I’ve suffered from Eczema my whole life: as a baby, through my childhood, my dancing teens and now as an adult. At all points it’s been uncomfortable and felt at times pretty embarrassing. Before I answer the questions you all sent in, I’m going to give you a brief little history of my experiences with this skin condition.
As a young child and through my early teens I had very bad eczema in the creases of my arms, knees and underneath my neck. I used to refer to this as my snood of eczema.…very sexy stuff. As a young child I can remember running away from the post-bath E45 my mum would try and drown my skin in, and in my teens I can remember trying a concoction of Manuka Honey products that would ensure my skin stuck to everything in sight. Needless to say I tried and tested it all!
Training as a professional ballerina, I was often very hot and sweaty which anyone with Eczema will tell you is just adding flames to the fire. My lifestyle didn’t help soothe my skin, and would often make it much worse.
There was a lot of focus put on the products I applied to my skin – face paint was a big no-no as a child, as was most makeup in my teens, only using the most natural brands and minimal amounts. While the focus was on the surface, food and diet was ignored and never something I thought contributed.
If you’ve been a member of the Sassy Squad long before this blog post you may know that one of the driving forces behind the start of Naturally Sassy was my discovery that dairy was the main cause of my Eczema. My mum and sister both had negative responses to it, and on a whim I decided to remove my morning yoghurt, milk and favourite chocolates from my day-to-day. This change in my diet was overwhelmingly positive and in just a few months my Eczema had completely disappeared – Holy mole, it was that (ch)easy?!
For about 3 years after this discovery eczema was no longer a daily problem for me. I would have small patches from time to time; when I was particularly stressed, overheated or when someone told me it was tofu in my salad and it was actually feta. Otherwise, problem solved…
Three years ago I met my sweet, goofy boyfriend Riley. I think we all say we’re allergic to our boyfriends from time to time, but I get to say that on a daily basis and I’m being completely literal not just making a passive aggressive comment about him not doing the dishes. When we started dating I got a completely new kind of eczema, all over my forearms, upper arms, shoulders and eye lids. In the two decades of my relationship with eczema we’d never gotten there. Over the three years Riley and I have been together we’ve spent a lot of times apart in other cities. Just like clock work the Eczema would be raging whilst we were together and would completely disappear as soon as we would part. We now live together in LA, so me and my eczema have become pretty reliable friends. I often think about my Eczema in two additions, the first had such a nice ending there had to be a sequel. The sequel I’m still currently writing.
With two very different experiences having and treating Eczema, I’ve learnt a lot about skincare products, and alternate healing methods. I reached out to you all and asked what you wanted to know, and below you can find my answers.
What Flares your Eczema?
Dairy products, excess sugars, stress, heat, dust, change in hormones.. it’s always worse before and during my period.
What helps to treat and soothe your Eczema presently?
I try to treat my Eczema from both a medical and holistic perspective, treating the symptoms and some of the obvious causes. In terms of medical treatments I do use steroid cream (1% cortisone). I’m not particularly proud of my need for this, but it is absolutely the one consistent thing I’ve found actually works. It reduces the redness, soothes my skin and when I apply it regularly can greatly reduce the amount visible.
I’m aware that two big factors that contribute to my flare ups are stress and hormones. When I’m stressed one of my reactions is to scratch my arms or other inflamed areas. As soon as I catch myself doing this I try and intervene with some calming movement. I’ll take a few minutes to walk around the office focussing on my breathing. If I’m at home I’ll do a 10 minute stretch flow to release all the tension built up.
Do you think food can be a contributing factor?
Absolutely I do, and I saw this first hand as I discovered my dairy intolerance and it’s link to my eczema. I think what you put into your body is just as important as what you are putting on it. I’ve seen big improvements for myself with a low-sugar and dairy-free diet.
What makeup brands would you suggest?
I have to be very careful what I choose to put on my face, in particular my eyes. I’ve tried and tested a lot of different companies and the best two I’ve found are Bare Minerals and Glo Minerals.
What moisturisers do you use?
All moisturisers, face oils and cleansers I buy from Balance Me. I absolutely love their product line, and use their cleanse and smooth face balm religiously.
Do you find that perfumed products and sunscreens make your skin react?
Yes, I’m pretty careful about which sunscreens I use. I’ve found that the brand Lancaster has no reaction, so I’ve stuck to that.
Is Eczema an insecurity of yours?
It used to be much more than it is now. Growing up it made me incredibly depressed, I felt very helpless. As I’ve grown into myself and my confidence I feel far less concerned with how others view me. I do get quite insecure if I’m filming with a new camera crew, and my arms are on full display. Equally when someone asks “what happened to your arm” or comments on how bad it’s looking it does get me down. I can quite quickly turn this feeling around for myself, just by taking action or putting it in perspective.
I’m still trying to work out what product I’m using that I may be allergic to, and gives me random flare ups. Any tips?
Look at everything you put on your body: Soaps, shampoos, conditioners, oils, sunscreen, makeup etc. Then look at the detergent you’re using, as this can be a big one. I wash my clothes in Ecover, and other detergents do sometimes give my skin a bad reaction. Then look at food, what you can do quite easily is remove foods you suspect from your diet one at a time to see if any of these lead to improvements. This is how I discovered dairy was a huge trigger for my Eczema.
My eczema on my arms really flares up when I exercise. What are your top tips for coping with this?
The best thing you can do is to try and keep yourself as cool as possible, as its often the heat that flares it up. I try to workout in a cool room and don’t wear anything covering the Eczema. Afterwards I’ll take a cool shower, and once dry will apply some lotion or cortisone.
You still have Eczema, how do you plan on treating this going forward?
I know when I’m stressed it gets worse, and that’s something I can easily work on and will continue to. I’m also trying a new cream that includes CBD (not THC). I’ve heard incredible things about the benefit of CBD on skin, and as I continue to try this natural lotion I will keep you updated on how it (hopefully) helps.
I hope this blog post may be helpful to some of you who feel a little helpless with their skin. It’s confusing and it takes trial and error, you are not alone. Let’s continue the conversation over on IG @naturally.sassy