If your skin is itchy, red, and dry, it could be eczema. Julia Simmonds, a pharmacist and mother to two children with eczema, and founder of itchy baby co. shares how you can strengthen the skin’s barrier to reduce eczema flare ups.
What adults need to know about managing eczema
Whether you have eczema or your children have eczema, the steps you need to take to good eczema management are the same. Managing eczema really well to reduce skin flare ups is all about getting the most amount of hydration and nourishment into the skin as well as helping your skin be effective at providing a barrier between the body and the external environment.
Why is it important to build up the skin’s barrier in eczema?
If you could see eczema skin under a microscope you would see it has gaps or holes. These gaps allow moisture to leave the skin more easily making it dry, flakey and itchy. These gaps also allow the skin to be affected by triggers in the environment. When the skin barrier function is working well it reduces moisture loss and also stops triggers aggravating the skin which can cause itching, redness and lead to skin infection.
What can we do to strengthen the skin’s barrier to reduce eczema flare ups?
Getting into a hydrating skincare routine is key to managing eczema well. The best hydrating skincare routines have a few key steps to give the skin every chance to absorb the layers of moisture and build up the skin’s natural barrier function.
Bathe or shower every day. This will wash off any triggers which are sitting on the skin’s surface and potentially causing irritation. It also gives you the opportunity to put moisture into the skin by using a hydrating bath soak (not soap, which tends to dry the skin out more). Bathing or showering also then prepares the skin to absorb the most amount of hydration after the bath.
Immediately after the bath or shower, and I mean within two minutes of stepping out and gently patting dry, apply a thick moisturiser in downward motions. Why a thick moisturiser? Light creams and lotions have a high water content which means they evaporate from the skin quickly, losing their moisturising affect and also take any water on the skin’s surface with it. Thick moisturisers have little water content, ointments generally have no water, and give the skin longer lasting hydration. Apply moisturiser at least once more throughout the day.
Pay attention to any areas of the body which are more affected, and give some extra love and care to them by moisturising more regularly, or applying a hydrating and soothing body oil before using your moisturiser. With young children areas of the body which commonly need special attention are behind the knees, inside of the elbows, wrists and scalps.
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