7 Tips for managing Eczema - speaking from personal experience

(The information provided is for guidance and is not a substitute for medical advice)

On occasions I've received emails asking for recommendations on how to manage skin prone to eczema. Often people have ended up in a vicious circle of flare ups and are unsure what to try next. I know how it feels, I grew up with atopic eczema which became manageable with the diagnosis of allergies but has never truly left me. There is no cure for this condition and it's heartbreaking, often all we can do is cope and try to put on a brave face. I can only offer advice based off my own experience but it is important to remember eczema takes on many forms and what works for one may not for another. I've decided to put together my survival tips as a quick easy reference. Always consult your Doctor if you have any major concerns or require further advice and treatment.

If you experience eczema you'll know that your skin is as super dry. Your skin isn't producing as much fats and oils as other people and your protective barrier is weaken. You need to moisturise daily, sometimes hourly to try and soothe itchiness and soften dryness. One of the reasons I started a "green" and holistic skincare journey was because I believe the ingredients in emollients exasperated my condition. As someone with Atopic eczema clearly linked to allergies it was time to start reading labels.

Tip 1 - Find your triggers
I quickly ditched SLS/SLES (sodium lauryl sulphate/sodium laureth sulphate), a detergent and surfactant found in skincare and household products. This is the ingredient that helps products foam. Sulphate is believed to irritate and potentially dry out skin. Speaking from experience I believe SLS can effect my skin but in order to provide fairness in my anecdote there has been no solid evidence that confirms or denies that SLS is a cause of concern.

I made a personal decision to avoid prescription emollients and steroids. I was tried of ineffective creams and worried about side effects. Paraffin is a key ingredient in emollients and I have previously blogged about why I dislike it - Why I choose not use Petroleum JellyI strongly believe that a lifetime use of steroid cream has caused pigmentation issues.  My back no longer tans evenly in the sun instead I suffer white patches which remind me of Vitiligo. Alternative plant based emollients which I highly regard are shea butter, coconut oil, avocado and cocoa butter. 

Tip 2 - Changing old habits
Sometimes you have to think outside the box. A very simple solution for me has been washing my hair over the bath.  I switched to SLS free body care long before changing over my shampoo.  I noticed mainstream salon shampoos caused irritation during showering. I have eczema on my body so washing my hair over the bath reduces the areas that products come in contact with.  Also if you use aerosol styling products I find wrapping a towel around my shoulders helps to eliminate the product coming in contact with my neck and shoulders.  Keep hairdryers and water at low temperatures as high heat dries out the skin.

Tip 3 - Cleaning your Home
I don't clean my home without wearing a pair of gloves as it reduces contact with cleaners which are often full of irritating chemicals and fragrance. When I had eczema on my hands I made sure I used latex free gloves. Bonus tip is consider your work environment as well. I once was getting itchy skin on contact with my desk, turned out it was the cleaning products used by my employer's cleaning staff.

Tip 4 - Clothing
The type of clothing you wear and the products you wash them in are worth consideration.  Cotton is often most comfortable on skin and allowing it to "breathe" when sweating.  I find wool an irritant which can quickly trigger eczema. I am constantly battling with laundry detergents, often overly fragrance products which cause itchiness. I opt for Non-Bio and keep perfumes and dyes to a minimum. I recommend this article Odylique put together covering "Best Washing Powders for Eczema Prone Skin"

Tip 5 - You are what you eat
Gut health is believed to play an important role in managing skin conditions. I personally would find it hard to argue against dietary changes as there is a clear correlation between my atopic eczema and allergies. I think most of us can agree we would all benefit from a healthy lifestyle.

Tip 6 - Favourite Skincare
Odylique is a brand I heavily rely upon and they have many products which I have found helpful in managing my skin. In particular the Ultra Rich Balm and Repair lotion may be helpful on eczema prone skin
Lyonsleaf have an excellent range of creams, I have found the Calendula one to be effective
Balmology Comfort Balm is a beautiful product for dry skin. The key to finding a good balm is looking at the ingredients that suit you best
Balmonds formulate for skin prone to conditions such as eczema, many of their products are fragrance free and vegan friendly.

If you have not mastered the art of understanding ingredients then look for websites that stock natural product and have strict policies on ingredients. There are many online retailers competing for your money, check out my Where to Shop post.

Tip 7 - Useful Resources
It can help to speak to other people with eczema and there are useful resources online. I'd recommend checking out the following:-
National Eczema Society (UK)
National Eczema Association (USA)
Allergy UK
Anaphylaxis Campaign
Skins Matter & Free From Skincare Awards

I hope this post has been helpful. If you have any tips to share please let me know, you can email or contact me via social media.

Sarah x