The term eczema is widely applied to a range of persistent skin conditions. These include dryness and recurring skin rashes that may have one or more of the following symptoms: redness, skin swelling, itching, crusting, faking, blistering, cracking, oozing, or bleeding. In some languages, dermatitis and eczema are synonyms; in other languages, dermatitis implies an acute condition and eczema a chronic one. It affects about 10-20% of the population. Among the more well-known people who suffer from eczema are Brad Pitt, Nicole Kidman and Adele. The rash can appear on the face, wrists, hands or scalp. Scratching makes the condition worse. Certain chemicals, irritants, foods, excessive heat or stress can cause a flare-up as well.
Eczema is considered a classic allergic disease, along with asthma, hay fever and food allergies. It exhibits no direct reaction to an allergen, but people with eczema may get worse if they are exposed to dust mites, grass, animals, certain foods, or other allergens.
Studies have shown that patients with eczema have a genetic defect in their skin barrier that leaves skin prone to the irritation and inflammation that cause the itching and the rash. The best way to control is to avoid the triggers mentioned above and have a good daily skin routine.
Moisture and More Moisture
The first step is to moisturize constantly. Because the skin becomes very dry, it is important to moisturize at least two or three times a day. After bathing, the moisturizer should be applied within the first two minutes while the skin pores are open and are best able to absorb it.
There are many moisturizing formulas. One recommended by Lipo Chemical is the following anhydrous balm.
|Prunus persica (peach) kernel oil (and) hydrogenated vegetable oil||35.0|
|Prunus armeniaca (apricot) kernel oil (and) hydrogenated vegetable oil||5.0|
|Simmondsia chinensis (jojoba) seed oil||10.0|
|Copernicia cerifera (carnauba) wax||3.0|
|Caprylic/capric triglyceride (and) sea whip extract||0.1|
Procedure: Combine ingredients and mix while heating to 80°C. When uniform, add to container at 60-65°C and allow to cool to 25°C.
Other Ideas for Prevention
To keep skin from drying out, short warm baths every other day are suggested. Experts also recommend avoiding bubble baths, harsh soaps, scented body washes, washcloths, sponges and loofahs. Also do not wash clothes in harsh detergents.
One way to control the itching and prevent scratching is the use of an antihistamine. Another way is to treat the rash with medications that reduce inflammation—topical steroids are effective.
Other medications called immunomodulators may also be used but they require a prescription and should be taken under a doctor’s care. Antibiotics may be prescribed if there is a superimposed infection.
This skin condition can occur at any age, but with proper skin care practices, the itchy red rash can be treated and flare-ups prevented.
Harvey M. Fishman
Harvey Fishman has a consulting firm in Wanaque, NJ, specializing in cosmetic formulations and new product ideas, offering tested finished products. He has more than 30 years of experience and has been director of research at Bonat, Nestlé LeMur and Turner Hall. He welcomes descriptive literature from suppliers and bench chemists and others in the field.