What is eczema?
More than 30 million Americans have eczema, but not everyone has the same form of it.
Some types of eczema, like contact dermatitis, are triggered by things in your environment. Think metal allergies, irritation from washing your hands too frequently or certain chemicals found in soap, makeup and detergent.
There are different symptoms, too. Depending on the kind you have, you may notice dry, scaly redness and an itching sensation in the affected area. Or you might experience greasy, flaking patches and peeling skin.
If you live with eczema, it’s important to avoid anything that may irritate or dry your skin and cause a flare, including:
- perfumed soap or body wash
- soaps with dyes
- wool clothing
- tight clothing
- animal dander
- perfumed detergents
Food allergies are also a common cause of eczema, especially in children. Your symptoms might improve by eliminating common foods linked to eczema, like:
How can you get rid of atopic dermatitis?
For a long-lasting type of eczema, like atopic dermatitis, Dr. Markus Boos (Seattle's Children Hospital) takes a two-prong approach.
“First is identifying what’s triggering you” he says. “The second part is, what are we going to do to calm down the inflammation?”
You may notice your AD gets worse in winter, when the air is drier. Or you may realize you experience flare-ups more in the summer, when you’re sweating more and it’s more humid out.
“It’s a little bit of trial and error to try and figure out triggers and what to avoid,” Boos says. From there, Dr. Boos says it’s important to focus on general skincare.
It’s best to avoid daily bathing because harsh soaps can strip your skin of its protective barrier, causing it to lose moisture more easily. While this can work just fine for young children, it’s understandably more difficult to stomach as an adult.
If that’s the case, it’s fine to continue with your daily shower or bath routine. Instead of rubbing your skin with a towel afterward, though, pat your skin dry and then moisturize immediately.
“In general, when we’re approaching skincare, the thicker and goopier, the better,” Boos says. “Ointments and petroleum jellies are better than creams, which are better than oils, which are better than lotions.”
Again, this is all dependent on your individual lifestyle and preferences. It’s easy to slather an infant in Vaseline and call it good, but it’s not such an appealing thing for a teenager or adult. The best kind of skincare regimen is the one that you’ll actually follow on a regular basis, so talk with your dermatologist to figure out a plan that can work for you.
What are medical treatments for atopic dermatitis?
If avoiding triggers and upgrading your skincare routine aren’t doing the trick, Boos says there are several medical treatments that can calm your skin inflammation.
He usually starts with steroid creams, a topical treatment that’s safe to use on all ages as long as you follow your dermatologist’s guidelines.
“You use it for a brief period of time to calm the affected area down, and then from there, you can maintain things with a good skin regimen,” Boos says.
Creams that don’t contain steroids are also available, but these tend to be fairly expensive and may not work as effectively.
Some dermatologists also offer phototherapy, which directs safe wavelengths of light at the affected skin. While this works well, it does require some extra time commitment because you need to go into your dermatologist’s office around three times a week. If you have a severe case of atopic dermatitis, you may be prescribed an oral medication to help calm down your immune system. The downside here is that this may make you more susceptible to infections and also requires increased health monitoring.
Natural remedies for treating eczema
Apple Cider Vinegar It's more than just a salad dressing. Put some on your affected area a few times a week -- either full strength or mixed with water. It's a recipe for relief when your skin calls out "scratch me." Rinse it off after it dries so you won't get an irritation. And don't try this when your skin is bleeding or cracked. The vinegar will make it feel like it's burning..
"Season" Your Bath Want to shed some scales and soothe your skin? Put Dead Sea or Epsom salts into a tub with warm water. Soak for about 15 minutes, and use a moisturizer when you're done to seal in the water.
Turmeric You might know it as the yellow herb that shows up in foods with a curry sauce. Studies show it may cut down your psoriasis flare-ups. You can try it as an ingredient in your meals or as a supplement.
This eating plan puts the focus on fish, veggies and fruits, and whole grains. A small study shows it might tone down your symptoms.