I have been dealing with eczema, primarily on my hands, for about seven years now. I first noticed an irritation when I was in Nursing School (I did not pursue that profession, I’m a teacher now instead. Much better choice for me. Note: major love and mad respect to all nurses; until you’ve attempted to do what they do you have no idea how difficult their job is!! Props.) The continual washing of my hands that is required in such a profession really irritated my skin.
Fast forward to four years later, I have moved away from home for university. Unbeknownst to me, the apartment I was renting was full of irritants. At the time I had no idea how to manage my eczema, what was causing flare-ups, what were/are my sensitivities. It got to a point where I had to bandage my entire palm on one hand. I have always brushed off my eczema as something minimal, telling myself people had it much worse than I (which is 100% true). However, I was devoting a large portion of my energy and brain-space to the management of my eczema to no avail. I have finally reached a place where I have my eczema (mostly) under control and can identify the root cause of the majority of flare-ups and I would love to share some of them with you!
Here are 5 tips/tricks that help me manage my eczema on a day-to-day basis!
1) Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize!
I have naturally dry skin, although my skin affected by eczema is a whole other story! I moisturize my hands with a thick cream after washing them and really after most times they come into contact with water. The chemicals in the water, mixed with hand soap, immediately dry out my skin. I can feel the moisture leaving my hands. I have tried a number of creams, however, even some marked as fragrance free and dermatology approved caused me to react. My saving grace is the Neutrogena Norwegian Formula hand cream (Fragrance Free***). This cream is super concentrated and one tube lasts me a long time, despite my very frequent use. You can find it at your local superstore/drugstores, or on amazon.ca. Ideally, I would love to get to a place where my skin is not dependent on moisturizer, however, this is my reality right now.
2) Avoid Fragrance
At one point in my eczema journey, I switched to Dr. Bronner’s soap, however, I tried the lavender scent, not knowing any better, and sent myself into a huge flare-up. I basically avoid applying any scents to my body, especially synthetic ones. My shampoo, conditioner and body lotion are all fragrance free and I am looking for more natural products to replace my current ones. Watch out for fragrance in hand soap and laundry detergent.
3) Food Sensitivities
As a vegan, I am super conscious of what I put into my body for my health, the animals and the environment. I have basically eliminated most foods that would cause eczema flare-ups, minus soy and gluten. Although, I can say with a decent amount of certainty that I do not think my eczema is aggravated by a soy or gluten sensitivity. If you consume a lot of dairy, meat, processed foods, or other animal products it might be worth trying a plant-based diet.
I am Canadian and we get real-live winters. My hands are very sensitive to cold. Most people know that skin can become dry in the winter months. However, I also find my hands flare-up after being exposed to the cold. An easy solution to this: wear your mittens!
5) Reduce Stress
A HUGE cause of my eczema flare-ups is stress. If I have had a particularly stressful week at work, or tension in relationships, it manifests itself in my hands. In some ways, my flare-ups are a reminder to work through my anxieties and negative experiences to promote growth vs. worry. I am doing my best to reduce stress and undo worrying in my life to improve both my eczema and my overall well-being.
Although these tips are fairly straightforward, I hope they can help some of you. I have spent many years researching eczema and solutions and appreciated any insights other people had. Hopefully you feel the same way!
Best of luck on your journey
(Disclaimer: I am not a trained medical practitioner. Any suggestions I provide in this post are from my own personal experience. Please talk to your doctor before making any lifestyle, medication, or diet changes.)