpected," said Dr Tan.

However, news of a miracle cure should be taken with a pinch of salt, he said.

"It is highly unlikely for it to clear in a mere two weeks after using the Childs Farm cream, which is essentially another moisturiser."

Hand eczema is mainly treated with topical corticosteroids and moisturisers. The person is also advised to avoid irritants or allergens, Dr Tan said. "Moisturising the skin is an essential routine for a patient with eczema. It helps to prevent flare-ups and keeps the skin in a better condition. It does not, however, cure eczema."

Dr Tan added that the severity of eczema can fluctuate with time. Some patients also gradually grow out of eczema when they get older.

Joyce Teo

•This column seeks to debunk fake health news reported around the world. This is the last in the series.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 31, 2017, with the headline 'Can baby cream cure eczema?'. Print Edition | Subscribe