As promised, I wanted to take a few moments to address something we see in the Allergy clinic on a daily basis — sensitive skin. Almost all our patients, especially those who also have asthma and allergies, have some degree of sensitive skin. The severity of each patient’s skin sensitivity varies, and many of our patients struggle with the most severe form of sensitive skin — eczema.
First of all, I think it’s helpful to get a little background on our skin’s role. Our skin was created to be our immune system’s first defense against the world. In the medical world, we refer to the skin as “the barrier”, and this barrier needs to be kept strong and hydrated in order to do what it needs to do — keep out bacteria and other germs from entering into our bloodstream through microscopic sized cuts (microabrasions) in our skin. So, it’s a big deal and taking good care of your skin is crucial to maintain your body’s first defense against the world.
So how does our skin’s integrity become compromised? One of the biggest triggers for patients with sensitive skin is fragrance and dyes. Unfortunately, fragrance and dyes are in just about every product that you likely regularly put on your skin. Think about your detergent, hand soap, dish soap, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, lotion, perfume, etc. You likely enjoy that sweet smell of “fresh orchids “or “cascading waterfalls” as a part of your daily cleansing routine. And who wouldn’t because they definitely smell great! But for those with sensitive skin, that may be your first and perhaps even most impactful change in your routine.
Thankfully, there are now many soaps and cleansers that are free of fragrance and dyes. Just a simple word of caution with the organic and natural products. Many of these products have eliminated the harsh chemicals but still put in the soft baby scent or other fragrances. Unfortunately, these too can be too harsh for sensitive skin and should be avoided as much as possible.
So, now with the fragrance and dyes eliminated, the next step is keeping your skin moisturized. Many of us turn to lotions to moisturize our skin. Do you ever recognize that if you use lotion, you have to constantly reapply the lotion? That’s because lotion has a high water content in it, and as that lotion evaporates, it actually dries up your skin. So, instead of lotions, what I recommend is using a thick, bland emollient. Now, none of these products are paying me to advertise for them, but products that we love are aquaphor or eucerin ointments or cetaphil and cerave moisturizing creams. These emollients come in a tub that you have to scoop up and thickly apply to your skin. The more emollient you use and the more frequently you use it throughout the day, the more moisturized your skin will be. Seriously, you’ll be amazed at the results! I’ve been putting aquaphor ointment on my lips every night for several years now and I almost never need to put on chapstick during the day. A little diaper irritation on O’s skin? Well, a little aquaphor in the evening immediately takes away the redness by the morning.
These two initial steps of taking care of sensitive skin — eliminating fragrance and dyes from your detergents, cleansers and moisturizers and using the right kind of moisturizer — are the most important first steps to taking great care of your sensitive skin.
In the next session, I’ll talk about moist wraps, over the counter treatment options and when to talk to your doctor about next steps. We’ll also talk a little about how foods may or may not be a piece of you or your child’s eczema flare. So stay tuned! But for now, work on cutting those irritants and applying the right moisturizer on you and your little one’s skin. You may see all the change right there!
Happy Saturday ya’ll! We have a busy day ahead but hoping to get as much time as possible with O because that’s what weekends are for after all!