I get questions all the time at Nature Loves You Skincare about how to deal with eczema, which is apropos because my journey into the organic skincare market began after my son was diagnosed with newborn eczema. I was dissatisfied with the safety & efficacy of the recommended treatments, and found that the frustration found among other sufferers and parents was ubiquitous. Despite the expensive name brand creams and prescriptions, many have not found any satisfactory relief from this debilitating & disfiguring ailment. Thankfully, I discovered several natural, practical, & inexpensive ways to alleviate the uncomfortable effects of this common condition.
What exactly is eczema?
Eczema is a chronic skin disease in which patches of skin become irritated or inflamed, causing itching and the formation of rashes or blisters. Eczema causes the excessive loss of skin moisture, and can lead to hypersensitivity towards potential allergens, such as pollen, ragweed, clothing dye, and food allergens. People with eczema may develop a skin reaction even without direct skin contact with an allergen. Additionally, many with eczema have a history of other allergies such as food allergies, allergic asthma, hay fever, or seasonal allergies.
Eczema is commonly found on areas of the body that bend, such as knees and elbows, as well as on the face, neck, wrists, scalp, arms, legs, chest and back. Most people are diagnosed with eczema when they are children and symptoms may decrease as they get older, but it can persist into adulthood.
What can I do to get relief?
There are several tips that I recommend from personal & family experience. These tips apply to both children and adults.
- Use a mild, high-quality moisturizing soap, such as shea butter soap or black African soap. Eliminate all liquid soaps, including all baby/body washes. I strongly suggest Shea Moisture's Shea ButterSoap or Out of Africa's Black AfricanSoap. Both are mild and highly moisturizing, and provide great skin relief without the inclusion of harsh irritants. (Special note: DO NOT use traditional black African soap. These soaps are mostly found in health food stores and are usually handcrafted, with lumpy texture. It can burn intensely.)
- Begin taking baths, not showers. Your skin needs to absorb all the water that it has lost throughout the day. Eczema robs the skin of its ability to retain moisture, so soaking is highly recommended to relief to dry, itchy skin.
- Take lukewarm baths, NEVER hot. Heat exacerbates the itch. Although it feels good to the skin, hot water may activate the itch response and makes eczema worse. Additionally, do not put any bubble bath, bath beads, or other additives in your bath water. These items contain artificial dyes, artificial fragrances, and oil-stripping surfactants that can cause a severe skin reaction.
- After freshly washing skin, use oil-based moisturizers (not lotions), particularly Vaseline, pure shea butter, or cocoa butter. Lotions are often ineffective because they are water-based and easily evaporate. Eczema causes skin to lose its ability to retain moisture, so it is imperative to prevent moisture from escaping. Vaseline and other oils form a barrier on the outer layer of skin that “traps” moisture and alleviates the itch.
- Infusing the skin with water twice a day is a great way to keep the skin hydrated and reduce itch. A good routine is to take a good bath at night followed with a warm towel wipe down in the morning. Seal in the moisture with your oil-based moisturizer of choice.
- Lastly, it is important to get to the root of the problem. Eczema is usually associated with food & environmental allergies, so an allergy test would be useful. Removing certain foods from the diet can have a dramatic effect on the skin.