Saturday, 24 September 2016

Top 5 Skincare Products for Eczema

To round off National Eczema Week I thought I would recommend the skincare products that have made a difference in my life. When you suffer with eczema then it's easy to feel like you are restricted to the thick, gloopy creams prescribed by the dermatologist. Or you live in fear of trying anything new because so many products, even natural / sensitive skin ones, actually dry out the skin or cause flare ups. Well, I've found a few great ranges that I can purchase over the counter and that I trust.

1. Aveeno Dry & Sensitive Range


The whole Aveeno range is amazing and is my go-to brand when it comes to skincare. It's a good, mid range price but a little goes a long way so it does last and there are regularly 342 offers on in Boots if you want to stock up! Its main ingredient is oatmeal and you'll have seen Jen Aniston fronting their campaigns. I use the moisturising lotion daily, including on my face, I have a tube of the hand cream in my bag and I use the bath oil when my skin is particularly dry and needs a bit of TLC. These products are basically what keeps my skin on an even keel. They also do a Baby range, but the Dry/Sensitive range is suitable from three months. Available in Boots and most large supermarkets.

2. Liz Earle Hot Cloth Cleanse & Polish


This is a bit of a treat because it's quite expensive, however when I was having real problems with my face, it was a life saver. If you can't afford the whole cleanse, tone and moisturise set, then treat yourself to the Skin Repair Moisturiser, I'm convinced it will make a difference, but the whole set is brilliant. I put it on my Christmas list every year. It leaves my skin feeling so soft, clears up any dryness within a couple of days and keeps my skin looking clear. It's also really enjoyable to use - I'm not a beauty blogger, I don't necessarily 'enjoy' skincare, but this is an exception. It's a total pleasure! It's stocked in the larger Boots stores and John Lewis and is available online.

3. Waterwipes


I was once advised by a dermatologist to use on my baby the same products that I would use for myself. Now, we go through a lot of baby wipes in this house but it's taken me a while to find some baby wipes that I'm entirely happy with. Thankfully my kids show no signs of eczema so no problems there, but I still am wary of the amount of chemicals we put on our skin as a family so would always prefer natural products. You can't get more natural than water! Waterwipes contain 99.9% water and 0.1% fruit extract. I was sent some to review and I am so pleased with them. They are super moist, and we've been using them for everything - nappies, hands, faces. They do such a good job because they contain so much water, but I don't get the impression they dry out skin and it's nice to know that they don't contain loads of chemicals. My one concern is the price as at £2.49 they're significantly more than what we currently pay, but if your baby had particularly sensitive skin then I would say they would be more than worth the cost. Available from Boots, Amazon, Ocado and most major supermarkets. For more information, visit www.waterwipes.com.

4. Coconut Nourishing Body Butter, The Body Shop


This was recommended to me on an internet forum by a bunch of people who suffer with skin conditions. Sometimes it's just nice to feel like you can walk into a shop and purchase some nice, luxury skin treats rather than worry about the effects on my eczema. I actually use this on my hands on a daily basis. It's light, not sticky and sinks into my skin easily. We're lucky to have an outlet store near our house so I stock up regularly when the offers are on. It's safe to say I'm a big fan!

5. Emollin Spray


This spray was prescribed to me by my dermatologist nurse because the dry skin and eczema on my back was driving me to distraction and preventing me from sleeping. I had also complained that I didn't have time to sit around waiting for gloopy creams to sink into my skin before getting dressed every morning. It's an emollient spray that not only moisturises but also provides a protective barrier for the skin. It can be sprayed from any angle so is great for hard to reach areas like your back and sinks into the skin pretty much immediately so is great if you're time strapped. In all my time seeing doctors I had never been told about this one but it has certainly saved my sanity during bad flare ups so definitely ask about it if you haven't come across it.

***

So there you have it, five products that I personally can recommend for eczema. Obviously I'm no doctor so, goes without saying, do consult your doctor or dermatologist before changing your treatment! For more information on eczema and National Eczema Week, visit www.eczema.org.
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Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Mind My Eczema

It's just a bit of eczema.

I find myself saying that a lot. It's that childhood skin condition that some never grow out of. Yet you've spent your childhood being fobbed off, being told that it's 'just a bit of eczema, you'll grow out of it', and then you don't.

Just a bit of eczema.

Just the constant, infuriating, frustrating, burning, insatiable itch that will never be scratched.

The itch that starts off small, but if you give in and start scratching, the itch spreads and before you know it you want to rip all your clothes off and scratch and scratch and scratch your entire body, in a hot, frustrated mess, with an itch that will never be satisfied.

A scratch that is never vast enough, never deep enough, where your finger nails dig and dig and dig to get to the bottom of that itch that can never be scratched.

It's just a bit of eczema.

