This blog post was inspired by the large number of our customers who suffer from Eczema and use our and other natural products to help them manage and in some cases treat their skin condition. Suffering from Eczema can be a painful and ongoing struggle and we hope to answer some of the most common questions about the condition; what causes eczema?, What is the best way to treat eczema? We also hear from Kimberley Jessica who has been an eczema sufferer on how it has affected her life and we are also lucky enough to hear from a skin expert and get their skin advice for sufferers of the condition.
Contents of this article:
1. My Story:
"I have always had eczema ever since I was born, along with the nasty dry skin that goes with it. When I was little my mum would have to help me bath with all kinds of different creams and ointments then once I was dry, I'd have to stand on the kitchen chair for my mum to cover me a thick nasty eczema cream. Despite this, no matter how many times we repeated this my eczema would not clear and we had to look for other options. I eventually went to see someone who then provided me with a heck load of different creams and lotions for eczema and some of these made my skin really sore and some of them even gave me an allergic reaction. Over the last few years I've started using steroid creams which were prescribed on my doctors advice. The first one they gave me was for children and not surprisingly it didn't work very well on my skin, but the second one was designed for adults and at this time I was still in school so this was far too strong for my skin and it made it sting after I used it. After trying these I finally found a steroid cream which made my eczema disappear completely but they wouldn't let me keep using it all of the time, for obvious reasons! Because it's a steroid cream. After finding this cream it was a real disappointment as they stopped making it."
"The advice I would give for anyone who has eczema, is to keep trying to find a product which helps your skin! I haven't found that perfect product for me so far, but I know there is still hope and I keep on looking! Other advice is, do not scratch your eczema rashes, no matter how itchy it gets! I need to take my own advice on this as I scratch my eczema till it gets lumpy and sometimes starts bleeding which makes it even more sore!"
2. What is Eczema?
Eczema is a term which is used for any inflammation which affects the skin, the main characteristics of the condition are redness, itching, small pimples and bumps. More extreme symptoms can be weeping, oozing and crusting, and in extreme cases scaly skin, leathery skin and often pigmentation. Eczema is also a more commonly used term for the skin condition atopic dermatitis.
Eczema is by no means a modern phenomenon, the word eczema actually comes from the Greek word ekzein which means "to boil out." The condition has been around for a long time and affects large numbers of people.
For more information about the causes of eczema and how it affects the skin you can watch this fantastic video from the Eczema society of Canada:
3. What Causes Eczema?
The exact cause of eczema is still unknown, but it is believed to be linked to a number of factors:
Your genetic history is believed to play a big part in whether you will suffer from eczema, so if your parents or other direct family suffer from it this means that you can be more likely to be affected.
Biological factors can also play a big part in causing outbreaks and flare ups, these can include changes in hormone levels particularly for women at certain stages of pregnancy or their menstrual cycle and for men during puberty. Stress is not thought to be a cause of the condition itself but can certainly be linked to flare ups, the types of foods that you eat can also play a big part in the effects of eczema and chemical irritants found in household and bathroom products are also known to irritate the condition. This is why we would always recommend using products which are totally natural and do not contain any chemical ingredients, such as our natural soaps.
The environment that a person lives in or is exposed to can also have a detrimental effect on their suffering, this includes extreme temperatures, dry climates, airborne microbes such as pollution, pollen, mould, dust, viruses, fungus and other skin irritants.
Sufferers are also generally thought to have sensitive skin which in turn allows more irritants into the skin and can increase the effects of the factors above.
4. Why does Eczema make my skin itch?
The most common symptoms of eczema are patches of skin which are dry and scaly patches and can be intensely itchy. Other symptoms caused by the condition can vary depending on the age of the sufferer.
Most people will develop symptoms as a child under five and it is estimated that over half of these will continue to suffer from the condition into adulthood. Below we look at some of the different symptoms that are experienced by the different age groups:
Babies (0-2 year):
- Rashes are common on the skin and will be red in colour.
- Often before the rash appears the skin will seem to bubble a little.
- Itchiness is a common feature of the eczema rashes and the condition can be worsened by scratching the rashes as this increases the chance of infection.
Children (2-12 years):
- Eczema rashes will commonly appear in the joint creases, particularly the elbows and knees.
- Other areas of infection can typically be on the neck, wrists, ankles, buttock crease and legs.
- The rashes can also often show a dimpling effect.
- It is not uncommon for the rashes to become lighter or darker in colour over time.
- In extreme cases it is possible for the rashes to thicken and develop into a permanent itch.
Adults (13 years +):
- In adults rashes most commonly appear in areas of the body where there is friction.
- Rashes have also been known to cover the majority of the body.
- In a lot of cases it is not unusual for rashes to become prominent on the neck, face or circling the eyes.
- Dry skin can be a common feature of the rashes in adults.
- In extreme cases rashes can also develop to be permanently itchy.
- If not treated correctly rashes can also lead to skin infections.
The level of eczema and its effects will mostly depend on how irritated the skin becomes. Scratching and itching will usually result in further irritation of the skin, increase inflammation and generally make the feeling of itchiness worse.
5. Skin Experts advice - not making your eczema worse:
"One of the easiest ways to calm eczema-prone skin is to adopt a gentle, non-irritating natural skin care routine and avoid harsh ingredients such as sodium lauryl sulphate which can damage the skin’s protective barrier and mineral oil, petroleum and paraffin wax which prevent the skin from breathing. If you’re struggling with a particularly bad flare-up you may want to consider going completely scent-free with your beauty routine as all fragrances, even natural essential oils, can sometimes be problematic for eczema sufferers."
"Another factor to consider when your skin becomes inflamed, is to be your own detective and investigate the particular areas that flare up. If it’s around your ears, hair line or down your neck/back then take a look at your current hair care routine or if it’s on your hands then your washing up liquid or hand soap could be the cause for concern. Start reading the labels as you may discover some ingredients that could be contributing to your unhappy skin.”
Amy Saunders – Skyn Therapy
6. How can I cure Eczema?:
If you find yourself asking questions like how can I get rid of eczema?
The short answer is that there is no simple cure, the most simple but also most important advice when you are suffering from eczema is to get moisture back into your skin. You should aim to moisturise your skin at least four times a day, which will not only reduce the immediate effects of the eczema, but in the long term it will create a protective barrier for your skin and in turn reduce the chances of future breakouts.
For some people, eczema will naturally go away over time whilst for others it remains a lifelong condition but managing and treating the condition can have a great impact on how it affects your life.
Here are some of the simple steps that you can take to reduce the risk of flare ups with your eczema:
- Take regular baths in warm water
- After or during your bath or shower use a moisturising cream or soap which will help to 'lock in' moisture.
- Moisturise your skin, particularly the areas which are susceptible to infection every day.
- Try to avoid wearing scratchy or heavy fabrics where possible.
- When washing use a natural cream or cleanser which doesn't contain any chemical irritants.
- After a bath or shower don't rub your skin with the towel but instead try patting it or just letting it air dry.
- If you can, try to avoid excessive sweating and also aviod extreme changes in temperature.
- Try to learn what the triggers of your eczema are and if possible avoid them.
- Keep you fingernails short, this is great advice for all those compulsive scratchers.
Even though having eczema is not directly curable, finding out what triggers your condition and following some of the basic steps we have mentioned in this article can help to reduce how much it affects you and your life. It is also important to remember that even after an area of skin has healed it is important to keep looking after it, as it is possible that it may become infected again.