As we head into the colder autumn and winter months, eczema flares up can become more widespread.
Whether you suffer from the common skin condition or know someone who does, you’re probably aware that it’s not a nice situation.
Eczema causes the skin to become sore, itchy and inflamed, so a strict skincare routine is vital for keeping symptoms under control – especially in winter when the skin becomes naturally drier. Prevention is always the best form of attack so keep your skin nourished and hydrated, paying particular attention to the typically forgotten areas like lips, hands and feet.
When choosing the right products for your regimen, it’s important to avoid those with harsh chemicals that could irritate or dry out the skin and look out for ones containing moisturising ingredients that strengthen and repair the affected areas.
You may find that Covid-19 and the continual need to wash your hands may worsen the symptoms so pop a hand cream in your bag so you can continually reapply. Lather up at night to give your hands time to fully absorb the formulas.
We’ve consulted Lucy Xu, skin specialist and founder of the London premier laser and skin clinic to find out more on how to best manage eczema.
What is eczema?
“Eczema is a skin condition that causes dry, irritated skin. In some more extreme cases, it can cause flaking of the skin, shedding, rashes, cracks and blisters. There are many different types of eczema however atopic dermatitis is the most common. Eczema is more prevalent on the body, however it can also affect the skin on the face, and certain substances or conditions can cause it to flare up.”
What are the causes of eczema?
“Contact dermatitis happens when the body comes into contact with a certain substance. It can also occur due to conditions called trigger factors. Irritants like soaps and detergents, skin infections, dry skin, wool, low humidity, heat, stress and sweat can all cause flare ups. Certain foods such as dairy and nuts, as well as environmental factors like smoke, pollen and fragrances could also be the cause.”
How do you treat eczema?
“There is no cure for eczema, however there are a number of things you can do to help soothe and treat sore areas and prevent future flare ups from occurring as often.
- Properly moisturise your skin at least twice a day using emollients and concentrating more on the areas that are most dry.
- Topical corticosteroids such as creams and ointments may be used to reduce swelling and redness during each flare up.
- Avoid drying soaps or harsh detergents. Soap can worsen eczema because of its high pH level.
- Antihistamines should help severe itching.
- Bandages or bodysuits are commonly used to encourage the body to heal underneath and so you aren’t tempted to itch.
- Avoid certain fabrics which irritate the skin.
- Heat aggravates eczema so keep your living area cool.”
Are there any specific ingredients to avoid to prevent eczema flare ups?
Avoid retinol, salicylic acid and glycolic acid as these can irritate the skin and may trigger eczema as well as preservatives such as butylparaben and methylparaben and products which include fragrance.
How can you stop eczema itching?
“Try to resist the urge to itch as it can worsen the skin and may promote infection. The best ways to stop itching are:
- Take oral allergy or anti itch medicine such as an antihistamine.
- Apply a topical anti itch cream to the inflamed area.
- Apply bandages over the area to help prevent unknowning itching.
- Apply a cool wet compress to the area.
- Take a warm bath to help soothe the area.
- Moisturise well before bed to avoid night time itching.”
If despite the above, your eczema becomes red and inflamed, seek medical attention from your GP.
See our pick of the best soothing formulas that will protect and hydrate eczema-prone skin all year round.
Child’s Farm unfragranced moisturiser
Cheap and cheerful, this moisturiser is perfect for kids and suitable for newborns upwards. The cream is quickly absorbed without any stickiness and is unfragranced, so is suitable for use on the face and very sensitive skin. The rich texture helps relieve eczema, leaving skin visibly hydrated, smooth and nourished.
Farmologie Pink Grapefruit Hand cream
With either a beautiful pink grapefruit scent or unfragranced, this hand cream will be a godsend to combat dryness and itchiness exacerbated by hand sanitiser and consistent washing. All it takes is a pea-sized amount to nourish your digits. It absorbs quickly into the skin with a gentle formulation that won't cause further irritation. The product is formulated with colloidal oatmeal and oat oil that are brimming with soothing and moisturising benefits.
