October is National Eczema Awareness Month
Eczema is a chronic, inflammatory skin condition that can be debilitating. If you suffer from eczema you’ve likely noticed that weather change or changes in the products you use can trigger a flare. In this blog post we are going to cover the all-important skin barrier and why you must keep it front of mind when managing your skin condition.
Have you heard of the skin barrier? The skin barrier is the protection surrounding your skin cells that prevents water from evaporating from the surface of your skin. Each and every skin cell is wrapped up in this barrier, made of lipids, like saran wrap. This barrier can be impaired in some people for many reasons such as genetics, medications they might be using, skin or personal products, sun exposure and other environmental factors. The skin barrier is absolutely vital to healthy and youthful-appearing skin.
The skin barrier functions to not only keep water from evaporating off the surface of the skin in a process called transepidermal water loss (TEWL), but also to keep irritants and pathogens from entering the skin. This is why, with many skin conditions, repairing the barrier is the first step in treating the symptoms.
In those who suffer from eczema, it is especially important. While using the appropriate prescription creams is crucial to managing your eczema, there are some things you should be using and avoiding at home to prevent and aid in recovery of a flare.
Below are some things those suffering from eczema should AVOID:
1. If you have eczema, you’ll want to do a deep dive into your shower and skin care products and remove anything that could contribute to dry skin. This includes, most foaming cleansers, gel cleansers, most bar soaps, anything in your shower that gets “sudsy” and lathers well could be contributing
2. Avoid hot water and opt for lukewarm when washing your face and showering. When out just of the shower, apply your moisturizer directly to towel-dabbed, slightly wet skin.
3. Check your skin and household products for fragrance. You’ll want to avoid skin care products with fragrance or essential oils, opt for “Free and Clear” laundry detergents and skip the drier sheets, fabric softeners, and personal perfumes. Also be mindful of sneaky ways fragrance may be coming in contact with your skin like scented candles burning in the home or room spray used to freshen the air.
Alternatively, here are some things you should do:
1. Use gentle, creamy cleansers when washing your face!
One of my favorite brands for sensitive skin is VMV Hypoallergenics. They remove up to 109 of the most common allergens and are formulated specifically for sensitive skin. They are free of surfactants, fragrance and dyes. These ones are best for dry types and those with barrier dysfunction
VMV Hypoallergenics Moisture Rich Creammmy Cleansing Milk For Dry Skin
2. Do use a moisturizer immediately after showering. Gently damp (don’t rub) your skin leaving it just slightly damp, then apply your moisturizer generously. Look for fragrance- free moisturizers with lipids to prevent water loss. For my very dry types, I love these body moisturizers:
3. Do use sunscreen. Opt for mineral, fragrance-free options. It’s important to protect inflamed skin to avoid hyperpigmentation as a result of sun exposure to the area. Here are a few of my favorites for sensitive, dry skin.
EltaMD UV Physical Broad-Spectrum SPF 41
4. Use an anti-itch cream when an area of the skin starts to itch. Scratching will only make the problem worse and can make you more susceptible to skin infection. When skin starts to itch, in addition to all the steps above apply an anti-itch cream to soothe the area and prevent scratching.
I hope these tips are helpful for those who are building their eczema management routine! It’s important to note that seeing your dermatology provider is key to managing and treating your eczema. These tips, however, are things you can do in your own home to prevent flares and manage your eczema.
Written: Amy is a Cosmetic Dermatology PA and skin care enthusiast living and practicing in Miami, FL. To connect with her or to see her in office or virtually for a consultation, contact her via her instagram @the_skinthusiast