Tuesday, 13 September 2011

National Eczema Week : Expert advice to stop the itch


One in twelve adults and one in five children experience a type of eczema (National Eczema society)
Dr Chris Steele, Resident Doctor on ITV’s This Morning, says, “I see more and more patients suffering nasty reactions to chemicals in their everyday skin care products. Beware of products that contain lanolin, sodium lauryl sulphate, parabens and artificial fragrances, as they have a tendency to irritate the skin. Even substances like paraffin can be problematic for people with sensitive skin. It's not all bad news though as there are some effective products on the market, with natural ingredients such as chickweed, evening primrose, borage, squalene and vegetable glycerin, which soothe the skin, and if used regularly help control eczema and other dry skin conditions."

Jo Fairley, author of the Green Beauty Bible says, ‘The reality is that despite the boom in “natural beauty”, many beauty products are still based principally on petrochemicals – non renewable, non-sustainable (not to mention pore-blocking, in the case of paraffin and mineral oil). Yet nature has such amazing, bountiful, renewable beautifiers to offer that it just doesn’t make sense to me to plunder the earth’s resources for the sake of our skins. After 16 years of researching The Beauty Bible series of books, I can put my hand on my heart and say that I know not only from my own experience but from many testers’ observations that there are products out there which rival - and even out-perform mainstream products. In our most recent edition of The Green Beauty Bible, our volunteer testers voted Barefoot SOS Face & Body Rescue Cream one of the best body lotions out of almost 100 products, which is a truly fantastic accolade against very strong competition.’
Bao-Tam Phan, Pharmacist at Eau Thermale Avène on Eczema:

 What causes eczema?

Eczema can be genetic or inherited, but the exact causes are unknown but most probably genetic.
What are the symptoms of eczema?

Eczema symptoms can vary depending on type of eczema and the severity. Those who suffer from atopic eczema can experience red, inflamed skin, dry, cracked skin, itchy skin, small water blisters on the skin. If skin becomes infected it can become wet and weepy. Skin that is scratched frequently can become thickened, which is called lichenification.

Where on the body and who is eczema most likely to affect?

Atopic eczema, the kind you can inherit, most commonly affects areas where the skin creases such as the back of the knees, the front of the elbows, as well as chest, face and neck.

Contact eczema that occurs from coming into contact with irritants or allergens can affect the area of contact and spread to other areas of the body.

 What treatment would you recommend for eczema sufferers? Is there a specific skincare routine sufferers should be following?
Different people find different creams work best for them. This may be a different cream at different times of the day. Creams which are often used include Dexeryl with white soft paraffin, liquid paraffin, and glycerin, A-Derma Exomega emollient cream based on soothing Rhealba® Oat and Eau Thermale Avène Trixera+ with anti itch and nourishing properties.

 Are there any particular products or ingredients they should look for to help soothe symptoms? Are there any they should be avoiding?

If the skin is very itchy, try using a cooling spray such as the Eau Thermale Avène Spring Water Spray on the patch to soothe and alleviate the sensation. The secret of Eau Thermale Avène Spring Water Spray is its natural properties... it leaves a film of silica on the skin protecting the surface and leaving it feeling soft and comfortable. Thanks to the low mineral content in the water, as well as its pH 7.5 (almost neutral) balance, does not sting, burn or dry out skin and can be used on broken skin[1]

Dr Chris Steele’s Top Tips for Eczema Sufferers

1. Moisturise Moisturise Moisturise. This is one of the important things that sufferers can do to help themselves. Skin with eczema is dry and needs all the help that it can get. Apply moisturisers frequently throughout the day and last thing at night. Always moisturise after a bath or a shower, as the skin will hold more moisture then.

2. Avoid wool next to the skin as this can really irritate the eczema. Lanolin which is used extensively in many skin creams must also be avoided as it is the oil produced by wool bearing animals, primarily sheep. Synthetics may be tolerated but can make the skin sweat which again may irritate the skin. Cotton clothes and bedding are the best as cotton is cool, non-irritant and allows the skin to breathe

3. Keep the nails as short as possible even adults scratch in their sleep. Scratching damages the skin and infection can be introduced this way. Long-term scratching also causes the skin to thicken (lichenification) so keeping the nails short and smooth can minimise trauma to the skin. Children may be helped further by wearing cotton mittens at night.

4. Avoid chemicals in skin products. Many skin products contain chemicals that will irritate sensitive skin. Natural products that contain no Sodium laurel sulphate, no parabens, no lanolin and no artificial fragrances are best.

5. Drink more water. Keeping the body well hydrated can help prevent the skin becoming excessively dry – a common problem with eczema. Dry sin cracks and itches and can then become infected – so drink plenty of fluids.

by Bao-Tam Phan, Pharmacist at Eau Thermale Avène

When the skin is itchy it's because it is inflamed and angry and the mind is only focussing on alleviating the sensation. Think of the last time you had a mosquito bite, all you want to do is scratch! By diverting the mind to touching/ squeezing something else it distracts you from scratching your skin, simply use something easy to find like a pebble or an anti-stress ball to touch instead of your skin.

The other trick is to apply the pebble on the itchy area. Because the pebble is cold it will relieve the hot sensation linked with itchy skin and therefore alleviate the itchiness - same result with the Avène water spray.

We would recommend using the pebble technique whenever you feel itchy.

If the cause of itchiness (dry skin) is removed by applying an emollient cream that can help soothe the sensation as well. I would recommend having small tube of Avène Skin Recovery Cream in your pocket to do just that.

People keep their own pebble on them at all times, so they can press it onto the skin to soothe it whenever it is feeling itchy, and using a mini can of Eau Thermale Avène water works wonders as well.

For children, we also recommend attaching some Velcro to the back of a favourite cuddly toy, that way the child scratches the toy instead of their skin to satisfy the urge.


I hope this helps. Don't miss my giveaway here where you can win eczema products suitable for use on children.

for more information : http://www.eczema.org/

Other reviews you may be interested in :


  1. Great post, as a child I suffered with quite bad atopic eczema and I know my parents would have loved great advice like this, technology isn't all bad!

  2. Thanks for the tips. I have a friend whose son suffers dreadfully so will print out and let her have a copy :)

  3. Seems logical when you read it, I never knew drinking more water could help Miss E's skin. Mich x

  4. i think its important to make everyone aware of what can trigger eczema and how to help soothe it as lots of people suffer from it xx

  5. ooh! i will try the pebble. eczema is a horrible thing.

  6. great tips - i suffer from eczema so this is useful!

  7. Fab advice! Thank you! My partner suffers from extremely bad exzema and when he was a child he used to have to be wrapped in bandages soaked in cream from head to foot - and at nighttime he had to wear mittens to stop him from scratching! He still suffers from it from time to time and now our baby has started to develop patches on his body! It's hard to treat (especially in babies) as different skin types seem to react differently to different treatments. This review is fab as it recognises this and gives practical advice (and doesn't just sell a product!). Thanks so much for this as it really has been useful to our family :)



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