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How to care for your eczema

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In this article

Caring for eczema prone skin as you wash
Using the right products to clean your clothes and your home
Choosing the right fabrics
Recognising and removing irritants and allergens
Heat and sweat – is the sun good for eczema? Or bad?
What about cold weather? Is cold and ice good for eczema?
Is a sauna good for eczema?
Does sea water help eczema?
Is an air humidifier good for eczema?
Does smoking make eczema worse?
Resisting the urge to scratch
Natural products for eczema
Ingredients to avoid
Caring for eczema symptoms effectively

If you suffer with eczema prone skin and eczema flare ups, it’s important to do all you can to support the health of your skin. This may include using certain skincare products or even steroid creams to help keep your symptoms under control.

Aside from how to take care of eczema in terms of what you put on your skin, it’s important also to recognise what flares up your eczema. It might be a certain product or item that comes into contact with your skin, or it might be extremes of temperature or hormonal imbalances associated with menstruation or the menopause.

Treating eczema is a complex journey of discovery, with lots of trial and error along the way for different eczema types. But there are some things you can do and other things you can avoid to help care for your eczema prone skin. Some you may already know, and some may surprise you!

Taking a whole body, holistic approach to discovering what causes your eczema flare ups and doing all you can to nourish and support your skin is key to getting your symptoms under control.

Here’s our helpful guide to caring for eczema prone skin.

Caring for eczema prone skin as you wash

If you have eczema, always use body washes that are unperfumed and better still, free from soap. Soap is a common skin irritant for people with eczema and there are lots of soap free alternatives available.

Also consider what you use to wash your hair, as the shampoo will be rinsing off down your face and body in the shower. Opt for fragrance free shampoos and conditioners.

When you’re showering or bathing, water can be quite drying on the skin, so keep them short. Plus, never have the water very hot or very cold as extremes of temperature can trigger flares ups.

Afterwards, use a clean towel to gently pat your skin dry. Don’t rub it (or use harsh exfoliants) as this kind of vigorous action can irritate the skin, make it dry and cause eczema patches to bleed.

Using the right products to clean your clothes and your home

Highly perfumed products don’t just affect eczema if you wash with them. Using scented powders and fabric conditioners when you clean your clothes could also trigger flare ups when you next wear the clothes.

If you have irritant contact eczema, then perfumes, soaps and detergents could be making your symptoms worse.

Use detergents that are made for sensitive skin, without perfumes, to wash your clothing and bedding. Using a double rinse setting on your washing machine will also help to make sure everything is rinsed away.

Also aim to use natural products to clean the rest of your house to keep the air you breathe as free from irritants as possible. If you have to use a strong cleaner that you know you’re sensitive to, wear rubber gloves to help protect your skin.

Choosing the right fabrics

On the subject of fabrics, some synthetic fabrics can irritate the skin and cause a flare up. But one of the most irritating fabrics is actually a 100% natural one – wool.

Sometimes just the thought of a woollen jumper is enough to make you itch, so avoid it. Avoid any other fabrics that elicit the same response.

Stick to loose fitting, cotton or linen clothing where possible. Wash all new clothing before you wear it too, in case it contains the smells of the shops or it’s been previously cleaned or treated with something that you’re sensitive to.

Recognising and removing irritants and allergens

Part of caring for your skin when you have eczema is getting to the bottom of what causes flare ups.

We’ve covered skincare products, washing powders and fabrics, but you may also have an allergy to nickel (which is used to plate some jewellery and watches), house dust mite droppings, certain tree and grass pollens or animal fur. You may think having an allergy will affect your nose, throat and eyes, but it can also lead to eczema flare ups.

Try to keep a diary of symptoms and things you may have been exposed to, to see if you can spot any patterns. If your eczema flares up a day or two after visiting a friend with a cat, you may well have the answer…

Other times it may not be so simple, but perseverance will help and could mean that you don’t have to rely on medicated creams such as corticosteroids if you can easily remove your trigger from your life.

Heat and sweat – is the sun good for eczema? Or bad?

High heat and humidity can cause eczema symptoms to flare up. This can be inside a hot room with the heating on, or outside in the sun.

If you know that heat triggers your symptoms, take steps to stay as cool as possible – wear loose fitting, cotton clothing, carry a fan and a bottle of cold water, stay inside where the air is cooler (watch out for air conditioning though, which can exacerbate eczema by making the air too cold and dry) and if you exercise outside, do so in the early morning or the evening when the air is cooler.

Also make sure you shower in cool water as soon after exercising as possible. Sweat can make eczema symptoms worse. You don’t even have to use shower gel if you’re planning on showering when you get home, just a rinse at the gym to remove sweat is enough.

In terms of the sun, it’s a complicated situation. Being hot and sweaty will cause your eczema prone skin to itch and possibly feel prickly (a condition called prickly heat). But there are studies which suggest that the sun can also benefit eczema prone skin.

It’s thought that this could be due to the fact the skin makes vitamin D when it’s exposed to the sun. Vitamin D helps to support eczema prone skin and can even help to alleviate the symptoms.

So the key is to limit your exposure to the sun – enjoy a short time in the sun, but not enough to cause your skin to become too hot, to burn or to sweat. If you do get sweaty, shower in cool water at the earliest convenience.

Light therapy, called phototherapy, can help manage eczema symptoms and involves the use of UV lights to control eczema. Talk to your GP or dermatologist if you’d like to discover more about how light therapy could help your eczema.

What about cold weather? Is cold and ice good for eczema?

