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The Irritation of Aqueous Cream

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What is Aqueous Cream?

Aqueous Cream BP is an emollient cream recommended as a moisturiser and as an alternative to soap to relieve skin dryness.  It it prescribed to patients with eczema (including babies and children) and is widely available in every pharmacy.

What does Aqueous Cream contain?

Aqueous cream contains Cetostearyl Alcohol (emulsion stabiliser) Sodium lauryl sulphate (detergent), Liquid paraffin (mineral oil:highly refined waste product of the petrol industry), White Soft Paraffin, Phenoxyethanol (preservative) and purified water.  Sodium laurel sulphate (SLS) is an artificial chemical known to irritate skin.  SLS is a detergent commonly used in cleaning and hygiene products. SLS is a highly effective surfactant and is used to remove oil stains and residues.  It is found in higher concentrations, for example, in engine degreasers and floor cleaners.

Aqueous Cream trial

Scientists at Bath University, Tsang M & Guy RH, conducted a trial to study the effect of Aqueous cream on healthy volunteers.  The volunteers used the cream twice a day, for 4 weeks.  Their findings were published in the British Journal of Dermatology (1).

Aqueous cream caused skin to become 12% thinner and 20% dryer due to increased transepidermal water loss (permeability to water loss).  The scientists concluded that the application of Aqueous cream BP, containing around 1% SLS, reduced skin thickness of healthy skin and increased its permeability to water loss.  These observations call into question the continued use of this emollient on the already compromised barrier of eczematous skin.

(1) British Journal of Dermatology, November 2010; 163 (5) pages 954-8.

Abstract article: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20649794

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