Eczema rescue

Natural tips and tricks for combating eczema

“Today, an increasing number of people are suffering from allergies caused by an ever-changing modern world,” says Claudia Talsma, founder of Salcura Skincare (www.salcuraskincare.com). “More than ever we are exposed to allergens (in the air, in our food), plus our immune system is compromised through poor diet and nutrient intake, over-medicating and often – as a result of that – our genetic predisposition.”

“Eczema occurs when the function of the skin barrier becomes compromised,” explains Kathryn Danzey, founder of Rejuvenated (www.rejuvenated.com/uk). “This barrier is called the natural moisture factor. It may be affected by things such as the use of harsh skincare products including harsh peels and over exfoliation. Some foods including common allergens may act as triggers.”

“When it comes to helping those with chronic skin conditions, it is vital to look beyond just suppressing the symptoms or just locking in the little moisture that eczema-prone skin has,” adds Claudia Talsma. “We need to look at the bigger picture: how can we strengthen the skin on the outside and the immune system on the inside to create the best results – not just for a quick-fix, but for the long-term, allowing people to successfully manage their skin and take back control.”

Try an elimination diet

“Some nutritionists will advise that you try an elimination diet to remove the following foods for 30 days to see if your symptoms improve,” says Kathryn Danzey. “You can then reintroduce one at a time to see which may be causing the problem. These might include cow’s milk, eggs, gluten, nuts, fish, shellfish or soy. Other foods that may cause a response are tomatoes, citrus and certain spices.” In order to naturally reduce the effects of eczema, Kathryn recommends introducing foods that help to nourish and calm your skin such as probiotics, wholegrains and healthy fats.

Avoid triggers

“One major tactic in managing chronic eczema is first identifying and then taking steps to avoid the things that can cause a flare-up of itching and inflammation,” says Lucy Gulland, PR manager for Balmonds Skincare (www.balmonds.com). “Eczema can be triggered by hundreds of different things, inside and outside your home, so it’s pretty hard to eliminate every single one, but I’d suggest you look at possible sensitivities and allergens in the following areas: the food you’re eating (common culprits being dairy, nuts and wheat); the toiletries you use (eg soap, SLS in shampoo and body wash, make-up, fragrance); detergents; household dust; pet hair; pollen; hard water; alcohol; the clothes you wear (wool, synthetics etc). You might need to request a referral for allergy testing from your GP, so that your main allergens are picked up.”

Follow a healthy diet

“Make sure you eat your five-a-day or preferably more!” says Lindsey Miller. “Carotenoids are good for the skin and are generally found in orange, yellow and red fruits and vegetables. Blueberries and avocados are also some of my favorites for healthy skin. Also, make sure you get your two litres of water a day. I like to start the day off with a glass of hot water and a squeeze of lemon to cleanse the system. Alcohol is a common trigger, as it can dehydrate the body, dry the skin and exacerbate itching.”

Look for the right skincare products

“Strengthen the outside by using the right skincare,” says Claudia Talsma. “Avoid ingredients known to aggravate the skin like sodium laureth sulfate, parfum, alcohol and paraffin. Don’t be fooled by the big companies who have picked up on the trend to be more natural – check the ingredient list before you buy. And don’t just trust Google – get informed either by holistic therapists or just nip into your local health store. Health stores have a lot of knowledge on which ingredients to avoid and will only stock those products that are pure and good for the skin. The right skincare, just as with the diet, is different for everyone – every skin is different! Try and look for products with a high amount of natural oils and extracts and particularly those ingredients known to really aid dry and eczema-prone skin. For example:

  • Sea buckthorn – This contains omegas-3 and 7 to stimulate skin regeneration and reduce inflammation. It will also protect against dryness.
  • Sunflower – This has anti-inflammatory properties, making it helpful for reducing dryness and boosting skin hydration. It is also a source of antioxidant vitamin E which can reduce signs of inflammation.
  • Olive – This is high in linoleic acid, meaning that it will hydrate and protect the skin, and will reduce skin irritation and inflammation
  • Safflower – This has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits and effectively moisturises the skin.

Eat the right fats

“Omega-3 is anti-inflammatory and therefore good for irritable, sore skin conditions,” says Lindsey Miller, skincare advisor with natural skincare range Hope’s Relief. “Eat plenty of clean cold-water oily fish or take an omega-3 fish oil supplement (with a good level of EPA). Omega-6 is generally pro-inflammatory. Omega-6 can found in vegetable oils such as sunflower oil and margarines. These are generally high in processed foods so try to avoid them. Replace sunflower oil with olive oil when cooking.”

Make lifestyle changes

“One way to manage your eczema is to make lifestyle changes in order to improve your general wellbeing, so that you’re building up resilience against the overactive inflammatory response of eczema,” says Lucy Gulland. “Eczema is not just about skin; it is physiologically affected by hormonal fluctuations, by weather, by mood, by environment and by diet. All of these things need attending to if eczema is to be tackled holistically, rather than just topically. Try doing something positive for yourself every day: going for a walk, carving out space for daily meditation, prioritising de-stressing your life etc. It might be that you need to get a doctor’s note and take time off work; mental health has a direct effect on flare-ups. Finding an exercise routine that works with your eczema is a great idea: nothing too intense if your skin reacts instantly to sweat, so yoga or slower workouts are good options. Some eczema sufferers love sea swimming as a strategy for calming down both skin and mind.”

“Don’t be afraid to talk to people about it,” says Claudia Talsma. “There is nothing to be ashamed of! You are beautiful, with or without eczema, and taking the self-consciousness and stress out of it will already help your skin.”

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