Easing the Itch
In this article, I’ve outlined how to stop eczema itching immediately using the techniques and products I’ve discovered throughout my eczema journey.
Signs and Triggers of Eczema
- Itchy, red, inflamed skin.
- Dry and sensitive skin.
- Rash or patches.
- Swelling or blisters.
- Cracked, scaly skin.
- Oozing or weeping lesions.
- Allergens (pollen, pet dander, dust mites).
- Irritants (soaps, detergents, perfumes).
- Extreme weather (hot or cold).
- Infections (bacterial or viral).
- Food allergies.
- Hormonal changes.
- Scratchy clothing.
- Harsh skincare products.
Balance is Everything
It's important to understand that our skin has a desirable pH level, so it's key to maintain this and not disrupt it with harsh soaps and cleansers:
An acidic barrier protects healthy skin. Scientists theorize that people with eczema have elevated skin pH levels. Anything under a pH of 7.0 is acidic, and anything above 7.0 is alkaline. Healthy skin has a natural pH level under 5.0. People with eczema typically have higher pH levels than those without.
You have likely heard of the many benefits of apple cider vinegar; some believe that by applying apple cider vinegar directly to the skin or bathing in it, the symptoms of eczema can be better controlled. However, the National Eczema Association says, “it should be noted that there is little to no scientific evidence proving the health benefits of ACV.” For this reason, they recommend that you discuss your plans to use apple cider vinegar with your doctor and try a small patch of skin first to determine your reaction.
Soothe and Hydrate
Finding a suitable emollient for your skin and eczema might be a matter of trial and error. An emollient is simply a moisturizing treatment that is applied to the skin. Many emollients do not require a prescription and are sold in pharmacies and grocery stores; these skin savers include ointments, creams, lotions and sprays.
The National Eczema Association recommends several products that have received the Association’s Seal of Acceptance for those with eczema. I love Cerave brand because their product line covers my minor eczema areas and those pesky places where I need more care. For example, Cerave offers facial creams, scalp serums and hydrocortisone products. Also, as summer approaches and we all reach for our sunscreen, consider Cerave’s 30 SPF face and body sunscreens brand.
Quiet the Itch
There are many anti-itch techniques, most of which are affordable and easy to accomplish. Also, consider exploring options for ordinary soaps and shampoos. Unfortunately, many cleansers have added perfumes, fragrances and dyes that are harsh enough to strip the natural barriers of your skin. Instead, consider using low-pH cleansers or emollient soaps to help maintain your skin’s natural moisture.
Wearing plain cotton gloves, free from lace, buttons or other add-ons, is a great way to moisturize your hands overnight. The gloves offer the added benefit of protecting your fingernails if you inadvertently scratch at night. Scratching should be avoided as it breaks the delicate skin tissues, further aggravates eczema and allows for things like dirt, pollen and allergens to enter.
I am obsessed with colloidal oatmeal baths, particularly in the harsh, dry days of winter. Colloidal oatmeal is not a breakfast food; instead, it is drawn from being ground into a fine powder.
Research has highlighted the effectiveness and benefits of colloidal oatmeal:
The high concentration of starches and beta-glucan is responsible for the oat's protective and water-holding functions. The presence of different types of phenols confers antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity. Some of the oat phenols are also strong ultraviolet absorbers. The cleansing activity of oat is mostly due to saponins. Its many functional properties make colloidal oatmeal a cleanser, moisturizer and buffer and a soothing and protective anti-inflammatory agent.
So, while bathing in plain water may further dry your skin and aggravate your eczema, a colloidal oatmeal bath will soften, soothe and increase your skin’s moisture.
How to Manage the Itch
The itching associated with eczema is due to several factors. The National Eczema Society explains that the itch is more than skin deep. Additionally, the nerve fibers in people with atopic eczema appear to be altered, with increased sensory fibers. This can cause even the lightest touch to produce a sensation of itch. These nerves then pass on the sensation of itching to the brain, and you are scratching before you know it.
The key to managing the itchiness associated with eczema starts with determining what triggers your itch. This means that my cleansing products and detergents must be free of fragrances, dyes and many other additives.
If the itch is unbearable, try gently patting the skin rather than relying on damaging scratches to find relief. While those with oily skin types may shy away from moisturizers, I cannot apply enough to my dry skin. This requires the application of a quality moisturizer several times a day, even more often, to those places where my eczema is particularly serious.
The burning, painful itch and the relentless desire to scratch that itch is all too familiar for those of us with eczema. Atopic eczema is one of the most common skin disorders, highlighted by the itchy, dry and cracked skin that the disease causes. Effective eczema treatment is vital to enjoying life, and a large part of this treatment is laser-focused on reducing or eliminating the itch.
Caring for skin negatively impacted by eczema is not cosmetic or self-indulgent. Carefully providing your skin with exactly what it needs is critical in keeping itching to a minimum and avoiding painful skin cracks and infections. When my eczema flares, I rely on several home-based treatments that provide significant relief. Most of these home remedies are focused on providing nourishing moisture to my skin and then locking that hydration in for as long as possible.
The central key to easing the itch associated with eczema is not irritating the skin. The urge to scratch can be kept to a dull roar or non-existent by keeping the affected areas moist, well-hydrated and calm. By identifying your eczema triggers and adapting to using the right skin products and by wearing natural, soft and breathable fabrics, you can provide your skin with some much-needed relief.
I hope these tips will shift your dry skin to skin that is rich in moisture; healthier, itch-free skin is possible! Once these new steps become habits, your skin will thank you!
Take a look at some of the food triggers for hidradenitis suppurativa.