Without information on effective treatments, eczema can not only be harmful for skin, but also for self-confidence.
Eczema affects roughly 10% of Americans. The symptoms can vary, from mild skin irritation to large patches of dry or discolored skin, yet even mild forms of eczema can impact one’s life.
“When my skin was at its lowest point, it seemed as if my life revolved around my eczema,” said Morelia Chavez, who has lived with eczema for much of her life. “My eczema would dictate the clothes and shoes I couldn’t wear, the activities I couldn’t participate in, and it also brought a lack of self-confidence due to my appearance.”
Raelle Brown, who also lives with eczema, said, “Waking up daily, you can only hope that there is nothing that you ate, touched, or were even surrounded by that has caused you to have a reaction. When my skin is at its worst, eczema flares take over my ability to properly function physically, mentally, and emotionally.”
Addressing eczema in children
For adults, eczema can negatively affect work and self-confidence. For children, it can cause sleep disturbance and bullying. There are many ways in which eczema symptoms can impact one’s life beyond one’s skin.
Dermatologists like Dr. Latanya Benjamin work closely with patients to not only diagnose and treat eczema, but also to raise awareness about the psychological impacts of the condition. “I am always on the lookout for signs of inflammation in the skin, such as redness and itch,” Dr. Benjamin said. “The best skincare options that are the safest are products that hydrate and contain no fragrances, dyes, sulfates, parabens, formaldehyde, or other harsh chemicals.”
Dr. Benjamin highlighted how eczema in children can be particularly impactful. “Healthy skin is important at any age,” she said. ”However, young child and infant skin is most susceptible to damage from a variety of factors (such as the sun and chemicals in topical products), and these damages could carry great implications. I recommend effective cleaning of the skin with a gentle baby wash. I will layer on topical medications if the condition is moderate to severe and warrants additional treatment.”
A range of at-home treatments
Depending on the severity of a flare-up, treatments range from stress management and avoiding irritants to topical medicines.
“Staying diligent with my skincare regimen by ensuring that I’m using products that don’t irritate my skin has helped with my eczema management,” Brown said. “Identifying triggers has been key for managing my eczema flare-ups, and I’ve been able to do that by being patch and allergy tested to know what makes me flare.”
Chavez found steroidal creams and prescription ointment effective in treating her eczema flare-ups. “I apply a generous amount to the area, and I wrap it with plastic wrap and leave it for at least three to four hours,” she said. “At first, it can be super painful because the prescription ointment and the plastic can feel uncomfortable, but when this happens, I apply ice packs to the area to relieve some of the pain.”
Jim Hewlett, who also lives with eczema, found a combination of treatments for his symptoms effective. “The treatments that have been most successful for me include a biweekly injectable biologic, shorter and colder showers, stress-reduction techniques, and a daily skin lotion regimen,” he said.
Looking at lifestyle habits
While treatments are often necessary, reducing stress and changing certain lifestyle habits can help prevent flare-ups. “A healthy diet and lifestyle that minimizes stress will positively impact the health of your skin,” Dr. Benjamin said. ”Especially for children, sufficient sleep is also key for proper growth and skin health.”
The impact of successful eczema treatments doesn’t stop with healthier skin. “After my treatments, my skin feels better, but I’ve come to realize that my skin can also dictate my mood,” Brown said. “After successful treatments, I’m at my happiest. Consequently, my quality of life has improved significantly as well.”