After several years of not knowing what the skin irritations were, it finally made sense. It felt like the pieces of a puzzle fell into place when a dermatologist made a proper diagnosis. It was eczema. An inflammatory skin condition that can be triggered by contact with environmental allergens, certain foods, and even stress.
With eczema, the affected areas on the body can become inflamed with dry, scaly red patches. And, symptoms can include unbearable itching! Scratching could feel great, but it’s best to refrain from scratching since that could break the skin, leading to infection and deeper scarring. If your skin is prone to hyper-pigmentation at the slightest blemish, you know how important it is to avoid scratching.
If you experience skin irritations and you’re unsure what it is, first and foremost, please consult a medical practitioner for a proper diagnosis. If the diagnosis is eczema and depending on the type of eczema, your physician may prescribe a hydrocortisone cream to relieve the inflammation, itchiness, and to help promote healing. For us, we used a topical medication that helped, but at the same time we researched preventative measures and natural remedies for the near and long term if it recurred.
While you may not be able to avoid eczema especially if it’s genetic, here are some at-home remedies that we found helpful in managing some forms of eczema, alleviating some symptoms, and to promote healing.
- Stay hydrated. We’re often so busy that we forget to hydrate and our skin was screaming from the dryness! Well, we heard it loud and clear. So, drink ample amounts of water to stay hydrated from within. Alternatives to water are flavorful beverages like coconut water, chamomile tea and Rooibos Tea, which are hydrating and have anti-inflammatory benefits. Also, these beverage options are non-caffeinated so they’re perfect to drink throughout the day.
- Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize! With eczema, the skin cell barrier is compromised, so it’s difficult for the skin to retain moisture. Regular and frequent moisturizing can help keep moisture locked in and prevent the condition from reoccurring or worsening. After showering or bathing, pat the skin dry and moisturize immediately. We found it helpful to moisturize in the morning and evening before bedtime since our bodies lose moisture during sleep as well.
- Exfoliate. The last thing you may want to do is exfoliate, yet this helps to get rid of the dry, dead skin cells so that moisturizers and treatments can more effectively absorb into the skin. A sponge or soft loofah may be ideal since you want to be gentle. In some cases, blister-like bumps can form in and around the affected areas so it’s even more important to get a proper medical diagnosis to rule out any bacterial or fungal infections since you wouldn’t want it to spread.
- Stay calm. Stress can trigger eczema. Meditation, yoga, long walks, listening to your favorite songs, and engaging in your favorite activities can help to take your mind off of the itching and irritations and alleviate stress.
- Use gentle all-natural body cleansers. Soaps and fragranced body washes can irritate and cause or worsen flare-ups. It’s best to choose fragrance-free body washes that also calm and add moisture to the skin.
- Take a soothing bath. Draw a warm bath and sprinkle some oatmeal into the bath to enjoy a relaxing soak. Or, use a body wash with colloidal oatmeal to soothe the skin. Avoid taking long hot showers which tend to dehydrate your skin so be cognizant of the water temperature and the length of your shower.
- Monitor your diet. Certain foods can trigger skin irritations including nuts, shellfish, dairy, gluten, and sugar. We kept a daily food diary to identify potential food triggers. We had already significantly limited dairy and shellfish from our diet, so we focused on managing our sugar intake.
The most important take-away is to consult a medical practitioners for a proper diagnosis. While eczema and other skin conditions can feel embarrassing, remember, you’re not alone. According to the National Eczema Association, 3.6 million Americans suffer from some form of eczema. Wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants until the eczema and scarring eases are not the most fun especially during the heat of Summer, but remember it’s temporary. Identifying and addressing the triggers that can cause your outbreaks are important in managing flare-ups. Know the causes, symptoms, and treatments that work best for you and it will help you in the near and long term. So, remember to listen to your body, and your body will thank you for it.