A lot of people are uncomfortable with the idea of pampering themselves. When it comes to looking after your skin, you are not only looking after yourself, but giving your loved ones the gift of self-care. If you are a parent, then modelling self-care is essential.
Putting aside pamper time is a wonderful thing to do with your children and is an excellent way to support a child with eczema. However, the good example of day-to-day self-care will help them develop these habits themselves, and more importantly, maintain them.
Of course, prevention really is better than cure, and gentle soaps and oils that are free from chemical preservatives will help to keep moisture in the skin. A lot of medical treatments for eczema focus on decreasing inflammation and hydrating the skin. This gives eczema less of a chance to take hold.
If you have had an eczema flare up or you are in the throes of another skin condition, some of these tips may bring you relief, help to prevent a future outbreak, or both. I’m a soap-maker, not a doctor, and it’s essential to talk to a medical professional to make sure you get the right treatment for your particular condition.
Here are some ways to maintain the health and resilience of of your skin and help reduce the impact of rashes.
Diet – maintaining healthy skin isn’t just about what you put on your skin, but also what you put into your body. For healthy skin, you need a well-balanced diet. That means that you should consume plenty of proteins, vegetables, and fresh fruit. It’s especially important to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of liquids.
Stop smoking – if you’re a smoker, your skin knows it. Nicotine causes blood vessels to constrict, which impairs circulation. Since your blood carries all the goodness you consume around the body, including to the skin tissues, you don’t want anything to prevent it doing its job.
Avoid excessive exposure to sunlight – Ultra violet (UV) rays are strongest in the late morning and early afternoon. If you can avoid going out into the sun at these times, so much the better for your skin.
When you do go out into the sun, use a high SPF, such as 30+, to protect your skin from the damaging effects of UV rays. Apply the lotion 15 minutes before you will be exposed and re-apply it as often as necessary, which is typically at least every two hours.
You can also wear a brimmed hat, UV resistant clothes, and sunglasses with anti-UV coating.
Soap – the right soap will look after your skin, not least, by preventing it from losing too much moisture.
Soaps labelled as antibacterial or antimicrobial, however, can interfere with the natural bacteria of the skin, which is important to preventing skin infections. These soaps have their place in specific settings like professional kitchens or medical practices, but unless they are prescribed for a particular condition by a doctor or pharmacist, you’re better off using something milder for the day to day.
Use a mild, natural soap to clean your skin every day. Make sure you rinse properly and dry yourself thoroughly. It’s best to use moisturisers and ointments as soon as you get out of the bath or shower, because they can trap moisture in the skin, helping them to work more effectively.
However, it’s also worth noting that rashes often occur where skin stays damp, so wash underarms and the groin area frequently, remembering to dry carefully. In warmer months, you might want to consider spending more time naked in the comfort of your own home as air circulation can help prevent the build-up of excessive moisture that can lead to rashes.
Harsh soaps or alcohol-based lotions can dry the skin, but not in a good way. They can take away the essential moisture that helps your body avoid infection. Be aware of the cleaning products you use as well – these can leave residues and it’s best to wear gloves to protect your skin when you come into contact with them.
Honey – this natural antibacterial is often used as a treatment for or for prevention of acne. It’s a good alternative to harsh lotions that are more like chemical detergents than skincare. And being a natural anti-inflammatory, it may reduce the severity of inflamed pimples.
Full of antioxidants, honey is also great for those who wish to reduce the signs of aging. And, not least of all, it is moisturizing and will make your skin feel great as well as look fantastic.
Whether used directly on spots, as a face mask, or as a key ingredient in a lotion or soap, honey can help you look and feel your best, naturally, while potentially reducing the symptoms of a rash.
Oatmeal bath/poultice – an oatmeal poultice might be just what you need to relieve itchy skin and reduce the inflammation of a rash.
