Researchers have found that using daily moisturisers on newborn babies cannot prevent eczema as previously thought.
Eczema is a very common skin problem affecting around one in five children in the UK. It usually starts in infancy, and generally, dry skin is often one of the first symptoms in babies who go on to develop the condition.
"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," said study lead author Hywel Williams from the University of Nottingham in the UK.
According to the researchers, 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 Barrier Enhancement for Eczema Prevention (BEEP) study was to determine whether such advice had any impact on preventing the development of eczema.
For the findings, published in the journal The Lancet, the research team looked at 1394 newborn babies who were born to families with eczema, asthma or hayfever.
Increase in the risk of skin infections.
The babies were randomly split into two groups. One group was advised to apply moisturiser all over their babies every day until their first birthday.
The other group was asked not to use moisturiser. Both the groups were given general skincare 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 the daily use of these creams may increase the risk of food allergy.
"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," Williams said.
"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," Williams added.