Wednesday, 19 February 2020
Using moisturisers on newborn babies does not prevent eczema as previously thought, according to a major new study.
The Barrier Enhancement for Eczema Prevention study (BEEP), which is published today in The Lancet, was led by experts from the School of Medicine at the University of Nottingham, with contributions from Imperial College London and the Universities of Bristol, Dundee, East Anglia, and Sheffield.
Eczema is a very common skin problem affecting around one in five children in the UK. Eczema usually starts in infancy, and a generally dry skin is often one of the first symptoms in babies who go on to develop the condition.
It is thought that a faulty skin barrier could be the first step in the development of eczema. Moisturisers improve skin barrier function by providing a covering to the outermost layer of skin and trapping in water.
Some healthcare workers recommend that parents regularly use moisturisers to prevent eczema in newborn babies. The aim of the BEEP study was to determine whether such advice had any impact on preventing the development of eczema.
The team looked at 1394 newborn babies who were born to families with eczema, asthma or hayfever. The babies were randomly split into two groups. One group was advised to apply moisturiser all over their baby every day until their first birthday. The other group was asked not to use moisturiser. Both groups were given general skin care guidance.
The study found no evidence that the daily use of moisturiser during the first year of life could prevent eczema in the studied children. There was however, a small increase in the risk of skin infections. The results also showed early indications that daily use of these creams may increase the risk of food allergy.
Much progress has been made in recent years on the treatment of severe eczema, but the goal of preventing eczema from developing in the first place remains elusive. Other small studies suggested that moisturisers from birth might prevent eczema, and we were surprised when our large study showed no effect at all.
Whilst this is disappointing for sufferers who thought that was an option for their children, we can now recommend that this advice is not given to parents and begin looking at what other possible preventative options there may be. It is important not to confuse our study on moisturisers for eczema prevention with the use of moisturisers for people who have eczema, where the evidence of benefit is much greater”.
The study was funded by the National Institute for Health research (NIHR) Health Technology Assessment Programme.
A full copy of the report can be found here.
More information is available from Professor Hywel Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to editors:
About the University of Nottingham
Ranked 32 in Europe and 16th in the UK by the QS World University Rankings: Europe 2024, the University of Nottingham is a founding member of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities. Studying at the University of Nottingham is a life-changing experience, and we pride ourselves on unlocking the potential of our students. We have a pioneering spirit, expressed in the vision of our founder Sir Jesse Boot, which has seen us lead the way in establishing campuses in China and Malaysia - part of a globally connected network of education, research and industrial engagement.
Nottingham was crowned Sports University of the Year by The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2024 – the third time it has been given the honour since 2018 – and by the Daily Mail University Guide 2024.
The university is among the best universities in the UK for the strength of our research, positioned seventh for research power in the UK according to REF 2021. The birthplace of discoveries such as MRI and ibuprofen, our innovations transform lives and tackle global problems such as sustainable food supplies, ending modern slavery, developing greener transport, and reducing reliance on fossil fuels.
The university is a major employer and industry partner - locally and globally - and our graduates are the second most targeted by the UK's top employers, according to The Graduate Market in 2022 report by High Fliers Research.
We lead the Universities for Nottingham initiative, in partnership with Nottingham Trent University, a pioneering collaboration between the city’s two world-class institutions to improve levels of prosperity, opportunity, sustainability, health and wellbeing for residents in the city and region we are proud to call home.