Polysporin® Eczema Essentials® Daily Moisturizing Cream: A Review on Colloidal Oatmeal for Eczema

Polysporin® Eczema Essentials® Daily Moisturizing Cream: A Review on Colloidal Oatmeal for Eczema
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The Polysporin Eczema Relief Daily Moisturizing Cream created by Johnson and Johnson is also known as the Flare-Up Relief Cream. It contains colloidal oatmeal and boldly states that it can restore visibly healthier skin in 3 days. Is this true? Or maybe what you’re really asking is…..

What is the Best Cream for Eczema?

Short answer (sorry to disappoint), but we don’t think there is one.  

Walking into a pharmacy, natural health food store, skin care boutique and even googling “what is the best eczema cream” leads to countless products. Phrases such as “intensive repair,” “lipid replenishing” and “colloidal oatmeal” can be confusing. You may have to try a few different ones to see what the best eczema-relief cream is for you.

To get started we decided to do some research on one eczema-relief option: colloidal oatmeal. To determine whether colloidal oatmeal cream can be helpful as an eczema treatment, we dive into one specific product: Polysporin Eczema Essentials Daily Moisturizing Cream (Flare-Up Relief Cream). Does it really lives up to it’s bold claim of ‘restoring healthier looking skin in just three days’[1]? We’ve outlined everything you need to know:

What is Polysporin Eczema Essentials Flare-Up Relief Cream?

Polysporin has always been known for its antibiotic line, but it now has an Eczema Essentials line with two products, neither of which contain antibiotics. In another article we explored the 1% hydrocortisone anti-itch cream, and in this one we will explore the flare-up relief cream (or daily moisturizing eczema cream).  If you’ve already done some research on the Polysporin website, the product has some bold claims such as[1]:

  • Reduce redness, swelling & scaling
  • Improve symptoms of eczema skin in 3 days, with continued improvement over 2 weeks
  • Reduce itch after just one application
  • relieve dryness, itch and irritation due to eczema
  • Strengthen and restore your skin’s natural barrier function
Illustration of Polysporin Eczema Essentials Flare up Relief Cream
Illustration of Polysporin Eczema Essentials Flare-Up Relief Cream

Facts about Dry Skin From Eczema

Atopic dermatitis is the most common type of eczema. The outer layer of the skin (epidermis) in patients with atopic dermatitis eczema is usually impaired – making it difficult to stay hydrated and retain moisture. When there is a deficiency of these molecules, the outer layer of skin is weakened making the skin look dry and scaly and more prone to infection[2].



Fast Fact: Common proteins found in the outer layer of the skin responsible for the barrier function and help the skin to retain water and stay moisturized are sometimes deficient in those with atopic dermatitis.



Why is Moisturizing Important When You Have Atopic Dermatitis?

Skin hydration is one of the most important factors when it comes to taking care of atopic dermatitis eczema because the outer layer of the skin has difficulty retaining moisture.  Although there might not be a ‘best’ moisturizer, it is important to use something that[3]:

  • Has a lower water content (i.e. lotions with a high water content and low oil content can sometimes worsen dry skin)
  • You are able to apply at least two times per day
  • You can apply right after bathing or hand-washing

What Ingredients are in the Polysporin Eczema Essentials Flare-Up Relief Cream?

Medicinal ingredient:

Non-medicinal Ingredients (alphabetically):

Colloidal Oatmeal (Avena Sativa Kernel) 1.0% w/w.

Avena Sativa (Oat) Kernel Extract, Avena Sativa (Oat) Kernel Oil, Benzalkonium Chloride, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Ceramide NP, Cetyl Alcohol, Dimethicone, Distearyldimonium Chloride, Glycerin, Isopropyl Alcohol, Isopropyl Myristate, Isopropyl Palmitate, Mineral Oil (huile minérale), Panthenol, Petrolatum, Sodium Chloride, Steareth-20, Water (eau)

What Is Colloidal Oatmeal?

picture of oatmeal that is ground to become colloidal oatmeal

Colloidal oatmeal is the powder produced from processing and grinding whole oat (also called Avena sativa) grains[4]. The ground up oatmeal is then added to additional ingredients found in products such as creams (such as Polysporin Eczema Essentials Daily Moisturizing Cream), shampoos, soaps and bath powders.

How Does Colloidal Oatmeal Help Eczema? 

The exact mechanism isn’t completely clear, but current evidence describes the anti-inflammatory (reduces inflammation), anti-histaminic activity (reduces itch) and antioxidant properties of oatmeal. Recently, there have been more studies to try and determine the exact mechanism of action[5].

The moisturizing and soothing properties of the colloidal cream are also thought to help with some of the uncomfortable symptoms associated with eczema[6][7]. The high concentrations of some of the compounds (starches and beta-glucans) form a barrier over the skin to prevent water from escaping and help protect it[5].



Fast Fact: Avena sativa grains ground up Avena sativa oats to create colloidal oatmeal are the same grains used in the oats that you eat



What Does the Evidence Say About Colloidal Oatmeal Helping Eczema?

It is clear that the role of emollients and moisturizers are effective in reducing symptoms of eczema and frequency of flares. A systemic review of 77 studies found that the use of moisturizers reduced[8]:

  • The severity of eczema
  • Itch
  • Flare ups
  • The need for topical corticosteroids

Johnson and Johnson’s own study to better understand how colloidal oatmeal actually works both in lab and on dry skin found colloidal oatmeal activated genes related to recovery of the skin barrier and improved skin dryness, moisture and strengthened the skin barrier[9]. Their specific product Polysporin Eczema Essentials Daily Moisturizing Cream product has been approved by Health Canada for eczema and other mild skin irritations[10].

