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The Eczema Files: How to Survive a Spa Day

May 7th 2015 / Ali Hunter


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A trip to the spa can be anything but relaxing when your skin is reactive. Here are a few tips to make it more ‘ahhh’ than ‘arghh’...

The spa: a rare haven of calm and tranquillity where we can leave all our worries at the door and sink into an oasis of massage oil and mineral-rich mud. A spa day is a time to relax and luxuriate with friends or to enjoy some much-needed me-time. It may seem strange, then, to write a survival guide for a place dedicated to comfort and wellbeing. The truth is that my eczema turns a day at the spa into a dermatological minefield. Far from the promised baby’s-bottom softness, all those bubbles, salt-scrubs and seaweed wraps have the potential to unleash my inner sea creature.

But never fear! There is a way for my fellow crustaceans to thrive at the spa. Here’s a few tips to ensure that your day is as zen as yoda meditating on a lotus leaf.

Lay off the bubbles

Three reasons why Jacuzzis are a serious threat to eczema sufferers:

1. They are cleaned with a cocktail of chemicals, such as potassium peroxymonosulfate, which can cause nasty skin reactions.

2. Hot water dries out your skin, strips it of natural oils and can aggravate itching.

3. They are the ideal breeding grounds for fungus and bacteria just waiting to prey on eczema-damaged skin.

If your spa day isn’t complete without soaking up the warmth, the dry heat of the sauna is a much safer bet, just remember to stay on the cooler lower bench and don’t stay in too long.

No scrubs

TLC may have got there years ago, but I’m going to reiterate their sage advice: do not subject delicate, irritable skin to abrasive body brushing, salt scrubs or lymphatic drainage. The aim of the spa is to pamper your skin, not to scour the scales right off your back.

Do a patch test

Unless you’re a lady of last minute luxury, you’ll probably book your treatments with a week or two to spare. When you book, ask if you can pop in for a consultation or get a sample to test the oils and creams that will be used in your massage or facial.

Customise it

Lots of spas now offer tailor-made treatments with highly trained therapists. Make sure to tell your practitioner about any skin-conditions, allergies and ongoing treatments before you get started. Skinceuticals Advanced Facials and Elemis Skin Specific Facial incorporate the latest technology and dermatologist recommended products into bespoke treatments. Content go one step further in their holistic Skin Nutrition Treatment by giving lifestyle tips and sending you a food diary to complete before your treatment.

Bring your own bottle

It’s hard to know if the oils and creams used in a treatment will work miracles or leave you needing to slap on the steroid cream with a trowel. Whilst facials are sold on the benefits of specific ingredients, massages tend to be less product-specific, so why not take your own? Dr Stefanie Williams suggests booking a Swedish massage and bringing your own coconut oil or Cetaphil Restoraderm. You’ll get all the benefits of the massage without any surprise reactions.

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate

Being in a warm, humid atmosphere for hours on end can leave you and your skin parched without realising it. Take a bottle in with you and make sure to drink lots of water before and after any treatments.

Keep it clean

Chlorine, sweat, Dead Sea mud, massage oils… your skin is exposed to a small encyclopaedia of potential irritants at the spa. The best way to keep the scales at bay is to rinse off with your regular body wash and apply moisturiser while your skin is still damp. Dr Stefanie also recommends applying Vaseline to eczema patches before swimming to create a barrier.

Call in the experts

If you want a facial guaranteed to leave you with healthier, soothed skin, you can do no better that book in for a medical facial. Highly qualified medical aestheticians are leagues ahead of high-street therapists as they have the training and knowledge to give your skin exactly what it needs. Read all about my expert experience below…

The medical facial

It’s a wet Wednesday morning as I scuttle into the Chelsea Bridge Clinic for my first ever medical facial with Medical Aesthetician Daiva Jonaitiene. My skin’s flavour of the week is acne-infested and itchy, but not a scale in sight. Following a mini-consultation, including a run down of the different products and treatments I’m currently using, Daiva gets to work on my stubborn skin.

After gentle cleansing and exfoliation, the extractions began: think of this part like a dental appointment for your face – slightly uncomfortable but also incredibly satisfying. It’s like squeezing your spots but knowing that it will improve your skin. Daiva expertly clears my pores of the excess sebum, the root of all spots. No blackhead or whitehead escapes this skin-clearing crusade. She drains the milia around my right eye and applies some antibiotic cream to a few spots to prevent further infection.

Then we move on to the face masks – this part feels much more like a pampering spa treatment, but with a virtuous feeling that you’ve earned it – it’s like a massage after a workout, but for your face. Daiva massages a deep-cleansing mask into my skin. The next step gets a bit space age as Daiva applies Vitamin C concentrate and uses blue LED light to penetrate the skin and eradicate any bacteria that might still be clinging to my pores. This is followed by a 15-minute soothing cold collagen mask. Finally Daiva applies Skinceuticals eye balm, moisturiser and sun cream to bring me back to reality.

My skin looks and feels a lot clearer and healthier after this hour-long treatment. My moisturiser sinks in much easier in the evening and the following morning my t-zone is noticeably less congested. Best of all there’s not a hint of the tingling irritation that often accompanies acne-busting treatments.

So there you go, from handy hints to full-on expert treatments, even the most dermatologically challenged can sit back, relax and enjoy the spa.

Have you had a particulary wonderful spa experience, despite having troublesome skin? We’d love to hear about it below or on Twitter

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