If your skin is often very dry and itchy and you’re not sure what’s causing it, you may have some form of eczema. It’s a very common chronic skin condition usually found in children, but adults can get it too.
With eczema-prone skin, the natural protective skin barrier is more susceptible to damage from allergens, irritants, bacteria, and environmental factors and it doesn’t retain moisture very easily. This is what leads to dry, itchy, irritated skin.
What Are the Symptoms of Eczema?
Although there are many different types, Eczema is usually marked by dryness, flaking, blistering, inflammation, and intense itching patches. As a result of itching, the skin can become discolored, thick and scaly, and even infected and it can appear anywhere on the body, but more often than not it tends to appear on the face, scalp, hands, elbows, the back of the knees, neck, chest, and back.
The bad news is it can be unpredictable: it can flare up due to environmental irritants, allergic reactions, or simply hormonal changes or stress, and it can subside for long periods of time as well. The good news is, it’s not contagious, and it if you can find out what your triggers are, it can be easily manageable. On top of that, it tends to get milder with age. One thing to note is that scratching eczema can further irritate and exacerbate the skin, which in some cases can lead to infections. If this happens it’s important to seek medical help and treat it with antibiotics so the infection doesn’t spread.
Different Types of Eczema and Causes
The trouble with eczema is that there are many different types and causes, making it very difficult to pinpoint the exact triggers. Here are a few of the most common types of eczema and their known triggers:
1. Atopic dermatitis
Atopic dermatitis is one of the most common forms of eczema. It is often thew result of genetics and tends to start in childhood. If you have Atopic dermatitis it means your natural skin barrier is weak and it needs extra help to protect you against allergens and irritants.
You’ll likely have very dry skin with rashes usually forming in the creases of your elbows, knees or armpits (where you tend to sweat often). It’s important to keep your immune system strong and use products and skincare ingredients that help to build and strengthen your skin barrier. On top of that it’s paramount that you stay well hydrated throughout each day and moisturize religiously morning and night to keep the dryness at bay (thus reducing the itchiness).
2. Allergic or Irritant Contact dermatitis
If your skin is highly prone to redness and irritation as a reaction to touching certain substances, you may have contact dermatitis. If you often have negative reactions to materials like latex or metal, you most likely have allergic contact dermatitis, immune system reaction to an irritant like latex or metal. Irritant contact dermatitis usually happens when you have a skin reaction to a chemical or ingredients you apply to your skin such as soaps.
Some of the most common triggers of contact dermatitis include detergents, jewelry, paint, skincare products, makeup and soaps and perfumes. Upon contact with any of these triggers, you’ll notice your skin reacting immediately including redness, itchiness, burning, stinging, or bumps. As soon as you are aware of the trigger, minimise contact, cleanse the affected areas and apply soothing and hydrated ingredients like aloe vera to calm the irritation.
Best Ways To Treat Eczema?
Eczema tends to come and go and there’s often no one way to treat it. The best way to keep flare-ups at bay is by avoiding triggers and sticking to a consistent routine that you know won’t exacerbate your eczema. However, if you’re experiencing itching and irritation that doesn’t seems to go away no matter what you do, it’s best to see your dermatologist or a skin specialist who can help you manage your flare-ups with things like Antihistamines and Corticosteroid creams to reduce or control the itch and Antibiotics in case of skin infections from open wounds as a result of itching.
To help you and your doctor understand your condition better, it’s a good idea to keep track of your day-to-day routine, so you can identify any triggers that may be worsening your eczema. This information could include what you eat and drink each day (certain foods can act as triggers), skin products, soaps, makeup, and washing detergents you use daily, which sports and activities you do and how your skin felt after these activities, and even things like when you’re feeling extra stressed. By keeping track of all these elements, you should notice connections between your lifestyle and environment and your eczema flare-ups.
Tips For Minimizing Eczema Flare-ups
Above all, it’s important to note that eczema-prone skin is very sensitive. To avoid exacerbating the affected areas, try not to overload your skin with too many harsh active skincare ingredients, stay away from skincare products, and washing detergents containing fragrances and alcohols (which can strip your skin of its natural oils) limit your exposure to the sun, and don’t exfoliate more than twice a week.
The key is to keep your skin as hydrated as possible, inside and out, as dryness and flakiness will lead to itching. This means drinking at least 10 glasses of water a day and applying a deeply nourishing rich oil-based moisturizer morning and night (or more frequently as needed). Additionally, make sure not to spend too long in the bath or shower (ideally under 5 mins), only use lukewarm water, as hot water can dry out your skin leading to further irritation, and finally gently pat your skin dry with a towel, don’t rub. Always seal in moisture with a rich cream right after stepping out of the shower or bath.
When it comes to skincare products, always do a patch test before trying anything new to see how your skin reacts as it is extremely sensitive. Cooling and soothing ingredients like aloe vera are great for eczema as they can reduce inflammation, and extremely hydrating ingredients like Shea butter and hyaluronic acid work wonders to moisturize, repair the skin, and retain moisture.