You asked, we answered! As we often get emails and shop floor queries from our Content beauties asking us how to treat and manage eczema and National Eczema Week is approaching, we thought we'd shine the spotlight on this often misunderstood skin condition and ask Content founder Imelda Burke to share her answers with our readers too. If you're looking for some relief by way of natural beauty, read her expert tips below.
One of the questions I am asked most commonly is for recommendations on the best products to use for eczema-prone skin. Since it is National Eczema Week from 12–20 September it seems the perfect time to share the products and tips our customers have seen the best results from over the years.
With atopic eczema thought to affect up to one in ten adults and two in ten children in the UK it’s fair to say it’s a common condition and the National Eczema Society aims to increase the understanding of why we itch during their awareness week.
Although there are several types of eczema the atopic form (often referred to as dermatitis) is the most common. Interestingly, as with my own eczema you can often grow out of it. Atopic eczema can improve significantly, or even clear completely, in children as they get older – it is estimated about half of all cases improve by the time a child reaches 11 years, and around two-thirds improve by the age of 16. Mine followed this pattern and was all but gone by 13 and just flared up in my late teens at exam time – not the distraction I needed!
As Eczema is a chronic condition, care is in the daily management of the condition, rather than any quick fix. Also, understanding if you have any triggers can help you prepare or even avoid flare-ups. The cause may actually vary from person to person. Mine was definitely a case of my skin not producing as much oil as it should, which is often teamed with a not being able to retain water in the skin cells. This upsets the delicate protective layer of moisture on the skin, resulting in it breaking down more easily, becoming irritated, cracked and inflamed. The worse thing you can do with this skin type is to use foaming body washes and soaps. They strip what little oil you have and further dry out the skin.
Other causes can range from abnormal immune and nervous system activity (worsened by airborne allergens such as dust and pollen) to food allergy and intolerances – which interestingly is often the case with children, but in adult Eczema less than 5% are likely to be food related. Request an allergy test from your doctor in both cases. It’s always advisable with any treatment of a chronic condition, not to underestimate the effect coping with the condition has on the individual. Constant flare-ups, the urge to scratch and interrupted sleep, can itself be a source of stress, and exacerbate the condition. You can read more on the mind-skin connection here.
So what can you do on a daily basis to help remedy the symptoms? The action really depends on the trigger. I would remove dairy, thought to me one of the main food triggers, from the diet and see if that helps – although only time will tell, so don’t give up after a week – give it a couple of months. Then increase the Omega-3 in your diet to help increase the skins protective oil production. I find this helps immensely – but again it takes time – up to 3 months to see the full benefits of supplementation. Don’t skimp either, see your GP or a Nutritionist for the ideal dose for you – but I personally take up to 4 grams when my skin is going through a flare-up. Also, switch your body washes to non-foaming or at least versions that exclude sodium lauryl sulphate and look for unscented. If you are trying to avoid prescribed steroid creams the Pure Potions Skin Salvation is one of our most popular for calming the symptoms of flare-ups. Apply a thick layer as and when needed. It has been formulated with children in mind too and many parents have found the scent helps calm their child and reduces the amount of scratching they do. For face and body several ranges, Pai Skincare, MV Skincare and Twelve Skincare have become our most popular for eczema prone skin, so I’d start with these. Then just keep moisturising. For body, I mix oils with creams and butters with lotions to get the thick emollient texture of water and oils that seems to work. If you don’t have the time for a little bathroom mixology, try the Pai Comfrey and Calendula Calming Body Cream it works a treat for me.
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