I had eczema since I was young, but I didnâ€™t know what it was and always thought it was normal to experience extreme itch in the same areas, especially after taking showers at night. I really should have known earlier as this condition seems to run in my family. But it was only after I was in my teens and read about skin conditions that I realized mine was eczema. And it is a little late that I only started narrowing down what triggers or worsens my eczema flare ups recently. In fact, I made some discoveries that really disappointed me because some of my favourite foods are actually not good for eczema.
Internal factors that cause my flare-ups
Whenever I get stressed or busy in general, and have late nights, I get more prone to having these flare-ups. Also, certain foods I eat have actually worsened my eczema getting worse but I have only noticed this recently by accident. Like one of the foods I have to avoid is corn, and for my whole life I have been eating corn because I love it! The last time when I ate cobs of corn, I had an intense, painful itch on my legs to the point of a burning itchy sensation a few hours later. I also have to avoid wheat, eggs, peanuts, dairy and seafood. The good thing is although I have to avoid these foods as much as I can, I find that my eczema worsens only when I take these foods in huge quantities…which means, I can still eat them in moderation.
External factors that triggers the flare-ups
Apart from my diet, I have to make sure I do not let my legs get too dry because the worst areas of eczema I have are on my shins. I also have to make sure I keep myself clean in terms of not sweating too much and not having contact with excessive amounts of dust. So just this condition itself is contradicting as I try to shower or wash my legs whenever I get dirty, but I have to make sure I moisturize afterwards because staying too long under water dries out the skin too. I also find that when I do cave in and scratch my itchy spots and the skin breaks and become dead skin flakes, I have to wash my fingernails carefully to prevent spreading to other areas that my fingers may get into contact next.
Another thing is, I can’t spend too much time in the shower as water dries the skin really quickly the moment I step out of the shower. I also avoid any body wash and face wash that has harsh surfactants like SLS, SLES and ALS as they’re almost a definite factor to cause a flare-up. I also canâ€™t use commercial toothpaste with SLS as it makes the edges of my lips painfully dry and red.
Tips to keep eczema under control
1. Stop scratching & keeping nails short
I have seen how bad eczema can get if it is not controlled or taken care of, and because I didnâ€™t want to use steroid creams or have it get worse, the best I could do was not to scratch it too much. Ideally I wouldnâ€™t scratch it at all, but if you have eczema you would know how painfully itchy it gets at times and I have to slap my legs till theyâ€™re swollen to reduce the itch. Although I have doing very well in keeping my skin looking normal, but if you look at my shins close up, you will see that they are actually a little dry and scaly looking – kind of like the skin of an old person. It saddens me to see my shins like this but Iâ€™m lucky this can only be noticed really closed up. And to prevent myself from scratching it unknowingly at night, I keep my nails short and I buff and file them so they are not sharp.
2. Bring a moisturizing body mist spray when exercising
Sweat can also trigger itchy spots, especially in Singaporeâ€™s climate. So what I do is I always carry a small bottle of Aveneâ€™s thermal spring water when I go exercising and there isnâ€™t any place to shower after that. What I do is I spray generously on my eczema areas after Iâ€™m done exercising and then I use a clean dry cloth to gently wipe dry. It cools the skin and removes the sweat as well.
Do’s and donâ€™ts for those who have eczema?
Iâ€™m sure quite a number of people suffer from eczema as a couple of my friends are like me and it seems to me that almost 1 in 10 people have it. So for those who have eczema, do you know what triggers your eczema flare-ups and do you have any tips to share to lessen the discomfort?