Another study specifically looked at colloidal oatmeal as an additional therapy to individuals with eczema from 3 months old to 60 years of age who had mild to moderate eczema (already using a topical treatment).  The participants could continue with their topical medications, but adding a colloidal oatmeal improved itch, dryness and quality of life[11]. If you are someone that is also taking another topical anti-inflammatory treatment for eczema (such as a corticosteroid), adding a moisturizer has been shown to have even more benefit (by reducing more flares)[12].

Overall, products containing colloidal oatmeal are likely a good bet. The evidence is lacking for severe eczema which is why it is recommended that if you have severe symptoms you should talk to a healthcare professional.

applying moisturizer onto baby feet and legs over 3 months of age

How Long Should You Use Colloidal Oatmeal Cream Before You Notice any Benefit?

As for the 3-day claim marketed on the packaging, the only study we could find was from Johnson and Johnson themselves. The product was tested in a small group of young children (between ages 8 years and 10 years) with mild to moderate eczema. They found some improvements by day 3 (so, yes – there will likely be some improvement by day 3) but even more improvement was noted after 14 days of using it everyday. The biggest improvements were in itch and eczema area and severity score (EASI score)[13]

However; with any heavy-duty emollient or moisturizer, anyone would be bound to see some improvement right away.  We don’t believe that this improvement is isolated to just this one cream.  

Are There Any Safety Concerns with The Polysporin Eczema Essential Flare-Up Relief Cream?

Colloidal oatmeal has a longstanding history of safety for all ages[7]. The daily long term use of colloidal oatmeal products for the treatment of eczema proved to have very few, if any side effects associated with the product in both children and adults. It has been tested in babies from 3 months old[11] to adults.  Some reported side effects include worsened itch and skin irritation.  It is important to avoid this product if you have an allergy to any of the ingredients in the cream.

Bottom Line:

When it comes to using a moisturizer for atopic eczema, there is no clear evidence that one moisturizer is better than another. The medicinal ingredient in the Polysporin Eczema Essential Flare Up Relief Cream is colloidal oatmeal which has been used for centuries to help with various skin conditions. It has shown efficacy and safety for mild to moderate atopic dermatitis when applied twice daily. It well tolerated and has been tested in babies from 3 months. Avoid the product if there are any allergies to the ingredients or skin irritation occurs after using the product.





Where Can I Buy Polysporin Eczema Essentials Flare Up Relief Cream in Canada?

In Canada, this product can be bought in-person from any pharmacy or drug store or online from:





Authors:
Stefan Anteljevic, Tori Thomas, Danielle Wowk, Aaron Sayler, and Adam Hansen; BSc. Pharm Candidates
Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences
University of Alberta


Corresponding Author:
Aliya Kassamali, B.Sc.Pharm, PharmD

Edited and Reviewed by the Health Aisle Team







References:
1. https://www.polysporin.ca/products/eczema-essentials-daily-moisturizing-cream
2. Elias, P. M., & Wakefield, J. S. (2014). Mechanisms of abnormal lamellar body secretion and the dysfunctional skin barrier in patients with atopic dermatitis. The Journal of allergy and clinical immunology134(4), 781–791.e1. doi:10.1016/j.jaci.2014.05.048
3. Weston W. and Howe W. (2019). Treatment of atopic dermatitis (eczema). UpToDate. Retreived from: https://www.uptodate.com/contents/treatment-of-atopic-dermatitis-eczema
4. Colloidal oatmeal, in The United States Pharmacopeia: The National Formulary, pp. 3293, United States Pharmacopeial Convention, Rockville, Md, USA, 2016.
5. Pazyar NYaghoobi RKazerouni AFeily A. (2012). Oatmeal in dermatology: a brief review. Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol., 78 (2):142-5. doi: 10.4103/0378-6323.93629.
6. Sibbald, D. (2017) Atopic, Contact, and Stasis Dermatitis. In Compendium of Therapeutics for Minor Ailments. Retrieved from: https://www-e-therapeutics-ca.login.ezproxy.library.ualberta.ca/search#  
7. Catherin Mack Correa, M., & Nebus, J. (2012). Management of patients with atopic dermatitis: the role of emollient therapy. Dermatology research and practice2012, 836931. doi:10.1155/2012/836931
8. van Zuuren, E. J., Fedorowicz, Z., Christensen, R., Lavrijsen, A., & Arents, B. (2017). Emollients and moisturisers for eczema. The Cochrane database of systematic reviews2(2), CD012119. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD012119.pub
9. Ilnytska O., Kaur S., Chon S. et al. (2016). Colloidal Oatmeal (Avena Sativa) Improves Skin Barrier Through Multi-Therapy Activity. Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, 15(6), 684-690.
10. Health Canada: Natural Health Products Ingredients Database. (2019). Colloidal Oatmeal. http://webprod.hc-sc.gc.ca/nhpid-bdipsn/atReq.do?atid=skin_peau&lang=eng
11. Fowler, J. F., Nebus, J., Wallo, W., & Eichenfield, L. F. (2012). Colloidal oatmeal formulations as adjunct treatments in atopic dermatitis. Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, 11(7), 804-807.
12. van Zuuren EJ, Fedorowicz Z, Arents BWM. (2017). Emollients and moisturizers for eczema: abridged Cochrane systematic review including GRADE assessments. Br J Dermatol,177(5):1256.
13. Lisante TA, Nunez C, Zhang P., et al. (2017). A 1% Colloidal Oatmeal Cream Alone is Effective in Reducing Symptoms of Mild to Moderate Atopic Dermatitis: Results from Two Clinical Studies. J Drugs Dermatol,1;16(7):671-676.