Similarly, very cold weather can exacerbate eczema symptoms. The cold and wind can attack the skin, causing it to become dry and irritated.

When it’s cold, keep warm and keep your skin protected from the elements. Try to avoid woollen clothing as this can irritate.

Keep your skin well moisturised in winter too, either with your normal moisturiser or any emollient creams or ointments that you might use. They will help to prevent dryness, cracks and itching.

All of that said, some people find that ice packs, wrapped in a tea towel and applied to areas where eczema flare ups are worse, really do help to relieve the itch. That will be a case of working out if you feel that ice packs hinder or help your skin.

Is a sauna good for eczema?

Heat and humidity are generally bad for people with eczema. But some people do report that saunas, the very thing you’d think would be the worst for eczema prone skin, actually help their symptoms.

There are no studies to suggest why this might be, so use this tip with caution. If the thought of a sauna session fills your skin with dread, then don’t even try. But if you think you could stand it, give it a try for a minute or two. If your skin prickles and feels irritated, don’t go back, but if it doesn’t, see if you can stand a little longer.

Does sea water help eczema?

Again, seawater is a case of yes and no. Some people find that sea swimming makes their skin feel worse, whilst others say it improves it.

Chlorine used in swimming pools has the same effect – some people with eczema can tolerate it and others can’t.

Either way, make sure you take a cool shower soon after being in salty or chlorinated water as the overall effect of being in the water can be quite drying.

Is an air humidifier good for eczema?

Dry skin is the scourge of eczema sufferers, and nothing dries the skin out more than central heating. Being inside a heated office all day, or having the heating on at home takes moisture from the air and dries the skin.

You can combat this by using an air humidifier. These range from small units that you can leave by a radiator, to large floor standing units you may be able to use at work. Similarly, hanging wet cloths (or washing) over radiators will help to replenish the moisture in the air. Replace the cloths or clothes with more wet ones when they dry out.

If you use a humidifier, don’t have it higher than around 45% as too much humidity will have the opposite effect. It will cause you to sweat and lead to a worsening of eczema symptoms that way.

Does smoking make eczema worse?

Cigarette smoke is a trigger for many, and it can lead to a flare up of eczema symptoms. So if you smoke, taking steps to give up could be one of the best things you do – not just for your eczema but for your general, overall health.

We’re not saying it’s easy to give up, but speaking to your GP about ways to quit and groups you can join will help.

Resisting the urge to scratch

We know, we know, not scratching an itchy patch of eczema is almost impossible, especially for young children or during your sleep.

But as much as you can, try not to use your fingernails to scratch, as it can cause your skin to break and bleed, and then you run the risk of picking up a skin infection. Regular scratching can also cause the affected areas of skin to thicken and become dry and leathery. Dryness is the last thing eczema prone skin needs.

If you can, try to use the tips of your fingers to gently rub or pinch at the skin to relieve the itch. It may be useful to wear cotton gloves in bed (or put cotton mittens on babies) if you scratch at your skin unknowingly during the night. Keep your nails short, too.

Natural products for eczema

There are a range of natural solutions that could help your eczema and aid the management of the condition:

Coconut oil and eczema 

Virgin, cold pressed coconut oil and eczema could be a good combination - coconut oil can help to soothe the dryness and itching caused by eczema.

Epsom salts for eczema

Epsom salts contain magnesium which many people find helps soothe the symptoms of eczema when its added to a warm (not hot) bath. Although there’s no conclusive evidence why an Epsom salt bath helps eczema prone skin, it’s thought they can help the skin to retain moisture, keeping it more hydrated.

Manuka honey and eczema

Manuka honey, and to a lesser extent, other honeys, contains substances that are naturally antiseptic which can help irritated, dry skin.

Burdock root For eczema

Burdock is a vegetable and its roots have been used in traditional holistic medicine practices for generations. It has natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that can help to manage eczema flare ups.

Ingredients to avoid

Olive oil and eczema

Not all oils will help to soothe eczema prone skin, and olive oil is one of them. Avoid applying olive oil to the skin as it can become irritating, due largely to its high concentration of a substance called oleic acid. Save the olive oil for salad dressings and use the coconut oil on your skin.

Caring for eczema symptoms effectively

How to soothe eczema is probably high up on your list of eczema questions. We have lots of information on the types of topical treatments available for treating eczema. But if you prefer to make your treatment a little more natural then all these eczema tips here are designed to help you manage your skin.

Everyone has different skin, and what works for one person may not work for you and vice versa. The same goes for topical treatments such as corticosteroid creams and emollients.

How you make your eczema less red and how to prevent your eczema from itching will be down to a combination of the right skincare and lifestyle choices and habits.

The Sönd range of alkalising skincare really can help. It’s been developed by us, as we have experience of problem skin, for skin just like yours. We’re proud of our testimonials and we love that we can genuinely help people take control of their problem skin.

Give our range of alkalising washes, cleansers and moisturisers a try, and see how they work for you, they could transform your skin forever!

Hannah de Gruchy BSc(Hons)

About Author

Hannah de Gruchy is a freelancer writer who specialises in health and wellness. She has a keen interest in the biology of skin and loves using her words to help separate the real science of skincare from the pseudoscience of some skincare brands. Hannah has a degree in Human Biology and many years’ experience working in laboratories around London. Using this experience, Hannah enjoys turning complex science into interesting, engaging and easy to digest pieces to read. In her spare time, Hannah runs, practices yoga and loves cooking plant based foods.

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