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What is eczema?
Eczema is one of the most common skin conditions. It is also called dermatitis and simply means inflamed skin. Eczema can occur at any time although it is very common in children and babies. Childhood eczema frequently occurs in the body creases and is called “atopic dermatitis”. Adults often develop eczema on the face around the nose, ears and eyebrows and this may be “seborrhoeic dermatitis”. Eczema is not contagious. The condition can be managed well by minimising the exposure to trigger factors, using a suitable cleanser and moisturiser, and medication if necessary.
What are the types of eczema?
Aside from atopic and seborrhoeic dermatitis, some people develop rings on their body known as discoid eczema. Allergic contact dermatitis occurs in some people, when their skin makes contact with substances such as rubber, nickel in jewellery or some fragrances, and becomes inflamed.
What does eczema look like?
Look for red, dry, scaly areas that are usually very itchy. Scratching the itch makes the rash appear, and in some people the eczema can ooze or weep. Eczema can flare up when triggered by certain factors.
Moisturisers key to managing eczema cycle
Don’t wait – hydrate. Eczema skin is thirsty skin. Quench the thirst, be wise & moisturize.
Moisturisers play a pivotal role in any management/treatment plan for all dry skin conditions, particularly eczema. In fact, good eczema management is impossible without regular use of a moisturiser. For mild eczema and many cases of moderate eczema, moisturisers combined with good, general skin care measures can be used to successfully treat the condition. Even when prescription medicine is required to treat the affected area, moisturisers should be used regularly and as early as possible, to obtain maximum benefit.
According to leading Sydney Dermatologist and Director of Training (NSW) for the Australasian College of Dermatologists, Dr Phillip Artemi, many people tend to under-use moisturiser because its application can often prove time-consuming, tedious and inconvenient. But when used correctly, as part of a daily skin care treatment regime, and earlier rather than later in the eczema cycle, moisturisers can become effective, ‘active’ treatments’.
Types of Moisturisers
Lotions contain more water and fewer oils than creams, so they spread easily when applied. They act quickly and are useful for hairy areas. But overall, they are not very effective in moisturising dry skin. However, they can be useful if applied frequently in helping with dry skin management.
Creams contain a mixture of water and oils and like lotions, feel light and spread easily when applied to the skin. They also need to be reapplied often, as they do not readily penetrate very dry skin. Creams are ideal for weeping eczema and daytime use.
Ointments do not contain water (or only a very small amount) and therefore tend to be thick and greasy. Some people find them cosmetically unacceptable. They are ideal for very dry and thickened skin and perfect for night-time use.
Dr Artemi says it’s important to use moisturisers liberally and frequently – every hour or two if the skin is very dry, or at least three times a day.
Apply the moisturiser gently, ideally after bathing or showering while your skin is still damp (within three minutes) and while the water remains trapped in your skin to help lock in moisture.
Continue to use the moisturiser daily, even when your eczema patches have improved or cleared. This will help to prevent frequent and severe flares.