Simple Tips to Improve Your Eczema

Chronic skin ailments are so frustrating.  One very important concept to remember when dealing with a chronic skin problem is that our skin is just one of the organs in our whole body.  It is our largest organ and it is on the outside of our body (for all the world to see and for us to obsess about), but it is still part of the rest of you and it is affected by how you treat the rest of your body.  So no matter what you slather on the outside of you, not much will improve unless you care for the inside of you, too.  This is especially the case when it comes to improving your eczema.

As we already discussed, atopic eczema has its origins in internal imbalances that happen to manifest outwardly on the skin.  So it is of the utmost importance to care for your insides if you want any hope of resolving your eczema.  Below is a list of things you can do to get your eczema under control and improve the health of your skin.  These tips are compiled from many sources including The National Eczema Association, various dermatology textbooks, various Chinese Medicine textbooks and class notes, and (of course) my years of clinical experience.  (Just a reminder, I am not a medical doctor and my blog is in no way a substitute for individual medical advice from your physician.  I am a licensed acupuncturist and board certified in Chinese herbology and we view health and the functioning of the human body in a different way then western scientific medicine.)

Simple Tips to Improve Your Eczema:

FOR KIDS, TEENS and ADULTS:

  • Steer clear of common food allergens (a frequent trigger for atopic eczema): eggs, milk, peanuts, soybeans (including tofu), fish (esp. shellfish and shrimp), and wheat (or other gluten-containing foods like oats, barley and rye).  You may want to research food allergies to get more information or seek the help of a health care practitioner to help you determine which foods you may be allergic to.
  • Avoid foods that are fatty, spicy or fried.  Don’t overindulge in sweets.  Don’t eat too much fish or seafood, esp. shrimp. (This might be tough if you love seafood as much as I do!) Don’t consume too much dairy either (including milk, cheese, yogurt).  From the TCM perspective, excess consumption of any or all of these foods weaken the energy of the Spleen and encourage the development of energetic Dampness and Damp-Heat, a common underlying cause of eczema.
  • Although eating too much fish seems to worsen eczema, increasing intake of fish oil (for the essential fatty acids) seems to help.  Try cod liver oil 3-4 grams daily for one month then cut back to 1 to 2 grams daily.  Flax seed oil is also an option: 1 tsp, 3 times per day (great as salad dressing if you dislike to swallow it alone).  For more information on an anti-inflammatory lifestyle, check out these tips to reduce inflammation in your body.
  • Take good quality probiotics (healthy bacteria for your gut) between meals.  They are a very important factor in keeping the immune system healthy.  Available at health food stores, usually kept refrigerated.
  • If you also have airborne/respiratory allergies (dust mites, mold, seasonal pollens, animal dander, etc.) avoid those allergens as best you can.  Also stay away from people with colds/flu.  If you have any type of immune response it can trigger a flare-up of your eczema.
  • Fluctuations in hormones can trigger eczema, so if you have irregular periods or thyroid issues, keep them well managed.  (TCM is excellent at treating menstrual issues, so find a practitioner near you for help)
  • Avoid over-washing your hands or over-bathing.  Keeping your skin clean is important, but over-cleansing can strip your skin of moisture and actually make your eczema worse.
  • While eating oats may trigger eczema if you are allergic to gluten (due to cross-contamination with wheat during processing), bathing with oats can really reduce itching.  Try adding 2 cups of rolled oats (oatmeal) to your bath.  Soaps and lotions containing oats are good, too.
  • Avoid glycerin soaps or lotions high in glycerin if you live in a really dry climate.  Glycerin is a humectant and is said to attract moisture to the skin.  This is great if the climate you are in is humid but if the air is drier than your skin, a humectant will leach water from your skin into the air.  Not helpful if you want to keep your skin from drying out.
  • Apply moisturizer immediately after bathing.
  • Apply pure aloe vera gel (directly from the plant if possible).
  • Avoid contact with wool: clothing, coats, socks, blankets, upholstery.
  • Avoid extreme temperatures for air as well as water that contacts your skin.  Wash with lukewarm water, avoid really hot and humid climates, stay covered-up in very cold, windy or dry conditions.
  • Hair dyes (even professional salon-quality dyes) can cause allergic reactions.  If you dye your hair, stop doing so for 6 months to see if that may be a cause for your eczema.
  • Stay happy!  (easier said than done, right?)  Emotional stress and upset can exacerbate your skin problems, esp. eczema.  Deal with your stress in healthier ways than stuffing emotions or letting minor annoyances stress you out.  Try acupuncture, yoga or other form of regular exercise.  Walking each day will help more than you may think (take your dog with you!).  Find an acupuncturist near you.
  • If you have herpes simplex infection, get it under control.
  • Apply only high quality skin care products to your face and body.  Cheap cosmetics and lotions often contain harsh or even dangerous ingredients.  Products with high alcohol content will also irritate skin.
  • Ointments and lotions formulated specifically for skin with eczema can be helpful to reduce itching and soothe skin.

