So hey, today I want to chat to you guys about a big part of my life which I don’t often share on the internet, but was inspired to by a few lovely bloggers who have started to share their stories about the condition. So today, I’m gonna talk about eczema.
You probably think eczema is simply a childhood problem, or something you may get in the cracks of your arms if a fabric or object irritates you. But unfortunately, there’s a few of us who can’t grow out of this condition. Now I’m not going to compare this to organ diseases or conditions, but it is equally as painful, irritating and comes with its own list of debilitating side effects.
So I thought first I’d share my story. I’ve had eczema ever since I was born. I don’t have cute little baby photos, mine are big red blobby puffy messes! My skin would weep and bleed, which for a baby, as you could imagine was not pleasant for my parents. Through childhood, I continued to grow up with the skin condition, rather than out of it. I’d have countless trips in and out of hospital, wet wraps, medications, ointments. Every night I’d have to bathe in OATMEAL to soothe my burning, have my parents put my numerous creams on me, wrap me up in bandages and cling film, then put scratch mittens on me (as I did, and still do tear my skin up in my sleep). Often I’d have to go to school like a mummy, which you can imagine made me a pretty nice target for nasty little children’s games. I was also that kid with “manky hands”, where no one would want to hold my hand in PE and on school trips…. my hands were, and are pretty scarred. I have what my mom calls “granny hands”, which is exactly what they look like.. and is a reason why I often don’t show my hands in photos or wear rings.
Fast forward and I’m a 22 year old living with eczema. It’s safe to say people are a lot more understanding now, but you still get comments and see eyes wonder. My eczema is the worst it’s been since I was a teenager. My whole body is scarred and itchy. I have to be super careful with fabrics, irritants… pretty much anything that touches your skin. Even heat change (cold and hot) makes my skin go crazy. I get skin infections regularly and I’ve even ended up in hospital on several occasions due to my skin.
So here are a few pictures of my skin. It’s constantly dry, sore and itchy. I don’t think I have EVER had a period in my life when I’m not covered in red rashes and blisters. It may not look bad, but I can’t describe the pain I get daily from it. It burns, it bleeds, it cracks. If you know about having a whole body covered in eczema, or even just having a patch of it, you’ll know where I’m coming from!
Eczema, clinically known as ‘Atopic Dermatitis’ (the most common type) can be caused by many reasons. If you have allergies (like me!), you’re much more likely to have eczema, as it is an allergic condition. Being ‘atopic’ means your more likely to produce high levels of IgE antibodies for certain pollutants. IgE’s are produced in greater volume when the body comes in contact with a certain substance, leaving them to ‘attack’ – aka producing an allergic reaction. With eczema, this is a reaction of the skin.
Unfortunately, there’s no cure for eczema, only the hope that one day you will ‘grow out of it’ – however, the older you get, the more unlikely this becomes. Severe eczema, can be a burden most physically and mentally, and many reasons overlap.
One is the visual aspect of it. As I’ve gained confidence, I’ve come to care much less about what people think. I’ll wear skirts when I want, I’ll wear short sleeves if I want. But there was a time when I wasn’t. The scars that come from eczema can be pretty nasty (often purple and weeping) and people (often in the younger ages) can and will make comments. However, covering them can often be the worst – the fabric from clothes can often irritate further, or simply get stuck in the wounds. It’s a bit of a never ending cycle, which can be really hard. Eczema can also be visible in places that can’t be covered. Myself, like many others, often get eczema flare ups on the face. It can be hard to cover with make up and can be very visible, which as a teen and young adult, can be particularly difficult. Whilst me just saying ‘BE CONFIDENT’ won’t erase the fact it is difficult to cope with, it is really the only thing you can do to improve your mental outlook. If someone comments ‘ew what’s that?!’, simply reply, ‘it’s eczema’ and take no notice to any remarks. People who make nasty comments are simply not worth your time to be around, simple as. If you do what to cover up, make sure you wear light, floaty cotton fabrics – nothing that’s tight. Try your best NOT to wear make up, but if you really want to, try to wear things which don’t touch the flare up, such as mascara or eyebrow gel.
The itchiness and the pain can be difficult to deal with. Many of us will be prescribed antihistamines to deal with the irritation – however for me, the drowsiness effects I get from them (even the non-drowsy) can be difficult for me to work to full efficiency, so I take them as and when. Now before you start buying over the counter meds, please please PLEASE talk to your doctor first to make sure what is the right treatment for you. Every eczema patient is different to another. We all need different solutions and we all grow out of certain solutions too. On many occasions, I’ve found the perfect ointment for me then six months down the line it doesn’t work anymore. It can be pretty soul crushing. However, here I have a few of my faves (both prescription and over the counter) which are working for me at the moment. If you’re struggling atm, ask your doctor if you can give these a try!
Aveeno Moisturising Cream
Oatmeal is a godsend for eczema and is one ingredient that has helped since I was little. It’s soothing and moisturises, but the downfall is it doesn’t smell too great (so I avoid it if I’m going out etc). It’s pretty cheap and is available at Boots, over the counter as well on prescription.
Lush’s Dream Cream
A pricey choice, but Dream Cream is a gorgeous, cooling, cruelty free choice for eczema. Whilst it doesn’t help reduce eczema flares, it DOES give relief to the pain and itchiness! Good for on the go or to pop in your bag.
This is my current prescription cream which so far, is working quite well. It is a nice consistency, rubs in well and reduces flares. It doesn’t smell amazing, but compared to over prescription creams I’ve tried, it is by far an improvement! I apply this all over twice a day, so as you can imagine I get through a lot and prescriptions can be expensive. My tip is to ask your doctor if they’ll put multiple items on one prescription, but if not, opt for a NHS prescription card! They’re around £30 for 3 months, so if you have numerous prescriptions per month (like myself), they can save you a lot of dollar.
Before you use steroid creams, please consult your doctor or dermatologist first!!!
This steroid cream is a life saver for infected flare ups and cracked and bleeding skin. It must be used sparingly, but can clear up a bad flare within 48 hours. I used to use Eumovate Cream, however as there is a current manufacturing problem I’m using this one for the time being. Steroid creams are honestly so important if you have serious eczema, so please make sure you get yourself one!
These skin recommendations are purely based on what works for me. I can’t use ointments and perfumed products, so if you’re like me, these could be great for you.
Remember, eczema does not define you. There are so many people to talk to or help out there if you’re struggling with your skin condition, so don’t suffer in silence. I hope this post has given you a little help, or to raise your awareness to the condition. Please, words hurt. Be kind always.
Emma is a pre-registration Dietitian and Registered Associate Nutritionist based in Cheshire, England. Emma works in community healthcare and writes freelance alongside her work: topics including Dietetic life, nutrition, mental health and lifestyle. Emma also writes and photographs recipes for the platform, as well as being the author of the ‘Mummy and Me’ series for SR Nutrition. Emma’s Food Stories is PR friendly brand.