I talk to my friends quite openly about the fact that I have a skin condition, but every time I mention it online, I get a little… embarrassed. I don’t know why. It’s not contagious, and nobody seems to find it as off-putting as I do, but I think because it’s something so personal, I’ve got into my own head about it. I’m writing that post to try to break myself out of that.
I was born with eczema. Eczema is super common. Chances are that you or someone you know suffers from it, and it most commonly affects the insides of the elbows and backs of the knees, though it can affect any part of the body. I am one of those lucky people in whom it affects the entire body… yep – every inch of skin. Until recently I had never had it affect my face, and then my last flare up (the worst I’ve ever had) had my face swollen to twice its size.
So yes, born with eczema and suffered horrifically throughout my childhood with it. Then, as I got into my late teens, it concentrated on my hands. I rarely had it on any other part of my body, but it was excruciating when it would flare up on my hands and would leave me pretty much unable to use them. And then, all of a sudden, it started flaring up all over my body again, including my hands. So basically, no skin is safe.
I’ve found that people tend to think of skin conditions as cosmetic issues rather than medical, but that’s simply not the case. When I’m in the midst of a flare up, it can get so bad and painful that I struggle to move, can’t leave the house, can’t sleep through the night and am constantly having to change my clothes because my skin has begun to bleed. It’s exhausting to constantly have to cover your body in ointments and creams and even then to know they might not even work.
Here are my tips for coping with life when you have a chronic skin condition:
DISCLAIMER: I am not a doctor, and this is all entirely based on my own personal experience. You should ALWAYS consult a doctor. This is NOT a substitute for medical treatment.
- Don’t be afraid of your doctor
I hate going to the doctor, but sometimes you just have to bite the bullet – things won’t always clear up on their own. Your doctor will do their best to help you, and it’s always good to keep your flare ups documented. Your doctor might refer you to a dermatologist, who can help you not only to understand your skin problems but the best course of action for medicating it long-term.
I’ve tried all kinds of home remedies for my skin condition, but nothing has cleared it up as well as prescribed medications have. Sure, they won’t be for everyone – but don’t be afraid of them if nothing else seems to be easing your symptoms.
- Avoid anything fragranced
I’ve always avoided any products that include fragrances. I don’t use perfumes, I only use certain soaps and moisturisers and when I find a product that doesn’t irritate my skin (shower creams, shampoos, etc) I stick with it. Fragranced products can trigger a reaction in your skin and it can be needlessly painful. I promise you, you won’t miss them.
- This will sound stupid, but… stay clean
Obviously, I’m not suggesting that any of you are unclean. What I mean is, the shelf in your bedroom, is it dusty? Maybe that’s making your skin worse. When my skin is beginning to feel like it’s going to flare up, I like to change my bedsheets immediately. If you are cleaning, you will probably want to wear some gloves. Do whatever you have to do keep your skin safe and happy.
- Bad skin can affect your mental health. Take yourself seriously.
I have cried over my skin a lot. I have cried in public over my skin. When I’m having a flare up, it can trigger my depression really badly, and it’s hard to feel comfortable in your skin when you’re, well, uncomfortable in your skin. You’re valid. It is a valid way to feel. Don’t feel like you have to bottle it up and don’t feel like it’s “just stupid”. It’s not. Talk to someone. Talk to a doctor if you need to.
I’m currently on a course of steroids which clear up my skin amazingly, but when I stop taking them my skin is extremely vulnerable and the flare ups can come back worse than ever if I don’t have another treatment lined up (this is why we think my last flare up was so bad – a delay between the end of my course of steroids and the date I was due to start my next new treatment). Aside from prescribed steroids, I make sure to apply an ointment to my entire body as soon as I get out of the bath or shower to seal in moisture, and then I use topical creams where the flare ups remain the worse. I wash my face with a solution of oilatum and water every morning, pat dry and immediately apply moisturiser, and I take antihistamines daily. For me, this routine works right now. For you, it might not.
I’d love to hear any of your experiences with eczema or any other skin condition, and anything you’ve found that helps your skin or just makes you feel better! I know for a lot of people dietary changes help their skin, but I’ve never found that changing my diet had any effect on my eczema. What about you?
Until next time, stay… not… itchy?