Dealing with eczema my entire life, I have tried just about everything you can think of to control it! Most people don’t understand, but eczema is extremely painful. It’s not just dry skin that can be controlled with lotion. I’m going to give you a few insights on what I have done to treat my eczema and what has worked…ironically, most of the advice from dermatologists is opposite for me. I hope you find a little relief with some of these options.
1 – Prescription Medicine
The first suggestion people give me, solicited or not, when they find out I have eczema is to go to a dermatologist and get medicine. And, they all have the best dermatologist there is. Getting prescription medicine to treat eczema is a great option. Often times, this will work to give some relief. Doctors can prescribe topical creams, pills, give shots, and even soaps. As with anything, there are positive and negatives to all of these. I have not personally used prescription soap and, honestly, I can’t remember what the name of the shots were that I got. Here is my take on all the options.
Topical creams are one of the most popular prescriptions doctors write for eczema treatment. There are so many out there, they are readily available, and easy to use. Throughout my life, I have probably used 20-25 different topical creams. I know that sounds dramatic, but one of the down sides with topical creams is that most of them are steroidal. I remember when I was kid people used to think that I was taking “steroids” in the traditional sense. It used to crack me up! Anyway, the more you use steroids, the more immune you come to them. Because of this, you have constantly change them because they stop working; or at least that has been my experience. The really depressing thing for me with steroids is you don’t always know the side effects until later. For example, one of the topical creams I used to use; which was new when I used it, just discovered it can cause cancer. Awesome…I used it for years. Here’s hoping nothing happens. Another unfortunate side effect of steroids is that they thin your skin, cause hormonal changes, and even contribute to hair loss. I don’t know about you, but none of that sounds fun to me.
Antihistamines, both prescription and non-prescription, can be used to treat the itchiness that comes with eczema. Shocker! I’ve done these too. The positive is you stop itching…which is more annoying than I can even explain! For all you who don’t have eczema, imagine having poison ivy every day of your life! It sucks!! Now, antihistamines do absolutely nothing for you actual skin, all they do is stop the itching. The cons of this type of “treatment” is the drowsiness that comes with them. This would be hard to take during the day.
I have always had problems with scratching while I sleep. Seriously, my mom used to have to tie little gloves on my hands when I was little. And, let me tell you, I can scratch with any time of fabric there is!! As an adult, this hasn’t gotten much better. I itch at night when I’m hot, I itch if I’m too cold and I itch if my skin touches too long. Meaning, I have to wear t-shirts and pants to bed year-round….my husband loves it!! I asked my dermatologist to give me something for at night and prescribed me an antihistamine. It worked great! I passed out and didn’t move all night! Perfect, right?! Wrong! I had a really hard time waking up and I felt hungover every morning. Needless to say, I had to stop taking it.
Antibiotics are sometimes used in severe cases where the skin is so irritated it is getting infected. I have only had to do this once in my life and it worked for awhile. This, however, is not a good long term plan as it can actually make it worse. Antibiotics kill both good and bad bacteria. This weakens your overall immune system and can leave you defenseless against eczema.
Having said all this, I do have a dermatologist I go to regularly and I am very happy with him. He gives me mild topical prescriptions (non-steroidal) and some stronger creams for when I really need it. One of the most frustrating things to me when switching doctors is essentially starting all over. All of them want to try the same thing at first and go from there. While I appreciate that and respect the thoroughness, I have been dealing with this for so long so I know what works and doesn’t with my skin. Finding someone who will listen to what you have to say is very important.
2 – Watch what you eat
Believe it or not, what you eat can actually affect your eczema. I never knew this until my dermatologist told me (see, I told you he was good!), so I started to do some research on my own. Eczema is an autoimmune disease. What does this have to do with food? With autoimmune diseases, and processed foods today, the food we eat can trigger our bodies to create antibodies to fight what it sees as poison. The more “poison” you eat, the harder your body has to fight and the less it is able to fight the eczema, or atopic dermatitis, infection.
IgC Sensitivity Test
Figuring out what affects you can be hard, so I decided to do a blood test, called IgG sensitivity test. For this test, they draw blood and do an immuno bloodprint. Essentially, they expose your blood to all different foods (about xx) and see which foods cause your blood serum to react. These foods are ranked from one to four based how much your blood serum reacts to them. Generally, anything over +2 is not good; however, +1 still makes your body react. The advice is to avoid any of the foods that cause your body to react because this is seen as “poison” to your body and will lower your ability to fight infections.
