Eczema Awareness Support and Education...Learn More
- What Is Eczema?
- For Adults
- For Parents
- For Kids
- Treating Eczema
- Make-up & Cleansers
- What to Wear
- Bathing & Showering
- Dust Mites & Pollen
- Talking About Eczema
Tips and information to help you understand eczema, look after your skin, control 'flare ups' and itching, and feel better.
For many people, eczema has become a life-long struggle to control the itchy, red, weeping, and often times, painful condition of their skin. Although a number of treatments have been successful in managing the terrible discomfort of eczema, no one treatment has safely or effectively worked for everyone, every time. Even after your skin has healed from one eczema 'flare up', it is important that you continue to look after your skin. This can help reduce 'flare ups' and help you control your eczema.
A number of different factors appear to trigger 'flare ups' of eczema. By nature, eczema symptoms come and go. At times, symptoms can be more severe, or the rash and itching can completely disappear for a long period of time. However, when symptoms suddenly reappear or become worse, it is called a 'flare up'. Certain foods, pollen, air pollution, animal dander, mould, dust, and dust mites have all been linked to eczema 'flare ups'. Managing your environment can be a frustrating and time-consuming job. If you suspect that you may be affected by these triggers, talk to your doctor, tell them when your eczema 'flares up' and what you suspect the 'flare up' may be linked to.
Eczema 'flare ups'
If you have ever experienced the sudden, unexpected red, sore, itchy rash of eczema, then you have had an eczema 'flare up'. 'Flare ups' can happen when your skin comes in contact with irritants like soap, detergent, abrasive clothing (e.g. wool and synthetic fibres), perfume, carpet fibres, certain foods, or dust. Overheating, excessive sweating, or low humidity can also trigger a 'flare up'.
Eczema and the sun
Although the sun can be good for eczema, harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays and premature aging may outweigh the benefits.
Careless exposure to the sun can be very harmful to your skin. Most people benefit from the protection of sunscreen against UVB rays. Some commercial sunscreens also protect against UVA rays. The number of the sun protection factor (SPF) indicates the length of time that sunscreen-protected skin can be exposed to UV rays before a minimal redness appears. The higher the SPF number, the greater the skin protection.
Understanding different skin types is important in order to choose the right SPF for an individual. SPF’s can range from 2 to up to 50. Someone with very fair skin or who has eczema that worsens in sunlight should use a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or above.3 It is important to know that some sunscreens may irritate the skin of people with eczema. Therefore, you should choose a sunscreen the same way you would choose an emollient – first, test the product by applying a small amount to a limited area of your skin. Try not to rub too hard when applying it, as this may set off a cycle of itching. Your doctor may also advise you to stay out of the sun as much as possible.4
Managing the itch
The itch that goes along with eczema can be very difficult to put up with and to manage. Having a good scratch is difficult to resist because it can make you feel so good in the short-term. It seems that the more you think about not scratching, the worse the itch gets. However, it is not beneficial in the long term as scratching damages the skin and contributes to the itch-scratch-rash cycle, making it more difficult to ignore the intense itch and leading to bleeding and oozing of the skin.
Managing your eczema can be a life-long commitment. Even after your skin has healed and the eczema has 'disappeared', it is important that you follow your skin management program. It can help to reduce 'flare ups' and help you control your eczema.
Ways to manage your eczema
- Don't scratch, moisturize!
- Follow a daily routine, even if there is no visible eczema
- Take as many baths or showers as you like
- Keep cool and calm
- Wear cotton, sleep on cotton
- Find out what triggers your 'flare ups'
- Test any new product for your face or body first
- Be patient
- Follow your doctor's treatment advice
3 Canadian Dermatology Association. Sunscreen FAQs. http://www.dermatology.ca/sap/safety_resources/sunscreen_faqs/index.html
4 The Eczaminer. A Newsletter for People Affected by Eczema. Issue #6.
Quick Tips For The Itch