What is Complete Emollient Therapy?

Complete Emollient Therapy (CET) is a well-established regimen for managing dry skin conditions, including eczema. The goal of CET is to keep the skin well moisturised, to repair the skin barrier so helping protect against common pathogens penetrating the skin and causing irritation and inflammation. Emollients increase the amount of water held in the skin by either trapping or drawing moisture into the stratum corneum.

The CET Regimen

CET consists of the regular use of emollients – including ointments, creams, lotions and bath oils. Emollients should be used to replace foaming agents, such as soaps and shower gels, which can dry out the skin. To maintain an effective CET regimen, people with eczema should be advised to:

  • Apply emollients in generous quantities all over the skin, including unaffected areas
  • Apply emollients as liberally and frequently as possible. They are best applied when the skin is moist but they can and should be applied at other times. Ideally emollients should be applied every 4 hours or at least 3 to 4 times per day
  • Apply thicker emollients, such as an ointment, at night time or to complement emollients during the day.

It is also important for the healthcare professional and patient to work together to find an emollient to suit the individual’s everyday routine, emollient preferences and eczema severity. The combination and type of emollient products, i.e. ointments, creams, lotions and bath oils, will differ according to these variables.

How to apply emollients

Correct emollient application technique is an integral part of CET as incorrect application can cause further damage to the skin. Emollients should:

  • Not be rubbed into the skin vigorously
  • Be applied gently and in the direction of hair growth to avoid irritating the skin and blocking hair follicles
  • Be left to absorb naturally once applied
  • Be applied after a bath or shower, after gently drying the skin by patting with a soft towel.

For more information on managing eczema through CET, take a look through our video library which includes guidance and advice for HCPs from dermatology specialists.

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