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Eczema & Shea Butter

Atopic Dermatitis (AD) or Eczema is an inflammatory condition of the skin characterized by redness, itching, and oozing vesicular lesions which become scaly, crusted, or hardened.

The Big Picture

31.6 million people (10.1%) in the U.S. have some form of eczema, and prevalence peaks during early childhood.  It is estimated that 1 in 10 individuals will develop eczema during their lifetime, with prevalence peaking in early childhood.

Overall, 60% of individuals with atopic dermatitis (AD) received a definitive diagnosis within 12 months of initial symptom presentation, while 16% have experienced a diagnostic process that took more than two years. The delay in diagnosis was more pronounced for adult-onset AD, with nearly 20% of adults reporting it took more than two years, compared with less than 10% of children under 18.

People of all skin colors, races and ethnicities can be affected by eczema:

  • White – 11%
  • Black or African American – 10%
  • Asian or Pacific Islander – 13%
  • Native American – 13%

Prevalence of Childhood & Adult Atopic Dermatitis (AD)

Approximately 9.6 million U.S. children under the age of 18 have AD, and one-third have moderate to severe disease.5,8,9   The prevalence of childhood AD has increased from 8% to 15% since 1997.  An estimated 16.5 million U.S. adults (7.3%) have AD, with nearly 40% affected with moderate to severe disease.  80% of individuals affected by AD experience disease onset prior to 6 years of age.

AD is not solely a disease of childhood onset; 1 in 4 adults report adult-onset of symptoms. Some even report onsets after 60 years of age (6%).  Although study percentages vary, adults that are multiracial or white tend to have the highest prevalence of atopic dermatitis. AD affects male and female children similarly but is more prevalent in adult women.  In the U.S., children with AD who are African American/Black or Hispanic tend to have more severe disease than white children. Children born outside the U.S. have a 50% lower risk of developing AD, which is increased after living in the U.S. for 10 years. Current data suggests that 80% of children will “outgrow” their AD by adolescence or adulthood. Children diagnosed at a younger age, with more severe disease and who live in an urban environment have a higher risk for prolonged disease, although AD may persist regardless of severity.

Lifestyle: Impacts to Patients and Caregivers

Half of patients with moderate to severe AD indicate that it significantly limits their lifestyle; nearly 35% of those with mild AD also experience some lifestyle limitations. More than one-third of patients say they “often” or “always” feel angry or embarrassed by their appearance due to their disease. Having AD leads to a higher likelihood of negative overall health rating and dissatisfaction with life. Over one-fourth of those with AD rate their health as fair or poor.

As severity of AD increases, so do negative impacts on health rating and life satisfaction. Caregivers reported greater time commitment managing their eczema than adult patients, with 33% reporting spending 11 hours or more each week, compared to 23% of adult patients spending that amount of time. 5% of all respondents reported spending 40 hours or more per week. Nearly one-third of adults with AD have experienced challenges in school or their work life, and 14% of adults believe their academic and/or career progression have been hindered by AD.  Nearly 40% of eczema patients reported that they turned down a job or an educational opportunity due to their disease. Pre-adolescent girls with AD more frequently report impaired self-perceived health than their male counterparts and are more likely to indicate their disease affects the type of clothes that they wear.

Lifestyle: Impacts to Relationships

One-third to one-half of adults with AD avoid social interactions because of their appearance. One in three adults with AD and their partners have reported that eczema interfered with establishing relationships and their sexual health, and 29% of patients feel that it negatively impacts their sexuality. Children, adolescents, and young adults with eczema often feel isolated from their peers. Children with severe AD have fewer friends and spend more time alone than children with moderate AD. Nearly 40% of school-aged children and teens with AD have experienced bullying because of their disease. Parents and caregivers of children with AD report feeling embarrassed about their child’s appearance as well as frustration, helplessness, sadness, and guilt, due to their child’s disease. Bathing and treatment regimens, coordinating with insurance and with doctors for medical appointment, and purchasing treatments all place time and financial demands on families.

Economic & Societal Impact

Nearly 5.9 million workdays annually are lost due to eczema. Adults with AD take, on average, 11 days off work per year for their disease. Of children with AD, 67.7% are absent from school more than 1 day per year due to their illness, and 3.9% missed over 15 days. People with AD have higher overall work impairment compared to non-affected coworkers. Approximately 15% of the workday can be impacted by disease flares. This impact is higher for more severe AD. Parents of children with AD also experience decreased work productivity and missed workdays related to their child’s AD severity. U.S. adults with moderate to severe AD have nearly 16% less employment than those with mild AD. People with AD have increased healthcare utilization compared to those without AD including:

  • More outpatient doctor visits – which were even higher for those with moderate to severe AD;
  • More visits to urgent/emergency care; and
  • More hospitalizations.

People with AD report a median annual out of pocket cost for disease management of $600. However, 42% of individuals spend $1,000 or more, and 8.5% report spending $5,000 or more.


