As I mentioned in my last post, I recently learned that I have been having eczema breakouts for the past few years, and this winter I have been dealing with the first one that doesn’t go away in two weeks. I got it back in January and I’m STILL dealing with it. It is slowly healing, though, and I have learned a lot lately about what works and what doesn’t work when it comes to taking care of eczema.
First, identify your triggers
You can’t treat eczema if you don’t know what is causing it. Well, you can, but it will take longer and keep coming back. As it turns out, eczema has a ton of possible triggers and irritants. Sweat, humidity, dry air, irritating chemicals, rough fabrics, and food allergies, just to name a few. As you see, it is a wide range. Look at your environment and lifestyle to see what your possible triggers may be. If possible, eliminate or reduce them. I knew that my main trigger was something in the environment at my school, but that was unavoidable. However, avoiding sweating until the worst was healed, running a humidifier, and avoiding scratchy clothes helped to calm my flares and reduce the instances of them cropping up.
My skin was dry and irritated and my normal lotion just wasn’t cutting it. I didn’t have enough of the homemade lotion I bought (and actually, the second batch we made may have triggered a flare). So I went to the National Eczema Association to see what they had to say. I got advice on what to look for in a lotion and, although through this blog I’ve been such a big proponent of homemade, I bought the Aveeno Eczema Therapy lotion. It is a miracle. It smells really good (even though there is no added fragrance) and it clears up the worst of a flare within two days of it showing up. But what works for me may not work for you. For example, what is supposedly the best lotion for eczema, due to having so few irritating chemicals (Exederm), is fine but doesn’t work as well as the Aveeno stuff. Find what works for you. Unless you have allergies, I highly recommend getting a lotion with oatmeal in it. Make sure you moisturize within a couple minutes of getting out of the bath or shower. This will help lock in the moisture.
Stop the Itch
The worst part about eczema is that horrible itch. I really don’t like drugs. At all. But sometimes, you just need an hydrocortisone cream. I recommend the Exederm flame control cream, as it has the least irritating chemicals in it and is the only cream with a 5/5 from the National Eczema Association, but any drug store cream can help. When I don’t need fast or serious relief, though, I prefer to use Aloe vera. It soothes my irritated skin and helps keep the itch at bay. It has been a huge help throughout this process.
Wear light clothes that are not scratchy. For me, that means no old sweatshirts. I also have to avoid t-shirts with that awkward sleeve length that ends in the middle of my armpit. That was very irritating for my eczema! If you notice a certain motion (pulling up sleeves or pulling down jeans) tends to trigger an itch, see if you can find clothing that does not require that (a t-shirt) or won’t irritate in doing it (pants that aren’t denim).
One thing that I have only been able to do twice, but have found very helpful, is detox baths. I did them with a cup of apple cider vinegar and half a cup of Redmond Clay. It was lovely! Then slather on a thick lotion before your skin completely dries. It helped quite a bit, but unfortunately I can’t make a regular thing out of it.
This may seem obvious, but it actually the hardest part of the healing process. First thing is to cut your nails. My skin has seen drastic improvement since I started keeping my nails short. This way, even if I scratch, I at least don’t break the skin. Second is to follow the above tips to reduce the itching. Another thing that I have found really helps to put a barrier in the way, such as wearing gloves at night or skinny jeans during the day. This part takes a lot of self control, so the more tips and tricks you can find to help, the better.
I’ve put forth a lot of information, but this barely scratches the surface (no pun intended) when it comes to healing some people’s eczema. There are so many possible factors, what works is going to be so unique to the individual. In some cases, it may be a simple fix, but some people’s eczema is caused by something deeper that needs to be addressed. I’ve read about people who discover their eczema is caused by any number of food intolerances. If simple, over-the-counter remedies don’t help in a certain amount of time, see a doctor. I’m just someone on the internet with a skin struggle looking for answers and wanting to share some I’ve found.
I’d love to hear about other experiences. What are some things that have helped your eczema?