FOR BABIES:

  • Keep their nails trimmed short (to break the cycle of itch-scratch-secondary infection of lesions).
  • Keep the skin creases and folds of chubby flesh clean (legs, buttocks, groin, arms, armpits, neck).
  • Avoid contact with wool blankets/clothing.
  • If mom is breast feeding, mom should avoid foods that are fatty, overly sweet, spicy or fried.  Don’t overindulge in fish or seafood, esp. shrimp.  Don’t consume too much dairy either (including milk, cheese, yogurt). From the TCM perspective, these foods encourage the development of energetic Dampness and Damp-Heat.
  • Don’t feed your infant/toddler the above foods.  Also avoid common allergens: eggs, milk, peanuts, soybeans, wheat and fish (already mentioned above).
  • Keep baby clean, but don’t over-bathe them as too much washing can cause dehydration of skin and worsen the condition.
  • Ointments and lotions formulated specifically for skin with eczema can be helpful to reduce itching and soothe skin.
  • Apply pure aloe vera gel (directly from the plant if possible).
  • Mittens (or tiny socks) on their hands at night can reduce scratching in their sleep.

What have YOU found helpful for your eczema?  Or, just as useful, what have you found that makes your eczema worse?  We want to hear from you.  Leave us a comment below….

Tags: atopic dermatitis, atopic eczema, dermatitis, dermatology, eczema, exzema, herbal skin care, natural skin care, rashes, skin care

Topics: Allergies, Beauty, Eczema, Rashes

Publish Date: January 7, 2011     *Articles may include updates since original publishing.

About the Author ()

Diana Hermann is a licensed acupuncturist and board certified in Chinese Herbal Medicine. She received her Master Degree in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine from the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine in Portland, OR and trained in China at the Nanjing University of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Diana treats patients in her Fort Collins, Colorado clinic and hand crafts herbal skin care products for her company Zi Zai Dermatology. In 2015, she completed the Diploma In Chinese Medicine Dermatology program from Avicenna in London, UK.

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  1. Erin says:

    I just wanted to say that I read your biography and I think you are really awesome! I am looking forward to trying out your products soon, and I have a feeling I will become a fan. I also really enjoy reading this blog so thank you for posting in it.

  2. I am glad you enjoy our blog. I work hard to bring useful information to both patients/consumers and TCM practitioners alike 🙂

    • janet says:

      Hi my son is 5 yrs old had a bad eczema pretty much covered all his body.We tookvhim to derma and we have all the meds to taake care the eczema but it only cleared up for few days and back again.I start giving him a oatmeal bath every night and used eucerine lotion after bath. It is still bad until now specially on his face and his back.Im so glad I found this website it helps a lot thank you.

  3. Sue says:

    Dr. Hermann, I’ll definitely try cutting out one allergen at a time to manage eczema. What active ingredient should a good probiotics contain?

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