• Nicole Salter

Do Eczema Creams Really Work?


Winter is winding to a close, but "winter skin" may linger for a lot longer. If you have eczema, the hot weather can bring no relief and may even worsen the itching and rash associated with this common skin condition. What may be the most frustrating part is that nobody really knows the source of eczema; like all chronic auto-immune conditions, eczema may have identifiable triggers, but no one is quite sure why the body's immune system - meant to fend off outside dangers - is attacking itself instead.

As a long-term sufferer of chronic idiopathic urticaria - hives for which there is no cause or cure - only in remission for the past 3 years, I understand the absolute misery that can come from having a condition where the only available doctor-prescribed medications merely dampen the symptoms, but do not fully control them - and all the natural diets, home remedies etc. seem ineffective and impractical. If you or someone in your family has eczema, which is the number one complaint people ask me to help their children with, you may be wondering whether eczema creams really do work and what else you could be doing to control the itch and rash and heal your skin. Medical Eczema Treatments Since eczema can vanish as mysteriously as it came, and technically has no 'cure', the question becomes, how to treat it? There are many available treatments, and most doctors will recommend a mix of of them to get the best results. Available therapies include:

  • Oral medications such as corticosteroids (effective, but with major side effects that prevent prolonged use) and antihistamines

  • Topical creams like hydrocortisone creams and NSAID ointments to reduce inflammation

  • Topical barrier preservers (think Vaseline type ointments) that seal in moisture

  • Injections or liquids like cyclosporine, which inhibit auto-immune response when other remedies don't work - can have severe side effects

  • Phototherapy which treats skin conditions with UV light

If you have persistent eczema, your doctor will review these treatments with you, usually starting with the lowest possible dose(s) and working your way up to more drastic therapies depending on the severity of the condition, patient age and medical history. It can be a long process full of trial and error, which is probably why many people just give up and live with it! Eczema & Sensitive Skin Care at Home Whether you have decided to just suffer with eczema or are pursuing treatments with your doctor, there are things you can do at home to prevent dryness, inflammation and redness. The reason I am asked about eczema care Toronto so many times is that all natural products, or those with minimal additives, really do nourish the skin more than commercial products for many people. Here are our top recommendations for dry skin, sensitive skin and rashes: - Minimize hand-washing. Trained as we are to wash our hands a lot, this may be a difficult habit to break, but the truth is that washing your hands (or God forbid, using alcohol based hand sanitizer) is going to dry them out and that's the last thing you want. If you must wash your hands frequently, try our 100 percent natural, Castile-soap-based gentle hand soap or our all natural hand sanitizing spray, which cleanses with essential oils and witch hazel.

-No more boiling hot baths. Sorry! Warm water for you till your skin clears up!

-Wear gloves while doing dishes and cleaning chores.

-Resist the urge to rub your skin vigorously during or after a bath or shower. Be gentle with your skin!

-Moisturize right after you wash your hands or take a bath. Use thick balms and butters or organic baby oil wherever possible, and try wearing a pair of light cotton gloves to let the cream further penetrate your skin. The gloves may also help you not to damage your skin by scratching in your sleep! -Minimize bubbles. Regular bubble baths and body washes often contain harsh detergents, fragrances and surfactants that really aren't necessary; switch to an all-natural body wash or use natural bar soap. -Try to avoid tight clothing and choose natural materials like cotton for your clothing.

-Stay cool. If you do get overheated and find the sweating is making you itch, find some shade and gently sponge off the sweat as soon as possible.

-Bathe in salt. It's a well known fact that sea salt is excellent for wound healing, getting rid of sores and rashes, and adding moisture to the skin - it pulls moisture from deep inside your skin (so, stay hydrated!) and brings it to the surface. If your skin is so painful that a salt bath initially stings, 1) don't panic - the stinging will very soon stop and switch to a soothing sensation; 2) add a few tablespoons of baking soda to your tub to balance the pH; 3) Use a bath sachet with colloidal oatmeal to add softness to the water.

-Be careful when cleaning dusty rooms, as many people with eczema are especially irritated by common allergens such as dust mites, animal hair and dander, and mold.

Stress: The Biggest Eczema Trigger

Anyone with an autoimmune disorder has heard these somewhat annoying words: Reduce stress. Easier said than done, especially when you're stressed about your skin condition alone! The truth is that many of the eczema relief tips above can actually help reduce stress in and of themselves. If you needed to monitor your insulin as a diabetic, you'd make time for it, right? Take your skin condition seriously and find the time for baths. Be willing to spend a bit extra to ditch and switch from harsh chemical additives to natural bath and body care and cleaning products. Lowering stress really does help some people avoid or mitigate symptom flare-ups.

Do you suffer from eczema or overly dry, sensitive skin? What has worked for you? Please let us know!

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