Eczema is a skin condition which can lead to skin becoming red, inflamed, itchy and sore. It also leaves the skin cracked and can leave the person suffering from it paranoid about their appearance. Eczema varies from one person to the next in terms of size and how often flare-ups occur. You may just have a small patch on your hand or your face, or you may end up with a large patch covering a substantial amount of skin.
Atopic dermatitis (eczema) is an incredibly irritating condition and you’ll likely want to get rid of the flare-up at the earliest opportunity. With that said, it’s better to think about tackling the symptoms in a way that is safe long term. Approximately 31.6 million people in America have some form of recurring eczema, so just remember; you’re not alone. Many people live with it by healing flare-ups and preventing further ones from occurring by following the tips below.
Why You Need To Tackle Eczema Safely
Your skin is sensitive. It’s a place that is home to a wide array of bacteria and diverse microbiota. Skin presents a physical barrier that helps prevent the invasion of pathogens, keeping the body safe and healthy. This microbiome has a pivotal role in protecting the human body. If you disrupt it too much, the efficacy wanes and you’ll be more susceptible to pathogens.
This skin’s microbiome can be damaged by high strength topical corticosteroids. High strength corticosteroids are enticing as logically, people believe the stronger the steroid, the faster the relief. However, this isn’t always the case and for the most part, they can only be used safely short term. There are studies showing the damaging effects that high percentage corticosteroids can have on the skin.
The two main reasons you will want to tackle eczema safely are:
Steroid Rebound Phenomenon or Topical Steroid Withdrawal
This occurs when the person who has been using the corticosteroid stops administering it…only for the situation to get worse. The withdrawal from the cream may lead to the worsening of symptoms. A study concerning research into rebound phenomenon (TSW) commented: “marked worsening occurred with the development of lesions with extreme pruritus, several confluent lesions, scarification and intense exudates, as well as fever and dehydration…”.
There’s a chance your skin will cope with high percentage corticosteroids even when used long term but why take the chance when you can follow a safer process or use creams that have been shown to be safe long term.
Steroid acne is pretty self explanatory. The acne can develop as a result of using topical corticosteroids. It’s also a side effect of using anabolic steroids.
It can be quite shocking to find that the very cream you’ve purchased to get rid of your skin problem has resulted in an even worse one.
Steroid acne can appear and develop on the chest, neck, back, arms and even the face. Two cases of steroid acne might be completely different and it can vary in severity from one case to the other.
To tackle eczema safely, you need a medicated lotion that has been studied and shown to be safe for long term use. A medicated lotion that has no chance of causing TSW or steroid acne.
Don’t Forget To Moisturize
Moisturizing the skin consistently is critical when fighting eczema. For the best chance of success, you must moisturize at least twice a day in addition to using your treatment of choice.
Just like finding the best eczema cream, finding a good moisturizer can be tough too. There are certain moisturizing lotions that are better for eczema than others. There are tens of thousands of moisturizers out there though, so picking the right one might come down to studying the ingredients. Look for moisturizers that contain more oil. Dr. Harlan recommends:
- CeraVe® Cream
- CeraVe® Lotion
- Curel® Lotion - Original Formula
- Cetaphil® Lotion
- Aveeno® Eczema Therapy Lotion,
- Moisturel® Lotion
Moisturizers with a higher oil content have been shown to be more effective when used on eczema. Ointments are a great choice due to their high oil content, as oil is far better at keeping moisture in and stopping the eczema from drying out further. Oil-based moisturizers also help your skin barrier to repair itself, stopping irritants and pathogens from getting into the open cracks and wounds on your skin. Infection can sometimes set in when bad bacteria breaks through the skin's defense, so an oil-based moisturizer can help your skin shield itself from further eczema induced problems.
If you’re managing an eczema flare-up for your baby you might need to look for specific moisturizers that have the above characteristics, but are also safe to use on your baby’s sensitive skin. Even if your children are of school age, you might want a cream better suited to young, sensitive skin.
Finding A Long Term Solution
There are hundreds of treatments, including corticosteroids, that are considered safe when only used short-term. But as eczema is a chronic, recurring issue, successful management comes from finding something that’s safe to use long term as a preventative measure. Ideally, you would want both: something they can use that’s strong enough to deal with the flare-up short term, but is safe enough so that they can continue using without having to worry about topical steroid withdrawal.
There are some great studies on PubMed which explore the safety of certain eczema solutions. One such cream is SmartLotion® that uses 0.75% hydrocortisone and 0.5% sulfur. In a peer-reviewed study, it was observed to be completely for extended use.
In fact, the study concluded that in the 300 patients who had used SmartLotion® for up to 15 years, “There was no evidence found that perioral dermatitis, steroid acne, or rebound phenomenon occurs when sulfur is compounded with topical hydrocortisone 0.75%.”
When considering any type of treatment, always do your research and look for evidence in the form of medical journals where possible.
Other Ways To Help With Eczema Flare-Ups
There are other ways you can look to deal with an eczema flare-up if you are looking for something beyond creams and medicated lotions. These are general “rules of thumb” that can help with any severity of flare-up and can be used in addition to your base treatment.
For additional help, you can try:
- Moisturizing your skin often
- Using scentless soaps
- Avoiding anything with non-hypoallergenic fragrances like perfume or cologne
- Using a bandage to protect the eczema
- Educating yourself by reading a skincare guide where possible
- Dealing mentally with habitual scratching: sometimes anti-itch isn’t enough to counteract deep set psychological habits.
These tricks by themselves can stop the flare-up from getting worse. However, they may not result in the rash going away completely which is why a safe eczema cream might be the best way you can tackle eczema long term. Using a cream or medicated lotion that’s safe to use long term combined with the above tips is a great way to manage eczema.
Further Help On Safely Tackling Eczema
Our blog is full of useful hints and tips regarding eczema and other skincare conditions. The skincare guide can also help, especially if you’re looking for age-specific advice. If you want to know anything else about SmartLotion® feel free to contact us or you can read up on a long term safety study undertaken by Dr. Steven Harlan himself, the inventor of SmartLotion®.