article

Childhood eczema cannot be prevented by daily moisturiser use, study finds

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”.
Professor Hywel Williams, a dermatologist at the University of Nottingham, and lead author of the study

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.

 

Story credits

More information is available from Professor Hywel Williams at hywel.williams@nottingham.ac.uk

Charlotte Anscombe - Media Relations Manager - Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences
Email: charlotte.anscombe@nottingham.ac.uk
Phone: 0115 748 4417
Location:

Our academics can now be interviewed for broadcast via our Media Hub, which offers a Globelynx fixed camera and ISDN line facilities at University Park campus. For further information please contact a member of the Communications team on +44 (0)115 951 5798, email  pressoffice@nottingham.ac.uk or see the Globelynx website for how to register for this service.

For up to the minute media alerts, follow us on Twitter

Notes to editors:

The University of Nottingham is a research-intensive university with a proud heritage, consistently ranked among the world's top 100. 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. The University’s state-of-the-art facilities and inclusive and disability sport provision is reflected in its status as The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2021 Sports University of the Year. We are ranked eighth for research power in the UK according to REF 2014. We have six beacons of research excellence helping to transform lives and change the world; we are also a major employer and industry partner - locally and globally. Alongside Nottingham Trent University, we lead the Universities for Nottingham initiative, a pioneering collaboration which brings together the combined strength and civic missions of Nottingham’s two world-class universities and is working with local communities and partners to aid recovery and renewal following the COVID-19 pandemic.

More news…

Media Relations - External Relations

The University of Nottingham
C Floor, Pope Building (Room C4)
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 5798
email: pressoffice@nottingham.ac.uk