Independent Nurse Consultant in Dermatology
A good skincare regime is one that suits your lifestyle and your eczema, says a consultant dermatology nurse.
Moisturising properly and regularly may seem like a chore, but it is the best way to keep eczema-prone skin healthy.
A “back-to-basics” skincare regime hydrates and protects the top layer of skin, easing the scratch/itch cycle, said Paula Oliver, an independent nurse consultant in dermatology.
“Sometimes, people think an active treatment is the only way to make things better but moisturising is the first line of defence in any skin condition,” she says.
Choosing a product
What constitutes “the right product” is different for everyone, she says, adding that moisturisers and emollients “essentially do the same thing”.
“What’s more important is finding the right formulation for your lifestyle and your condition. It could be the best product in the world, but if people do not like the way it looks or feels, they won’t use it.”
Lighter lotions and creams tend to be easier to use and absorb into the skin quicker than ointments, but they are not as effective in more severe eczema. Ointments are usually greasy, meaning they can mark clothes, or look and feel unattractive. Using a combination of products is often the best solution, says Paula.
“People could use a lighter formulation in the morning and the greasier product before bedtime when they can wear an old pair of pyjamas, for example. Or people with severe eczema on one part of the body could use ointment there, and lotion everywhere else,” she says.
It’s about finding what works for you.
It’s worth noting that products containing sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), parabens or perfumes, may dry the skin further, she added.
Using the product
People with eczema should aim to moisturise between two and four times a day, and Paula says applying the product after a shower or bath could help them build a routine.
“Pat yourself dry with a nice fluffy towel then put the product on while the skin is still damp. It will help lock in the moisture,” she says.
“Use a liberal layer and try using downwards strokes, going the way the hair lays. It goes on a lot quicker that way. Avoid rubbing the skin, because that can irritate the scratch/itch cycle.”
COVID-19 hand care
The general advice for people with eczema is to avoid soap, but that has changed with the advent of COVID-19.
“It’s been a really difficult time for dermatology patients, because of the intensive hand washing, and the fact that only soap will kill the virus.
“Our advice is to wash your hands with soap for 20 seconds, then wash again with your soap substitute and apply lots of emollient. Another tip is to apply lots of emollient at bedtime and wear cotton gloves while you sleep.”
Effective skincare, she concluded, was a long-term commitment – but one that helped people to cope with the life-altering symptoms of eczema.