Don't let this common skincare problem keep you inside.
Here is an insider tip about your friends and loved ones: A majority of them have eczema of some kind. The pervasive, itchy skin condition is a little like credit card debt, in that it affects many, many more people than are forthcoming about discussing it. Also like credit debt, it is fixable with discipline.
In addition to a series of soaring Visa payments, I’ve spent 2018 dealing with a nasty, random bout of full-body eczema, which at best is a minor annoyance and at worst causes me to scratch my skin raw.
Even the smartest woman I know, Dermatologist Jordana Mattioli of Complete Skin MD, has no idea why my skin has turned on me. “The exact cause is unknown, but we do know its a combination of environmental triggers, irritants and allergens that trigger the inflammation which is common to many types of eczema.”
I suspect it has something to do with age or bad karma, but basically, any number of things can cause it to flare up: a bad reaction to a body wash, a change in your surrounding environment, the violent wrath of God, seasonal allergies. Somewhat alarming, unbelievably itchy red bumpy patches alert you to the presence of your eczema. You know when you have it.
Eczema feels euphoric to scratch—like a total-body orgasm, dialled down to an intensity appropriate to experience at work—but is unsightly to look at, which is why I’ve decided, with Mattioli’s help, to forgo scratching.
The bad news is that living with eczema requires a bunch of small lifestyle changes. The good news is that you no longer have eczema, and after time, your elbows start to look a little bit less like Steve Bannon’s face. With that, here's our guide on how to deal with eczema and still have a life.
First: Remove scent from your life.
Synthetic fragrances, as well as certain essential oils, can irritate the skin and cause eczema flare-ups, which is why ditching them altogether is a good way to err on the safe side.
Cologne is fine if it stays on your clothes, but consider switching out your body wash for something a little less smelly. (Try an unscented castile soap) Also opt for unscented laundry detergent, lest fragrance creep into your life via the very sheets on your bed.
Adjust to your now slightly-less fragrant life until the eczema has abated, and then resume regular programming.
Next: Hydrate mercilessly.
I will hand the mic to Mattioli who is adept in the ways of product suggestions: “CeraVe, Vanicream, and fragrance-free Aveeno are safe bets. Glycerin, ceramides, hyaluronic acid, antioxidants, omega fatty acids... these all protect and hydrate. Colloidal oatmeal is amazing, soothing and calming, really good for itchiness and sensitivity. Only use steroid creams very sparingly.”
I'll interrupt to say that I use La Roche-Posay’s Lipikar Baume AB and I love it. Back to Mattioli: “Moisturise the area twice (or more) a day.”
Please: Eat healthier.
I know, I know. But a greener diet, plus omegas and probiotics, can lead to decreased inflammation, according to Mattioli.
Then: Take more baths.
This is your excuse to be more generally indulgent. Oat baths look gross but feel empirically soothing for eczema—Aveeno makes one that is cheap and enjoyable. Soak for 20 minutes max, says Mattioli.
Or: Shower more.
Especially after exercising. Sweat is not your friend.
Also: Don’t sit around in damp clothing.
Is this your lifestyle? I certainly hope not because it sounds terrible, but Mattioli advises against it, so please stop.
Finally: Talk to your dermatologist.
Wait till your eczema starts dramatically reducing your quality of life, like if you’re too itchy to sleep, or too red and bumpy to find love.
A dermatologist can set you straight with a prescribed topical, or, in a severe case, can inspect you for potential allergies.
Rest easy (even if extremely prone to itching) in knowing that you can be helped. “Even through some types of eczema can be considered to be chronic conditions,” quoth the Mattioli, “if you can find and remove the cause, you can be cured.” Heed her words.