Suffering from dry, itchy, irritated skin is never a pleasant scenario. However, if this is a regular occurrence for you, there’s a high chance you may be suffering from eczema.
Don’t know much about eczema? We’ve got you. Below you’ll find everything you need to know about this common skin condition, as well as how to effectively keep it under control, because knowledge truly is power when it comes to treating this issue.
10 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT ECZEMA
#1. Eczema is the general term for any type of dermatitis.
It is also called atopic dermatitis, and often refers to any type of inflammation of the skin, too. This is because those who suffer from eczema often experience a number of different skin conditions all at once, such as swollen, dry, irritated and itchy skin.
#2. Eczema often develops when you’re a child.
“Most people (90 per cent) develop atopic dermatitis before age five,” says Emma Hobson, Education Manager for the International Dermal Institute and Dermalogica. “It’s also estimated that it affects at least one to three per cent of adults and 10-20 per cent of children in industrialised countries.”
#3. Eczema is not contagious.
“Atopic dermatitis is not contagious, so there is no need to worry about catching it or giving it to someone,” explains Emma. “Atopic eczema is a multifactorial and complex disease that involves the innate and adaptive immune systems, genetics, environmental factors, and even lifestyle.” However, this skin condition does tend to run in families, and often affects those who also have asthma or are affected by hay fever and allergies.
#4. Eczema has a number of different symptoms.
If you suffer from any of the following, it’s likely you have atopic eczema: moderate to severe itching skin; recurring rashes (most commonly found on the face, hands, neck, inner elbows, ankles and back of the knees) that result in dry, red, patchy or cracked skin; skin that weeps a watery fluid; leathery, rough, thick skin; and lesions that are infected by bacteria.
#5. The exact cause of eczema is unknown.
However, it is linked to many internal and external factors that fuel the condition. Internal factors include a family history of eczema, asthma or hay fever, some foods (most notably dairy and wheat products, citrus fruits, eggs, nuts, seafood, chemical food additives, preservatives and colourings), alcohol, and stress. External factors consist of irritants (tobacco smoke, chemicals, weather, and air conditioned environments) and allergens (dust mites, mould, grass, plant pollen, food, pets, soap, shampoo, washing powders, cosmetics and other toiletries).
#6. There is no known cure for eczema.
Emma says: “Although we can’t cure eczema, we can provide the education and treatments that can control the signs and symptoms of this potentially life-disruptive disorder. Because of the complexity of this disease, it may be necessary to treat the whole body, and not just the skin.” This means eczema suffers should also look into holistic therapies like reflexology, acupressure and aromatherapy.
#7. There are certain things eczema sufferers should avoid.
Emma recommends steering clear of the following items in order to help protect the vulnerable barrier of your skin and prevent further irritation: artificial fragrances, alcohol, scrubs or any exfoliant that uses friction, glycolic acid, products that are alkaline like soap and shaving foams, and highly active products that stimulate the skin. Avoid chemical sunscreens, too. Emma says physical sunscreens are best for an irritated, sensitised skin, and she recommends using a product that contains titanium dioxide and zinc oxide.
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#8. There are certain things you can do to avoid an outbreak.
Keeping your skin moist by apply a hydrating cream can help avoid an irritating outbreak, however, it’s also wise to wear fabrics that are soft or 100 per cent cotton; have lukewarm showers and baths; gently pat your skin dry after bathing; avoid rapid changes in temperature; limit rugs and carpeted areas in your home; change your bed linen regularly and use dust mite prevention covers; reduce your stress levels; and pay attention to what triggers your eczema so you can avoid them in the future.
#9. There are many ingredients that treat eczema-prone skin with care.
Look for products that contain the following ingredients, as they aim to repair the skin barrier and reduce inflammation: oatmeal, evening primrose, avocado, sea buckthorn oil, borage oil, lactic acid, ginger, chamomile, liquorice, lavender, and raspberry.
#10. Eczema sufferers should keep their skin care regimen simple.
Limiting the number of products you use will reduce the possibility of a reaction and help prevent your skin from becoming even more sensitised. Look for nourishing moisturisers that are free of fragrance and other known irritants, and opt for creamy cleansers with non-abrasive particles. These types of cleansers will boost your skin’s hydration levels, as well as help combat any dry or sore areas, says Nichola Joss, celebrity facialist and Sanctuary Spa skin care expert.
Do you suffer from eczema? What are your tips for controlling skin dryness and irritation?