Ask Dr. Parks, Skin Care

What is Eczema and How Do You Treat it?

Your skin is dry and flaky, may be itchy in some patches and red and irritated in others. Is it just dry skin, or is it something more? If it’s a consistent thing for your skin, you may have a condition known as eczema. Many don’t realize that eczema is actually characterized as a group of conditions; seven to be exact. There’s atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, dyshidrotic eczema, nummular eczema, seborrheic dermatitis and stasis dermatitis. These names may sound scary, but in reality, eczema is fairly common. According to the National Eczema Association, over 31 million Americans have some sort of eczema. The exact cause of eczema is unknown, but it’s known that eczema is usually found in those with the genetics for it. Environmental factors also play a big part of eczema; when an irritant from the environment gets inside of the body, it causes the immune system to activate, causing inflammation throughout the body.

What are the symptoms of eczema?

The symptoms of eczema can look different for everyone, but generally, those suffering from eczema will see itchiness of the skin, sometimes becoming so severe that it can cause the skin to be seriously inflamed, or even bleed. You’ll also notice your skin is generally dry, sensitive, and flaky, in addition to seeing discolored patches of skin and even some swelling in especially inflamed areas. Another important thing to remember about eczema is that it can appear in flare-ups, or may not develop until later in life. But, not to fear- although there’s no cure for eczema, there are products and treatments that can help ease your symptoms. Read on!

What ingredients should I avoid if I have eczema?

Fragrances: Ingredients that are known to give your products that warm and cozy smell, or that whiff of citrus, can cause eczema flare-ups, especially for those with sensitive skin. Your best bet is to look for products that say “fragrance-free” to prevent itchy, irritated skin.

Retinoids: Retinoids like retinol can be great for healing acne and preventing aging, but their cell turnover properties and exfoliation can make dry skin even more dry and dehydrated, and even cause more inflamed eczema. Eczema usually brings about a weak skin barrier, making ingredients like retinol more irritating rather than beneficial.

AHAs/BHAs: Similar to retinol, alpha and beta hydroxy acids are known for their chemical exfoliation properties for the skin, helping to increase the rate of cell turnover and help reduce the overproduction of oil in the skin. These acids can be irritating for any skin type when used excessively, but for those suffering with eczema, it can dry out the skin even more.

What ingredients should I use if I have eczema?

Ceramides: As the skin becomes dry, itchy, and flaky, it loses water and moisture within the skin, affecting the moisture barrier of the skin and making it vulnerable to irritants that can cause an eczema flare-up. Ceramides are known to help repair the barrier of the skin and hold in moisture, making the skin stronger and less vulnerable to environmental irritants and eczema flare-ups. The Replenix Restorative Nighttime Bio-Therapy uses ceramides, peptides, stem cells, antioxidants and more to restore and renew irritated and inflamed skin for softer and healthier skin. There’s also the Elta MD Barrier Renewal Complex, formulated with ceramides, squalane, and biotin to repair the skin barrier and keep skin hydrated and eczema-free.

Shea Butter: You’ve probably seen shea butter featured as an ingredient in many different lotions and moisturizers. It’s rich in Vitamins A and E, along with essential fatty acids, helping to keep eczema-prone skin hydrated and keep the barrier of the skin strong. Keep your skin hydrated and strong with the Syndaghi Repair & Renew Sensitive Skin and Recovery Cream, formulated with shea butter and peptides. This cream nourishes and moisturizes skin to reduce eczema flare-ups and create healthier and softer skin. Another great option is the La Roche Posay Toleriane Ultra, formulated with shea butter, glycerin, dimethicone and squalane to soothe irritated skin and heal damage.

Niacinamide: You know it, you love it: niacinamide. It’s also known as Vitamin B3, which is known to repair and nourish the skin. It also has anti-inflammatory properties, helping to soothe inflammation in the skin that cause flare-ups of dry, itchy eczema patches. It also has the ability to stimulate the production of ceramides, working to reduce the amount of eczema flare-ups in the skin. The Allies of Skin Prebiotics & Niacinamide Pore Refining Booster contains niacinamide, probiotics, prebiotics, and multiple natural extracts to provide the skin with a boost of reparative nutrients and repair the barrier of the skin. For a lightweight yet moisturizing formula, try the Sente Ultralight Defense Moisturizer with niacinamide, dimethicone and other natural extracts to keep the skin moisturized while providing antioxidant benefits.

Glycerin: Glycerin is a substance derived from vegetable oil and alcohol, known to attract water and trap it in the skin. This helps to keep the skin hydrated and supple and decrease the amount of itchy, dry patches caused by eczema. You can find it in products like the Neova Daily Moisture Rescue, with amino acids and peptides in addition to glycerin. It helps to enhance moisture retention in the skin and help to encourage a stronger skin barrier and help to relieve dry and inflamed skin. The DCL Ultra Comfort Cream has glycerin and is specifically formulated for those suffering from conditions like eczema and psoriasis to relieve redness and soothe irritation.


About Dr. Alan J. Parks

Dr. Alan Parks is a board certified dermatologist. Dr. Parks founded his practice, Eastside Dermatology, in 1986 and has been practicing there ever since. In 2016 Dr. Parks launched DermWarehouse, an eCommerce website selling professional strength skin care products to customers across the United States.

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