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Expert tips on how to manage eczema-prone skin

Netdoctor (UK) logo Netdoctor (UK) 3 days ago Medically reviewed by words by Jenny L. Cook, Dr Juliet McGrattan (MBChB)
a woman wearing a hat: Whether you're suffering with a long-term condition such as eczema or simply experiencing a weather-induced flare-up, a dermatologist offers shares advice. © Getty Images Whether you're suffering with a long-term condition such as eczema or simply experiencing a weather-induced flare-up, a dermatologist offers shares advice.

Whether you're suffering with the long-term condition eczema or simply experiencing a weather-induced flare-up, dry skin can be quite frustrating.

Consultant dermatologist Dr Anthony Bewley offers his expert advice on how best to treat and manage eczema-prone skin:

1.Create a skin barrier to manage eczema

Protecting your skin with a good defence barrier is one of the first and most important steps to managing eczema, however can often be forgotten as we focus on soothing the skin. Ensuring your skin has a good barrier is the best preventative measure, as it will protect it against irritants that may cause a flare up.

'Skin barrier function is essential for normal functioning of the skin and for preventing dry eczematous skin,' says Dr Bewley. 'Complete emollient therapy is a way to try to maintain skin barrier function as best as possible.'

According to Dr Bewley complete emollient therapy involves using the following:

  • A soap substitute
  • An emollient in the bath or the shower
  • An emollient/humectants directly on the skin

Specialist brands such as Cetraben produce a range of emollient products to help manage dry and eczema-prone skin.

2. Use an ointment to treat eczema

Often people who suffer with dry, problematic or eczema prone skin, will regularly apply emollients or moisturisers. While this can help, Dr Bewley recommends that to treat flare-ups, something with an anti-inflammatory should also be used.

'While emollients are used as the very basic management of the eczema to maintain skin function, an ointment containing an anti-inflammatory is used for inflammatory changes found in the skin,' he says.

'Anti-inflammatories are often topical steroids or other anti-inflammatories. Dermatologists tend to prefer ointments when prescribing anti-inflammatories as cream can sometimes contain preservatives, which can be irritating for patients with eczema.'

3. Avoid fragranced products to ease eczema

From hand soap to moisturiser to perfumes, scented products can be difficult to avoid, and it can be so tempting to treat yourself to indulgent products that smell as good as they feel. However, fragrances may irritate the skin and should be avoided when experiencing a flare up.

'Fragrances are a mixture of different chemicals, some of which are quite irritating for people who develop eczema,' Dr Bewley says.

'Some people will even be frankly allergic to fragrances therefore it is always worth where possible avoiding fragranced products,' he adds. 'In some cases, perfume can act as an irritant for eczema sufferers and as the wrist is a common place for perfume to be sprayed, this can cause eczema flare-ups in the wrist area.'

4. A good night's sleep can help eczema

We all know that getting a good night's sleep is important for your health and we're all taught from a young age to get our beauty sleep. The old adage remains true as a good night's sleep and relaxation can help your skin repair and restore.

'While you sleep, the skin is regenerating and repairing damage, more so than when you are awake,' as Dr Bewley explains.

'Of course, the repair happens whilst you are awake but it happens much more comprehensively and more quickly whilst you are asleep. Practicing mindfulness, meditation or relaxation techniques can really help with stress, and so have benefits in the control of eczema.

'However, I always advise patients to seek the help of a doctor if all the above advice is not enough to get the eczema under control.'

5. Seek holistic advice for eczema

While complete emollient therapy can help soothe your skin, sometimes you need a little more than the right products for better skin. Seeking holistic advice and support from others on a regular basis can help keep your skincare regime on track and good habits in check.

'It's really well recognised that living with a skin disease has a massive impact on day to day life,' says Dr Bewley.

'We also know that small amounts of skin disease does not necessarily mean a small impact on day to day living,' he adds. 'Even small amounts of disease can really affect an individual's self-esteem and confidence. Don't suffer in silence, seek help. There is lots of advice and treatment out there.'

Last updated: 03-12-19

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