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The Eczema Files: The scaly skin lessons I've learned

August 2nd 2015 / Ali Hunter


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Did seeing a dermatologist help our eternal eczema sufferer? As her follow-up appointment arrives, Ali Hunter looks back at all that she's learned

One gloomy March morning, with a burning desire to scratch my eczema plagued eyelids into submission, I sat down and wrote a tirade against my scaly skin and I decided that I was going to try to beat my eczema for good. A few weeks later I went to see Dr Stefanie Williams and embarked on a journey to tame my inner lizard. Three months and a generous sprinkling of expert advice down the line and I find myself in the waiting room for my follow up appointment with Dr Stefanie. Since our first meeting, I’ve learned a lot about my skin and how to keep my scales at bay, from skin-saving creams to lifestyle changes. Here are some of my most important skin revelations:

Check the ingredients

In the past I always tried to use simple products but I often fell into the trap of using lotions and potions advertised for “sensitive skin”. After learning about a few common ingredients that irritate sensitive skin, I was shocked when I checked the labels of the contents of my bathroom cupboard. A “gentle” baby-shampoo that contains SLS and a “natural” coconut lip balm loaded with fragrance are a couple of supposedly gentle Trojan horses that I’ve now banished from my skincare regime. There are tons of brands out there that really care about the ingredients they do and don’t use, including RMS Beauty and Pai who put full ingredients lists and explanations on their websites. Never again will I be fooled by buzzwords into putting harsh chemicals on my skin.

The virtues of Vaseline

I’ve never been particularly loyal to my lip balm. I used to bounce between Carmex, Burt’s Bees and Nivea (to name a few) more often than I changed my bed sheets. However, since Dr Stefanie recommended using this incredibly hypoallergenic product to protect damaged skin, I’ve become a faithful fan. I use it as a lip balm, to shield eczema patches before swimming, to calm a hay fever induced red nose, to stop my new sandals rubbing…there is no limit to the uses of a versatile pot of Vaseline.

The thermal water wonder-creams

Over the past few months I’ve tried out a range of products from Avène and La Roche-Posay. Whether you’re looking for an eye cream, body balm, sunscreen or foundation to soothe your scales, these two French skincare alchemists have it covered with their simple, nourishing formulas based on soothing thermal water and a significant lack of unnecessary ingredients. Both brands have recently introduced innovative packaging to eliminate the need for potentially irritating preservatives. I’m a big fan of Avène XeraCalm A.D., £16.50, and LRP’s Toleriane range.

Skin from within

We all know that diet and lifestyle affect the health and appearance of our skin. However, it is often very easy to forget this when caught in the middle of an eczema emergency. I’ve had the good fortune of chatting with several dermatologists and nutrition experts, all of whom helped me understand the link between food and skin. By making a few simple changes like cutting down on sugar and increasing my consumption of ‘good fats’, I’ve seen a real difference in my skin. I’ve learned to be more mindful about my choices, armed with the knowledge of what will cause inflammation and what will help to nourish my skin from within. And in the process I have developed a mildly concerning avocado addiction…

It’s all in the routine

I must confess to being the kind of person who occasionally forgets to remove my makeup after a night out and rushes out of the house without sunscreen more often that I’d like. In the past I’ve taken my low-maintenance lifestyle a bit too far then raged like a hungry alligator when my eczema flared up. In my first appointment Dr Stefanie emphasised the importance of a simple but effective skin care regime. She printed out a step-by-step guide for morning and evening and, for once, I’ve stuck to it religiously. Whatever products you use, consistency is key when it comes to well-balanced skin.

Listen to your skin

Your skin is your biggest organ and it is a window onto your general health. Stress, sleep deprivation, food intolerance…the smallest imbalance manifests itself in a patch of eczema or a stubborn pimple. Whenever my eczema flares, I try to take a step back and assess my stress levels and lifestyle and I usually find that once I’ve slowed down and taken the time to eat, sleep and exercise properly, my skin settles back down.

Follow Up

So, that’s what I’ve learned over the last few months, now it’s time to see how my skin has responded to my efforts to shed my scales. After a quick chat and a closer look at my face, Dr Stefanie tells me that my eczema has retreated. Now that the scales are under control Dr Stefanie suggests that we start tackling my other skin condition, acne, in earnest. She recommends the gentle but deep cleaning Rosaliac Micellar Makeup Remover Gel, £12.50, by La Roche-Posay and prescribes me a topical antibiotic and azelaic acid gel to gradually introduce into my skincare regime. So there you go, the lizard has been tamed and if it rears its ugly head again I’m well equipped to subdue it. Until then, I’m embarking on a quest against the acne that has accompanied me for the past decade. First stop: a blackhead busting medical facial. Wish me luck…

Have you successfully treated your eczema? Let us know your story below or tweet us @GetTheGloss.

Follow Ali on Twitter @Ali_C_Hunter

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