Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a very common skin condition that causes inflammation and irritation. While there’s no cure for eczema, symptoms can be managed through proper treatment and by avoiding irritants.
Eczema flare-ups look different on everyone and can occur on different areas of the skin. Eczema is usually red and itchy- the itchiness precedes the rash. On adults, eczema related rashes typically appear on the face, backs of the knees, wrists, hands, eyelids, or feet. With eczema, the skin will be very dry, thick, cracked, and scaly. On fair-skin, these areas will first look red before turning brown. On darker-skin, eczema can affect skin pigments, making the affected area lighter or darker.
While the exact cause of eczema remains unknown, it may be linked to your immune system responding to something irritating. Problems with your skin barrier could also lead to moisture loss and germs to come in. Many people report eczema flare-ups in response to certain rough fabrics, temperature changes such as extra cold weather, household products like detergents, pet dander, stress, or post viral.
Hormonal fluctuations can also have an effect on eczema. During pregnancy, menopause, and before a menstrual cycle your body experiences a drop in estrogen which can cause water loss and interfere with the skin’s ability to retain moisture. The result is often dryness which can worsen eczema.
Eczema cannot be spot treated. A dermatologist will be able to diagnose eczema by examining your skin. A doctor may recommend an allergy test to look for irritants- many people with eczema also have allergies.
Once an eczema rash begins and flaking, peeling, and itching starts a moisturizer alone will not get rid of the rash. Dr. Zenovia recommends a topical Cortizone cream. Cortizone cream comes in many strengths, but the ones sold over the counter are not strong enough for moderate to severe eczema. You will need a prescription to get rid of the rash completely.
Eczema rashes can lead to infection so treatment focuses on preventing and easing the itching. Your doctor may prescribe a topical medication to ease any inflammation. If the area becomes infected, you will need antibiotics.
Dr. Zenovia’s top tips for preventing future eczema flare-ups include:
Moisturize often: A daily moisturizer is paramount for those who have eczema. Making sure the skin is hydrated and moisturized throughout the day will decrease inflammation and keep the skin’s barrier intact. Dr. Zenovia recommends ceramide-containing moisturizers.
For the face, Dr. Zenovia’s Peptide + Ceramide Repairing Moisturizer helps protect the integrity of the skin’s dermal matrix, strengthening the skin’s barrier and boosting elasticity to enhance the appearance of healthy, plump skin. Apply a moisturizer immediately after cleansing/showering to seal in moisture.
Avoid irritating detergents & soaps: The skin’s natural pH level is 4 to 5. The pH of many soaps is 9 to 10. Due to this difference, soaps and other harsh products can increase the skin’s pH and worsen symptoms of eczema. Dr. Zenovia also recommends avoiding physical exfoliants that can cause skin dryness.
Use a humidifier: Eczema can be triggered by a dry climate. Having a humidifier in your bedroom will help produce moisture and increase humidity in the air.
Avoid Water Overuse: Washing the dishes without wearing gloves and taking long, hot showers and baths can dehydrate the skin and trigger eczema.
De-stress: Eczema tends to flare up with elevated levels of stress. Practicing mindfulness and meditation are great ways to achieve a sense of inner-calm during stressful times. Go for walks outside and breathe in the fresh air- stay grounded and try to remain calm.
Book an appointment with a Board-Certified Dermatologist: A dermatologist will be able to create a custom treatment plan for you. If your eczema isn’t improving, is affecting sleep or daily activities, or the skin may be infected book an appointment immediately.
Dr. Zenovia's Top Takeaway: It’s important to know that eczema is a chronic condition that will come and go. Practice awareness to your potential triggers, continue moisturizing, & consult a board-certified dermatologist if you aren’t seeing any improvements.