Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a chronic inflammatory skin condition that usually occurs in children (often starting before age 5) but that can occur at any age. Eczema usually lasts for years but tends to flare up and subside.
Symptoms include cracked, dry or scaly skin that itches, often getting worse at night; red or brown patches, commonly inside the bend of the elbows and knees and, in infants, on the face and scalp; small, raised bumps on the skin that may leak fluid when scratched; and red, swollen skin that’s irritated from scratching.
Researchers haven’t identified a definitive cause of eczema but believe that the condition could be hereditary. Eczema may be a result of a gene variation that affects the performance of the epidermis, which is the outer layer of the skin that acts as a barrier to protect the body from the irritants, allergens and microbes of the outside environment.
Another possible cause of eczema is a dysfunction of the immune system, which generates an inflammatory response to environmental factors.
For years, people blamed eczema on allergies, but eliminating allergens has been found to rarely help clear the condition.
Doctors usually treat eczema with prescription creams that contain steroids and antibiotics. They also recommend antihistamines, hydrocortisone and prescription-strength moisturizers. While pharmaceutical treatments are helpful, they only suppress symptoms and do not heal the root of the problem.
Instead, consider essential oils like lavender oil and tea tree oil, which can act as restorative agents to the skin as well as provide aromatherapy to aid in relaxation and reduce stress.
Lavender oil has antiseptic, antibacterial and antifungal properties that act to restore the skin. Lavender oil gently eases irritation while working to promote a healthy balance of nutrients on the skin.
Tea tree oil acts as a protective agent for the skin with its antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. It also has been shown to help reduce the appearance of scar marks, which may result from constant scratching.
Essential oils are potent and highly concentrated, which means that they may cause skin irritation. Consider combining the oil with a water or oil-based substance to reduce potency.
The aromatic compounds of the lavender and tea tree oils act as a stress reducer, which also is important because stress is one of the primary causes of eczema skin flare-ups. To maximize the aromatic benefits of these essential oils, consider an aromatherapy diffuser.
Other ways to manage eczema
- Choosing mild soaps and detergents without dyes or perfumes and making sure to rinse the soap completely off the body when bathing
- Moisturizing the skin at least twice a day, especially after bathing, to ensure that the skin stays hydrated
- Avoiding excessive bathing, which can cause more dryness
- Wearing cool, smooth-textured cotton clothing
- Avoiding rough, tight or scratchy clothing such as wool
- Using a humidifier if indoor air is hot and dry
- Reducing or eliminating stress
Written by Jessica Braun. Jessica is a health writer at WholesomeONE. She can be reached at jessica.braun[at]wholesomeone[ dot]com.
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