Why does my body have to look like the scorched desert? Not today, Satan.
When you’re dealing with eczema, you feel a lot like this:
Your skin is like a sidewalk, and eczema is the crack in the cement.
Dr. Adam Friedman, Director of Dermatologic Research at Montefiore Medical Center, explained it this way to Buzzfeed Life: “Individuals with eczema tend to have defects in the way their skin makes the “cement” that cross links and holds the top layer of the skin together, resulting in increased skin water loss and therefore dry skin as well as giving allergens and microbes easy entry.” We spoke to Dr. Friedman and a few other dermatologists about eczema — here’s what they had to say.
1. You don’t actually need to soap up every day. In fact, you probably shouldn’t.
“The skin dries out when the fatty cement like substances that lock the top layer of our skin together are removed or degraded by harsh soaps, which change the acidity of the skin. Use mild soaps infrequently. Your face, underarms, and groin need soap every day but the remainder of the body does not — every other day is fine.” – Dr. Adam Friedman, Director of Dermatologic Research at Montefiore Medical Center.
2. Soak, smear, then dry.
“When you’re done cleansing, apply emollient [that’s your cream moisturizer] to your WET skin. Emollients are often thick and goopy. Think of a moisturizer as a moisture blocker — they’re substances that inhibit the evaporation of water.” – Dr. Adam Friedman, Director of Dermatologic Research at Montefiore Medical Center.
3. Some dermatological studies suggest that oolong tea can help you, too.
Patients in a study published in The Archives of Dermatology drank oolong tea three times a day for 6 months and most of them reported marked improvement to their eczema. Oolong isn’t even the best tea you can drink!
Dr. Verallo-Rowell, clinical researcher and founder of VMV Hypoallergenics, explains: “Tea does have anti-oxidant properties from its many polyphenols, and these may give it anti-inflammatory properties. I am familiar with many good studies on this for green tea, but not oolong. Oolong is more oxidized which makes it less of an anti-oxidant, and thus less anti-inflammatory than green tea.”
In conclusion: drink tea in general. You’ve got options here.
4. Keep your nails short so you don’t scratch too much.
Now that the FutureRama doctor dude has terrified you enough, I will just say in a more serious matter: this is only because longer nails tend to mean you’ll scratch your flareups more.
5. I could tell you to just “stop scratching,” but I’m not the boss of you, and you need a distraction more than you need chastisement.
Distract yourself instead with an ice pack, moisturizer, or a tangle toy. These fidget toys are really great for all kinds of people — I use mine to deal both with my eczema and my skin-picking temptations.
6. You are probably not drinking enough water.
Every doctor BuzzFeed Life spoke to suggests you drink more water. Like, right now. Drink water right now. I want you to be reading this while you drink water. Read this through the glass of your water. Hydrate and multitask. You can do it.
7. Avoid sugars, but love food.
“Try to eat a balanced diet filled with healthy proteins such as fish and less carbs. Avoid sweets hidden in low fat or sugar free products and avoid processed foods.” – Dr. Vermen M Verallo-Rowell.
8. Coconut oil is your best friend.
“I like coconut oil applied at any phase of eczeamatous skin because it is soothing, gentle, and a potent antiseptic of most secondary bacterial, fungal, and even viral invaders which often worsen eczema.” – Dr. Verallo-Rowell
9. Avoid fragranced products — all of them, pretty much.
That doesn’t mean you can’t use great products, though. Kiehl’s has a line of non-fragranced, heavily moisturizing products that work lovely on eczema and psoriasis. The Ultra Facial Cream and the Ultra Facial Overnight Hydration Masque are great for both just severely dry skin and those with eczema. The first time I used the Overnight Masque, my skin was tingling from the moisturizing powers — it hadn’t been hydrated properly in so long. (The tingling went away, and it wasn’t a painful tingly feeling, so thumbs up.)
10. Take lukewarm baths and short showers — overheating your skin can aggravate the problem.
“Water, counterintuitively, can dry out the skin. It’s important to take brief (five minutes or less) showers with warm, not hot, water. And you definitely want to avoid products with alcohol in them. Any cleansers should be gentle soap substitutes such as Dove or Cetaphil Cleanser, rather than harsher soaps with detergents that will dry out the skin. ” – Dr. Hadley C. King, Clinical Instructor of Dermatology at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University.
Even though you should take short showers, that doesn’t mean bathtime is out of the question. Oatmeal baths and bleach baths (at the suggestion of your doctor, of course) can be good for you. Colloidal oatmeal is proven to be good for eczema-prone skin. Aveeno has a Bath Treatment for eczema that works for poison ivy relief, too.
11. Humidify your bedroom at night.
It’ll help maintain a good moisture level in the air, which means your skin will freak out less, which means you’re preventing flare-ups.
12. Colloidal oatmeal 4ever.
First Aid Beauty uses colloidal oatmeal in a lot of their products. They’ve got an Oatmeal Repair Mask that’s great for all skin-types. The main ingredient in their moisturizing cream is colloidal oatmeal, too. No colorants or fragrance or parabens included.
13. You should be moisturizing at least twice a day, and especially after bathing. It’ll help with the itching.
“A common trigger for flareup is excessive bathing without subsequent moisturization. To maintain skin hydration, emollients should be applied at least two times per day and immediately after bathing. It will help prevent flare-ups and itchiness.” – Dr. Priya Nayyar, dermatologist at the North Shore-LIJ Health System.
The Lipikar line from La Roche-Posay is formulated specifically for severely dry and atopic skin (AKA, those with psoriasis and eczema).
14. Aveeno Eczema Therapy Moisturizing Cream is super popular among eczema suffers for a good reason.
Who would be a better expert than those who have it? According to you guys, this works even on eczema on the eyelids. ““Holy grail skincare product….. It works so quickly at getting my eczema under control!”
The Aveeno Eczema Care line works because it replaces key fats that are absent in the skin barrier of those with atopic dermatitis: it repairs barrier function, reduces skin water loss, and increases moisture content.
15. Avene is amazing, too.
16. Make sure the exfoliation you do doesn’t aggravate your eczema.
Some scrubs, while sloughing off those skin flakes, tend to exacerbate the issue. Frank Coffee Scrub won’t make it worse. It manages to slough off skin flakes without damaging the moisture barrier and afterwards your skin feels a bit plumper than before.
17. The drugstore classics are honestly the best.
“I generally recommend the classic Eucerin or the Eucerin Eczema Relief products, Aquaphor, Aveeno Eczema Therapy products and Cetaphil cream. The heavier, greasier and thicker the emollients are the more effective they will be, and increasing the frequency with which you use them will also increase their effectiveness. If it’s a light lotion that looks pretty and smells nice but three minutes after you apply it you can’t tell that you used it then it’s really not doing anything.” – Dr. Hadley King, Clinical Instructor of Dermatology at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University, MD of NYC’s SKINNEY Medspa.