London: A cheap emollient cream to treat the irritated skin of eczema sufferers may actually worsen their condition.
Researchers have now discovered that aqueous cream BP can aggravate the condition. Tests show a detergent contained in the cream thins the skin and actually causes irritation.
Although aqueous cream has been prescribed for millions of sufferers from childhood, it is the first time research has been carried out on an ingredient called sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS), reports the Daily Mail.
It was previously thought that the `stinging` sensation affecting half of users was due to a preservative or antiseptic in the cream, according to the British Journal of Dermatology.
In a study by the Bath University researchers, Britain, aqueous cream reduced the thickness of healthy skin in volunteers by more than 10 percent in just four weeks and water loss was increased.
Richard Guy, professor of pharmaceutical sciences at Bath, said the remedy was likely to aggravate the dry, itchy rashes that plague eczema sufferers.
He said: "The skin has a protective barrier layer of lipids, around one eighth the thickness of a sheet of paper, that stops chemicals from getting into the body and keeps moisture in."
"SLS is a detergent used to mix oils into water-based moisturisation creams to give a nice creamy texture. It`s also used widely in shower gels and other cosmetics.
"Our study has found that rubbing aqueous cream containing SLS into the skin thins this protective barrier, making the skin more susceptible to irritation by chemicals.
"So to use this cream on eczemous skin, which is already thin and vulnerable to irritation, is likely to make the condition even worse," concluded Guy.