Sunday, 13 April 2014

How I manage my eczema flare-ups.

So first of all- a disclaimer! I'm not a medical or skincare professional, everything I mention in his post are things that work FOR ME, everyone's skin reacts differently and if you're struggling with eczema you should really see a doctor / dermatologist rather than relying in the internet (the internet is a very useful tool, but is not a substitute for a professionals advice- plus they can give you prescription drugs!)

I never ever had eczema as a child, and I really only developed it at about the age of 20/21. I've had it on and off since then, in various places (but mostly my eyelids and hands/wrists) and since then I've tried a LOT if things to try and get rid of it, some have worked well and I'm pretty sure some things made it worse... So I thought I'd share a bit of my experience and a couple of products that work for me.

For the first couple of days of a flare-up when the skin is feeling itchy, hot, raw and horrible I think a hydrocortisone cream is essential. I think you can buy these from pharmacies but I got mine prescribed (if you've never used one before or have only just developed eczema I really recommend seeing your doctor anyway, they can probably provide stronger hydrocortisone creams if you need them and will be able to give you the best advice about what/what not to do and use)




It's very important to be very sparing with a hydrocortisone cream- you only need a very thin layer on the affected area, and there can be side effects (like skin thinning) if it's used frequently over a long period. That said, this stuff really is a miracle for my skin- it takes away that horrible red, hot, itchy feeling when an eczema patch first crops up, and makes it look and feel a lot less 'angry'. Unfortunately you're not supposed to use it on the face (which is hell when I have eczema on my eyelids; and I have to admit that on a couple of occasions I felt so awful I caved and used it on my lids...) as the skin is more delicate there, so I'm not sure what would be a good alternative for the face.

The next thing that is super important for eczema treatment is moisturiser, moisturiser, moisturiser. I sometimes feel a lot like Lady Cassandra from Doctor Who: I am constantly within arms reach of at least 2 or 3 forms of moisturiser and reapply all the time throughout the day.




There are lots of different options for keeping your skin moisturised, but I have a few favourites that really moisturise well, and don't further irritate my skin (which is sensitive at the best of times)

For the daytime I tend to switch between Nivea Creme and E45- which are both nice because they moisturise well, sink in pretty fast (which I really need at work- my eczema is worst on my hands and I need to be able to type and touch paperwork without leaving greasy marks on everything) and is gentle on irritated or sensitive skin. I make a point of applying moisturisers to my skin whenever I wash it- so for my hands I reapply all the time!





At night I often soak myself in oil (usually either almond oil or rescue oil) on my hands, arms (especially inside my elbows) and my knee and ankle areas to really moisturise thoroughly over night- I do find it helps my dry skin in general. 




Once my skin has healed a little, and reaches that horrible looking dry and flaky stage I like to (very gently) exfoliate. (please never exfoliate raw, broken skin! You will do much more harm than good) Remember when you have a layer of flaky dead skin any product you apply will have to penetrate the dead skin before it can actually do anything useful to the living (hopefully healthy) skin below, so by gently removing that dead stuff you can help to keep your living skin moisturised (plus it looks and feels so much better)

I usually use a very simple DIY recipe, which involves mixing caster sugar (a finer grained sugar which is gentler than granulated) and olive oil (so it can also moisturise as you scrub) into a thick paste and rubbing it over the skin. It's simple, natural, and works so well. You could also use my coffee scrub recipe to exfoliate- that's nice and gentle too (plus it smells amazing!)




That's really it for products I use- I do find it better to be minimal with products I use on flare-ups; the skin is so much more delicate during a flare-up and I'd hate to do anything to make it worse! But here are a couple of more general tips I like to follow:


  • Moisturise every single time you wash/get wet- that means immediately after washing your hands, getting out of the shower etc. I love to use oils all over when my skin is damp from a shower.
  • Avoid harsh body washes and bubble baths (I like the Sanex Zero range, though I'm on the hunt for a SLS free shower gel that is affordable- let me know if you know of any!) If possible only use body wash on the essential areas and leave the rest of your skin alone.
  • In fact, avoid baths- they're so drying! If you must have a bath use a moisturising bath oil, and cooler water. Short, cool showers are much better for your skin. And try not to shower every day if possible.
  • Try and look out for what might trigger your flare-ups (unfortunately I can't work out what triggers mine) it could be anything really: environmental, dietary or stress related- or potentially just a random, annoying, occurrence.
  • Don't let your skin get too hot or cold and wear looser, breathable fabrics (cotton is your friend here)



So that's my take on caring for eczema, please give me all of your tips and advice in the comments, I always appreciate new things to try.


xGretalRabbitx

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