Just a bit of eczema that leaves you lying awake at night, trying not to move, for if you brush your skin against those soft cotton sheets, you might set off the itch, the itch that can't be scratched.

Just a bit of eczema that leaves you scared to go to sleep, because you might end up writhing around in an itchy dream, covering your sheets in your dead skin cells, waking your husband in your hot, frustrated mess. Then you wake in the morning, your nails stained with blood, unable to move your joints which are now covered in scabs.

It's just a bit of eczema.

Just a bit of eczema, that renders you a rubbish housewife. Unable to keep on top of the house that's meant to be a home. Unable to wash dishes. Unable to dust, whilst knowing that dusting is the answer. Getting rid of the dust would help, but it would also cause your knuckles to crack and bleed and your skin to bubble with infection.

Just a bit of eczema. making you the boring parent. The one who can't splash in the bath, the one who can't take them swimming, the one who can't play in the long grass.

It's just a bit of eczema.

Just a bit of eczema, which makes you the awkward guest. The one who always brings her own milk, starves herself through buffets with a smile, insists on avoiding pizza restaurants and then asks to analyse the menu before ordering, checking for milk in the most unlikely of places.

It's just a bit of eczema.

Just a bit of eczema that affects your ability to concentrate. When you nod and smile and ooh and aah in all the right places but if you looked behind the eyes you'd realise, I'm just desperately concentrating on not scratching. On not subjecting you to the blood thirsty horror of the scratch. The scratch that will never scratch the itch that always needs to be scratched.

It's just a bit of eczema. A bit of eczema that fills your cupboards with disgusting, gloopy creams, none of which serve their purpose, none of which contain the cure to the itch that can't be scratched.

A bit of eczema that forces you to crank up the shower because somehow the itch can be burnt off your skin with scalding water, only bringing light relief for a short while before it creeps back over your hands and then your arms, like some kind of horror story alien taking you hostage in your own skin.

It's the bit of eczema that as your smiling, drying your hands on a tea towel, you end up wringing your hands really hard underneath the cloth in a bid to remove every trace of water and destroy the itch with it. When your hands emerge they are flaky hot and raw so you run them under cold water to cool and soothe, whilst beginning the vicious cycle again.

It's just a bit of eczema.

Just a bit of eczema that bleeds and weeps, that cannot be seen and yet your attempts to hide it leave you more itchy than ever. It causes you to dread the dampness of winter and the humidity of summer. It makes you cover up, yet the dry air is the one thing that might make it better if our British weather system would ever oblige.

It's just a bit of eczema.

Just the eczema that drives you to tears as you realise there's an occasion on the horizon which might require you to smile in photographs, but you know, you know that your face will not clear, it will not be better and you step up your moisturising, you step up your medication in the desperate hope that you might, you just might, be able to wear make-up that day. That is if the foundation doesn't stick to the awful flaky mess that is your face.

Just a bit of eczema that makes you check your calendar for any social events where you might need your confidence before taking any new medication or risking your skin on a potential allergy buffet, or even, say, cleaning your house.

It's the eczema that, whilst others flick through magazines, or check their phones, makes you absentmindedly pick the scabs off your hands to try and achieve the holy grail of smooth.

It's just the eczema that's always there. On bad weeks it's visible for all to see and for me to feel. On good weeks, it's in my mind, affecting everything I do, the fear of a flare up preventing me from living fully and freely. It lies in wait, ready to pounce, ready to steal my confidence on days when I need it most. It creeps up, nothing major, just a bit of eczema, crawling over the surface of my skin until I look down and suddenly I'm broken and weeping, red raw, exhausted. It's stolen my sleep, my self-esteem, my confidence, my joy, my abilities to parent, clean, concentrate, engage.

But it's just a bit of eczema.

***


It's National Eczema Week. This year as part of the Mind My Eczema campaign, The National Eczema Society is focusing on the psychological and emotional impact of eczema, encouraging people to remember the person as well as the skin. This isn't me all the time, in fact a lot of these feelings are thankfully a rarity nowadays. But I still live in fear of flare ups and plan my life around preventing them - which does have a psychological and emotional impact. Eczema makes me feel frustrated - can you tell?!

For more information visit www.eczema.org
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Saturday, 17 September 2016

Adult Eczema: My Story part 2

It's been nearly three years since I wrote this post on my journey with eczema so far and as it's National Eczema Week this week I thought it was high time for an update!

Shortly after I wrote that post, I was referred by my GP to the dermatologist once again. I had just had a baby and my eczema had flared badly again. We were now living in a different area under a different NHS Trust so I thought it might be worth another go.

I was still living a dairy free life - something I was now well used to. However, when my eczema did flare up (normally triggered by an allergic reaction), I struggled to control it. My GP had once again sent me home with a myriad of creams without giving much information on how they should be used. In truth, despite being an eczema veteran, I still had no idea what I was doing!

