Dealing with atopic dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis has been my companion since my early teens and it deserves it’s own post! Mainly because I hope that my practices will be helpful for some of you. For the past few years, I can say that I’m managing it very successfully and it doesn’t hinder me in my life or in my passion for skin care. In this post I will reveal the key practices that helped me get to this point.

Let me first explain what atopic dermatitis even is.

Atopic dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis is a chronic skin condition that makes your skin red, dry, covered in eczema and itchy, which can be followed by inflammation due to scratching. Conventional medicine hadn’t come up with a cure yet, it only treats symptoms. I like to joke that when doctors can’t find the cause of some skin condition, they diagnose atopic dermatitis.

The cure is not exactly around the corner because it is not as simple as with the common eczema. An ordinary allergic reaction on the skin usually subsides quickly after we remove the trigger (allergen), but with atopic dermatitis there are too many triggers. These can also be very individual and not exactly typical, so it is hard to avoid them. We are just like sensitive mimosas – even dry air can be the cause of outbreaks! This is because the main problem are not the triggers but the chronically weak and damaged skin barrier, which can’t be cured with a magic pill. Furthermore, the itching that is followed by scratching makes even more damage to an already weak skin barrier and deepens the atopic dermatitis vicious cycle:

   Source: Eucerin promo materials

I’ve already talked about the importance of a healthy skin barrier in my previous posts. If I resume –  the skin barrier is our natural protection against irritating external factors. When it is weakened or damaged our skin is more vulnerable to irritants. This results in skin eczema, redness, itching, irritation, acne etc.

You can read more about the skin barrier here: Impaired skin barrier? Let’s fix it!

A damaged skin barrier can happen to anyone due to improper skincare, but with atopic dermatitis is business as usual. Strengthening and protecting our skin barrier is therefore an absolute priority, always. This is the only way to break the vicious cycle! Effective »atopic skincare« is not only a matter of resolving outbreaks, but it also involves a comprehensive and long-term approach with proper skincare.

Many sufferers concentrate only on the outbreaks without realizing, that atopic dermatitis is a companion that never leaves. That is because it has two phases:

  • Remission: the skin doesn’t display any symptoms
  • Acute outbreak: eczema, itching, redness and inflammation of the skin

Because of remissions some might mistakenly think that this is the end of the story. Some of them might don’t even have the right diagnosis. The thing is, atopic dermatitis is not going to leave anywhere soon and we need to learn how manage it hollisticaly. Let’s take a look how:

We can handle it!

There are a few recommendations I follow that help me strengthen my skin barrier and hollisticaly manage this condition:

  • Laundry detergents, fabric softeners and cleaning products are among the most typical triggers of atopic dermatitis outbreaks. We have to choose gentle detergents intended for sensitive skin. It is better to totally avoid fabric softeners, even if they are presumably gentle and safe (better safe than sorry). For our home we shall choose cleaning products that are more natural. We always need to protect your skin from direct contact with any cleanser (gloves and appropriate clothing).
  • Attention garment fabrics: we should avoid synthetic and irritating materials (coarse wool).
  • Healthy living space: we must pay attention to air humidity when  indoors as much as possible. We try to avoid polluted environment, tobacco smoke, dusty areas, pollen, excessive heat and also excessive sweating. We also need to pay attention to other triggers in the environment – if there are any that may cause us problems, like prolonged contact with water (swimming pools, sea), etc.
  • Less stress: we already know that stress is the source of all evil, and this time is no exception. Stress is a common trigger of atopic dermatitis, so we should try to avoid it as much as possible (I know it is easier said than done)
  • Nutrition: food can be medicine or poison. We shall keep track if certain foods cause us outbreaks and eliminate them from our diet. Nutritional supplements such as Omega 3 fats and B-Complex can be also really helpful – consult your doctor about taking them.
  • Caution with prescription drugs: topical corticosteroid ointments are often used to treat the symptoms and oh boy they work fast – nothing short of miraculous. Miracles, of course, come with a price tag and in this case in a form of possible serious side effects. Corticosteroids should be used specifically as directed by your doctor and only when they are absolutely necessary. Improper and prolonged use deepens the vicious cycle of atopic dermatitis, because they make the skin thinner and thus more susceptible to external irritants. They are also associated with a form of addiction that the skin develops in relation to these substances. For more information look for “red skin syndrome”, which is a serious skin condition associated with long-term corticosteroid use.
  • Appropriate skincare: well, that deserves its own chapter.

