What can I do about itchy skin?
They justify a potentially expensive trip to the doctor. And since these conditions tend to be chronic, dermatitis and eczema home remedies not only save a lot of money, they also give you quick relief.
Whether problem is dermatitis or eczema, there is one basic rule for getting better:
- If it itches, don't scratch it.
Scratching an itch is instinctual. It's really a kind of self-treatment for skin irritation. Scratching almost any part of your skin triggers a release of chemicals at the base of the spine that overrides the sensation of itching. You feel the scratch, not the itch. The problem with scratching is that it only works as long as you keep on doing it, and very quickly you injure the skin. Scratches can introduce skin infections that become much more unpleasant than the itching they replace.
4 things to avoid for anyone who has eczema or dermatitis
Dermatitis and eczema home remedies can be divided into categories, things you avoid, and things you do. There are four things to avoid in any house or apartment where anyone who has eczema or dermatitis lives:
- Excesses of heat or cold around the home. Sweating can trigger eczema, especially if clothes are too tight. The effects of excessive heat are worst for baby's eczema, but adults can run into problems, too. At the other extreme, cold drafts and cold showers may relieve eczema for a few minutes, but itching intensifies when the skin warms up. An even, comfortable temperature around the home is important for avoiding flare-ups of dermatitis and eczema.
- Chemical triggers for skin inflammation. In adults, contact dermatitis usually has clearly identifiable triggers: latex (which is found in fruits as well as latex gloves), dishwashing detergent, solvents, and metal objects that have nickel plating. In children, eczema is typically triggered by foods. Milk and eggs are usually worst, although children eventually develop tolerance. Skin irritation in both adults and children can be set off by feathers, dog and cat dander, and household cleaners. Vacuuming up pet dander and making sure to have good ventilation when using household cleaners will go a long way toward preventing future attacks.
- Itchy objects. Even if you don't usually have eczema or dermatitis, a household repair project requiring you to handle fiberglass or sheetrock can trigger serious skin irritation. Anything that contains plasticizers, chemicals that keep the product soft until you need it to harden, such as caulk and putty, and trigger an attack.
- Water. Exposing the skin to cold or room temperature water for more than about 5 minutes at a time, or exposing the skin to hot water for even a few seconds, can trigger the release of inflammatory chemicals called cytokines. These agents of inflammation cause the blood vessels just beneath the skin to dilate. More blood flows to the skin so the skin turns red. The chemicals also activate an itch response that basically tells the brain "Get me out of here!" In people who have dermatitis or eczema, unfortunately, the itch response continues even after the skin is removed from water. To prevent the itch, prevent contact with water.
And dermatitis and eczema are made worse by certain medical issues, such as allergies, hypothyroidism, and stress.
Simple approaches to dermatitis and eczema home remedies
There are also some very simple approaches to dermatitis and eczema home remedies that every sufferer of skin problems needs to know. Here are five remedies that cost a little but heal a lot.
- Aloe. Over 300 scientific studies confirm that aloe soothes itchy and inflamed skin and accelerates healing. In the 1940's and 1950's, many people kept an aloe plant in a pot for treating burns, scratches, and itch. You just cut off a leaf and let the sap ooze on the skin. Nowadays, most people simply buy a tube of aloe gel, but people who have eczema or dermatitis need to be sure to read the label. You want a product that's has no fragrances or essential oils—since these also irritate the skin. Aloe is ideal for treating eczema of the areola (the tissue around the nipple) in nursing mothers.
- Ceramides. Ceramides are chemicals that are bad in food (at one point the State of California required a warning label for French fries because of the ceramides that come out of the cooking oil) but great on skin. Ceramides are the compounds that are most often called "skin-identical" ingredients. When ceramides are applied to the skin, the "clean up" cells in the skin that cause inflammation to get rid of damaged skin cells are deactivated. The skin doesn't work overtime to heal itself—which is the underlying problem in many skin conditions. Ceramides are cheap, easy to use, and yield quick relief. Just be sure to avoid products that combine ceramides with fragrances. Dove Moisturizing Lotion is an internationally available product that gets results over a few days and costs very little. CeraVe is an internationally available product that gets faster results but costs a little more. Both products contain safe formulations of ceramides.
- Noxema. This common skin cream contains fragrances, but these particular fragrances are also chemicals that heal the skin. Made with eucalyptus, menthol, and camphor, Noxema triggers skin sensations that override the nerve signals that cause itching. Noxema does not really heal the skin. Your skin has to do that on its own. But by keeping you from scratching, Noxema gives your skin a chance to heal.
- Vinegar. A drop of vinegar can be very useful in treating eczema in the ears, but you don't need more than a drop. If you begin to smell like a pickle barrel, you have already used too much!
- Moisturizers. Anything that keeps skin from forming dry flakes reduces itching. The ingredients to look for in a moisturizer include acetyl glucosamine, aloe, ceramides, and silicones. The ingredients to avoid in a moisturizer include lemon fragrance, lime oil, and citrus extracts, since many people who have dermatitis or eczema have bad reactions to these ingredients. Since moisturizers can contain ingredients that cause allergies, it's always best to test a small drop of the product on the skin of your forearm or wrist and wait 24 hours. If you don't experience additional itch, redness, or inflammation, then try the moisturizer on a larger area of skin.
The thing to keep in mind about dermatitis and eczema home remedies is that they are remedies, not cures. You have to keep using them. If you use dermatitis and eczema home remedies on a regular basis, however, they will enable you to ditch the itch and keep your skin healthy.