I had this done in 2014 and reacted to thirty different foods. Some of them very random! One of my worst reactions (+3) was to pinto beans! The other thing I found very interesting was I react to a lot of seafood; which I don’t like anyway! Most of the other foods I react to I am not a fan of either. It’s crazy how our bodies have a way of knowing what is not good for them. Overall, I think I reacted to about thirty different foods. So naturally, I tried to avoid these foods. I thought maybe that would help me lose a few pounds as well. You know, the whole “I’m poisoning my body, so it must be inflamed” thought. The weird thing was I started gaining weight! I did avoid these foods for about a year and really didn’t see any improvement. After not really getting any noticeable relief for a long duration, I went back to my regular eating. I do still try to avoid certain things I react to, but not necessarily because of my eczema. I still think everyone should have this test done, but mainly because I love data! I am an engineer of course! I just like to have as much information about my body as I can. Which brings me to my next topic…water.
I cannot stress enough how important drinking water is for your body. If there is nothing else you try from this book, please try to drink more water! Depending on where you look, the suggested amount is 8-10 glasses a day to the equivalent of half your bodyweight in ounces. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you need to drink 75 ounces of water a day. I know you’re asking what water has to do with helping eczema. Well, water helps everything! Your body is made mostly of water, so it needs it to function properly. When you are not properly hydrated, this slows down your metabolism; which then affects circulatory and digestive problems. Dehydration is also a trigger for the dry itchiness of eczema. I definitely have had this experience where the days I don’t drink enough water I itch all day and can’t seem to get rid of it.
Ensuring you are properly hydrated also helps flush any toxins in your body. Overall, I always feel much better when I drink plenty of water. And, yes, I track it with an app on my phone! It is important to note that coffee, caffeinated tea, and alcohol should not be counted towards your daily water goal. So, go start tracking your water and ensure you are properly hydrated!! The funny thing is, now I can tell when I don’t drink enough because my fingers swell slightly…oh the joys of trying to be healthy!
3 – Alternative Therapies
To be completely transparent, I have not tried all the alternative therapies I am going to share with you below. Mainly because I am not really sure where to find treatments for some of these therapies and I haven’t put a ton of energy into finding them. I do find them very interesting and would love to give them a try if I can a good place. If I do try them all, I’ll definitely share my experiences on the website.
Acupressure is similar to acupuncture, but this practice consists of applying pressure to certain areas to release “life energy” rather than using needles. I haven’t been able to find somewhere locally to try this and I am definitely not doing acupuncture! I have a major fear of needles!! Limited studies have shown that acupressure can help relieve symptoms of itching.
Some experts believe there is a strong connection between the mind and skin disorders. There are dermatologists who practice what is called “pshycodermatology.” This practice is more common in Europe than in the US and the focus is to help the patient with stress and anxiety which may trigger the eczema. Some common techniques of mind training include:
There is very limited research on whether massages can help treat eczema, but who really needs an excuse for a massage!! Really, I’m giving you a legitimate argue for why you need a regular massage. The only real theory behind massages helping eczema is the stress release massage provided for the body. Stress can trigger eczema, so by getting regular massages, one can lower their stress and help with eczema breakouts.
I get massages every other week through my chiropractic insurance. I have to say, it has helped on multiple levels. Obviously, it helps with all the aches and pains I have and relieves stress. But, I have also noticed how well my skin does after the massage. First off, they are rubbing oil on you for 50 minutes which gets absorbed into the skin hydrating it. My masseuse also uses aromatherapy in the room, and there are certain ones that seem to calm my skin. Apologies, but I don’t know which ones they are or I would share them with you.
So, if you’re looking for an excuse for a regular massage, here you go!
4 – Moisturizing
I know this one sounds like common sense, but it actually isn’t. There are a few unconscious things we do that draw moisture out of our skin. Drinking plenty of water is a major aspect to keeping your skin moisturized. If your body is dehydrated, it will pull moisture from wherever it can to keep your organs functioning properly.
The temperature of water in your shower is also important. I love a hot shower as much as the next; actually, borderline burning is perfect for me! However, that draws moisture out of your skin. You should really take a lukewarm shower. I know, it’s not fun, but sometimes we have make sacrifices.
