Eczema – What is it?
According to Mayo Clinic – “Atopic dermatitis (eczema) is a condition that makes your skin red and itchy. It’s common in children but can occur at any age. Atopic dermatitis is long lasting (chronic) and tends to flare periodically. It may be accompanied by asthma or hay fever. No cure has been found for atopic dermatitis. Some types can also cause blisters. Different types and stages of eczema affect 31.6 million people in the United States, which is over 10% of the population.”
I grew up with moderate eczema, sometimes covering me from head to toe. Growing up, my dermatologist didn’t mention what I could do or eat differently. The first thing they would do is prescribe a steroid cream or ointment. Topical corticosteroids are a type of steroid medicine applied directly to the skin to reduce inflammation and irritation. Steroid creams applied over time thins skin, so it’s recommended to use it sparingly. But I needed it everyday.
At 21 years old, I was studying abroad in London and got rashes in new places. My full lips and surrounding skin blistered, my armpits, and scalp were very inflamed. Thus began my research in my adult life. Here’s some super useful tips that have helped me with my eczema:
Now in my mid-twenties, I’ve figured out what causes many of my rashes. They’re not as random as we once thought. It was a long journey of trial and errors and research that I want to share here. When I was young we knew my skin was ultra sensitive or “allergic” to grass, hot water, chlorine, my sweat and the sun. (Makes for a creative indoor child!) However, there were so many other eczema-inducing
I’m continually amazed by the research and connections I make about my body and how it reacts with the outside world. It teaches me little ways I have power over what happens to me. Not all the time, but as far as my eczema and skin conditions go, I do. On a larger scale, I believe my health sensitivities have taught me to believe (more-so) that everything happens for a reason.
This list is ever growing and has taken me years to put together. I hope this list and explanations helps somebody on their journey.
My list of skin irritants I avoid:
- synthetic clothing & bedsheets – My armpits were telling me they had had enough, but of what? Every day in London, I rode the tube (subway) to uni (college). They were stuffy metros and I would sweat. That’s when I realized, I was wearing a 100% polyester sweater I had bought there. I did some research, and lo-and-behold, it’s known to irritate sensitive skin. Due to the breathability, dyes and resins, those with sensitive skin may have reactions. Did you know some fabrics’ additives include formaldehyde, flame retardants and latex? No wonder my skin is unhappy! DermNet NZ has more info on contact dermatitis.
- inflammatory foods – It took me a while to figure out, but a few foods cause a rash on my lips. It’s been trickier to track these ones down, but eventually, I’ve traced to: beer & liquor, jackfruit (it has natural latex in it), really spicy foods, whey isolate protein, lactose, sugar, gluten.
- certain materials – I must be aware of what surroundings my skin. I must watch come in contact with – for me that means grass, chlorine, hot water, (washed off natural oils), dust, latex, acrylic paint (has latex in it), types of soaps (Cetaphil), scented lotions, sweat, any metal that’s not surgical steel.
- stress – Yes, this really should not be overlooked, like I did for so many years. It’s already tricky to track down delay reactions to visible materials I touch, so the thought of trying to identify chronic stress connected to rashes seemed too vague. But there’s been a few times I have made the connection, and it matters. Big time.
- dandruff on the pillowcase – What? Yes…One especially interesting experience I had last summer has to do with dandruff. I’ve had dandruff since I was a kid, to me it was just like the rest of my body itchy and flakey. ;/ But then my eyes started burning and crusty. (Sorry some of the stuff I share is unpleasant, but I gotta keep it real! I know this may help somebody.) My eyes have gotten tired and itchy in the past from nothing in particular, but this continued to get worse. Again, in my experience dermatologists and a couple other doctors haven’t been to good at solving my issues, which is why I hadn’t yet seen a doctor. While sometimes we must absolutely see doctors, sometimes it’s also good to do a little research ourselves. This time it paid off. I discovered an eye condition called blepharitis, caused by dandruff getting in the eyes. Presumably, the dandruff was coming from my pillowcase. I have a prescribed dandruff shampoo I use, but I believe at this time my scale Ph levels were off (so important!) and produced more dandruff. It could have been from stress. I a found a SOLUTION: I began washing my pillow every day, to see if it would make a difference. Meanwhile, I used natural anti-bacterial items I had at home – a drop of tea tree oil mixed with a tablespoon of coconut oil to rub around my eyes. I didn’t grow up too holistic (whaddup, Silicon Valley) so I was a little skeptical. But the next day I could already tell a difference. This trick has worked every time for me since.
Please let me know if you’ve found any other tips that help you, or someone you can share this with! I really do want to know.
Thank you for reading and I’ll see you soon.