What does your skin mean to you? Each and every one of us lives in different skin. Some of us have skin that doesn’t act contrary or get stressed out when we do. Some of us have skin that’s always breaking out or suffering redness, inflammation and irritation.
Some of us have skin that’s prone to eczema that becomes red, itchy, scaly and weepy. Managing eczema can be tricky, as we need to respect the needs of our skin whilst balancing that with using skin care products for eczema that are kind and gentle.
Each person with eczema will experience different symptoms and triggers, but having eczema if you’re a person of colour can also mean added symptoms such as enhanced scarring.
So this week, we’re going to talk about eczema and black skin. How to recognise it, how to get eczema diagnosed and how to help manage it.
Eczema is a skin condition that causes areas of skin to become dry, red, inflamed and itchy. It can appear anywhere on the face or body. Although eczema is more common in babies and children, it can still occur in adults at any stage of life.
Also known as atopic dermatitis, eczema can occur in flare ups, where an eczema sufferer's skin suddenly becomes itchy and inflamed. It can then disappear for months or longer, only to reappear seemingly for no reason.
Chronic eczema can cause the regularly affected areas of skin to become thickened and scaly. The constant itch of eczema can mean that persistent scratching results in skin that’s become broken, weepy and can even bleed.
Eczema that’s become infected will look yellow and crusty. Infected eczema can be caused by the process of scratching introducing dirt and bacteria into the broken areas of skin.
So it’s clear that eczema should be managed and looked after to help reduce the symptoms and the chance of infected, thickened or scaly skin.
What causes eczema?
The definitive cause of eczema is unknown, but there are a few different factors that are thought to cause eczema. The main cause is thought to be the immune system triggering an aggressive reaction to certain irritants.
These irritants can be anything from the chemicals in our cleaning products and soaps to wearing certain fabrics such as manmade materials or even natural wool. Animal dander can also be a trigger, as can sweating and humidity and internal factors such as stress.
Regardless of the causes, eczema is best diagnosed by a doctor. They can then discuss your potential triggers with you, possibly by using a symptom diary in which you record your flare ups alongside other factors such as diet, lifestyle and stress levels at the time.
You may also benefit from having a patch test, where certain allergens (allergy causing factors) are added to your skin to test their reaction. The idea then is to avoid your triggers, some of which are easier to avoid than others.
Eczema and black skin
The causes and symptoms of eczema are the same, no matter what skin type we have. But if we have black skin, then the consequences of having eczema can appear worse.
There are a few reasons behind this.
Primarily, eczema on black skin causes the skin to appear darker, purple in colour or grey, as well as swollen, warm to the touch, dry, itchy and inflamed. This can sometimes mean that eczema is misdiagnosed in people of colour because of the absence of the ‘typically’ red skin.
This can lead to eczema symptoms worsening, due to not being diagnosed properly. Those with black skin and eczema also tend to experience more dryness and dehydration in their skin. They can also notice that the skin around their eyes becomes darker and sometimes irritated.
After a flare up, darker skin types may notice that the affected areas of skin become lighter than the surrounding areas. Scarring can become more apparent too, leaving behind noticeable scars that can remain for long periods of time.
Also, darker skin types can be more at risk of developing a condition called papular eczema. Papular eczema looks like goosebumps that won’t go away and are commonly seen on the torso, arms and legs.
There is also a higher prevalence of a condition known as follicular accentuation among people of colour. Follicular accentuation occurs when these small, goosebump like bumps form around the hair follicles.
Repeatedly scratching at the skin can then lead to thickened areas of skin that form raised patches that are firmer to the touch than the surrounding skin. These are called prurigo nodules.
People of colour are in fact, more likely to develop eczema overall, than those with lighter skin tones. So it’s important that if you have darker skin and you think you may have eczema, that you see a doctor or skin specialist.
If you feel as if you’ve been misdiagnosed, then you’re perfectly entitled to a second opinion. Preferably from a medical professional who knows and understands darker skin types and how they may appear different to lighter skin types if they’re experiencing eczema.
Treating eczema in black skin is managed in just the same way as in any skin, but with an extra emphasis on treating the dryness that can occur.
Using emollients and skin care products that don’t contain harsh ingredients and fragrances is key. You should also avoid taking very hot baths or showers, and even in warm water, try not to take a bath or a shower for longer than ten minutes. Hot water and being submerged for long periods of time will add to the dryness of the skin, and cause further irritation.
Managing your stress levels and body temperature (to avoid excessive cold or heat) will also help to keep flare ups under control.
There are medications (including steroids and antihistamines) and light treatments that can help in severe cases of eczema. But these are usually only used if other, more holistic treatments, haven’t worked beforehand.
The Sond skin care range of cleansers, moisturisers, toners and serums has been specifically designed to help soothe, calm, manage and protect all skin types, including eczema prone skin. So why not give us a try today?!
This article is not meant to treat or diagnose. Please visit your doctor for advice about any health concerns you may have.