Sunday, March 24, 2013

My Eczema Story: Part II, How I Control My Eczema

In yesterday’s post, I talked about my lifelong struggle with eczema, a painful skin disorder that affects 17% of Americans.  As I mentioned, I’ve had eczema all of my life and it’s a condition I inherited from both of my parents (actually, both of my grandfathers had eczema to about the same degree that I do; my parents have far milder infrequently episodic versions).

When I was little, I had eczema outbreaks most of the time.  Unlike today, when it’s easy to go to Target or Walgreens and get soaks and ointments for ailing skin, there weren’t many OTC treatments to manage my condition.  In the early-to-mid-eighties my mom would have to take me to a formulary pharmacy to get custom-made corticosteroid creams for my painful rashes.  This was an expensive treatment that didn’t always help my chronically red, rashy skin.  To make matters worse, the cream felt horrible and I hated having it slathered on my skin-- it was thicker than sunscreen, smelt putrid, and never felt like it was sinking into my skin.

More recent research has linked long-term use of high-dose topical steroid creams to skin marking and discoloration as well as to worsening acne or rosacea.  Similarly, high-dose steroid cream use can affect a child’s growth.  Thankfully, my perceptive mother began researching and looking for other, more natural ways to manage my eczema, methods that I still utilize.

Again, as I said yesterday, I am speaking for myself and my own experiences.  What has worked for me may not work for someone else.  If you have eczema yourself, you should consult with your medical professional before embarking on a treatment plan.

For years, I have been able to keep my eczema under control (for the most part) through a combination of topical treatments, bath soaks, avoiding things I am allergic to, managing my physical environment, and (wherever possible) selecting all-natural products instead of chemically based ones. Managing my allergies-- which are both dietary and environmental-- is instrumental to keeping my skin calm.  While eczema itself isn’t an allergy, the condition is made worse when I am exposed to things I am allergic to.  Avoiding foods I am allergic to is as simple as reading food labels or giving something that is “iffy” a miss; I know that consuming something I am allergic to-- or multiple things I am allergic to-- will only end in a hive-covered mess, so it’s not hard to restrain myself in such cases.  When my allergies, especially environmental ones, bother me, I take Benadryl (the only allergy tablet that doesn’t give me a nosebleed).  Interestingly, my environmental allergies have been less severe since we adopted THE FOOSA last year.

In addition to managing my allergies, I’ve constructed my skincare regimen around the care of my delicate skin.  Year round I take lukewarm baths and showers; hot water can dry out your skin and exacerbate any skin problems I may be having or have brewing.  When I have the off breakout, or when my skin is feeling particularly dry or tender, I take baths using Aveeno Soothing Bath Treatment-- though I often opt for the less expensive house-brands.  Also when I have a breakout, I apply the Aveeno Anti-Itch Concentrated Lotion to the affected areas; the product has calamine lotion in it and is formulated to soothe itchy skin.

To cleanse my body, I use all-natural soaps like Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap (my favorites as the Lavender, Peppermint, and Rose) or vegetable glycerine soap. Most of these soaps are so mild they do not cause my skin to act up.

The same methodology applies to my moisturizing routine: I only use all-natural products.  Within a few minutes of exiting the bath, I slather on Burt’s Bees Naturally Nourishing Body Lotion Milk & Honey formula.  In addition to being 99% natural, this lotion is very moisturizing, long-lasting, and light on the skin.  It doesn’t matter how complex my skin may be, there is no way I am going to sit around and wait for a Crisco-thick body butter to sink into my skin!

Lastly, I have been able to maintain a semblance of control over my skin my being mindful of the physical environment.  When it’s super hot outside, I stay indoors.  When it’s super cold, I also stay inside.  I keep my home at 74 degrees F year-round; if it gets any hotter or any colder than that, I run the risk of having my skin react to the conditions.  I realize this makes me sound like an iguana, but preventing my skin from being chapped from the cold or irritated from sweat is vital to maintaining my skin’s balance.

Even though eczema is a common skin condition, maintaining eczema-prone skin is anything but a common affair.  While every sufferer must forge their own path to dermal health, I hope these insights into my own self-care have been helpful.



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