The type of moisturizer is important as well. As much as I love all the great smelling lotions, they are not good for eczema. The chemicals added to get the scents will most likely irritate your skin. Instead, so for unscented lotions and ones that are made for sensitive skin. Save the all the great smells for candles and oils!
One thing my dermatologist told me that caught me by surprise is the way we dry off after a shower. Like most people (I think), I used to use my towel to wipe my skin to dry it. According to my doctor, that is all wrong! We should be patting ourselves dry. Who knew?! I’m not going to lie, it took me a little while to get used to this one.
5 – Home Remedies
This is one of the most helpful sections, I think. These are the things I have tried around the house that have helped me.
Baby oil is a great moisturizer and is gentle on the skin. I use this a lot in the summertime when I take multiple showers a day (BTW, not a good idea for eczema). After taking a shower or bath, your pores absorbing moisture better. The best way to moisturize with baby oil is to apply all over before you dry off. Put the baby oil in the shower and lather up before you even get out. Then, be sure to pat dry! Be careful the next time you get in the shower because the floor could be slippery. I just run the water for about a minute before I get in the next time.
Again, I use baby powder mostly in the summer months. It’s hot and humid down here in Georgia! If we’re going to be outside for any length of time, I normally use the baby powder to keep my skin dry and from “sticking” to itself. This is a big trigger for my skin. I normally put in the crevices behind knees and elbows where you tend to sweat and helps tremendously. My doctor said they don’t recommend this because it dries out your skin more, but I’ve never had this issue and it works great for me. Bonus, you can also use it on your inner thighs to keep them from getting irritated if they rub together. You’re welcome athletic girls!
Epsom salt baths are great! I’m sure you all have noticed that your skin clears up at beach after only a few days. Well, that is the salt in the ocean and since not all of us can live at the beach for skin, I like to bring the beach home! Add about a cup of epsom salt to the bath and drink a glass of wine! This is great if your skin is stinging or having severe flare up. Make sure to moisturize well when you get out because the salt will dry out your skin. If you don’t want to take a bath, you can make a salt paste too and apply to the affected area. I’m not a huge fan of this because it really stings and I’m not a huge fan of pastes.
Again, coconut oil is really good for moisturizing and is gentle on the skin. Now, I don’t use this before drying off. I normally use this more like a lotion. Pat dry and apply as you would a lotion. I’m not a huge fan of how it smells, so I don’t do this often. I do, however, make an exfoliating paste for my lips that I love. I sometimes have flare ups on my lips and you can’t really put medicine there or a lot of the other options. So, I mix a tablespoon of sugar with about a tablespoon of coconut oil and use that. It seems to great for me!
I know this one sounds weird, but bathing in baking soda can help flare ups. Adding about a ¼ – ½ cup of baking soda to a warm bath and soak in it. This won’t clear you eczema, but it will help tremendously with the itching…or at least is does for me. Make sure to moisturize well when you get out.
Another bath option I use is a vinegar bath. Vinegar helps with clearing the inflammation and can relieve the itchiness as well. Vinegar will kill any bacteria on the skin surface as well. Add about 1 cup to 1 pint, depending on the severity of the flare up, to the bath and soak. Vinegar can be really drying, so make sure to moisturize well when you are finished.
If you don’t go to the beach much but go to a pool, you’ve probably noticed you eczema clears up then as well. By adding bleach to the bath, you are kind of simulating a pool. Bleach will decrease the bacterial skin infections. Add about ½ cup of bleach to the bath and soak for about 10 minutes and then rinse off. This one is shorter and you see more improvement if you do it about 2-3 times a week. Make sure to moisturize well when you get out.
Those are household products I have found to be most helpful and readily available. Most people already have them in their homes. Bonus, I’ve given you lots of reasons to soak in the bathtub and drink wine!! Win-win! I hope some of the tips work for you as well.
There are a lot ways to help relieve eczema pain and itching, but unfortunately, no cure. There really is no answer as to what causes eczema. You really have to try different avenues and see what works best for you at the time. As you get older and circumstances and environments change, so will your eczema. Keep trying different relief methods and share what works for you. I hope these tips have been helpful. I am continually trying new ways to relieve the itch and pain that comes with my eczema. As I find new way, I’ll be sure to share them on my website, so follow along!