When you are living with eczema, you are no stranger to dry, itchy skin. There are hundreds of products on the market that claim to treat the condition. Did you know that several of those products contain allergens that have been linked to worsening eczema flares? Why then, do they promote themselves as being a treatment for the condition? In part, science brings new development with medicine and our understanding of the condition. What was recognized yesterday as being a valid way to treat a condition, can become irrelevant overnight. Let’s work together at finding the right eczema skin care routine for your skin below!
The Eczema Skin Care Routine
As stated above, many products contain known allergens and irritants within their formulas. The result? Using them can actually exacerbate the condition.
Some common allergens in eczema skin care products include:
- Oatmeal (Associated with the gluten component)
- Olive Oil (While great on a salad, has been linked to allergic reactions when applied topically)
- Sulfates (Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES)
- Parabens (Often found in topical dermatologic creams)
The first part of implementing an eczema skin care routine is finding products that do not contain these additives. Look for cleansers and moisturizers that are 100% hypoallergenic, free of harmful irritants and allergens and that focus on skin barrier optimization (SBO).
Showering and hand washing our necessities for keeping the body clean and refreshed. However, there are several factors a person with eczema needs to be aware of. Jobs that require frequent hand washing and the use of antibacterial soaps can lead to hand dermatitis (eczema on the hands). It is imperative that you find a mild cleanser for your hand washing needs and requirements. If you have a job that mandates excessive hand washing (medical professionals, food workers, daycare employees, teachers etc..) then bring your own soap to work. When possible, wear non-latex gloves.
When showering or bathing, use lukewarm water rather than hot. Remember the hotter the water, the drier the skin will become. Limit times to 5-10 minutes. Use a mild cleanser and pay the extra to seek out sulfate free shampoos. Sulfates are in the majority of shampoos on the market. So much so, that shampoos that do not contain them, will promote themselves as being sulfate free. If your eczema is severe, only use cleansers are the areas of your body (armpits, private parts) that need it and avoid using soap on the torso and limbs until the flares are manageable.
Moisturizing is the most important part of treating eczema. You will want to moisturize at least twice a day, (although I recommend up to four times a day with moderate to severe cases)! Moisturize 3-5 minutes after bathing or showering. Always apply moisturizer after washing your hands. The best moisturizing products will focus on skin barrier optimization. The idea behind this science is that products that focus on essential skin lipid replacement and contain ceramides (in particular ceramide 3), will actually help the skin to repair itself.
Remember to read labels and be aware of known contact allergens. If you do not find relief with these precautions and treatment steps, make an appointment with a licensed dermatologist to discover other treatment options. They may want to prescribe topical steroids, medicated creams, and antibiotics for more severe cases.
Dr, Cheryl Lee Eberting blogs regularly about skin problems, treatment, and aftercare.