In our mission to amplify the voices of real people living with real skin conditions, we've asked blogger Amara Howe to share her experience of coping with the infernal itch of chronic eczema! Here are her top tips.
I get a lot of questions about my eczema, but the one I hear the most is “how do I stop the itch?!”
Unfortunately, I’m not here to tell you how to stop it, because truth be told, I have no idea how to stop the itch. If I did, I very much doubt I’d be writing this blog for you guys today, but for the meantime I’ve got some helpful tips on how to calm the itch. These will hopefully provide you with relief for a short amount of time dependant on your self-control.
And self-control is most certainly the best place to start! While eczema might make you feel like you aren’t in control of your body, believe me, you are!
Let me put it this way - could you imagine the frustration you’d feel with your hands tied behind your back? The urge to scratch overwhelming you, but nothing you can do except just sit there and wait for the itch to subside. Eventually you’d knacker yourself out from overthinking – could you imagine?!
Of course, it’s easier said than done, as most people do have the ability to scratch when they feel the urge, but it just puts into perspective that everything is connected. Your mind and body work with one another. Of course this isn’t always for the best and a lot of the time our instinct takes over... Itchy? Scratch it better.
Next time you feel an itch coming on, try and beat the itch. See how long you can go without needing to scratch. Believe me, I know from personal experience this is difficult, but try going without scratching for as many seconds as you can. And each time hold your breath. 15, 20 seconds? Eventually you will realise how much it is mind over matter.
Take a bath
That first tip was probably the trickiest, so let’s go for one which will always help calm both you and the itch… a bath!
Water can be incredibly drying for your skin so it is essential you use bath oils or oatmeal in your bath. I fill up a sock with oats and squeeze it into the bath, it makes a lovely creamy texture and is calming for the skin. Make sure the water isn’t too hot and fill it up to the top - your neck needs some loving too! Bring a book, put on some meditation music, close your eyes and breath. I find a bath an hour before bed helps me to calm down; after all our histamine levels are higher at night.
Ten hours. No less. An average person without an agonising skin condition might be able to survive on eight, but our bodies need ten. Sleep is incredibly important to healing and we need as much as we can get. Bed is supposed to be a haven but having eczema can really affect this heaven-like experience, so it’s important to make sure you have the best sleep you possibly can.
Taking antihistamines before bed is a really good idea and can help you to sleep through the night without waking up. Meditation before bed is also a great plan. Your room should be a stress-free zone, so eliminate mobile usage and stick to a good book before bed. Changing your sheets as regularly as possible is important for eczema too – plus who doesn’t love fresh sheets?!
Be kind to yourself
Eczema can be incredibly detrimental to your mental health. As someone with severe eczema, anxiety and depression, I know all too well how eczema can affect me mentally. If I am stressed I am much more likely to have a flare-up, which in return will make me even more stressed – it’s a vicious cycle.
You need to remember you are the most important thing in the world and you need to do what’s best for you.
Feeling guilty because you would rather stay at home in your jammies and bandages than at a club with your friends? Don’t. Need a day off work because your skin is sore? Do it. Don’t ever let the feeling of guilt or being a ‘let down’ get in the way, because at the end of the day you are in control of your life and you need to do what makes you happy. I’ve gotten to the point in my life now where I am going to do what is best for me and if that means staying at home looking after my body then I’m going to do just that.
Recently featured in Cosmopolitan talkng about her life with chronic atopic dermatitis, Amara is a writer and influencer who charts her life with eczema at @amarahowe
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.