If you've ever suffered from eczema, you know how frustrating it can be.
Not only does it make your skin itchy, inflamed and uncomfortable but it also can take a huge toll on your confidence, especially due to its unsightly appearance.
And while the skin condition is quite common (it is estimated that up to 10 per cent of children will experience it), it's not exclusive to childhood. One in five women develop hand or face eczema as a result of a reaction to product or ingredient, most commonly appearing over the age of 30.
Though there's no real "cure" for eczema, there are plenty of small steps you can take to calm eczema-prone skin and help prevent future flare-ups. We spoke to Sarah Brown, Pai Skincare founder and skincare expert for her best tips on how to treat eczema.
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1. Keep It Cool
"As eczema is so closely linked to heat, trying to keep skin cool is the first line of defense. If you feel a patch of skin flaring up or your skin feels uncomfortably hot, try using a cold compress. A gel-filled pad or cloth-wrapped ice pack is best –- as anything damp causes moisture to evaporate off the skin, leaving it even drier."
"Applying a calming cream to the affected area will help to reduce irritation. Watch out for products containing artificial fragrance (listed as “parfum”) and alcohol, as both are common eczema triggers.
Instead, focus on products with healing and therapeutic properties. Our Instant Calm range is brilliant for reactive and eczema-prone skin -- all the products contain high levels of natural anti-inflammatories that provide instant relief to uncomfortable skin."
3. Treat Your Skin From The Inside, Out
"It’s an urban myth that diet doesn’t affect eczema. As an autoimmune inflammatory condition, eczema is frequently activated by particular foods -- though triggers can vary hugely from person to person.
Dairy and refined sugar are common exacerbators that can cause inflammation in the body and a subsequent eczema flare-up. To get to know your personal triggers, try keeping a food diary -- you should quickly see patterns emerging."
4. Supplement Your Diet
"Many eczema sufferers see brilliant results from taking a high-quality Omega (Essential Fatty Acid) supplement. Omegas are the building blocks of healthy skin and strengthen the skin’s barrier -- protecting it against allergens and irritants that can cause flare-ups. They also have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body, so can help keep skin calm in the long run.
Pre and probiotics are also considered important for sufferers of skin conditions. If you are struggling with your skin, a visit to a naturopath for diet and supplement advice may well be a good skin investment."
5. Break The Habit
"Though it might take all of your willpower to refrain from scratching, try your best! Scratching skin damages the skin barrier, exposing it to infections that can turn a patch of dry skin into a full-body flare-up.
Scratching can become more of a habit than anything -- something you do when you’re stressed or tired without even realiaing it. If that sounds like you, try scratching something else like the corner of your sofa or some Velcro! That way you’re fulfilling your urge without affecting your skin."
6. Be Picky With Your Fabrics
"There are some fabrics that immediately make me itch: polyester, nylon and viscose are some of the worst offenders. Try to stick with natural cotton, silk or linen fibres. If your skin is particularly itchy, then it’s a good idea to keep your clothes loose fitting, too."
7. Stay Calm
"Stress or anxiety causes an increase in the hormone cortisol. While crucial in 'fight or flight' situations, cortisol increases inflammation in the body and can worsen conditions like eczema. So while it’s easier said than done, trying to relax and not stress about your skin will actually do it good in the long run."
8. Step Away From The Shower (Occasionally!)
"Many sufferers tend to wash excessively and over-cleanse affected areas of their skin, in an attempt to bring some relief from the itching or irritation. Unfortunately, this response often makes the condition worse, as the skin’s precious natural oils are stripped away, leaving it with even less protection. If you’re an excessive bather, try scaling back slightly and be sure to only wash with detergent-free products -- I’m a big fan of 100 per cent Olive Oil Castille Soaps."
9. Don’t Sweat It
"There’s nothing better than working up a good sweat, but the heat created by excess sweat can often act as an eczema trigger. Don’t swear off exercise completely, but do be mindful of what you choose to do. Activities like hot yoga or a punishing spin class might not be ideal."
10. Know What You’re Using
"Understanding your skin is the first step to controlling and calming eczema. Get to know what foods cause you to itch, or what cosmetic ingredients can guarantee a flare-up, then avoid them!
Remember, knowledge is power. Once you understand your skin and your body, keeping a handle on your eczema becomes much more manageable."