You’ve tried steroids, you’ve tried stronger steroids, you’ve religiously applied pharmaceutical emollient cream several times every single day but still the eczema isn’t going away!
Although your doctor is sympathetic, what they’re doing is basically firefighting, trying to get on top of your acute eczema flare-up in a five minute appointment. Most GPs just don’t have the time to go through with you all the ways you could manage your own specific chronic dry skin condition, with all its unique triggers and intolerances, and instead prescribe steroids to get things under control as quickly as possible. But steroids are not a solution to chronic skin conditions, they’re a short-term tactic to alleviate symptoms, and can actually cause damage to skin if used long-term.
We’ve compiled a list of eight things you can do to boost your skin’s resilience and break the dreaded itch-scratch cycle; if you can keep flare-ups under control, then it may be that you won’t need to use steroids as much. And that’s a definite win!
1. Use Non-irritating Emollients
Standard emollients can contain preservatives, perfume and other synthetics as well as known irritant sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS); it may be that you find you can’t tolerate the petroleum-based emollients that you’ve been prescribed and need to switch to natural ones. Try oil-based ointments rather than water-based creams if they’re stinging and use your preferred emollient regularly, not just when your skin is bad.
2. Avoid Environmental Triggers
All kinds of external triggers can affect your skin: pet hair, pollen, grass seeds, detergents, solvents, industrial chemicals, soap, laundry powder, toiletries, even water… the list is almost endless! Keep a flare-up diary and find out what bothers your skin.
3. Identify Dietary Triggers
Sometimes what you’re eating can flare up your skin: additives, dairy, soya, eggs, citrus, tomatoes, nuts, wheat, shellfish and peanuts can all cause breakouts of itching and inflammation, and there are many more besides. (It’s best not eliminate major food groups without consulting a dietician; if you cut out dairy for example, you will need to make sure you’re getting adequate nutrition elsewhere.)
4. Look After Your Gut Health
A healthy gut will promote healthier skin! So look after your skin from the inside out and nurture your gut flora with pro- and prebiotics, plenty of vegetables and healthy whole foods, avoiding sugar and highly processed foods.
5. Check Your Toiletries
Most shampoos, lotions, cleansers, makeup and soaps on the high street contain potentially irritating ingredients, so check the ingredients lists, and cut out the ones that you’re sensitive to. Never skip the patch test!
6. De-stress Your Life
Stress is a major cause of itchy flare-ups; cutting it out of your life is much easier said than done of course, but if you’re finding your skin red, raw and inflamed with no other apparent triggers, it might well be worth finding some de-stressing strategies that work for you, whether that is practicing meditation or mindfulness, taking some time out or avoiding situations that you know will make you anxious.
7. Feed Your Skin With EFAs
Regular topical application of essential fatty acids (EFAs) has been shown to improve hydration, elasticity and resilience of the skin in people prone to eczema. Pick emollients rich in omega-3 and 6 such as hemp seed, borage or olive oils.
8. Keep Cool
Both hot and cold can trigger flare-ups, so wear layers of natural fabrics (not synthetic) that are easy to take on and off, and avoid hot baths or showers!
Good luck with your new regime! If you need any further support or information, do call us on 01273 623 123 or email us at email@example.com.
If you require medical advice we recommend you always contact your healthcare professional.
If you or someone you are caring for seems very unwell, is getting worse or you think there's something seriously wrong, call for emergency services straight away. For general medical advice, please contact your healthcare professional, this article does not contain or replace medical advice.
Do not delay getting help if you're worried. Trust your instincts.