Skin more flaky than smooth and dewy?
You’re not alone; here’s how to navigate your skin when you’ve got dermatitis
- Are you plagued with angry, red, scaly skin, and you scratch so hard it makes your skin weep?
- Is sleep deprivation normal as you deal with the scratch-itch cycle that keeps you awake at night?
- When you come into contact with certain substances, does your skin blister so much that it is painful?
- You’ve learnt the hard way – we’re talking what feels like burning skin within about 20 seconds of application of certain products
If any of these sound like you, and you’re constantly looking for the answers from the Gods of moisturisation and hydration, then chances are you need a dermatitis intervention.
Fortunately, from symptoms to solutions and everything in between, I’ve got you covered.
What exactly is Dermatitis?
This is a general term that simply means inflammation of the skin, a medical term used interchangeably with the term ‘eczema’. It is a series of chronic skin conditions that produce itchy rashes and scaly skin. When scratched, the sores can weep and be painful to touch.
What are the different types of Dermatitis?
Dermatitis takes on many different forms, depending on the trigger and the location of the rash:
- Atopic Dermatitis: This is the most common form and is often associated with baby eczema. It is thought to be the result of a genetic skin defect, due to the fact it tends to run in families. Those with atopic Dermatitis usually have sensitive and dry skin, which can easily be aggravated by all manner of environmental factors – from dust and cats to emotional stress and foods.
- Contact Dermatitis: This is a type of dermatitis I often see in my clinic. It appears as red, scaly rashes with a defined border. It occurs when your skin comes into contact with an offending allergen or irritant such as chemicals, nickel, fragrance, or detergent.
- Irritant Dermatitis: Unlike contact dermatitis, where the reaction only affects a small portion of skin, this develops as soon as the skin comes into contact with the irritant.
- Seborrhoeic Dermatitis: This is a common, scaling rash that mostly occurs on areas that have a lot of oil glands, especially the scalp. However, it can also be found on the eyebrows, the ears, the edges of the eyelid, the skin near the nose, and folds of skin in the armpits and groin – even on the chest or back at times. It is thought to be caused by excessive amounts of a particular yeast, Pityrosporum Ovale or Malassezia Furfur. This yeast is a perfectly normal inhabitant of your skin, but in people with seborrheic dermatitis, there’s a reduced resistance.
It really is all about the base
Time and time again, we’re told that the key to flawless skin is a good base.
The problem is that dermatitis and eczema-prone skin is often more like sandpaper than silk. A simple skincare regime is key – skip irritating foaming cleansers, physical exfoliants, cleansing brushes, harsh toners, fragrances, and actives.
Don’t overdo it with hydrocortisone! Using bursts of stronger corticosteroids that you apply to the skin can be helpful, but be careful. You can read my article on hydrocortisone here.
Instead, focus on replenishing the skin’s protective lipid barrier. My soothing skin staples are Bio Lipid Complex and Fortify moisturiser; layering intermittently helps to rebuild an inflamed barrier, which translates into smoother, healthier skin.
Adopt the mantra, “The less I do, the better my skin feels.”
I get my clients to adopt the mantra, “The less I do, the better I feel, and the better my skin feels.” Whilst it’s human nature to keep applying ointments to try and calm the inflammation, less is always best – especially if the sores weep.
Important research on the treatment of Dermatitis and Eczema
The single most important work being done in treating conditions of dermatitis and eczema lately is by Dr. Richard Aron (see the video below).
Whilst I don’t pertain to be a dermatologist, through my own problems with my skin and treating many clients, the best results I have found when researching dermatitis and eczema is through Dr. Aron, a consultant dermatologist.
His theory is that in the vast majority of cases, atopic dermatitis is mediated by a bacterium called Staphylococcus aureus. He says the key issue in atopic eczema patients that are referred to me is the presence of Staph aureus infection. This is a fascinating article on the topic.
The dramatic results Dr. Aron gets with many of his patients is due to killing the bacteria. There is evidence from studies that 90% of atopic dermatitis patients are colonised with this bacteria on their skin – most healthy people do not have it.
Contrary to what medical professionals and dermatologists recommend, he believes using a much weaker steroid for a much longer period of time in association with an antibiotic is key.
He says that when eczema or dermatitis-suffering skin gets infected with this bacteria, a poison called exotoxins is released, creating havoc on the skin. It actually creates the signature flare-ups of eczema, and he believes you need an antibiotic cream in conjunction with a steroid cream and moisturiser. Once you eliminate the bacteria, you have a reduced potential for flare-ups.
To back this up, one of the world’s experts in eczema – Professor Richard Gallo at the University of California in San Diego – has carried out work on the microbiome. What Gallo discovered, is that our skin’s microbiome produces a natural antibiotic; antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) that kill off Staph Aureas. He also found that the skin microbiome in people with atopic dermatitis does not produce enough of these AMPs, leaving them at greater risk of infection.