If you’re reading this, chances are you’re more than familiar with the frustrating symptoms of eczema, dermatitis and skin sensitivities. But do you have a fail-safe list of things to avoid, plus the best products to treat and soothe your condition? You do now.
What Is Eczema? A Quick Overview
Sometimes, it feels as if everyone in the world has perfect skin except you, right? Well, does it help to know that over 35 million Americans have some form of eczema, causing their skin to become intermittently red, itchy and downright annoying? In fact, after acne, eczema is the second most common skin disorder in the U.S. and while it’s most commonly seen in babies and young children, it often continues into adulthood and can be extremely debilitating.
Also known as dermatitis, eczema is a non-contagious inflammation of the skin due to dryness, irritation or external allergies. The term eczema includes many types, but the most common form is atopic dermatitis.
According to the National Eczema Organization, eczema can appear anywhere on the body and while the symptoms generally include dryness, discomfort, redness, itching, dark patches, swelling and crusting, the severity of these symptoms can be different for everyone.
Prevention Is Better Than Cure
The causes of and cure for eczema are still unknown, but most forms are triggered by an over-active immune system, gene mutations and/or external factors such as stress or environmental aggressors.
As with many skin concerns, knowing your triggers and doing everything possible to control your eczema is vital. This may be easier said than done, but a great place to start is to keep your skin moisturized, avoid unnecessary stress and steer clear of common irritants such as hot water, fabric softener, rubbing alcohol, fragrance, nickel and certain ingredients in your beauty products.
“If you have a rash, irritation, redness or itchiness under costume jewelry, you may be allergic to nickel. Ask your provider for a ‘spot test’ if you’re concerned.” -James A. Yiannias, M.D., Mayo Clinic.
When it comes to fragrance, it’s important to remember that some cosmetic companies use the terms ‘fragrance free’ or ‘unscented’ very loosely, meaning their products may still contain added fragrance. Annoying, right? Unscented, in particular, simply means that a product does not have an obvious scent, not that it’s free of fragrance chemicals. Unfortunately, the same can be said of the term ‘hypoallergenic.’ The truth is, none of these terms really hold up in clinical testing – especially for those concerned with sensitive skin.
This moves us nicely on to how you can avoid unnecessary flare-ups by choosing products to help treat and soothe sensitivities. The following list is taken from a comprehensive handout we created for physicians to share with patients with concerns about sensitive skin. It’s constantly updated based on ratings, performance, availability and price so you can trust your choices are always safe and effective.
10 Treatments For Top-To-Toe Skin Relief
We firmly believe the number one rule for patients suffering with eczema, dermatitis or any other skin sensitivities is to only shop products that are Top Allergen Free. Doing this gives you complete confidence that you’re avoiding the top common allergens and irritants based on clinical data from ourselves and the Mayo Clinic. Avoid the allergens and half the battle is already won.
Here are some of the best products currently available for sensitive skin, as recommended by our dermatologist…
1. Shampoo and Conditioner
Scrubbing at your scalp can wreak havoc on a sensitive scalp, so only ever use the pads of your fingers to gently shampoo. Another trick is to apply a mixture of water (1 quart) and white vinegar (2 tbsp) to your scalp after shampooing. Rinse thoroughly, then style as normal.
2. Facial Cleanser
Avoid hot water, baths and showers which can strip essential oils away from your skin. Instead, cleanse with lukewarm water, using only the products as recommended below.
To help seal moisture into your skin, don’t bother using a towel after cleansing. Simply blot water off with your hands, then apply one of these derm-recommended moisturizers – each are specifically formulated for skin sensitivities.
Always choose makeup products that are labelled Top Free on our site. This is the only guarantee the cosmetics you’re putting on your skin are free of thousands of allergy-causing ingredients.
5. Shaving Cream
Shaving rashes are no fun at the best of times, but if you suffer with eczema or dermatitis they simply must be avoided. Swap out your razor often and only ever shave with a cream we recommend, which protects your skin for a comfortable shave every time.
Fragrance is a big no-no for anyone with a sensitive underarm area. A truly natural way to combat body odor and help prevent wetness is plain cornstarch, which is available from your grocer or supermarket. Or try these tried and trusted alternatives, below.
7. Body Wash
As with any cleansing ritual, avoid hot baths and showers which can exacerbate dryness and skin sensitivities. You should also avoid rubbing alcohol at all costs.
8. Bath Products
Soaking in a long, hot bath, surrounded by your favorite fragranced bubble bath? Not an option. If you do love a bath, however, stick with lukewarm water and one of these sensitive skin bathing treats.
Chemical sunscreens containing ingredients like oxybenzone and avobenzone are best avoided – especially if redness is one of your main concerns. Instead, choose physical sunscreens which contain mineral-based ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.
10. Laundry Detergent
Never wear new clothes without washing them five times first. This helps remove chemical nasties such as dyes and formaldehyde. Also, double rinse your laundry (new and old) and try white wine vinegar in the final rinse cycle to thoroughly remove soap residue.
Other Tips And Things To Avoid: A Quick Checklist
- Keep your nails short. Long nails and itchy skin – especially while sleeping – are a bad combination.
- Always wear cotton gloves under rubber or vinyl gloves.
- Avoid Neosporin Triple antibiotic or bacitracin antibiotic ointments.
- Never use fabric softener in your laundry.
- In-house water softeners are fine, but steer clear of washing machine water softeners such as Calgon.
- Don’t allow any perfumes, essential oils, colognes, after-shave or pre-shave products on any part of your body or clothing.
- Hands dry and broken out? Avoid getting them wet more than five times a day.
- Never wear tight-fitting clothes unless your doctor advises a pressure garment such as support hose.
- Don’t pull off dead skin. Instead, gently snip it off with scissors.
- Finally, never scrub your skin. Like ever. And while we’re on the subject, loofahs and pumice stones are off limits, too.
Looking for a full list of products that are free of the most common allergy-causing ingredients? Ask your skincare provider to generate a Personal Allergy Code for you that can be linked to your SkinSAFE account.