Atopic dermatitis requires a hollistic approach and appropriate skincare

Atopic Skincare

As I’ve already pointed out, consistency is key. The use of appropriate cosmetic products is very important in the care of atopic skin. Even when our condition is in remission we must not relax and forget about it. The safest option is using products that are intended for atopic skin which don’t contain irritating ingredients (e.g. fragrances, certain preservatives) and are formulated to gently restore skin moisture, lipids and soothe inflammation. Moisture and lipids strengthen our skin barrier, which can prolong the remission phases and reduce outbreaks. In the case of outbreaks it is particularly important to stick to appropriate products without experimenting.

Here are some important guidelines for atopic skin care:

  • Cleansers are important too: appropriate atopic skincare includes cleansers too. As aggressive cleansing products can damage even a healthy skin barrier it is very important to choose wisely if we have atopic skin. We need to choose cleansers that have the right pH factor with a formulation that nourishes and soothes our skin without irritation and drying (oils, syndets).
  • Hot water is a big no: hot water dries the skin and makes it more susceptible to outbreaks.
  • Quick showers: atopic skin doesn’t like water in general so we don’t indulge in long showers or bathing. Our showering is fast and shall be practiced only when it is necessary. Water and chlorine generally dry the skin, even if the water is not too hot.
  • We are gentle: we dry our skin by softly patting it with a towel. We never pull, rub or scrub (mechanical peelings are definitely not our cup of tea). No scratching! Good skincare products for atopic skin can effectively  help manage the itch.
  • Keep it simple: avoid layering and mixing cosmetic »cocktails« on your face. If you’re a woman you might be influenced by cosmetic trends that promote layering 277382 products. This trends are »death« for atopic skin, since these »cocktails« mix various incompatible ingredients among which many can be irritating. Such routines are most definitely not suitable for atopic skin (in my opinion they are not suitable for healthy skin either). Our skincare routines should be simple and based on quality products that support and strengthen our skin barrier.
  • Natural is not necessarily safer nor better: although natural might sound like a safer choice this is not a black and white topic. In general, designed synthetic ingredients made in a controlled environment are much safer for atopic skin. I’ve written a lot about this in my articles on Natural Skin Care Products – Is Natural in cosmetics better and safer? If we choose natural products, we shall do our homework and check them thoroughly: Is my natural cosmetic product really natural?

Now let’s get more personal:

Eucerin AtopiControl products are very effective for managing atopic dermatitis in both phases

My Atopic Skin

My atopic dermatitis is not severe. My outbreaks are limited to the chest area, the insides of my forearms, the nipples, wrists, forehead and the neck. I have a side effect of atopic dermatitis on my palms, a condition called dyshidrosis. This requires its own post, since it is a problem that I address differently than atopic dermatitis. My skin is in general more sensitive, dry and has a permanently weakened skin barrier, but as I stick to the rules above and I have a well planned skincare, my outbreaks are really seldom. I usually have them if I »abuse« active ingredients and when I’m under severe stress.

I must admit I’m not always using safe cosmetic products, but hey, I’m a beauty blogger! I need to experiment a little bit! In general I stick to all the non-cosmetic recommendations and I know how to mingle among actives and »atopic care« plus I know how to effectively deal with any possible damage. I’m always very focused on making my barrier stronger with the right products. In general I don’t recommend any experimenting if you have moderate or severe atopic dermatitis. In this cases it is safer to consistently stick to safe cosmetic products designed for atopic skin, that effectively strenghten the skin barrier.

Among these, I will talk more about Eucerin AtopiControl products, as I use them regularly. I even have some absolute favorites for everyday care in their lovely bunch. Those of you who have been following me for some time, have certainly heard about my love affair with AtopiControl face cream. This baby earned a special spot in our bathroom in the past years and it is the only face cream  that I repurchased 10 times! Although I don’t have many outbreaks, the skin on my face often reacts to active ingredients with rough texture. AtopiControl quickly smooths my skin back to normal! Regardless of all the great creams I have a privilege to test, AtopiControl is still my favorite. I’ve tested the whole line of AtopiControl products – some already in the past, some I’ve discovered just lately and I’ll be happy to introduce them in more detail in my next post! Stay tuned!

Eucerin AtopiControl face cream – my precious, my savior

This post is suported by Eucerin.  

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