It’s all about the skin barrier, baby.
Really anything you’re trying to accomplish with your skin is about protecting the skin barrier. Eczema is essentially a breakdown of the skin barrier. It’s not able to protect the layers of skin and things get in that shouldn’t be there and irritation occurs. (It’s slightly more complicated than that, but more resources coming soon).
If you or a loved one struggle with eczema in any capacity, here are five things I recommend doing right away:
- Bathe less frequently in shorter durations with cool water. This goes against American obsession with daily showers and cleanliness, but those habits are very destructive for our skin barrier and remove natural oils there that exist to keep it strong. Hot water causes excessive dryness, which can cause flares for people prone to eczema already. Quick, lukewarm and infrequent.
- Avoid products that contain fragrances or other known irritants. I can recommend a few that work for us, but the National Eczema Association has a lot of recommendations on their site. Things to think about: shampoo, conditioner, diaper cream, chapstick, laundry detergent (and bleach, fabric softener, stain remover), toothpaste, make up, sunscreen, hand soap, lotion, and anything else that could possibly come into contact with your skin. Here are a few products we still continuously use for ourselves and our kids:
- Evaluate the products you use. Natural does not necessarily mean it is safe. Thanks in part to Beautycounter (click for a news article about the Natural Cosmetics Act!) labeling of products in stores is about to get a lot more honest and easy to understand. “Natural” does not necessarily mean that a product is safe or will not cause a flare. Read about how I simplified my beauty and skincare routine and found a lot of freedom:
- Start eating at home and adding vegetables to every meal. Before you even consider doing an elimination diet there are two steps you need to conquer to set yourself up for success: eat every meal at home and add vegetables to every meal. Eventually, you should do an elimination diet to help identify some foods that may be triggering for you (I recommend the Autoimmune Protocol ) but that is a huge undertaking and if you are not used to cooking three meals a day and eating vegetables at every meal, you will find the transition to paleo or AIP really difficult.
- Find a team of doctors that will take time to listen to you. This might mean getting second, third, fourth opinions but do not settle for a doctor that wants to prescribe something right away. A whole body approach is necessary to live with a chronic condition like this and you need a partner that will take your lifestyle factors into consideration with treatment. For women, I suggest a midwife practice as the first place to start. From there they can do basic well woman care with blood panels and send you to a specialist as needed. A dermatologist should also be on your team of doctors, but be aware that most of their treatments will be for the skin and not include factors of diet and lifestyle.