John was a Navy hospital corpsman. He worked the general sick bay, managed a carrier O.R., and treated heat rash, eczema, and dyshidrosis.
Wet Eczema, Weepy Eczema, or Weeping Eczema
This article, which features a discussion about astringent soaks, was motivated by my history of contact allergic dermatitis and eczema. Both conditions cause itching, inflammation, blisters, and eventually, weeping and cracking of the skin.
My experience with these conditions brought me to dermatologists, all of whom recommended the soaking solutions discussed in this article. The soaks brought relief and decreased my skin inflammation to the point where steroid creams could work faster to relieve the symptoms. Once I figured out what the offenders were that caused the contact dermatitis, I was able to eliminate contact with materials like liquids, soaps, detergents, and flammables (gasoline, paint thinner, etc.).
I learned about effectively drying and soothing blistery reactions on my skin so that I could continue to work. This information is forwarded with the hope that the reader might find some helpful hints to ameliorating the symptoms while working on the puzzle of what causes their inflammation.
The Key to Beating Eczema: Keep the Skin Dry
Good foot care is important for good health. We all know from TV commercials the relief that a brief hot foot bath can have to aching feet. But constant exposure to moisture can hurt the feet. The skin's integrity can be compromised. Skin can soften, turn white, slough, and become susceptible to infection. The wrinkling and turning white is called maceration by healthcare practitioners. This is one reason that the military insists on carrying extra pairs of dry socks for those exposed to the elements.
But sometimes an ailment can contribute to the wetness. There are times when it seems you just cannot get ahead of the process, especially when you have a problem like dyshidrosis, atopic dermatitis, or other eczematous conditions. This is when soaking the affected areas can stop the condition from becoming worse and help it heal.
Some common soaks for eczema include:
- Domeboro Astringent Solution Powder Packets
- Pedi-Boro Soak Paks
- Gordon's Boro-Packs
My Experience With Domeboro Solution
All of us have the occasional rash, but what if you have allergic dermatitis or atopic dermatitis that results in an exudate (weeping) and blisters? There is a great preparation for that, and I have found it to be most welcome when, for instance, you come in contact with poison ivy.
What Is In Domeboro Solution?
The preparation is called Domeboro solution (an astringent solution) and is made by Bayer. It is a modified Burow's solution (invented by Karl August Burow in the 1900s and is an aluminum acetate solution that can be purchased from some pharmacies with a doctor's prescription). Domeboro solution contains three other ingredients in addition to aluminum acetate. Aluminum acetate is what gives the astringent effect (drying of the wet irritated area). Aluminum acetate is formed when aluminum sulfate is mixed with calcium acetate and water. It comes in powder packets and tablets.
Preparing the Solution
The preparation of Domeboro solution is very easy. Get some warm water (tap water is okay) and mixes the powder packet. I put the powder in a clean empty milk container and shake vigorously until completely dissolved. Then I pour the solution into a small plastic storage container, perhaps 1' by 1'. The effervescent tablets mix themselves pretty well in a basin of warm water. Both powder packets and tablets are the ultimate in convenience. This technique lends itself well to treating hands and feet.
Soaking the Affected Area
I usually soak for 30 minutes and dry off. You can feel the astringent effect which I think takes away the burning sometimes experienced. It also dries up the blisters, many of which can be open and/or weeping. It also helps slough off dead skin. This helps prevent infection as well as the fact that the solution also has antibacterial qualities. One tablet or packet should be dissolved in every 12 oz of water used.
Domeboro Solution Dilutions
The usual dilution of Domboro Solution is 1:20, which results from using two tablets per soak.
Other dilutions are:
One Packet or Tablet
1:40 Dilution, 0.16% Aluminum Acetate.
1:20 Dilution, 0.32% Aluminum Acetate.
1:13 Dilution, 0.48% Aluminum Acetate.
Check with your physician about the appropriate dilution for you.
How Much Does Domeboro Cost?
The lowest price on the Internet was $10.00–$10.33 for 12 powder packets or tablets. Some pharmacies sell as few as one packet for around $1.50. There is also a generic Domeboro type solution offered over-the-counter.
Areas other than the feet and hands can be treated by soaking gauze in the solution and wrapping or covering (also a wet compress). This is referred to as skin occlusion in medical terminology. When the gauze dries out, it must be reapplied once it has been soaked again. Do not leave dry gauze on the affected area.
