Mistake No 1: Treating All Eczema the Same
"Eczema" refers to any condition that makes the skin red, itchy, and inflamed. So simply knowing you have eczema doesn’t give you all the information you need about how to treat it. Managing your eczema begins by working out what type of eczema you have.
Atopic dermatitis, the most common kind of eczema, usually begins in childhood. It shows as persistent red, roughened patches on an infant’s cheeks and it can also cause itchy patches behind the knees and elbows, on the hands, feet, ankles, eyelids, and elsewhere. It’s caused by a gene variant that makes skin less able to retain moisture, leaving it vulnerable to being aggravated by things in the environment.
In adults, Contact Dermatitis is common—as the name suggests, it occurs when your skin is in contact with something that irritates it or to which you are allergic.
Mistake No 2: Washing too frequentlyThe key to managing eczema is to keep your skin hydrated, but people often go about this the wrong way - washing too frequently or spending too long in a hot shower or bath. Lukewarm water is best, in short showers or baths, no more than once a day. Use a gentle cleansing bar such as SyrinxZa or seaweed soap, (the Sea-Med brand is ideal) but not ordinary soap which will strip your skin of natural oils. Then smooth on generous amounts of moisturiser as soon as you get out and the skin is still damp. For overnight use choose a cream rather than a lotion – the greasier it feels, the more oil it contains and the better it will be at maintaining hydration. Ointments are best of all, says Mona Gohara, M.D., associate clinical professor of dermatology at Yale University. “They’re less cosmetically elegant, but those are the ones that help the most,” she says. Try SyrinxZa Natural Emollient Cream or Derma Protector Balm. For daytime, My Trusty® Unscented Sunflower Lotion is recommended.
Mistake No 3: Believing that Natural Means Better
The label on your skin product may promise that what’s inside is all-natural or organic, but that doesn’t mean your skin will like it. Natural products often contain irritating ingredients, such as peppermint oil (which can trigger an allergic response for some people) or aloe (which works wonders for some but can cause inflammation). Simple, affordable, fragrance-free products are almost always the better choice for people with eczema.
Mistake No 4: Thinking You’re Allergic When You’re Not
Some of the most common triggers for skin reactions are nickel, nail polish, adhesives, fragrances and preservatives. Beauty products containing retinol are increasingly to blame for eczema in women. But you can suddenly develop a sensitivity to something you’ve happily used for years or a rash may crop up on a part of your body that wasn’t even exposed to the irritant. This is contact dermatitis rather than an allergy, and if you avoid the irritant, you won't get a reaction.
Mistake No 5: Linking Adult Eczema and Food allergy
Although people sometimes go on an elimination diet to try to soothe their skin, eczema in adults generally isn’t associated with a food allergy or sensitivity. If you have coeliac disease you may develop Dermatitis Herpetiformis but gluten otherwise in unlikely to be implicated in your eczema.
In fact following a gluten-free diet often leads to dry skin as cutting out wheat, rye and barley can lead to a lack of some nutrients found in cereal foods, such as Vitamin E and B vitamins, which are important for healthy skin.
Eating sunflower and corn oil, almonds, spinach, broccoli and other leafy green vegetables and sunflower seeds and fortified gluten-free cereals can all help counteract dry skin. (See Eczema and Gluten here.)
However, children who develop atopic dermatitis early in life often also develop food allergies and for them, avoiding their trigger food is critically important, since a food allergy can cause a fatal reaction.
Mistake No 6: Minding the Rash and Neglecting the Stress
Even mild-to-moderate eczema can be stressful, especially if the rash is on your face or genitals. Unfortunately, it’s a vicious cycle. Eczema causes stress and heightened stress can trigger an eczema flare. It also lowers the itch threshold so that eczema sufferers become more sensitive to skin irritation. Mindfulness meditation techniques can help. Setting aside a few minutes a day to meditate can make eczema more manageable and may even reduce your flares.