We asked a dermal specialist how to treat and prevent eczema. Image supplied.
Eczema, or Atopic Dermatitis, is a common skincare condition that affects around one in three New Zealanders at some point in their lives. Eczema can cause dry, red, flaky skin, with some severe cases causing weeping and bleeding. Eczema is often a defect in the skins epidermal lipid barrier layer (the protective layer) which then causes irritants and allergens to penetrate the skin and cause a reaction. For the most part, eczema cannot be “cured” as it is a genetic condition, however, there are treatment options and certain things you can do to avoid a flare-up.
Quite often diet can play a big part in eczema flare-ups, with food intolerances being a big culprit. Reactions to certain products containing irritating chemicals can also bring about an eczema flare-up, especially for those with overly sensitive skin. So we had a chat with Biologi’s Dermal Specialist, Lucy Macdougald and asked her what may cause eczema and how to both treat and prevent these nasty flare-ups from happening.
Don’t touch the offending areas
Whilst your first reaction to itchy skin can be to want to scratch it, please don’t! This will only make it worse. It is important to remember that regardless of your level of cleanliness, your hands still contain millions of bacteria which can irritate already inflamed skin. Avoid getting into a habit of touching your face, or the sensitive skin areas, unless you absolutely need to and always wash your hands and make sure they’re thoroughly dry before applying any products.
Drink lots of water
Drinking lots of water is beneficial for many things, however, especially for those with sensitive skin. Many people don’t realise that lack of hydration can irritate damaged skin cells. Drinking water encourages the skin’s natural hydration processes which will strengthen cells and improve barrier function. Try to drink two to three litres of water a day to give your skin cells a natural helping hand.
Learn about the ingredients
If you suffer from eczema or any type of sensitive skin, you’ll know that seemingly any product can set it off – from moisturisers through to the washing powder you use, it can become inflamed very quickly. An unfortunate truth is that many products aimed at curing sensitive skin are ironically part of the problem. Watch out for common skincare ingredients like emulsifiers which are used to create the thick consistency of the product but can actually block pores and cause irritation (making the skin much worse). Sensitised skin will likely react to harsh ingredients such as synthetic acids, fillers and many preservatives as they can inflame already delicate skin cells. Prolonged use of these types of products can even directly cause sensitivity in healthy skin cells.
Avoid products that contain fragrance
Fragrance or parfum on a bottle is basically code word for chemicals. Brands do not need to disclose the ingredients used to make a fragrance, therefore, unless stated otherwise, it’s usually a mixture of chemical components. Many fragrances – even the natural ones such as essential oils – are known skin irritants which can cause and worsen eczema.
Avoid occlusive products
Occlusive products or products that contain occlusive agents physically prevent water loss. Lanolin, mineral oil, and silicones are considered very effective occlusive ingredients, however, if a product tells you that it will lock in hydration, it will also lock in bacteria and foreign objects. This can result in increased pain and discomfort for eczema sufferers. Instead, use natural serums and never, ever apply petroleum or thickening products directly to your face.
Cleanse and exfoliate thoroughly
We know it feels like there’s nothing worse than using a harsh cleanser or scrub on an already painful face but there are gentler options available. A thorough cleanser and exfoliation once a week will ensure that you keep pores free from bacteria and dead skin cells. It’s important to exfoliate so that you can prevent any further damage the delicate dermal layer, which can lead to dry, sore patches. Just be mindful of which products you use. We recommend Biologi’s new Bc Refresh Cleanser used with our microfibre cloths for the ultimate, gentle cleanse. Made out of 100% natural soapberry extract, this daily cleanser is suitable for all skin types. Due to the highly active and soothing phytonutrients, it’s particularly gentle and beneficial for normal-to-dry, sensitive and problematic skin.
Use the right products
When you start to treat sensitised or sensitive skin, you will want to apply a gentle serum that will hydrate skin without any harsh ingredients to irritate it. We recommend applying Biologi’s Bf serum daily if you suffer from eczema. Bf serum is made from pure extract of finger lime and is a natural source of tryptophan – a powerful nutrient that will reverse damage and repair the barrier function of the skin. Bf serum is also a natural source of vitamin C which reduces inflammation to ease pain and discomfort.
Balance out your internal health
Our skin health always needs to be looked at holistically so you can gauge what’s happening internally – this can often have a huge impact on eczema. Our gut microbiome is made up of thousands of microorganisms, or bacteria, that contributes to our overall health. There are both good and bad bacteria and these also live on the skin. A properly functioning skin microbiome can protect skin against pathogenic organisms, whereas disruption in the microbiotic environment can lead to atopic disease. It is always advisable to seek the help from a professional such as a nutritionist who can look at your diet holistically and work out if things like gluten, refined sugars or overuse of antibiotics are contributing to eczema.