People with eczema often rely on over-the-counter moisturizers (also known as emollients) to alleviate eczema symptoms alongside their prescribed treatments. These products include shea butter — a semi-solid ointment with moisturizing and anti-inflammatory attributes.

According to the American Shea Butter Institute, shea butter is derived from the fat of the seeds of the African shea tree, karite. Off-white in color, shea butter has been recognized as an effective moisturizer with skin-healing properties.

What Kind of Shea Butter Is Best?

The selection of shea butter products may be overwhelming. However, as is the case with many natural products and remedies, the purest forms are the most desirable. In other words, it may not be a good idea to go for the shea butter product that smells the best — especially because many people with eczema are sensitive to fragrances.

Only high-quality shea butter can offer health benefits, including its anti-inflammatory properties. For example, shea butter contains cinnamic acid (related to cinnamon). If shea butter loses its natural integrity, the cinnamic acid dissipates and loses its healing qualities.

The most important aspects responsible for variations in shea butters are processing and exposure. Pure, unrefined shea butter is cold pressed without harmful chemicals or preservatives, according to the American Shea Butter Institute. At room temperature, shea butter spreads easily and melts in your hands.


The benefits of shea butter

Shea butter benefits the skin in several ways. Here’s how it boosts skin health:

  1. Relieves dry skin

Typically, you can find shea butter in lotions for people with dry skin. Shea butter contains fatty acids. They lubricate the skin and create a barrier that keeps moisture in. In people with oilier skin, sebum (natural skin oil) does this job. But for those with drier skin, a moisturizer helps maintain dewiness.

  1. Eases irritation

Shea butter contains anti-inflammatory substances, which ease swelling and redness in skin. People use it for any irritation, from sunburns to chapped lips to skin that’s reacting to too many acid peels or scrubs.

  1. Prevents cell damage

Cosmetics companies often add antioxidants (substances that protect cells) to anti-aging skin care. Shea butter contains two antioxidants:

Vitamin A “Vitamin A is crucial for skin health,” says Dr. Vij. “Since the 1970s, we’ve used retinoids — synthetic forms of vitamin A — to firm skin and reduce wrinkles.” It works by increasing the skin-cell turnover rate, smoothing the skin’s surface. It also plumps skin by stimulating the production of collagen, the framework that keeps your skin from sagging.

Vitamin E - Shea butter naturally has a lot of vitamin E. Even better?  Most of it is alpha tocopherol (one of eight forms of vitamin E), which has the highest antioxidant activity. Vitamin E is in our sebum, so oilier skins have more of it. But sebum production tends to decline with age. Sunlight exposure depletes it, too. Vitamin E helps skin by preventing cellular damage and boosting moisture.

  1. Improves eczema

Eczema is a common skin condition that causes itchy, red rashes. It also makes you prone to skin infections. When you have eczema, part of the problem is that you don’t have enough fatty acids in your skin. Your skin barrier isn’t as effective at warding off irritants and germs.  Eczema treatment includes applying thick ointments, balms, or creams to seal in moisture and defend against germs. One study found that shea butter was better at reducing eczema symptoms than petroleum products, which doctors often recommend. This may be because shea butter contains linoleic acid, a fatty acid that’s in skin. Research indicates that linoleic acid plays a crucial role in protecting skin and can significantly reduce eczema symptoms. “It’s essential for people with eczema to keep their skin moist and protected,” says Dr. Vij. “Shea butter can be a good option for many folks.”

  1. Provides sun protection

Shea butter has a sun protection factor (SPF) of about three or four. It’s too small to prevent sun damage or sunburn on its own. But manufacturers combine it with other ingredients to reach levels of SPF 15 or higher. Plus, you get all the soothing, moisturizing and anti-aging benefits of shea butter.

  1. Doesn’t cause allergic reactions

Shea butter is safe for people with nut allergies. Allergens are proteins. While shea butter does come from nuts, it’s made entirely of fat, so it’s allergen-free. Additionally, no one has reported a reaction to it. However, raw shea butter does contain latex. So, people with latex allergies should avoid it or make sure they only use refined shea butter.

What happens if you use shea butter every day?

Using shea butter regularly helps skin retain moisture, which makes it soft and smooth. Since it’s loaded with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents, it may also keep your skin supple. Smoothing on shea butter every day has lots of health benefits — plus it’s a daily ritual that flat out feels good.


Glomalin® Winter Hand Balm contains a high percentage of organic cold pressed shea butter and is an effective moisturizer for problem skin such as Atopic Dermatitis (AD) or Eczema.  Glomalin® has many customers with AD who claim that the cream calms their skin issues and, in some cases, eliminates the problem entirely.  Studies have shown that Shea Butter is as effective against Eczema as ceramide products, where over 74% reported very good or good results with Shea Butter.  Source: Shop now:

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