There’s no cure for eczema, although treatment makes symptoms more manageable. Treatment alone isn’t enough, though; your skin’s health is largely in your hands, and a few good practices go a long way in preventing flares. Some common habits, though, contribute to flares or worsen symptoms.
Here are some habits to drop if you have eczema.
1 Long baths/Excessive bathing
On its face, this might sound wrong. How can a long soak harm skin that is suffering from dryness? Isn’t it best to keep skin ultra-clean if you have a skin disorder?
Bathing is important. However, long baths or showers (especially hot ones) strip the skin’s natural emollients away, leading to increased moisture loss. Protracted soaks can cause skin cells to break down.
Showers and baths should be brief (no longer than 20 minutes; 10 minutes is even better), and they should be warm–not hot.
2 Not moisturizing
The skin barrier is usually compromised in eczema-prone skin and can become extremely dry. Moisturizing is arguably the most important thing you can do to support your skin’s health; unfortunately, many people skip moisturizing or do not moisturize enough.
At a minimum, you should moisturize twice a day. If you’re going through a flare, you should moisturize more often.
Some people wrongly believe that they shouldn’t moisturize if they have acne or oily skin. “It’ll just put more oil in my skin.” “Acne needs to dry out.”
Moisturizing isn’t about adding oil to your skin; it’s about preventing loss of hydration, something that can happen even in acne-prone skin.
Also, common acne treatment products use benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid. While helpful for acne, these chemicals are very drying. Moisture needs to be maintained when using them.
Lightweight moisturizing lotions are usually better than creams for oily or acne-prone skin. Look for non comedogenic products, as these are less likely to clog pores.
Another misconception is that moisturizers are only for women. Men with eczema need to protect their skin barrier, too.
3 Not treating symptoms quickly
Some people feel that they should let eczema “run its course” or clear up on its own, intervening only when symptoms are unbearable. In reality, waiting to treat a flare only serves to prolong it. As the inflammation continues, skin damage progresses.
Prompt treatment works the best. If you notice the tell-tale signs of an approaching eczema flare–itching, swelling, redness–apply an eczema cream such as SmartLotionⓇ as soon as possible.
4 Using Harsh Skincare Products
Like acne products, many popular anti-aging products can be hard on eczema-prone skin. Retinoids and beta hydroxy acids are notable examples.
That doesn’t mean that these products can’t be used. It’s a matter of choosing products carefully and using them wisely. Try the gentlest options first and progress to harsher formulas only if needed. Do not use them more frequently than is recommended, and be sure to pair them with moisturizer.
5 Daily Exfoliation/Using Harsh Exfoliants
Social media influencers have enthusiastically touted exfoliation, some recommending it as a daily practice. The skin often seems softer and brighter immediately after exfoliating. It seems like an easy way to get quick results. Some eczema sufferers even claim that vigorous exfoliation clears up flares.
These are bad ideas. Exfoliation has its benefits, but exfoliating excessively contributes to skin barrier damage. It should only be done once every few days–once a week, if your skin is sensitive. It should not be done during a flare at all, and abrasive scrubs should not be used.
6 Skipping the sunscreen
Sunlight alleviates symptoms for some eczema sufferers; for others, it triggers flares. Either way, sun exposure is one of the most common sources of skin damage. It can trigger inflammation and cause permanent damage to skin cells.
Using sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 is a good way to protect your skin from sun damage. It should be applied daily, with frequent reapplications throughout the day (especially if you have been sweating).
If you are using sunlight to ease eczema symptoms, remember that a little goes a long way. Ten minutes of exposure a few times a day should be helpful, ideally before 10 AM and after 4 PM; UV radiation is less intense at these times. .
A word about tanning beds…
Tanning beds emit 12 times more UVA light than the sun. There is no evidence that they offer any health benefit; there is plenty of evidence of their harm. They are best avoided.
7 Ignoring your triggers
There’s a common fallacy that suggests that allergies or eczema can be eliminated by purposely exposing yourself to triggers; this is a myth, and in many cases, it actually worsens symptoms.
Continued exposure to triggers prolongs inflammation. Avoid triggers whenever possible and keep your environment free of them.
8 Not seeing a board-certified dermatologist
It’s not uncommon for a family doctor or pediatrician to diagnose eczema, and these physicians can competently treat mild symptoms.
