I have suffered from eczema for as long as I can remember. I had red, itchy spots in the creases of my arms and legs all through my childhood, but it wasn’t until fifth grade, when we were living in hot, humid Singapore and I wore scratchy, polyester uniforms, that it really started to become a problem. For the most part, we were able to keep it under control with medicated creams from our family doctor, but every once in a while it would flare up and I would be left with a horrible rash all over my legs.
I remember one such flare when I was in fifth grade, and still feel tears well up in my eyes when I remember changing into my bathing suit for swim lessons one day at school, noticing a huge, puffy rash all over my legs, and then watching in horror as the other kids stared at me when the swim instructor yelled, “YOU’RE NOT BRINGING THAT INTO MY POOL!!!” at the top of his lungs.
It was mortifying.
Fortunately for me, I mostly outgrew my eczema by the time I started high school, but instead of my legs and arms being covered in itchy, pink patches, my right hand now resembles that of an 80-year-old woman, and cracks, splits, bleeds, and itches like nobody’s business unless I give it the TLC it deserves.
Thankfully, time and experience have taught me a lot of great tips and tricks as it relates to treating eczema, and since I know there are loads of people out there who either suffer from eczema themselves, or have a child who scratches themselves raw each night, today I’m sharing 7 eczema remedies that work.
1. GET AN ALLERGY TEST
When the eczema on my hand started to really bother me during a particularly cold and dry winter, a friend of mine urged me to go and get an allergy test, and after lying awake night after night trying not to scratch my skin off, I decided to heed her advice. As it turns out, I am very allergic to grass, and even though grass and grass seed do not cause me classic allergy systems like sneezing and red, watery eyes, the doctor suggested I cut grains out of my diet for a couple of months to see if I noticed a difference. He felt quite strongly that there is a link between grass and grain allergies, and explained that consumption of dairy products can also exasperate eczema symptoms in some people, so I decided to cut both items out of my diet for 3 months. I found this very challenging, but I would be lying to you if I said I didn’t notice a difference, and while I still eat cheese, granola, and the occasional bowl of oatmeal now and then, I find my eczema is at its best when I avoid those items completely.
2. USE LUKEWARM WATER
When I consulted a dermatologist for my acne-prone skin in my early 20s, I asked if he had any recommendations to help keep my eczema under control. He gave me lots of great ideas, many of which I already knew about, but the one thing that helped me the most was to stop washing my hands and showering in hot water. Of course, this was a difficult change for me to make as I love nothing more than standing under a hot shower after a long day, but limiting the amount of time my skin is exposed to water, and ensuring the temperature is warm instead of hot, really helps.
3. AVOID PERFUMES AND DYES
When I was 11- or 12-years-old, I ran myself a bubble bath one night and threw in a bunch of fizzy bath bombs my grandmother had given to me for my birthday. I had never been allowed to use scented skin products up until that point in my life, which I always assumed was because they made my mother sneeze, but the moment I lowered myself into the tub, I knew that wasn’t the case. My skin literally started to burn as soon as it touched the water, my legs went completely red, and I was scratching for days. It was awful! As it turns out, soaps, skin products, and detergents with perfumes and dyes added to them can be REALLY irritating to eczema-prone skin. This is less of an issue to me now that I’m older, but I’m start careful in selecting products that have little to no scent added to them to be safe.
4. CHOOSE FABRICS WISELY
A friend of mine suffered from eczema much worse than I did while we were growing up, and to this day she cannot tolerate wool or synthetic materials touching her skin. This was a shame when we were teenagers and trying to fit in with the latest fashion trends, but experience has taught her that it’s just not worth it. Instead, she opts for clothes made of cotton where she can, rarely wears anything too form-fitting, and in the event that she needs to wear something that could potentially trigger a reaction, she makes sure to wear something cotton underneath.
5. INVEST IN THE BEST CREAMS FOR ECZEMA
I’ve tried more skin care products over the years than I care to admit, but when my eczema is really bothering me, I find the only thing that will get it under control is tube of medicated cream from my doctor. I’ve been prescribed many different ointments over the years, and find each of them have offered immediate relief. But I’m not really a fan of medicated products, so once the flare has subsided, I always opt for over-the-counter creams to treat and prevent my eczema from getting worse. Here are 4 products that have worked the best for me over the years:
This is my go-to cream during the winter months as I find it provides similar relief as the creams my doctor prescribes, but without the harsh medical ingredients added to it. I also love that it’s non-greasy, particularly since my hands are my problem area!
When my daughter was younger and I needed to be more diligent about the kinds of creams I put on my hands since I was holding her for most of the day, I decided to give this cream a try and I really loved it. I found it not only relieved my dry skin, but also kept it moisturized, and the natural colloidal oatmeal within the cream left a protective barrier to prevent my skin from drying out further.
One of the moms at my daughter’s preschool last year told me she swears by this cream. I tried it and definitely agree it’s a superior product and that it acts as a fabulous barrier to lock moisture in, but found it left my hands feeling greasy, so my recommendation is to use this cream at night.
I cannot say enough good things about this product. The smell isn’t anything to write home about, but this cream was a lifesaver to me when my eczema was at its worst and my hands were prone to cracking and bleeding. I kept a tube at home, in my purse, and at my desk at work, and it worked wonders. If you suffer from eczema on your body as well, The Body Shop Hemp Body Butter is another excellent choice!
6. AVOID FOODS THAT AGGRAVATE ECZEMA
I’ve already touched on the importance of getting an allergy test, and while grains and dairy seem to make my eczema worse, I’ve also read that eggs, nuts, seeds, and soy can aggravate eczema. It’s definitely worth talking to your doctor or allergist about potential irritants and to do a bit of trial and error to see if diet has an impact.
7. EXERCISE PROPER STRESS MANAGEMENT
My mother has always thought my eczema is caused by stress. I am an anxious person by nature, and while I tend to believe environmental factors are a bigger trigger for my eczema, I do notice that my eczema bothers me more when I’m feeling overwhelmed. Of course, this could be do to the fact that I am less diligent about what I eat and applying preventative creams when my mind is elsewhere, but since stress can wreak havoc on our systems in so many different ways, I try to keep stress at bay as much as possible. Here are 20 of my best tips to alleviate stress right now.
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