Nothing is more anguishing than a relentless itch that is hard to ignore. That’s atopic dermatitis in a nutshell; that’s what people with the condition have to live with for long periods.
If you have it, you know how frustrating the condition is and how helpless and tired you can end up feeling at the end of a flare. As terrible as this skin condition is – there are things that you can do to keep it under control so you lead a more comfortable life.
It all begins with understanding atopic dermatitis – what it is, its causes, symptoms, and triggers.
Here’s a look at all that and also at atopic dermatitis self-care, something you can do easily to avoid flareups or reduce their intensity.
Table of Contents:
- What is atopic dermatitis?
- What is self-care for atopic dermatitis, and why is it important?
- Day-to-day atopic dermatitis self-care tips
- In the shower
- Avoid triggers
- How to wash your clothes
- Atopic-dermatitis-friendly diet
- A healthy mind
- The importance of moisturizing your skin
- How to choose a moisturizer for atopic dermatitis
- When to see a doctor
What is atopic dermatitis?
Atopic dermatitis is the most common type of eczema - a chronic (long-lasting) skin condition (not a disease). Scaly and itchy rash predominantly characterizes it.
The condition is a kind of allergic reaction (atopic refers to allergies), causing the skin to become red and itchy.
If you suffer from atopic dermatitis, you might experience periods when the condition flares up (outbreaks), followed by periods when your skin feels normal.
Atopic dermatitis typically starts in the early years of life - infancy or early childhood (before age 2), and it can persist well into adulthood.
While it is common in children, it can occur at any age. Sadly, there is no cure for this condition. The good news is that it can be controlled to some extent.
Atopic dermatitis self-care measures can help prevent new outbreaks. Even the flareups you end up with can be made bearable with regular care.
Atopic dermatitis is caused by various factors, including genetics, stress, environmental triggers, and an immune system that overreacts to allergens or minor irritants.
Environmental triggers include air pollutants, smoke, harsh soaps, and even certain fabrics and skin products.
Stress factors that are often found alongside atopic dermatitis (but might not be the conditions cause) are anxiety, irritability, mood swings, low self-esteem, and even depression or difficulty relaxing.
The symptoms of atopic dermatitis are apparent and impossible to ignore. Atopic dermatitis self-care includes taking care of each of these symptoms.
Symptoms of atopic dermatitis include:
- Very dry skin
- Itchy skin
- Red rashes and/or bumps on the skin
- Red or brownish-gray patches are especially notable on the hands, wrists, feet, ankles, upper chest, eyelids, elbows, knees, and neck.
- Scaly, cracked, thickened, or leathery patches of skin
- Crusting skin
- Skin that has become raw, sensitive, or swollen from scratching
Atopic dermatitis self-care must consider all the causes and symptoms for a holistic treatment approach.
What is self-care for atopic dermatitis, and why is it important?
Self-care for atopic dermatitis includes staying focused on your physical and mental health and avoiding anything that can trigger inflammation.
It includes considering dietary and environmental factors and keeping stress levels checked.
By taking care of your skin condition daily, you learn to improve your health, reduce flares, and lead a happier life.
Day-to-day atopic dermatitis self-care tips
- Dry skin is the most predominant atopic dermatitis symptom, so the first self-care tip is to keep the skin moisturized, lubricated, and hydrated at all times. That means using an excellent moisturizer at least three times a day. One of those times should be immediately after showering when the body is still damp and quickly absorbs anything applied.
- If you have been prescribed topical steroids or other prescription creams, use them as prescribed. Regular use of these creams can control the itchy sensations and reduce the need to scratch your skin.
- Keep nails short, so you don’t hurt yourself when scratching. Wearing gloves at nighttime will ensure you don’t scrape and bruise your skin accidentally.
- When it comes to clothes, stick to cool cotton, linen, and absorbent materials in summer. Avoid buying clothes with tags as these could rub against your skin and cause irritation.
- Avoid scratchy materials for your clothes and bedding.
- Keep the humidifier on at home so the air around you isn’t as dry, and that will also help your skin stay moist and soft.
In the shower
- When it comes to showers, less is more. Bathe no more than once a day. Ensure your skin’s contact with water is as short as possible.
- Shower with cool, tepid, or warm water and never hot water.
Avoid harsh soaps and body washes, and opt for gentle cleansers that are mild and fragrance-free.
- Avoid bubble baths
- Use cleansers only on body parts prone to get grimy or sweaty – underarms, groin area, hands, feet, and face.
- When drying yourself, don’t rub the skin too hard. Instead, pat your skin gently with a soft, absorbent towel.
- Moisturize your body immediately after a shower when your skin is still damp to tramp in as much moisture in the skin as possible.
- If a topical medication must be applied to the skin, use it when your skin is still not completely dry, so your skin absorbs most of the medicine. Apply a moisturizer over the medication.
- While in the shower, keep an eye out for rashes, redness, warmth, or swelling, which are all signs of infection. The first signs of infection must be treated immediately.
- Identify triggers that worsen your condition and then avoid them. Some triggers include soaps, detergents, pollen, dust, stress, obesity, and sweat.
- Stay clear of anything you have noticed that makes your atopic dermatitis symptoms worse. These could be foods, certain types of clothing or bedding fabric, or even chemicals in your detergent.