For my money, Bayer Domeboro solution is the one to purchase. Note that there is an inactive ingredient in the packet or tablet by the name of Dextrin. This ingredient is a natural fiber that acts as a binder, keeping molecules together. If the ingredients separate and move, the individual can be deprived of the medicinal benefit. Dextrin is a low molecular-weight-carbohydrate with adhesive properties and is used in many products because of its safety.
Are There Cheaper (but Effective) Alternatives?
However, should you be on a restricted budget, I have discovered an alternative that has worked well for me. There is a class of compounds referred to as alum. Alum is actually a generic term for different compounds which all have astringent effects. While Domeboro is aluminum acetate, I have found that potassium aluminum sulfate (used in cooking, and what most people think of as alum) can make a suitable foot bath. I say this because I have not tried the soak on any other part of the body.
Alum can be found at spice or health food stores for a very reasonable price. I found several places advertising alum for $3–$5 a pound. The preparation I made was one heaping teaspoonful in a pint of warm water. Since mild astringent solutions are used in the relief of such minor skin irritations as those resulting from allergies, insect bites, or fungal infections. I experimented and had with satisfactory results.
Whatever You Use, Talk to Your Doctor First!
You should follow your doctor's recommendation for the dilution he/she wants you to use. And as far as using alum, you need to talk it over with your physician. What I did was experimental, although, in the literature (i.e. nursing journals), I found several who claimed that alum can provide a soothing and drying soak for such conditions.
Extra Virgin Coconut Oil and Eczema
Domeboro Cooling Gel Uses and Ingredients
Domeboro Cooling Gel is a relatively new product which can relieve minor itching and inflammation of the skin and became available over-the-counter on 3/1/2016. It contains 0.5% aluminum acetate for soothing irritations caused by plant contact, contact dermatitis from jewelry usually containing nickel, and soap and detergent allergies.
The gel has no odor, is clear, and comes in a tube. It provides relief of itching with a fast cooling effect on the affected area and is handy to use, especially on the go.
I gather from the literature that for more serious dermatitis, including eczema, the choice of Domeboro for soaking the area is still recommended. Speak to your physician about use.
Active Ingredient: 0.5% Aluminum Acetate
Inactive Ingredients: Borid Avid, Ethanol, Glycerin, Hydrochloric Acid, Hypromellose, Menthol, Polysorbate 20, Propylene Glycol, Purified Water
Final Notes on Foot Soaks
Epsom salts have been used in medicine for decades, and have been used as a desiccant in some applications, but there is no reporting of magnesium sulfate being used to dry out eczema on feet. It will soften rough skin and soothe achy feet.
There are reports that Listerine foot soaking can provide a relaxing foot bath, but claims that it will help you wipe away dead skin seem to be wanting.
Here's to dry feet! Perhaps this FYI will make uncomfortable conditions much better in the future.
Medscape, 1994-2017, Drugs and Diseases, https://reference.medscape.com/drug/domeboro-astringent-solution-powder-packets-burows-solution-aluminum-acetate-solution-999353
Drugs.com.Know more. Be sure. Https://www.drugs.com/otc/510149/domeboro-cooling.html, Labeler: MOBERG PHARMA NORTH AMERICA LLC, 2015, data updates 2017
Healthline, https://www.healthline.com/health/aluminum-acetate, 2005-2017
Global Healing Center, Dr, Edward Group, October 5, 2015, 8 Benefits of Dextrin, October 5, 2015, https://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/8-benefits-dextrin/
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
Questions & Answers
Question: Isn't aluminum a toxic metal that should not be absorbed into the body?
Answer: Aluminum acetate salt crystals are for external use only. Consumption of aluminum can be toxic. This is where aluminum gets controversial. While the toxicity is well acknowledged, the debate continues about what levels are considered safe. Since the science is steep, I recommend read https://wellnessmama.com/91772/aluminum-safe/. The use of aluminum acetate for a foot soak so far is deemed safe. I have used it for many many years to dry out affected eczematous areas without harmful side effects; to the contrary, it has helped me heal faster. Thanks for the question
Question: Can you get Domeboro in large amounts for sitting baths?
Answer: Pharmacists can prepare the equivalent of Domeboro for soaks, but I am not sure using it as sitting bath is a good idea. You would be drying out a large portion of the body, perhaps other than a smaller area. Before doing that, I would talk to a physician. When I use it, it is for allergic dermatitis on the feet and hands. Thanks for the question, and please, do speak with your physician.
© 2010 John R Wilsdon