In this post I'm going to briefly explain what I understand to be the different types and causes of eczema, and then tell you a bit about the products I use. I know that to some this post will be boring, but others have asked and so I will oblige!
So, eczema is basically a term used to describe the extreme inflammation of the skin, often characterised by red, itchy skin that is very dry and prone to cracking. There is actually lots of different types of eczema:
Atopic (the most common form) - linked most often to those with asthma, hayfever and those who have eczema in their family.
Irritant contact - flare-ups from everyday substances and chemicals.
Allergic contact - skin irritation which builds up over time. An allerigc reation that stays until you remove contact with the item. Someone I know is allergic to cobalt (blue dye, in toothpaste etc) and had this type of eczema until they discovered the source!
Seborrhoeic (infant/adult) - infant obviously occurs in children under the age of one, and appears on the scalp. They usually grow out of it. Adult seborrhoeic appears initially as dandruff but can progress into full on itchy, red scalp. It is most commonly due to a yeast infection, or inbalance of yeast within the body.
Varicose/Stasis - appears in the lower legs of (usually) elder people, and is due to poor circulation. Leads to itchy, speckled skin.
Discoid/Nummular - coin shaped eczema, appears on lower legs and weeps.
Dyshidrotic - Eczema of the hands, characyerised by clear, deep blisters that itch and burn.
What are the possible causes of eczema?
Whilst many people have eczema due to genes, a lot of skin irritation comes from all sorts of factors such as:
- Changes in temperature
What makes eczema prone skin so sensitive?
Our skin has a protein in it called filaggrin. Filaggrin is one of the factors that helps our skin maintain normal barrier function from outside irritants. People that have eczema tend to have a deficiency in this protein, which leads to gaps. The outside irritants can therefore permeate skin easier.
How to treat
Eczema is one of those things that will never disappear completely. Most people manage to find the source, or develop a skincare routine that keeps flare-ups at bay. However - I'm never going to be able to use highly perfumed products, they aggravate my skin.
Treatment also will depend on age, type of eczema and the severity of the condition. Having said that, the following factors can help:
- Keeping hormone levels balanced. i.e. if you are a woman, is your contraception making it worse?
- Keep skin hydrated - both through drinking lots of water but also moisturisers (more on them in a bit!)
- Limit extreme temperatures. Hot showers and baths, and freezing cold temperatures strip the skin of the natural moisture, causing it to dry out and become tight.
- Use mild products.
- Steroid creams can help keep flare-ups under control.
- Synthetic, cheap fibres are also known to aggravate sensitive skin.
- Stress management and exercise.
- Is it a particular trigger - food, product etc?
- Good skin hygiene and moisturisation, even when the skin isn't sore.
Alternative, homoeopathic treatments are an option. I've personally received this before but was basically told that my body had some level of intolerance to a lot of foods. I'm not sure how much I would follow their advice, as changing my diet was extremely expensive and I still had sore skin!
Medication - luckily the most medicated I ever get is steroid creams, but the other alternatives are: topical immunosuppresants (steroid free creams), oral steroids, antibiotics if your skin becomes infected, antihistamines if your triggers are hayfever, pets etc.
For me, the hardest thing to deal with is scarring. Eczema has left little round, red scars on my arms and sometimes just below my neck. I hate them, but the only way they will fade is if I continue to keep my skin moisturised and healthy.
Now, onto the products that I like to use, and find the least aggrevating.
My face is quite sensitive, and I tend to get eczema on my eyelids, jawline and forehead. Usually I can keep this banished if I use good quality skincare. Neals yard products are very natural and have considerably improved the quality of my skin since I've started using them last year. The products I use are here. I also find that my sonicleanse works wonders at helping me maintain smooth and deeply cleansed skin.
Cosmetics wise, I very rarely find my skin is made worse. I think because my skincare routine is so through, traces of make-up can't irritate.
Other products that work well on my face are the Dermalogica Ultra Calming range, Cetaphil moisturiser and Liz Earle cleanse and polish. Although these products work, I'm always interested in trying more skincare out - I love finding new alternatives so if you have any suggestions please leave them in a comment!
The deodorant I find calmest on my skin is the Sanex range, in particular the sensitive one.
Body lotions that are great include: the Palmers olive body lotion and for an extremely cheap option - Tesco/Asda/Any supermarket own intensive moisturiser. I use these on a daily basis, and then the thicker diprobase cream after showers. It's an emollient cream, which means it takes longer to soak into the skin, but won't evaporate from your skin like normal water based moisturisers If your skin is really, really sore you can wash with these moisturisers. Body wash wise, I always stick to the clear, Simple gel. It keeps me clean without stripping my skin.
Skin irritation/ flare-ups
If my skin gets really itchy I use Eumoate or Eurax, both of which can be bought at the chemist, Boots etc. They help break the itch-scratch cycle that comes with inflamed skin.
Most styling/heat protectant products do irritate my scalp, but I tend to only use them in small amounts so I don't mind.
For shampoo and conditioner however, I've been sticking to the Jasons naturals shampoo and conditioner. They're really nice, simple products that do the job. I've not tried the scented products of theirs yet, that's my next move!
So that's my low down on how I treat my really dry, eczema prone skin. Even if your skin is dry and doesn't have eczema, these tips will help you get really smooth and healthy skin. Eczema is really annoying, and dealing with it can be quite upsetting at times but by taking more time and care over what I put in and on my body really makes a difference!
If you've got any questions/comments/queries please leave them below!