People who experience frequent flares or more severe symptoms benefit from a specialist’s care. Dermatologists are usually aware of the most recent research and treatments and can help you deal quickly with any complications that may arise.
“Don’t scratch” is a tall order when you're in the middle of a flare, but it’s important advice all the same. Scratching brings momentary relief, but it worsens itching–which leads to more scratching…which leads to worse itching. This is called the “itch/scratch cycle,” and it’s hard to break once it starts.
Scratching injures delicate skin and introduces bacteria to eczema lesions. If itching is unbearable, use your eczema cream. Discuss itching with your doctor; there are medications that can help in some cases.
10 Relying Only on Natural Remedies
Natural treatments run the gamut from “likely harmless” to “demonstrably harmful.” Ingesting essential oils and hydrogen peroxide, or applying these chemicals to your skin, are examples of the latter.
Essential oils are heavily concentrated and can damage or irritate the skin; some increase sensitivity to the sunlight. They are not meant to be ingested, although essential oils salespeople often claim they should be.
Cleanses and detoxes are not viable eczema treatments; eczema is not caused by impure diets or “toxins” in the internal organs, first of all. Secondly, these products often deplete you of nutrients necessary for health.
Natural health enthusiasts often advise against using topical steroids, the most common treatment for eczema. While topical steroids can have unwanted side effects (topical steroid withdrawal is a good example), these side effects can usually be avoided by proper dosage and use.
Science has proven the efficacy of some traditional medicines. In ancient Egypt, for example, sulfur was used to treat symptoms we now recognize as eczema. Studies have confirmed that it promotes healing during flares.
Coconut oil is another traditional remedy that has been supported by scientific investigation. It has been used for thousands of years in South Asia as a moisturizer and eczema treatment. Studies have found that it does indeed prevent moisture loss and aid healing during eczema flares..
When choosing supportive therapies for your eczema, take your health advice from qualified health professionals. Regard advice from MLM salespeople or lay “experts” with a healthy dose of skepticism.
Don’t be afraid to use prescription treatments under a doctor’s guidance. SmartLotionⓇ can help alleviate any refractory symptoms, and it does not cause topical steroid withdrawal. It also uses sulfur, Egypt’s time-tested eczema remedy, as a prebiotic strategy to balance the skin’s microbiome.
Good Habits for Eczema Control
Eczema management isn’t just about dropping unhelpful habits–it’s also about embracing beneficial ones. Here are a few good habits to support your skin’s health:
Moisturizing twice a day softens skin, prevents moisture loss, and gives your skin barrier a leg up. For best results, apply when your skin is still damp after cleansing.
HarlanMD’s Perfect Repair™ moisturizing cream is an option to consider here. It uses natural ceramides to soften skin and bolster the skin’s barrier function. Coconut oil offers healing properties and prevents moisture loss, while glycerin helps balance the skin’s microbiome.
During flares, it’s often helpful to add a heavier moisturizing ointment over your usual moisturizer.
Prolonged stress can lead to immune system dysregulation, which increases inflammation. It is a proven eczema trigger–one of the worst, in fact.
Incorporate stress management into your eczema treatment regimen. Don’t feel guilty about taking time to decompress. Get out into nature. If you enjoy art, try drawing or painting. Write in a journal. Call a friend. Have fun!
Life is stressful by nature. Do what you can to snatch at least a few moments of relaxation every day.
Use lotion after washing
Applying lotion after washing prevents moisture loss. It also gives the skin barrier an extra boost.
This also applies to handwashing. Studies have shown that hands with dry, cracked skin harbor more dirt and germs than softer skin. Applying lotion after each wash actually helps you keep your hands clean!
People who garden or work with heavy machinery often benefit from applying a heavier cream on top of the lotion. This is also true also for people whose hands stay wet, such as dishwashers, or people such as healthcare workers who must wash their hands frequently.
Keep your treatments on hand and up-to-date, even if you have not experienced a flare in a while. Many people keep SmartLotionⓇ eczema cream in their bedside table and use it at the first sign of a flare. Make sure you have healing ointment for times when you might need extra help with dryness.
A small overnight case packed with travel-sized bottles of your favorite eczema-safe products and medications will ensure that you’re ready for unexpected travel.