5 ways to battle sensitive skin and eczema

If you're like me, having to deal with sensitive skin everyday and eczema (or atopic dermatitis) outbreaks every other week, this post is for you. I didn't used to have sensitive skin until three years ago -- I suspect the excessive use of AHAs and BHAs as the cause, let this be a warning! -- but it completely changed my skincare routine. I could no longer try any products that I see on the shelves like how I used to. It would often lead to red, itchy, burning skin that develops into dry peeling scales on my face. Sounds horrific? It sure is, but I'm here for you.

After an episode of a really tormenting eczema outbreak, I declared war against my newly sensitive skin by learning all I could about it and changing my skincare products. Soon, I learnt that it's really not that difficult to prevent my skin from acting up and it has also become much easier to keep my eczema breakouts at bay!

Introducing, today's topic: 5 ways that you can battle sensitive skin and eczema, like me!

1. Get rid of your soapy cleansers!

This is extremely important as cleansers are the most guilty of stripping moisture and natural oils off your face, which are what keep the skin healthy. Try to pick cleansers that are labelled "soap free", or are formulated without Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (there are many names for this but  anything else that sounds like it is most probably also bad for you). They can be overly drying to the skin that is already suffering from irritation.

I use Origins' Make A Difference Rejuvenating Cleansing Milk which has a really creamy texture and is formulated without harsh chemicals. If you're someone who doesn't mind the non-squeaky clean feeling after washing your face, I highly recommend this product. I only use this face wash when I start showing signs of eczema on my face, and I use it for 2-3 days. It helps keep my skin hydrated and soothes burns.

2. Use toners with soothing properties.

Typically, toners don't work with sensitive skin as they are often formulated with too much alcohol and is way too drying than it should be. However, if you're lucky to find something formulated with soothing ingredients, such as Chamomile, Aloe Vera and Cucumber, they may work to calm red and irritated skin!

For me, Mario Badescu's Chamomile Cleansing Lotion & Aloe Vera Toner works magical wonders. They are produced with minimal chemicals and are extremely soothing to the skin, which helps the skin prevent moisture loss due to irritation.

3. Moisturise your face like there's no tomorrow.

Sensitive eczema skin needs a lot of TLC because the skin tends to have a little trouble keeping moisture in causing dry, coarse and dull skin. To substitute moisture loss, choose a moisturiser which is creamier and thicker in consistency. These moisturisers tend to be oilier but that is exactly when you need because they form a thin protective film on your skin that soothes and prevents moisture loss. Also, it helps to continuously apply moisturiser throughout the day -- once every two hours -- to ensure that your skin keeps absorbing the good stuff for recovery.

I use the Physiogel Hypoallergenic Cream that contains natural lipids (the good fats) which is aids to maintain hydrated skin! A key ingredient in this cream is caprice triglyceride. This cream is much thicker than the average moisturiser but it helps keep my skin ultra-hydrated without irritation. It contains no harsh chemicals that will irritate sensitive skin, such as colourants, preservatives and fragrances. Alternatively, you could use a cream specially formulated for atopic dermatitis, such as Atopiclair that even works to numb the itch and burn.

4. Keep your air humid.

A problem with sensitive irritated skin is that it gets worse with dry air, especially if its winter. As I sleep with the AC every night, I like to keep the air humid by using an air humidifier! You might find that your skin will appear less dull and dry every morning, and it even has additional benefits for your dry nose and throat passages. Humid air does not strip the skin of moisture and natural oils as quickly as dry air does, which is why it is important to be aware of the surroundings that you spend the most time in. I use the Osim uMist Humidifier for two to three hours every night.

5. Exfoliate gently when you've recovered.

After the whole nightmare of an eczema outbreak is over, it is important to exfoliate the skin gently to make sure all the dead skin cells disappear. This will help your skin reveal its radiance once again! However, sensitive skin can become easily irritated by exfoliation. To prevent this, do not do 3 things: (1) Do not use exfoliating gels and soaps as they are often overly drying for sensitive skin, (2) Do not use big and rough exfoliating granules, and (3) Do not use any form of peels, such as the kind that claims to "melt" away dead skin cells.

Instead, opt for gentle exfoliation by using super fine sugar granules mixed with a bit of your cream cleanser or even natural sugar-free yogurt if you prefer. This creates a creamy blend of cleanser and exfoliating beads that is super gentle to your skin! Aside from that, I also use the Clarisonic Mia 2 with Sensitive Brush Head which is both effective and gentle. Remember to only exfoliate once or twice a week to prevent irritation!

And there you have it, my five secrets to beating sensitive skin and eczema! While I understand that this may not work for everyone, I hope that this little guide can help you find some relief from the pains of having easily irritated skin.

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