Eczema 101: Understanding Sensitive Skin

Eczema is something that a lot of people suffer from. It can be irritating, annoying and embarrassing. Dealing with Eczema is actually one of the main reasons I started Symply by Helena. I had tried tons of creams, talked to my dermatologist and even tried changing my diet, but nothing cured my Eczema completely. My skin was constantly dry, red and itchy - it was so frustrating.

Most people with Eczema will experience a flare-up as early as childhood and will continue to periodically experience breakouts throughout their adult lives. The cause of Eczema is still unknown, but it is a chronic skin condition. So while there is no way to completely ‘cure’ your Eczema, there are ways to nurture the skin and avoid triggers that cause painful, irritating flare-ups.

Most people experience Eczema on their face, hands, feet, inside of the elbows and behind the knees, but it can also appear on the scalp, chest and shoulders. Eczema manifests itself in red, flaky or ‘scaly’ patches that feel irritated, dry and itchy.

Eczema can occur when you're around things that cause an allergic reaction or when your body is under stress. Personally, mine gets 10x worse when I'm stressed and not taking care of my body in the best way that I should. Having Eczema, while frustrating, has taught me to become more in-tune with my body - I know that when I see a flare-up that it’s always my body trying to tell me something. Maybe I’ve been eating a bit poorly, I need more sleep or that I’m overworked and pushing myself a little too hard.

What is Sensitive Skin?
Did you know that sensitive skin is shared by at least 50% of the U.S. population?  While we often hear so much information about combination skin, oily skin or acneic skin, sensitive skin is much more common than we think! 

Usually categorized by thinner skin, the sensitive skin type is more predisposed to dryness and prone to an impaired barrier function. And what exactly is the skin’s barrier function, you ask? It’s the skin’s invisible shield that protects the epidermis from things like environmental irritants, pollution, chemicals - anything that you wouldn’t want penetrating directly into your body. An impared barrier function allows the skin to become vulnerable to irritation, causing irregularities like chronic inflammation and invasion by bacteria (Eczema, sadly!).

Because sensitive skin has a low tolerance to both internal and external stimulants, it needs to be nurtured and listened to diligently. People with sensitive skin tend to have a heightened immune response, meaning it’s not just the products you’re topically using that can cause a flare-up of irritation, but things like diet, sun exposure, lack of sleep and, most  importantly, stress, can all cause irritation, too. Stress and anxiety stimulate chronic inflammation, which increases our cortisol levels. Increased cortisol levels in our bodies hinder the skin’s ability to produce its natural moisture, leading to dryness and inflammation, manifesting in conditions like Eczema.

Some Tips That Have Helped My Eczema…

1. Gently cleanse and moisturize the spots where my Eczema tends to appear.

2. Swapping out any harsh or scented detergents, lotions or body and hand soaps for gentle, unscented options.

3. During the cold winter months, my hands and feet get really dry. I like to wear white cotton gloves and socks with the Symply Eczema Cream at night.

4. Complete an allergy test with your doctor. Figure out if you have allergies to certain foods, gluten, dairy or even soy. Changing your diet may significantly help! I did a test and found out I was allergic to dairy, certain nuts and most grasses. (Personally, I found that being vegan feels best for me, but everyone is different! I also don’t drink alcohol and I rarely have any sugar. Fact about me: I'm 23 and I've actually never even tried alcohol before, I just don’t have a desire to and that’s what feels best for my body.)

5. Try a humidifier. Cold, dry air, especially during the winter, can cause flare-ups. A humidifier adds much-needed moisture to the air.

6. Find ways to better manage your stress. I know this one is much easier said than done, but it’s important to try to find your own ways to cope with stress. I like to exercise daily, journal, meditate and stretch before bed and when I wake up. It’s all about finding time to enjoy the things I love and that make me happy.

7. No more burning hot showers! I'm very guilty of this one, but hot water is just not good for the skin. It can severely dry you out, so try lowering the heat to room temperature.

8. Soak in a Colloidal oatmeal bath. It can help calm red, itchy, irritated skin and relieve some of the itch.

9. Wear clothes that are soft, like cotton. Avoid itchy, irritating materials like wool.

10. Simplify! Experimenting with too many skincare products can overstimulate and sensitize the skin. 

Struggling with Eczema? I’d love to help! Our Eczema Cream is specially formulated with Organic Shea Butter, Cocoa Butter and Sweet Almond Oil to deeply hydrate and nourish even the driest, most sensitive skin. And, most importantly, remember that you’re never alone - Eczema is normal, we’re in this together!

Citation: *Corley, Michele. "The Sensitized Skin Client." Dermascope Aug. 2019Dermascope Web. <https://www.dermascope.com/skin-care/10832-the-sensitized-skin-client-providing-relief-with-compassion-and-know-how>.

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