The do’s and don’ts of eczema management

Expert tips on how to manage eczema the natural way

Eczema is a distressing condition which causes the skin to become itchy, dry and cracked. According to the National Eczema Society (eczema.org), the most common form is atopic eczema, which affects one in five children and one in 12 adults in the UK. This month is National Eczema Week, from 13 to 19 September, and so YHL spoke to a range of natural health experts to get their top tips on the things to do – and avoid – to manage this condition.

Do... Take a look at your diet

“Knowing the right foods to eat can help to calm and heal your symptoms,” says Kathryn Danzey, the founder of natural skincare brand Rejuvenated (www.rejuvenated.com). “Avoid a diet high in yeast and sugars, gluten and dairy. Remove high processed junk foods, chemicals, additives and artificial sweeteners. These all act as toxins to the body. Replace them with nutrient-dense foods: healthy fats such as olive oil and avocados, oily fish and flax seed are all rich in omega-3 to moisturise from within. Red onions, tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, cherries and apples contain quercetin, a plant-based flavonoid and powerful natural antihistamine to reduce inflammation. Probiotic foods such as yogurt (plain), sourdough bread, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir and kombucha have good bacteria to help balance out gut flora. Keep a food diary to see what causes flare-ups. Tracking what you eat on a daily basis may reveal some culprits that you hadn’t previously considered.”

Don’t... Scratch

“I know, you’ve heard it a million times before, but there are many alternatives to itching that will facilitate recovery from eczema,” says Leyla El Moudden, Dip Herb Dip Nat, a qualified herbalist and naturopath working with the Really Healthy Company (www.healthy.co.uk). “The brain will send the strongest signal back to the brain – and that means that a firm pinch or press will override the urge to scratch, as will anything very cold like a cold compress. The urge will come, pinch or press – count to 10 and the sensation will fade. Sometimes you will scratch, you’re only human – so don’t be too hard on yourself. Eczema sufferers tend to examine their skin immediately after a scratching fit, and this makes them feel terrible. Instead, wait until your skin has calmed down before you examine its health. The best way to get an idea of how healthy your skin is, is to look at it at the same time every day – this will give you a better measure.”

Do... Look at the whole picture

“When it comes to allergic skin conditions, what we feel is most important is making sure to look at the whole picture,” says Claudia Talsma, founder of Salcura Skincare (www.salcuraskincare.com). “Don’t just look at the skin as a separate, singular entity. When suffering from skin conditions, one needs to look at the entire body and lifestyle of that person, as what might work for one person might not work for another. Visit a nutritionist to see if there are certain foods that need to be avoided because they set off your skin, or find foods and/or supplements which might contribute to your immune strength and therefore your skin. See if something in your life might be exacerbating the skin irritations, like stress, air pollution, certain fabrics in your clothing, your laundry liquid, pollen, mites, etc. Suffering from skin conditions is often not a one-for-all, clear-cut answer; it is trial and error and very much patience and persistence.”

Don’t... Stop enjoying your life

“Eczema can feel like a prison,” says Leyla El Moudden, “but it’s very important to get outside, have some fun and blow off steam and not become imprisoned by the eczema. Wear a t-shirt, get some sun and don’t forget to relax.”

Do... Keep it simple

“It is a common reaction to eczema to start putting everything you can find onto the skin in a bid to calm it down,” says Leyla El Moudden. “Remember, skin takes 30 days to renew: meaning there is very little you can do to remove what you can see on the skin surface. Instead: aim to reduce – reduce the red, reduce the itch, reduce the dry. If you aim for reduction instead of vanishing, you are on the way to clearing the eczema, and off the route of non-stop irritation.”

Don’t... Skimp on sleep

“Sleep is crucial to healing from eczema – so if there is a single part of your routine to be super struct and rigid on: it’s the sleep,” Leyla El Moudden. “This is of particular importance for those who are waking up itching at night: get to bed earlier to offset the effects of night waking – to make sure you are clocking up as much sleep as possible.”

Do... Opt for natural skincare products

“When it comes to skincare, we find that long-term use of steroids, as well as long-term use of synthetics like liquid paraffin might suppress the immune system for too long and therefore cause skin conditions to worsen,” says Claudia Talsma. “Additionally, we find that using skincare containing natural extracts and oils that are historically known to support the skin due to anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic properties will contribute to strengthening the skin. Think of ingredients like lavender, chamomile (bisabolol), sea buckthorn and sunflower. Make sure to check the ingredient list of your skincare products to ensure that known aggravators are not secretly in there, like parfum or sodium laureth sulfate. When trying new skincare products, if you know you have sensitive skin, always carry out a patch test.”

Don’t... Use scented products

“Scented products contain fragrances, many of which can be very irritating to sensitive skin,” says Leyla El Moudden. “Soaps, washing powders, and fragranced products such as smelly candles will aggravate eczema and reduce the speed of healing from flares.”

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