Updated: Aug 17, 2019
Living in the mountains can really dry out your skin. Personally, I've had eczema since I was about 5 years old. For a long time it was just on the inside of my elbows. It would come and go every season. Over the last year, it's dramatically gotten worse and spread up my arms, to my fingers, on to my neck, into my hair, and behind my knees. Desperate for a non-topical steroid (hydrocortisone) treatment, I tried any advice I was given.
Here's what actually worked for me:
1. Cleaning the Skin:
I was recently in a UCSD dermatology study. The whole focus was bacteria on, and around, eczema. Some research shows a link between eczema and a "bad" bacteria as the cause of eczema. It is important to keep your skin clean; however, many soaps leave your skin dry and many increase symptoms due to their ingredients. I found it is a must to stay away from soap with fragrance and alcohol. I've had great luck with bar milk soap. It doesn't burn or leave my skin dry. I also have good luck with tea tree oil soap. Personally, I lather my skin in milk soap and them use a loofah sponge or sandstone to lightly scrub my skin. A plain, no fragrance sugar scrub will have to same results as a loofah or sandstone. The soap cleans the skin while the sponge or stone scrapes away the dead skin. By removing the dead skin, this decreases the amount the skin itches. After you get out of the shower/bath, make sure to tap your skin dry with a towel and apply lotion immediately. I have noticed my skin doesn't dry out as fast if I shower at night.
For a long time, I felt like lotion was making my eczema worse. Turns out it was. I was using the wrong lotion for my skin. There are lots of lotions that say they are just for eczema; to my disappointment I have had bad luck with most of them (Cetaphil Eczema Calming Body Moisturizer, Neosporin Eczema Essentials, Aquaphor, Touch of Mink, and Aveeno Eczema Therapy Itch Relief Balm). Just like with the soap, you want to avoid fragrances and alcohol. Currently, I am using plain Cetaphil. I have had really good luck with Eucerin Baby Eczema Body Crème and Udderly Smooth Udder Cream as well. The key is to put lotion on within two minutes of getting out of the shower. Then reapply lotion throughout the day.
3. Acrylic Nails:
Yes, that's right. I said fake nails! The doctor kept telling me I need to cut my nails super short and wear mittens at night to keep myself from unconsciously scratching in my sleep. Both were out of the question for me. A friend suggested that I should just get acrylic nails. Sure enough, it worked! The thickness and even surface of the acrylics doesn't break through my skin when I scratch, especially in my sleep. My skin isn't inflamed, and I haven't woken up with large open scratch marks in months. It's the closest solution I have come across to "cure" my eczema.
Through an allergy test, I found out I'm extremely allergic to dust mites. Turns out that a dust-mite allergy can cause eczema and eczema increases the dust mite population in your home. What a never-ending cycle. The dry skin that is shedding off you allows someone with eczema to support a couple million more mites than a person with an average shedding rate. Eww! An antihistamine is usually recommended to help with dust mite-allergies. Not only does the antihistamine help with the dust mite symptoms, it will decrease the the inflammation and eczema irritation. I use generic Zyrtec from Costco. You can't beat Costco's price!