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How to choose a suitable emollient

It is believed that defective epidermal barrier function, resulting from genetic differences, plays a central role in atopic eczema, contact dermatitis, psoriasis and ichthyoses. However, people who do not suffer from these conditions can also experience dry skin as a result of extreme conditions, living and working in a dry environment or using drying bath products. Dry, itchy skin is also often a problem for the elderly because reduced sebum and ceramide production are associated with ageing.

Emollients work by rehydrating the outermost layer of skin and by reducing water loss. They restore suppleness and pliability and improve the cosmetic appearance of the skin, particularly if it is dry and scaling.

With such a wide range of branded and generic emollient products available, it can be difficult to know which to recommend. Both inappropriate product selection and incorrect use can result in emollient therapy being dismissed as being ineffective. An understanding of the properties of emollients together with knowledge of skin structure and function, can help the pharmacist to recommend the most suitable products and regimens. Effective treatment depends on careful selection of products to match patients’ needs and preferences.

Emollient products

Emollient products include ointments, creams, lotions, bath oils and soap substitutes.

Ointments

Ointments are greasy or fatty semisolids. Ointment bases can be categorised into four types: fatty, absorption, emulsifying and water-soluble.

Fatty bases include anhydrous hydrocarbons such as soft paraffin. These are not absorbed but form an occlusive layer on the skin surface. They have a low water-absorbing capacity and, although they are effective emollients, their greasiness can make them cosmetically unattractive.

Download the attached PDF to read the full article.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal URI: 10997200

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