The lovely @EczemaSupport asked me the following on Twitter:
"what do you think about emollients - do they help the #eczema? What would life be like without them?"
(Bit of context for the unaware - I suffer some really nasty eczema on my hands, called pompholyx. It significantly impairs their function)
Emollients - moisturisers. They're absolutely essential. They can help cool the itch, sooth the sting, and of course help lessen your skin cracking like the grand canyon. I once got a big tub of Hydromol lotion with a pump-top that had broken, so we had to take the top off. Plunging my hand deep into that was pure bliss. Utter momentary relief.
It's not without it's drawbacks - heavily moisturised, damaged, skin is prone to more damage and in my experience, more infection. The skin's delicate, and just because it's moisturised doesn't mean it won't itch, and when you scratch it, it'll tear. Where the skin's heavily damaged, it doesn't even take scratching to do it - picking something up, a kid holding your hand, even knocking it can rip the skin. But it's balance. The damage that would be done without emollients would be considerably worse. The dried blisters would go hard, and my fingers would split badly. My hands' mobility would be considerably worse. Before I found my current moisturiser, my skin would go so hard it felt like wearing thimbles, as though I was feeling through something. I was, it was a couple of milimetres of dead, hard, skin.
Finding the right one is trial and error. What may be good for me might not be for you. Aqueous stung & was too watery. E45 actually made it worse (reacted to an ingredient). Hydromol lotion wasn't long-lasting enough and too "loose". In the end I've settled on Hydromol ointment, which is like barely-melted lard in consistency. It's thick and viscous, very greasy, and it's the best I've found so far. The fact that I always wear gloves means I don't get the grease on everything I touch (though it can seep through the gloves), but I can see that being a problem for people who don't.
This definitely wouldn't have fit in Twitter's character limit...