Eczema, or itchy, red, thickened rashlike skin that typically develops in patches is a very common skin condition that affects many people. Simple lifestyle changes are the first line of defense to help avoid and control eczema. The following skin-care tips can help reduce the severity and frequency of flare-ups, which also may decrease the need for prescription creams. Maintaining a good skin-care routine using fragrance-free products specially formulated for eczema-prone skin can help once the signs and symptoms clear to help prevent further outbreaks.
- Cleanse carefully. Skin that is prone to eczema is usually dry and itchy. Therefore it is important to avoid stripping the skin of its delicate, natural oils. Use only non-fragranced, very gentle, creamy cleansers to clean the skin. In the shower, consider only cleansing body areas that develop a smell (such as underarms, groin, and feet) since other body parts do not get very “dirty” and many cleansers remove the skin’s natural oils. In the shower or bath, use warm water, not too hot, since hot water can also strip the skin of its much-needed oils. Shower oils that contain gentle cleansers and essential omega fatty acids can help prevent the loss of the protective skin oils.
- Moisturize! For people who are susceptible to eczema, it is so important to moisturize regularly and frequently as part of an effective treatment plan. Frequent moisturizing locks in skin’s hydration to prevent dryness and cracking. There are several excellent products that serve the special needs of eczema-prone skin. Look for products with colloidal oatmeal that help with the skin’s barrier function for maximum benefit. Skin-soothing licorice extract and ceramides can also be helpful skin-care ingredients.
- Reduce contact with anything that irritates the skin. Common skin irritants include fragrances, soaps, bubble baths, hand sanitizers, perfumes, laundry detergents and fabric softeners, household cleaning products, scratchy fabrics, and inexpensive jewelry. Learn what irritates your skin and limit contact. Dress in loose, soft cotton clothing. Avoiding personal care products that contain alcohol and fragrance and not washing hands too frequently also will help reduce irritation.
- Avoid major temperatures changes. A sudden increase in temperature can cause excessive sweating that causes a trigger of the itch/scratch cycle for some eczema-prone people. More commonly, it is a major temperature drop with reduced levels of humidity in the air that dries out the skin and leaves it feeling itchy. Keep a humidifier in the bedroom during the winter to help improve skin moisture levels. This increased humidity in the air also helps skin-care products to be more effective because it allows them to lock moisture onto the surface of the skin.
Dry, itchy skin is a very common complaint I see in my practice. Some people are also prone to developing eczema. To avoid the risk of an eczema flare-up, we discuss how important it is to follow the recommendations of gentle cleansing, frequent and regular moisturizer use, and avoidance of irritants to keep the skin healthy-looking. These simple steps go a long way to keep the skin soft, smooth and calm.