5 Tips for Managing Eczema Itch

March 11, 2020

Man scratching eczema itch

If you’re living with eczema, you know that this chronic skin condition can be a real source of irritation. Itchy or flaking skin, sensitivity to skincare or hygiene products, and elevated allergic response are all common occurrences for people who have eczema. But with proper care and preventive measures, it is possible to manage these and other symptoms of eczema. Dr. Sam Awan of the Center for Dermatology, a U.S. Dermatology Partners office in McKinney, Texas, regularly works with individuals who are struggling with eczema itch, redness, and irritation. In this blog, he walks through some basic tips to help eczema sufferers deal with flareups and keep their skin healthy. According to Dr. Awan, “Eczema can be an extremely frustrating condition, and it is often a lifelong struggle that begins in childhood. While it can be difficult, I help patients to better care for their skin and avoid many of the irritating consequences of poorly managed eczema.”

What is Eczema?

There are actually many different types of eczema, but most people use eczema in reference, specifically, to atopic dermatitis. It is a common skin condition that causes patches of skin to become irritated, inflamed, and itchy. Like psoriasis, eczema has been linked to an exaggerated immune response. In those with atopic dermatitis, the skin’s over-response to injury, irritants, and allergens is due to a genetic variation that makes the skin less effective at retaining moisture and providing protection against external irritants. As a result, those with eczema have increased skin sensitivity that leaves them susceptible to rashes, hives, chronic itching, skin redness, bumps, thickened or scaly patches, dryness, and raw or sensitive skin. Flareups can occur for any number of reasons, including changes in diet, skincare routine, or climate. Keep reading to learn more about how to manage eczema symptoms and prevent severe flareups.

1 – Moisturize Daily

Eczema is caused by a genetic irregularity that weakens the skin’s protective barrier, allowing moisture out and irritants in. Restoring and maintaining the skin’s moisture levels is key to minimizing the symptoms of eczema. According to Dr. Awan, “The biggest mistake most people with eczema make is not moisturizing enough. Daily moisturizing really cannot be skipped. However, the moisturizers you use do not need to be overly expensive, and there are many inexpensive moisturizers that work well. I encourage my patients with eczema to experiment with creams and ointments. Try common brands (Cerave, Aquaphor, LaRoche-Posay, Aveeno, Eucerin, Cetaphil) to find one that works well for your skin. For extremely sensitive skin, consider using Vanicream, a hypoallergenic moisturizing cream, as a daily moisturizer lotion. For best results, apply moisturizer to mildly damp skin after getting out of the shower. You should really moisturize at least one other time during the day. And, in winter months, the dry air inside the house can really strip moisture off of the skin, so consider using a humidifier to maintain the home’s moisture levels.”

2 – Adjust Your Bathing Habits

It’s important to keep your skin clean and free of irritants, but long, hot baths and showers can actually trigger eczema flareups. According to Dr. Awan, “Avoid hot showers, long bubble baths, and harsh antibacterial soaps (e.g. Dial). Instead, use gentler soaps like Dove bar soap or Aveeno body wash.”

3 – Review Your Landry Routine

While skincare products, soaps, perfumes, and cosmetics are all notorious for irritating eczema-prone skin, laundry detergents are actually a major underlying cause of eczema flareups. As Dr. Awan says, “Wash new clothes before wearing to avoid irritation from chemicals, dyes, and other products used on clothing during the manufacturing process. Avoid fabric softeners altogether as these can be irritating, and always use a hypoallergenic, gentle laundry detergent like All Free and Clear.”

4 – Review the Ingredients List

We could go through a whole list of ingredients that are good or bad for the skin of eczema sufferers, but when it comes to managing eczema symptoms, less is more. Look for products that have few, natural ingredients. According to Dr. Awan, “If you see a list of chemicals, fragrances, and dyes, the odds are, the product will irritate your skin. Fragrance especially can be irritating to the skin, so you need to find products without fragrance. Don’t forget that ‘unscented’ doesn’t mean fragrance-free. Look for labels that clearly state the product is free of all fragrance.”

5 – Choose the Right Anti-Itch Products

Itch is one of the main symptoms of eczema, but not all anti-itch products are right for those struggling with eczema. Topical corticosteroids that are available over the counter are safe and effective for almost all eczema sufferers. Additionally, Dr. Awan recommends eczema sufferers, “Use oral antihistamines (e.g. Claritin, Zyrtec, Benadryl) to help reduce itch, but be cautious since many antihistamines cause drowsiness.”

It’s important to take steps to avoid scratching since infections can occur if you scratch itchy skin. Many of the common treatments for skin infection are not recommended for those with eczema. As Dr. Awan says, “Eczema patients are more prone to skin infections, but they should avoid over the counter antibacterial creams as these can lead to sensitization and worsening eczema; if you see signs of infection such as yellow crusting, it is time to see your dermatologist.”

When Should I Schedule an Appointment at U.S. Dermatology Partners?

If you’ve been diagnosed with eczema, you will likely develop your own methods for handling flareups, and for the most part, this condition can be taken care of at home. However, according to Dr. Awan, patients with eczema should contact a dermatologist if, “itch is uncontrolled, eczema flareups cover larger portions of the body, flareups worsen or do not recede for weeks or months, your eczema affects your sleep or quality of life, or if you suspect you may have a skin infection.” If you live in the McKinney area, you can contact the Center for Dermatology to get started working with Dr. Awan or one of his associates. If you are outside of the McKinney area, U.S. Dermatology Partners has locations throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, across Texas, and in multiple other states. To contact the U.S. Dermatology Partners location nearest to you, fill out our simple online form and one of our helpful team members will be in touch with you soon.

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