To make an oatmeal poultice as a skin allergy remedy, I recommend the following recipe:
- ¼ cup of powdered oatmeal in a large bowl
- Very slowly, add distilled water into the oatmeal and keep mixing continuously until the paste is smooth, thick, and spreadable.
- Apply the paste to the area that is affected
- Bandage the area with a moist cloth. Don’t make it too tight.
Many swear by an oatmeal poultice to help relieve the symptoms and effects of sun burn, eczema, dry skin, or an itchy rash. The oatmeal will soften skin, moisturize it, and impress with its inherent cleansing properties.
Witch hazel – this is a plant native to North America and parts of Asia. The bark, twigs, and leaves are used to extract tannins and polyphenols. The natural tannins help remove excess oil from the skin.
It is used in many lotions and washes, but you should keep an eye on how it is diluted. These products often contain amounts of alcohol that can be damaging to skin, and it might be wiser to use those products as short-term solutions while looking for a more natural way of getting your witch hazel benefits.
Coconut oil – Coconut oil is not just great for diluting your essential oils; it’s a natural powerhouse. Is it good for your skin? It works well as a light moisturizer, but it doesn’t moisturize very deeply. If you have a skin condition due to clogged pores, such as blackheads, coconut oil might exacerbate this. If you have particularly dry or oily skin, use caution if applying coconut oil to your face. For those in the middle of the spectrum, it’s ability as a moisturizer can give you a glowing look, and it’s great on eyebags and fine lines.
Used to soothe eczema, virgin coconut oil can help to reduce inflammation and relieve itching.
Essential oils – these can be very beneficial to us, physically and mentally. Use caution if you’re thinking about applying essential oils directly to your skin though, particularly if you have allergies or sensitive skin. Some essential oils can be soothing, but these are very concentrated and some are known irritants. As a rule of thumb, you should dilute an essential oil with a carrier oil, such as coconut oil or olive oil, and then test it on an area of your skin like the patch inside your elbow.
Here is a non-exhaustive but helpful list of essential oils to think about trying:
- Lavender – this is more than a classic fragrance. It is an essential oil with properties versatile enough for many skin types. As well as being naturally antibacterial, it will soothe, disinfect, and reduce inflammation. It could be helpful in the treatment of numerous skin conditions, including eczema.
- Lemongrass – another essential oil with a great scent, lemongrass essential oil is also antifungal, antiviral, and antibacterial. It’s great for cleansing the skin, but serious diluting is recommended, such as two or three drops per 2 ounces of oil and distilled water.
- Helichrysum – Got acne, get helichrysum. Known for helping scars to heal and stimulating the growth of cells, it has antimicrobial, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory benefits.
- Frankincense – Increasingly known for helping scars and wounds to heal, the potentially restorative properties of frankincense may be an excellent addition to your skin care routine. It cleans well and has anti-inflammatory properties that could reduce irritation and redness.
- Chamomile – Again with proper dilution, this essential oil can be effective in attempts to soothe skin and can be used for people of any age.
- Myrrh – this has been used for its anti-inflammatory properties, which help improve the firmness, tone, and elasticity of skin. If you have sun damaged skin, or are suffering from eczema or other rashes, it’s worth considering myrrh as a potential ally.
- Patchouli – this may also help with eczema as it has a great list of properties, including being antiseptic, antifungal, and antibacterial.
- Tea Tree – as well as having anti-bacterial properties, to prevent acne for example, it also helps regulate the production of oil, which can reduce the impact and number of skin flare-ups.
- Ylang Ylang – this is similar to Tea Tree in the sense that it can help regulate oil production and minimize breakouts. It is often used for a wide variety of skin types.
When it comes to the health of your skin, you are not alone. You – and your loved ones - can find relief from flare-ups, lessen their severity, and reduce their frequency with some knowledge, some patience, good daily habits and the right, natural products. Taking care of yourself will be good for all of you.
Right! I’m off to prepare a massive pamper party for me and my kids!