Eczema is an umbrella term for a type of dermatitis - atopic dermatitis.
Eczema and atopic dermatitis are terms that are used interchangeably. Essentially, it’s a genetic predisposition for having dry or irritable skin. For most people, a minor skin irritation doesn’t produce problems, but for a patient with eczema, it creates inflammation, and once that inflammation is there, it can remain. Even if you take away the stimulus, the cause of the original inflammation can often persist on its own.
Worldwide, about 20 percent of children and up to 3 percent of the adult population have some form of eczema. Interestingly, those who live in developed countries or colder climates seem to be more prone to developing eczema.
It’s a chronic condition that can come and go for years or throughout life, and can overlap with other types of eczema.
Eczema is an autoimmune disease caused by an overactive, disordered immune system and can be triggered by both external and internal factors, from stress to diet to environmental pollutants.
The inflammation damages the skin barrier, leaving it dry, prone to itching and rashes may appear purple, brown or a greyish hue in darker skin tones and red in lighter skin tones. The skin may ooze, weep fluid and bleed when scratched, making the skin vulnerable to infection. Repeated scratching can cause thickening and hardening — a process called lichenification.
Research shows that some people with eczema, usually have a mutation of the gene responsible for creating filaggrin. Filaggrin is a protein that helps our bodies maintain a healthy, protective barrier on the very top layer of the skin. Without enough filaggrin to build a strong skin barrier, moisture can escape and bacteria, viruses and pathogens can enter, resulting in the skin being prone to infection.
Eczema exists with two other possible allergic conditions: asthma and hay fever (allergic rhinitis). People who have asthma and/or hay fever or who have family members who do, are more likely to develop eczema.
This inflammatory skin condition can have a huge impact on quality of life. The itching can make it difficult to concentrate, resulting in poor sleep, and treatments and precautions can take a toll on time, energy and money.
Management may include:
• avoiding known triggers
• maintaining a regular bathing and moisturising routine to protect and strengthen the skin barrier
• getting good quality sleep
• eating a healthy diet
• managing stress
• topical corticosteroids
• non-steroidal topicals
We know that long term use of steroids causes the skin to thin. So where it’s possible to incorporate or replace specific natural botanicals and ingredients such as CBD, it goes a long way to preserve, repair and protect the skin. These gentler, but effective ingredients, can play a large role in helping to reduce the inflammation, repair damaged skin, and lessen the itching and dryness.
CBD's anti-inflammatory response works through its inhibition of eicosanoid enzymes (which can cause inflammation) and the elevation of the anti-inflammatory cytokine molecules. This is similar to how mainstream medications like NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) and steroids work.
Most people typically think of eczema as being worse during the winter, when the weather is colder and more dry. But summer can also be unbearable for those suffering with inflammatory skin conditions.
The unique combination of heat, humidity, and sweat make for a perfect storm of itchiness and irritation — and those aren’t the only skin triggers you have to worry about. Seasonal allergens and an abundance of pollen in the atmosphere in spring, can make conditions worse, as can the products we use during the hotter months, such as sunscreen and insect repellant.
As we approach warmer months, Dr. Aggarwal from the Medical Dermatology Associates of Chicago, encourages her patients to rinse off immediately after working out or spending time outdoors, so that the sweat is removed before it irritates the skin. Rinsing off in tap water after swimming in a pool or the sea, can prevent irritants from sinking into the skin.
Even something as simple as wearing lightweight, breathable, and moisture-absorbing fabrics during hotter months can be a useful trick for managing eczema and preventing sweat from pooling and collecting in skin creases.
Choose a hydrating product with fewer ingredients and fragrances, such as the Dr Klerkaan Natural Skin Cream, to seal in moisture and protect. The Goodleaf Hemp Infused Body Wash is also ideal as it contains no SLS (no surfactants that can irritate), omegas to nourish the skin barrier, and CBD to reduce inflammation.
If using a sunscreen, only use ones that are mineral based and contain natural ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Chemical sunscreens — especially those with oxybenzone — can irritate the skin and even lead to allergic reactions with long-term, repeated use.
Overall, the most important thing to remember when it comes to coping with eczema during the summer is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution for everyone. Eczema is highly unpredictable.
Ensure the skin is calm and soothed by sealing in the moisture, and keep it cool.
Sarah Daly is a dermal aesthetic therapist and salon owner with over 20 years experience in treating every skin type and skin concern.