De-mystifying certain ingredients, clarifying how to apply products, and revealing everything you’ve always wanted to know about skin types; Eliza Explains will fill you up with beauty knowledge.
It’s not glamorous or chic (annoying, since I’m a fashion editor and we’re supposed to be!) but atopic eczema has plagued my whole life. It’s hereditary, but an allergic reaction to dairy prompted it when I was a toddler, and since then, it’s been a series of ups and (lots of) downs.
Besides the initial flare-up, which spanned my whole body, my eczema got worse as I got older, despite the fact that in most cases it tends to be the other way round.
My eczema occurs in the most common places it tends to be found in, which are the hands and creases, like elbows and knees. When I was younger, I had to wear gloves to bed that had Velcro around the wrists to curb itching, and I’d need more than two hands to count the times I’ve been on antibiotics for skin infections.
I’ve tried every ‘remedy’ going: from homeopathy and acupuncture to Chinese herbal medicine and prescription steroids, and I’ve seen countless dermatologists over the years. For a time (anywhere between three months and a year), each of those methods proved helpful, but as other factors like stress, the weather and diet come into play with eczema, it’s all too easy to be triggered again. As it’s a chronic condition, it can’t be cured, so management is key.
It wasn’t until this year, almost six months ago in fact, I finally got the management aspect under control. Although I’ll still see a flare-up if I’m stressed, I’d say 85% of my eczema has cleared up, so these are the best results I’ve ever seen.
Don’t forget, I’m not a dermatologist, so seek advice before following any of my steps, but if you’re desperate for some new ideas, here are the best treatment for eczema options I’ve added to my routine that really work…
About a decade ago, phototherapy – which uses UV light to encourage cell renewal and reduce inflammation – was recommended to me by a dermatologist. But as it needed a big commitment (weekly sessions for three to six months), and I was just starting out in the busy world of fashion journalism, I didn’t have the time.
Fast forward ten years later, and a wave of options are more readily available in 2022, one of which is LED therapy. Similarly to phototherapy, it uses LED light, which ‘radiates therapeutic wavelengths of light to energise cells, accelerate tissue repair and reduce inflammation.’
I’ve had six full body sessions over the course of two months at the OG light therapy clinic, The Light Salon, though it only took one session to see a difference.
The Light Salon I had my treatment at is in London’s Selfridges; I fitted sessions in before work and over lunch time, and at 55 minutes each, they didn’t take up much time and worked around my schedule nicely.
My skin was softer, brighter and less itchy from the first session, which encouraged me to keep going back. To maintain the effects, I plan to go once every three months or when I have a flare-up. It’s a game changer and IMO, really is worth the investment.
Anyone with eczema will probably squirm reading this as it sounds like it’ll be painful – but hear me out.
Using glycolic acid (an exfoliating Alpha Hydroxy Acid, or AHA) on inactive eczema is a great way to reduce inflammation, exfoliate the dead skin cells away and boost the skin barrier.
I use mine much like I do on my face; I’ll apply with a cotton pad on clean, dry skin, then add lots of moisturiser afterwards. After three weeks, my skin is clearer and less itchy. Mind blowing.
I’ve recently moved house, and to an area with softer water than my previous house had. It’s made a huge difference to my skin (and curly hair, though that’s for another time), though I hadn’t realised how damaging hard water was to my skin before this.
Hard water is high in dissolved minerals like calcium and magnesium, so damages our skin’s protective barrier. That means those with eczema (and an already damaged barrier) are more sensitive to it.
If you think you have hard water, I’d recommend trying a shower filter. This Hello Klean Shower Filter, £60, Cult Beauty, is as aesthetically pleasing as they come, though you can find cheaper ones on Amazon.
Oatmeal is classified as an emollient as it holds moisture in the skin, reduces redness and itchiness and has anti-inflammatory properties. It’s for that reason that it’s a go-to for eczema sufferers. My skin always feels smoother and less angry after an oat bath.
Following a messy first attempt and a blocked plug hole (not ideal), I’ve been tying a mesh bag full of porridge oats to the tap under running warm water, but there are fancier versions you can try, such as the one below.
Top tip: I always plump for the products aimed at babies. It means the formulas should be as natural and sensitive skin-friendly as possible.
Recent studies have proven a link between gut health and eczema, finding that those with atopic eczema have a compromise to the health of bacteria in their gut. Gut bacteria is also essential for a healthy immune system, and those with eczema naturally have an over-reactive immune system, so there are countless health benefits to adding probiotics to your routine.
I committed to taking my good gut bacteria supplements everyday for three months at first, but since seeing such a great change in my skin, I’ve kept it up. These are my favourites:
Even if you adopt all of the steps above, your moisturiser is the final step, and can make or break your routine. You need a great cream that’ll hydrate deep into the skin then lock the moisture in. The drier your skin, the more itchy and uncomfortable you’ll feel and the worse your eczema will get, so finding one that works is key for a great maintenance routine.
These are my top four so make for a great starting point: