By Kimberly Beauchamp, ND
Healthnotes Newswire (May 18, 2006)—A vitamin B3–fortified cream replenishes much-needed moisture to dry skin caused by eczema and is a more effective moisturizer for eczema than petroleum jelly, according to a recent study.
Vitamin B3—also known as niacinamide—is an essential nutrient that is sometimes used topically to treat acne and rashes caused by sunlight. A study in the International Journal of Dermatology suggests that a cream containing niacinamide can also help moisturize skin that is afflicted by eczema (atopic dermatitis).
Properly moisturized skin is less prone to irritation and infection, which are hallmarks of eczema. According to a recent survey, however, 23% of adults with eczema don’t use a moisturizer.
The National Institutes of Health estimate that 15 million Americans have some form of eczema—a chronic condition that usually starts in childhood and causes patches of very itchy, dry skin to form on the forearms, insides of the elbows, backs of the knees, and neck.
Nicknamed “the itch that rashes,” eczema starts with an itch from any number of “triggers,” such as contact with an irritating soap or animal dander, exposure to excessive heat, or eating a particular food. When scratched, a characteristic rash then forms. Repeated scratching causes the skin to take on a leathery appearance and sets the stage for infection.
Niacinamide may help the skin produce its natural oils, and studies have shown that a niacinamide-containing cream retains moisture in people with healthy skin. Because petroleum jelly is one of the most commonly used moisturizers for eczema, the new study compared it with a niacinamide cream for treating areas of dry skin caused by eczema.
For up to eight weeks, 21 people with eczema on their forearms applied a 2% niacinamide cream to their left arm and petroleum jelly to their right arm two times per day. The people taking part in the study were unaware of which side was receiving which treatment.
Results of the study showed that significantly less water was lost through the skin after using the niacinamide cream, but not after using the petroleum jelly. While both treatments helped moisturize the skin, the niacinamide cream was much more effective.
A couple of people discontinued treatment because of mild side effects such as skin irritation and itching while using the niacinamide cream; these cleared up on their own without treatment of the irritation.
The authors concluded that “niacinamide cream may be used as a treatment adjunct in atopic dermatitis.”
(Int J Dermatol 2005;44:197–202)
Kimberly Beauchamp, ND, earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Rhode Island and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. She cofounded South County Naturopaths in Wakefield, RI. Dr. Beauchamp practices as a birth doula and lectures on topics including whole-foods nutrition, detoxification, and women’s health.