Dry skin that is itchy and sensitive may sound normal. Whether it is due to a drastic weather change, like winter, or simply forgetting to put on your lotion, this itch may seem minute. However, many people experience these dry, itchy patches of the skin that can be embarrassing and painful called atopic dermatitis, or commonly called eczema. Eczema is a skin condition that affects approximately 35 million Americans. Sixteen percent of these affected people are African Americans, per a US National Library of Medicine National Institute of Health study. Eczema on black skin can also be different than on the skin of other races.
This dermatological condition is a dry skin condition. Although it varies from person to person, it often presents as scaling, flaking, itching, scarring, and redness. In more severe cases, this extreme itching can worsen the skin, causing it to crack, bleed, and leave open lesions. Dr. Cara McDonald, a dermatologist, shares her professional opinion on eczema. She says, “In all types of eczema there is a barrier defect in the skin. I explain to my patients that their skin with eczema is like having a brick wall, where you have lost all your mortar; all your bricks are just loose and stuff goes straight through them, rather than being water tight. Something as simple as a moisturizer will replace that mortar and stop the stuff from flowing in.” These open lesions pose risks to infection. This condition can make daily tasks painful, and difficult to complete.
Knowing your triggers of eczema is crucial. These triggers commonly are the use of products, food allergies, and stress. Everyday products, even those that are natural, can irritate the skin. These can include hand soaps, laundry detergents, body washes, shampoos, and cleaning products. Per the National Eczema Association, other common irritants include: metals, cigarette smoke, fragrances, specific fabrics, and formaldehyde (which can be found in household disinfectants and adhesives).
The body reacts to stress in the same way. If it is stress for work, classes, relationships, other personal situations, or being worried about their eczema, the body will react to it. Harsh weather conditions, like winter, can also stress the skin. Avoiding these triggers will play a large role in controlling flare ups.
These three methods are key to treating and soothing the skin:
Create a skincare routine. Maintaining a routine can help control your eczema. The skin reacts better with consistency. Once you have a created a routine, sticking to it will help familiarize your skin with products.