Psoriasis, rosacea and eczema: Skincare expert on everything you need to know
More than half the population (54%)* suffers from dry, psoriasis, rosacea and eczema-prone skin at some time during the year.
Two generations ago, only 3% of babies born in Northern Ireland developed eczema. Today, around 25% develop this dry skin condition within the first six months of life and one in five adults have it for the rest of their lives.
Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis - the most common form - presents as dry, red, itchy patches of skin which can crack, blister and ooze liquid. It most commonly shows up on elbows, knees, scalp and face, but can occur anywhere on the body.
No one knows exactly what causes it, but medical experts point to what is literally being pumped into the world around us. Genetics, the environment, immune system activation and stress all play a part in pre-disposing someone towards developing eczema.
Skincare expert Joanna Gardiner, CEO of Gardiner Family Apothecary, creators of Elave Sensitive Skincare, has offered advice on caring for eczema-prone skin in the run-up to National Eczema Week (13-19 Sept).
Eczema is easily diagnosed by your health visitor, pharmacist or GP. Although it is not contagious and children often outgrow it, eczema is a lifelong condition and there is no cure. However, flare-ups can be managed and many people have long periods of remission.
Most cases of eczema and other dry skin conditions can be treated with mild, topical creams you can buy over the counter. In more severe cases, your GP will prescribe steroids, but normally they will try milder solutions first. Light therapy and biologic medication can also be prescribed.
The skin is the body’s largest organ and as it does not mature until the age of two, it is vital to take proper care of it from the beginning. For the first six weeks of life, we would advise using only tepid water on baby’s skin, giving them a top-to-toe wash two or three times a week while keeping the nappy area scrupulously clean.
When ready, use only the purest, cleanest, most gentle formulations on young skin.
Attacks of eczema can be triggered by a whole range of factors, including certain foods, scents, soap, detergents, dust, animal dander, scratchy fabrics and changes in temperature. The itchiness tends to get worse at night, when the body can become overheated, or when skin is sweaty, as in after playing sports.
It is vital to establish a daily head-to-toe skincare regime which uses the same range of formulations, so you know exactly what you are putting on your body. To avoid triggers which can cause flare-ups, keep an eye on what you are putting in your body as well. Common food triggers are dairy, pulses, citrus, gluten and spices.
Keep your home – particularly bedrooms – on the cool side and do not use scented candles, room sprays or perfumes. Use an eczema-safe detergent for your laundry and opt for layers of natural fabrics, like cotton, silk and linen, rather than synthetic fabrics or scratchy wool. Even tags and seams can trigger an attack.
Try to minimise extreme temperature changes, such as going from a centrally-heated home into cold winter air, and vacuum daily to control dust and animal dander. Avoid stress, as this can also trigger flare-ups.
Clinifast garments, vests, leggings, socks and mittens made from supersoft, stretchy fabric, are available for children and adults and combined with wet or dry wrapping can help make things more comfortable, day or night.