Moisturising babies doesn't prevent eczema, study suggests

Using moisturisers on babies does not prevent eczema, according to a major new study.

Researchers, some of whom are from the University of East Anglia, examined nearly 1,400 babies and found no evidence the skin condition was prevented in those who were moisturised daily.

However, there was a small increase in the risk of skin infections for these babies, as well as early indications of a rise in the risk of food allergy.

Scientists said the results were "surprising" as they claimed some healthcare workers advise parents to regularly moisturise their newborns to prevent eczema.

Eczema affects around one in five children in the UK and usually starts in infancy, with dry skin being one of the first symptoms in those who go on to develop the condition.

Along with the University of East Anglia, five other universities from across the UK worked on the Barrier Enhancement for Eczema Prevention Study.

It involved 1,394 newborn babies who had family members with eczema, asthma or hayfever.

They were split randomly into two groups, with one set advised to apply moisturiser all over their babies every day until their first birthday, while the other group was asked not to use moisturiser.

All the parents involved were given general skincare guidance.

Professor Hywel Williams, a dermatologist at Nottingham University, who led the study, said: "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."

However, Professor Williams said it's important not to confuse the study on moisturisers for eczema prevention with the use of moisturisers for people who have eczema, where he said the evidence of benefit is much greater."

Along with the University of East Anglia and Nottingham University, King's College London and the universities of Bristol and Sheffield also contributed.

It was funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Health Technology Assessment Programme and published in The Lancet.