An estimated 30 million people in the United States have eczema (sometimes known as atopic dermatitis). This chronic inflammatory condition causes patches of itchy, dry, inflamed skin that are both painful, unsightly and potentially embarrassing. Eczema knows no age boundaries and can develop in anyone from babies and small children to adults. It can pop up anywhere on the body but is particularly challenging when it appears on the face.
While the exact causes of eczema are not fully known, doctors have been able to identify some of the triggers. Knowing what these are can be helpful in preventing periodic flare-ups and reducing their intensity.
1. Stress and Anxiety
3. Lack of sleep
4. Low humidity
6. Hormonal fluctuations
7. Poor Diet
8. Exposure to pollutants, synthetics and harsh chemicals
1. Scientists have known for some time that stress management is critical to so many areas of our health. In eczema sufferers, stress can actually make the condition worse. Engaging in stress reducing exercises like exercise, meditation and deep-breathing can help reduce the number of flare-ups you get. Consider installing the Insight Timer App on your phone. It has a plethora of free options for stress relief that can be accessed at your convenience.
2. The intense itching that is characteristic of eczema can keep you up at night, especially if you are trying to keep from scratching your face. It is important to eliminate any foods or beverages that contain stimulants and can stand in the way of getting a good night’s sleep.
3. Some foods that have been implicated in triggering eczema outbreaks include eggs, peanuts and soy, as well as gluten and casein (dairy). Try an elimination diet to see which of these affect you. Alcohol and acidic foods are both proven triggers that create inflammation in the body. Coffee and tea are stimulants as well as diuretics so be sure to add an extra couple of glasses of H2O for each tea or coffee beverage that you consume.
4. Change out your current household products for those that are fragrance and dye-free. This includes laundry detergent and fabric softeners that can irritate sensitive skin simply by drying your face with a towel that was washed in it.
5. Avoid wearing clothing made from rough, scratchy fibers (i.e. wool), and opt for smoother, less abrasive alternatives that are gentler on the skin.
6. It is usually helpful to sleep with a humidifier running in the bedroom, especially if you live in a dry climate. Cold weather climates that require running the heat can further exacerbate dry skin by evaporating surface moisture. Avoid hot baths and showers and use lukewarm water instead.
7. Use a gentle cleanser made specifically for your face and avoid traditional soaps. Be sure to moisturize your skin to keep dry, flaky patches under control. Eczema seems to respond better to rich creamy moisturizers and body butters than to thin lotions that have minimal staying power.
Try soaking in a tub of colloidal oatmeal to temporarily reduce irritation and calm the skin. Applying pure, organic coconut oil to rough irritated patches afterwards can be helpful, since coconut oil is not only a great moisturizer, but known to have antibacterial properties that can potentially ward off opportunistic infection caused by bacteria entering cracks in the skin.
8. Avoid applying traditional makeup to cracked, irritated areas. Makeup generally contains ingredients like parabens, fragrance, glycolic acid and salicylic acid that can dry out the skin and make things worse. Foundations that contain natural oils like Neem and Tamanu are excellent alternatives. Other key ingredients to consider are Hyaluronic acid, which is known for keeping moisture close to the surface of the skin without irritating it, and Shea butter, which contains anti-inflammatory properties and vitamins A, E and F. It is extremely moisturizing and can help promote the healing of dry, itchy, inflamed skin.
9. Avoid exposure to the sun during peak hours. If you must be in direct sunlight use sunscreen that contains zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as these ingredients tend to be better-tolerated by sensitive skin.
Please remember that every person is different and what works well for one may not work as well for another. Following these guidelines can help you figure out what works best for you. Be sure to consult your physician for any flare-ups or changes you experience in keeping your symptoms under control.
Copyright 11-21-18 by Sharon Gnatt Epel for La Ishá