What is Eczema?

Written By Mila Nguyen. 23 Feb, 2022

Eczema (atopic dermatitis) is a skin condition that causes inflamed, dry, and itchy sections of skin, commonly found on the hands, feet, neck, back of the knees and elbows, and on the face.Eczema in people of color appears in a variety of ways as well as obvious signs like itchy skin- it can appear as brown bumps, thickened hair follicles, or tough flat bumps from rubbing and scratching. It can be caused due to genetics or environmental factors. A surefire sign of eczema is that it is recurring, as opposed to a rash or allergic reaction that can clear in a short period of time. Although it may be calmer and appear to disappear some days, eczema usually flares up when certain triggers aggravate it. Eczema can affect daily life and cause stress if individuals with it are not sure how to handle it- but there are many things that can be done to alleviate symptoms in the body.

Firstly, what can provoke eczema? Many factors that may not be obvious can cause your eczema to be triggered and flare up. Strong detergents, certain lotions and oils, and shampoos can all contain ingredients that irritate the skin. While scented products are much more appealing, strong fragrance is terrible on sensitive skin, causing it to dry up and become itchy. Using gentle products with little to no fragrance from brands like Aveeno, Vanicream, Cerave and Cetaphil will be softest on your skin, as opposed to heavily scented and dyed products from companies such as Bath and Body Works. Fragrance should go on clothes, not in skincare.

Food allergies can also affect eczema. When your body is introduced to an allergen, it can cause inflammation in the body that can crop up in the skin, worsening eczema. Getting tested for food allergies is a vital step in caring for your skin, as it can alert you to foods that may be unknowingly triggering eczema.

What about other factors such as stress or anxiety? As many of us may already know, our mental and psychological health can affect our physiological health. When we are stressed or anxious, our body releases cortisol, which suppresses the immune system, causing inflammation, which in turn worsen eczema symptoms.

What can you do to alleviate eczema?

  • Moisturizing everyday is incredibly beneficial to all skin, not just in individuals with eczema. Using topical creams can seal in moisture, keeping skin supple and calm. It also keeps the skin from “cracking”, preventing infection

  • Use cortisone creams and products that have ceramide to “rebuild” skin barrier and alleviate itching

  • Shower in lukewarm water as opposed hot water to prevent your skin from drying further

  • Use a humidifier or dehumidifier depending on whether your environment is too dry or moist for your skin

  • Reduce stress, meditate, take time out for selfcare

  • Remove environmental factors such as dust, smoke, or mites.. Be sure to clean your environment regularly.

  • Wash bedsheets and pillow cases regularly

  • Wear cotton clothes opposed to irritating fabrics like wool and polyester

  • Bathe after sweating, as sweat and heat can cause eczema to flare up and itch

  • Although easier said than done, avoid scratching and rubbing at skin, as this may open the skin to infection

If you have tried over-the-counter creams, try going to your doctor, as they may recommend stronger solutions or identify unknown triggers in your body. Ask your doctor what medication they specifically recommend for your skin. Remember- eczema is not something to be embarrassed about- it doesn’t indicate that your skin is dirty or contagious in any way- it simply means your skin is inflamed and in need of moisture. By taking proper care of your skin, eczema can be relatively unnoticeable and will not impact your life by any means.