Provacan hemp balm
This is a little on the pricey side for a small pot, but it works absolute wonders on dry skin and you only need to use a small amount at a time. When massaged onto eczema, it soothed the skin and redness was visibly reduced within half an hour. The balm is made of 100 per cent natural, organic ingredients and contains 1 per cent CBD, derived from the hemp plant. This active extract appears to fast forward the skin’s healing process, and all of Provacan’s products are produced under strict EU guidelines.
This emollient-based ointment has a buttery texture which deeply moisturises and nourishes the skin. When applied overnight, it helped reduce eczema on the face and body, and in the daytime it acts as a barrier against aggravators to the skin. The ointment works really well as a cleanser in the shower or added to bath water, and with no fragrances, colourings or preservatives, it’s ideal for babies and children.
Dr Organic Manuka honey rescue cream
Manuka honey is known for its skin healing properties and this cream makes it easy to apply without any stickiness. It smells absolutely divine, is easily absorbed into dry skin and is full of natural, nourishing ingredients such as Aloe Vera, Mosqueta Rose, Sweet Almond oil, Cocoa butter, Beeswax and Vitamin E. Don’t be alarmed when your skin tingles slightly on application, this is because of the Manuka honey’s powerful anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Safe to use on damaged and extremely dry skin, this has helped soothe the eczema on eyelids and arms.
The Lucy Bee cleanser and moisturiser are perfect for anyone who suffers from eczema on their face, as they are made with 100 per cent natural ingredients. The coconut oil base soothes skin whilst removing make up or dirt, and the turmeric is anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. Both products are gentle enough to use on eyes and eczema without stinging or discomfort. They leave skin soft, hydrated and radiant without aggravating skin like most other cleansers.
Lucy Bee coconut oil
Coconut oil is nature’s best moisturiser. High in lauric acid, antibacterial, anti-fungal, antioxidant and antimicrobial properties, it can soothe the skin, reduce irritation and itching, and lower the risk of infection. Lucy Bee's iteration is 100 per extra virgin, organic, fair trade, unrefined and cold pressed, and so retains both its nutritional and skin-loving properties. Simply add to a warm bath, massage into damp skin straight after a shower, or smooth over affected areas before going to bed.
Diprobase emollient cream
This cream is great value for money and a handy size to keep in your bag or pocket. It provides relief by soothing very dry skin and moisturises without leaving a greasy residue. White soft paraffin is the main ingredient, which is intensely moisturising and works to provide a layer of oil on the skin to prevent water loss from the surface.
Avène XeraCalm A.D. Lipid Replenishing Cleansing Oil
Suitable for adults and babies alike, a lightweight cleansing oil designed to remove impurities while protecting the skin from the drying effects of water. Glycerin hydrates while Avène’s Thermal Spring Water relieves the discomfort of sore and inflamed skin. The colourless formula can be used in either the shower or bath.
Aveeno Dermexa Emollient Cream
A brand trusted by many, Aveeno’s dermatologist-recommended cream uses a natural triple oat and oatmeal complex to soothe and prevent the recurrence of dry and itchy skin. It also contains ceramides – which are naturally found in the skin and are help to restore its protective barrier. It can be used on both the face and body and is free from fragrance and steroids.
Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser
This mild daily cleanser for is part of Cetaphil’s gentle therapeutic skincare range for sensitive skin. It offers thorough cleansing without stripping the skin of its natural moisture and is dispensed through a pump for easy application. A great multitasker, the product can be used to remove makeup or as a moisturiser for the face and body.
Eucerin AtoControl Acute Care Cream
Established more than 100 years ago, Eucerin is known for creating some of the finest skincare for sensitive and damaged facial skin in Europe. This rich skin cream blended with Omega fatty acids, licorice extract and decandiol, is clinically proven to provide instant and long-lasting relief for skin irritation. Apply once or twice daily.
E45 Emollient Wash Cream
The experts at E45 have helped the brand become one of the biggest names in dry and eczema skincare. This creamy, non-drying emollient wash is designed to work with your own skin’s pH level and lock in its essential oils to prevent further dryness. It leaves skin feeling instantly smoother and is gentle enough for everyday use.