Dry and pruritic skin conditions
RAG rating
Document type
Patient information
Hertfordshire and West Essex ICB
Output type
Pharmacy / Prescribing
Information leaflet
Emollients – Information for Patients


Emollients – Information for Patients

Changes to prescribing of bath and shower emollient products

NHS guidance states that bath and shower emollient (moisturising) products should not be routinely prescribed for dry and itchy skin conditions, such as eczema symptoms, as there is no good quality evidence to show that they are more effective than leave-on emollients that are also used as a soap substitute.

A study showed that using ‘pour in the bath’ emollients did not make any difference to eczema symptoms and therefore using these products is not a good use of NHS resources. There are also risks with using bath emollients such as skin irritation, if large amounts are used, particularly if antiseptic bath oils are used.

Which bath and shower preparations are affected?

Moisturising bath and shower preparations include bath oils that are poured into the bath water and bath and shower emollient products that are used to wash the body will no longer be prescribed.

What options are available instead of these bath and shower preparations?

It is still really important to use leave-on emollient moisturisers and avoid soap. This will be discussed with you at your next medication review, and these will continue to be prescribed.

Leave-on emollients can be used as a soap substitute too. Mix a small amount (around one teaspoon) of emollient in the palm of your hand with a little warm water and spread it over damp or dry skin. Rinse and pat the skin dry, being careful not to rub it. 

You can use soap substitutes for handwashing, showering or in the bath. Emollients do not foam like normal soap but are just as effective at cleaning the skin

Safety: All emollients carry a fire risk.

Your treatment is important and it is essential you remain safe when using these products.

There is a risk of severe and fatal burns with paraffin-containing and paraffin-free emollients.

It is very important that you do the following to reduce the risks of fire whilst using these products:

  •  Do not smoke, use naked flames (or be near people who are smoking or using naked flames) or go near anything else that may cause a fire whilst these products are in contact with your   clothes, dressings or bandages.
  •  Emollients soak into fabric and build-up. This can become a fire risk. Therefore, it is important to change clothing and bedding regularly (preferably daily).
  •  Please be aware that washing clothing or fabric at a high temperature may reduce emollient build-up but not totally remove it.
  •  Tell your relatives or carers about your treatment and show them this leaflet about the fire risk.
  •  Tell your doctor, nurse or pharmacist if you smoke. They will be able to offer you help and advice to stop smoking.

Where can I find more information and support?


Find out more about the medicines that are being stopped or reduced:

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