So in Spring 2013 I trooped off to the dermatology consultant. This one man was by far the best medical professional I had ever seen. Finally, someone who showed empathy! Finally, someone who seemed willing to help! Finally, someone who gave me adequate information and other avenues of research that I could do for myself! In this appointment I actually cried - massive, sobbing, tears - because this man seemed to understand, he took me seriously, he actually looked at my skin, he listened to me and he said he could help me.

He said that my first port of call was for me to understand my condition myself. In nearly 30 years not one medical professional has provided me with any information or pointed me in the right direction so that I can take responsibility for my own care.

He not only asked what creams I was using, but he asked how I was using them. Turns out, I was using them wrong! He recommended some moisturisers that were actually nice to use (hello, Aveeno!) rather than sticky, gloopy moisturisers.

And he sent me away with a moisturising routine and a new list of creams to use.

I finally felt like I was getting somewhere!

It wasn't easy however. The consultant wanted me to moisturise all over, four times per day.

Now, I don't know what it's like for other people who, you know, live lives alongside their condition, but four times per day is pretty impractical (factor in the hour of sitting naked waiting for the creams to soak into your skin and it's pretty impossible!). But, with renewed enthusiasm, I was managing twice daily and within a week my skin had drastically improved.

Over the last three years since then, I've had some ups and downs.

I had full blood tests done and have no allergies apart from dust mites (though, dairy still triggers a reaction, go figure!).

I've recently had patch testing done and in terms of contact allergens, I'm only mildly allergic to local anaesthetics (probably should have told the dentist that recently!).

I still have allergic reactions.

I still have eczema flare ups.

But I can at least manage my own condition now. I've learnt to feel in control, knowing what my triggers are, rather than get hung up on what my medical records say (I challenge any doctor to feed me a pizza and then try and tell me that food and eczema are not related!).

I never saw that consultant again. Instead I would go back every six months and see the dermatology nurse. She was brilliant, always recommending new products I could try. Referring me for more allergy tests even though science was telling us that I wasn't allergic to anything.

And this week, she discharged me!

Part of me is frustrated that we never got to the bottom of the milk allergy. Part of me is pleased that all the tests are negative because it means that one day, if I'm brave, I might be able to reintroduce milk into my diet (bring me the profiteroles!). Part of me knows that allergies are not the area of expertise for the dermatology department anyway.

Part of me thinks that the medical professionals need to do more to assist eczema sufferers. Part of me knows that there really is nothing to be done as there is no cure.

But I'm glad I've been on this journey. My eczema has never been better. It's still there, it still affects my daily life, but it's managed and I don't feel self conscious about it like I used to.

I hope that one day there will be a cure, but in the mean time, it's about knowing your triggers, knowing what helps, and knowing how to treat it.

So, in case any of this rings true for you (and I know this post will reach fellow eczema sufferers as my previous post is my all-time most popular post!), here's mine:

My Triggers
~ Milk products
~ Stress
~ Cleaning products
~ Dust
~ Damp or humid conditions

What Helps
~ Pregnancy and breastfeeding (love those hormones!)
~ A thorough moisturising routine even when it's good
~ Showering to rid the skin of dead skin cells (then moisturising!)
~ Changing bed sheets really regularly and hoovering the mattress
~ Avoiding the triggers
~ Sunshine!

How to treat it
~ Moisturise! Moisturise! Moisturise!
~ Steroid creams (always moisturise the area before applying)
~ Keep an eye out for infection of open sores - no amount of moisturising is going to clear up infected skin.

My Advice
~ Keep going back to your GP or dermatologist until you're satisfied that you have received effective treatment and advice.

~ Force them to look at my skin. I've been to numerous appointments where I've talked about how I'm doing but I haven't actually showed them my skin and the medical professional hasn't asked to see it. Remember, my idea of a 'good day', might be entirely different to a medical 'good day' so even if you think it's good in comparison to what you're used to, show them anyway.

~ Be bold enough to ask the right questions. If I felt like I was just being fobbed off or like the consultant's appointments weren't serving a purpose I would politely say "I feel like I don't understand what the purpose of this is, what are we aiming for?" They're then forced to say something like "We need to help you manage your condition because there isn't a cure", which is then your opportunity to outline how you don't know what you're doing! 

~ Get support. There is a huge psychological, emotional and practical impact to living with eczema. Be honest with your GP, family and close friends about how you're feeling - remember stress is a trigger so anything your family can do to support you or help out around the house (allowing you to avoid cleaning products!) is an appreciated bonus!

To find out more about eczema and National Eczema Week, visit The National Eczema Society.

Coming up this week, I'll be talking about the psychological and emotional impact of being an eczema sufferer as well as showing you the skin care products that have helped my condition. Stay tuned!
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