- Sweating can cause a rash, so don’t overdress in warm weather to the point you sweat profusely.
- Avoid sudden changes in body temperature. That could cause you to sweat or worsen your condition.
- Stay away from harsh chemicals, solvents, detergents, and soaps.
How to wash your clothes
- Harsh detergents are a strict no when you have atopic dermatitis – even in times of remission or between flareups.
- Don’t go overboard with the amount of detergent you use – stick to the recommended amount of detergent in your washing machine.
- Ensure your clothes are thoroughly rinsed out and free of all detergent.
- Wash new clothes before you wear them to eliminate irritants, dyes, and fabric finishers that could cause a rash.
Research has found a connection between foods and dermatitis, and it is a well-established truth that certain foods trigger atopic dermatitis.
Some foods can trigger rapid immunoglobulin E-mediated hypersensitivity reactions, leading to late (anywhere from a few hours to two days) eczematous reactions. Other reactions could be more immediate (a few minutes to a few hours).
If you suspect certain foods cause flares, avoid those foods. An allergy test can help determine what foods can exacerbate flares.
Follow a diet that promotes healthy skin and has anti-inflammatory properties.
Some foods that you could consider adding to your diet are:
- Fatty fish like herring or salmon (or omega-3 supplements).
- Fruits like cherries, berries, and apples.
- Vegetables like kale, spinach, and broccoli.
- Sourdough bread.
- Soft cheeses.
- Miso soup.
A healthy mind
Staying in the right frame of mind is as essential as following a healthy diet.
Here are some tips to help you stay calm, stress-free, and yet alert.
- Try relaxation techniques like yoga and deep breathing.
- Immerse yourself in creative hobbies and activities that interest you.
- Get a good night’s sleep – every night.
- Be mindful of your choices and your surroundings.
- Exercise regularly.
- Find an atopic dermatitis support group.
The importance of moisturizing your skin
If you suffer from atopic dermatitis, the essential thing is to moisturize your skin. Moisturizers, creams, lotions, and ointments help seal in moisture. Moisturizers also penetrate the deepest layers of the skin and help reorganize skin layers structures.
Moisturizers help control the itch and rash associated with atopic dermatitis. A good moisturizer used regularly can prevent a vicious cycle of itching, scratching, and inflammation.
When moisturizers lock in water, they also create a barrier against irritants.
Regularly moisturizing your skin can lower inflammation levels.
How to choose a moisturizer for atopic dermatitis
A variety of environmental factors can trigger a flare-up, so it’s crucial to stick to moisturizers that are atopic-dermatitis-friendly.
That means choosing moisturizers that are free of alcohol, chemicals you might be allergic to, strong fragrances and scents, and dyes.
Many moisturizers and emollients are available in the market designed to be used at a specific time of the day. For example, you might find a fantastic moisturizer with a sunscreen that is great for daytime use and one rich in vitamin C that can be used at nighttime.
Choose thick creams, oils, and body butter over lotions.
Rich Olive Body Butter from WOW Skin Science is perfect for dry, scaly skin. This rich formula of virgin olive oil and sweet almond oil is also rich in vitamins A, B, D, and E that quench your skin’s thirst for nourishment. Shea butter protects and repairs your skin and provides a natural lipid barrier. It’s the perfect remedy for excessively dry skin.
A healthy mind is as important as healthy skin, which you get with Thai Body Massage Oil. Jojoba oil strengthens, protects, and repairs your skin, while coconut oil and argan oil moisturize your skin and heal wounds. Massage this oil into your body from head to toe to strengthen the skin structure and repair skin damage. Follow up the massage with a warm shower to rejuvenate your body and mind.
Body Butter Nargis is designed to protect dry and sensitive skin. This luxuriously nourishing formula contains aloe vera extracts with soothing and antioxidant properties to calm irritated skin. Shea butter hydrates and moisturizes dry skin, and Nargis extract soothes sensitive and damaged skin.
If you prefer lotions, try something like Shea Butter & Cocoa Butter Moisturizing Lotion, designed to provide your skin with 24-hour deep hydration and moisturization. This body lotion is suitable for dry skin types and wipes away every bit of dryness, leaving your skin supple and smooth. Regular use can help your skin retain hydration, soothe inflammation, repair damage, and boost collagen production.
Whether you use body butter, oils, or creams, the products must be free of parabens, silicones, and colors. WOW Skin Science’s range of body butter, oils, and creams is free of mineral oils, parabens, silicones, color, and PG.
Often, the best products are found only by trial and error. Once you have found a moisturizer that works for you, stick to it.
When to see a doctor
- Sometimes, atopic dermatitis self-care is not enough, and you might need to seek medical help.
- Seek medical attention if:
You feel so uncomfortable that your skin condition affects your daily activities and sleep
- Your skin infection shows red streaks, yellow scabs, or pus – or any other signs of infection accompanied with or without fever.
- The moisturizers and topical ointments that you use don’t provide you with relief.
- You continue to experience symptoms even after trying all the home remedies for a few weeks.
Inflammation, redness, an insatiable itch, bleeding from split skin, and even skin infections are all a part of the regular life of someone suffering from atopic dermatitis.
There is no cure, but the condition can be managed and controlled with these atopic dermatitis self-care tips. If you still don’t find relief with regular care, please consult a dermatologist.
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