What Is Papular Eczema?

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Papular eczema is a type of eczema that shows up as itchy, red bumps on lighter skin or as dark brown, purple, or gray on darker skin. These bumps, or papules, can appear anywhere on the body. A papule is a raised area on the skin usually less than one centimeter in diameter.

Papular eczema may also be referred to as atopic dermatitis or subacute prurigo. Approximately 11% of children and 7% of adults are reported to have atopic dermatitis or eczema. A subtype of atopic dermatitis, papular eczema normally begins at a young age.


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Papular Eczema Symptoms 

Symptoms of papular eczema are small, round papules that can be scaly, red, purple, and itchy.


Researchers believe that people who have atopic dermatitis have a genetic mutation that makes the outer layer of their skin more permeable, or vulnerable, to outside irritants.

Papular eczema, like all atopic eczema, can be triggered by numerous items in your environment, ranging from clothing to metals, usually nickel.

Everyone’s eczema triggers are different, but identifying and avoiding your triggers can help you avoid eczema flares.


Papular eczema is primarily diagnosed by sight in a physical exam. The papules have a distinct appearance and are often easily diagnosed by your healthcare provider.


Treatments for papular eczema include avoiding use of harsh products on your skin and keeping your skin moisturized. In some cases, prescription treatments may also help.

Avoid Harsh Products

Avoiding products with harsh chemicals and fragrances can help avoid triggering, or worsening, papular eczema. Skin affected by papular eczema is often dry, so opt for fragrance-free products to help moisturize your skin. Bathing should be done in warm (not hot) water to avoid irritating the skin, and avoid long baths/showers when possible.

The National Eczema Association has created a seal of approval for numerous products, including cleansers, clothing and fabrics, disposable wipes, hair care products, household products, moisturizers, over-the-counter drugs, and sunscreens to help consumers choose products that will help them manage their eczema. It is called the NEA Seal of Acceptance.


Lactic acid works as a humectant, which means it attracts water, so it is very beneficial for people affected by papular eczema. Humectants instigate water being moved from the dermis to the top layer of your skin, called the epidermis.

Lactic acid has also been shown to reduce itching in patients with eczema. Using products that contain just 5% to 10% lactic acid, to begin with, can help your skin adjust to the ingredient. Products containing both lactic acid and urea have been shown to reduce skin dryness, roughness, fissuring, and thickness.

You may also want to moisturize your skin with a ceramide-containing cream and alleviate the itching with topical steroids. Ceramides are lipids that are important for skin barrier function.

If you are unsure about a product, test it on a small part of your skin, such as the inside of your wrist, before proceeding to larger areas. This can help you ascertain whether it is likely to worsen existing papular eczema symptoms.

Other tips include:

  • Store a cool, wet washcloth in the refrigerator to soothe the itching, especially at night.
  • Use a fragrance- and color-free liquid laundry detergent.
  • Wear loose, cotton clothing.

Prescription Treatments

Prescription treatments, such as topical steroids and topical calcineurin inhibitors, are also often used to treat eczema. Oral steroids are sometimes prescribed for extreme eczema flares.

One study found that topical vitamin D3 may be an alternative treatment for steroid-resistant papular eczema.

A Word From Verywell

Papular eczema can be a frustrating condition, leading to challenges with self-esteem, anxiety, and stress.

Focusing on what you can do to mitigate the impact of papular eczema on your life can help you gain control of the condition and also develop a sense of personal agency, which is important for self-esteem.

Follow the instructions of your healthcare provider, and focus on what you can do to improve your life and avoid triggers.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is papular eczema?

Papular eczema causes small red or purple bumps, also known as papules, on your skin.

How do you get rid of papular eczema?

Papular eczema can be managed through home remedies, such as taking warm baths and applying moisturizer right after the bath. Baths should not contain any fragrance or other chemically harsh products. Your healthcare provider may also prescribe topical steroids or other remedies depending on the severity of your case and general medical profile.

How do you cure eczema permanently?

Eczema may not be able to have a permanent cure, but much progress can be made through managing the symptoms of eczema.

How do you get eczema?

Scientists aren’t sure exactly what causes eczema. However, much research points to a genetic mutation that increases the permeability of the skin barrier to irritants, resulting in a greater likelihood of allergic reaction.

9 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  3. National Collaborating Centre for Women's and Children's Health (UK). Chapter 6: Identification and management of trigger factors. In: Atopic Eczema in Children: Management of Atopic Eczema in Children From Birth up to the Age of 12 Years. RCOG Press (NICE Clinical Guidelines, no. 57).

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