The Eczema Diaries: Part 1
Now this may seem a bit weird, but I’m actually going to start at ‘the end’. When I say ‘end’, I mean where I am at with my skin now, currently. If you live with eczema or know someone that does, then you’ll know it’s an ongoing situation and probably something that will impact your life long-term, if not forever. Which is why in Part 1, I’m going to talk through the skincare that I can count on and my main learnings over the past 10 years. Why? Because if you’re really struggling with eczema, I FEEL YOU, and these are the tips I hope will be most beneficial to you. All the juicy, gunky, flaky backstory to come in Part 2.
Before reading this, please note that I’m no doctor (although I probably could be a dermatologist by now!). No, joking aside, these are recommendations and observations from my personal experience only. Everyone’s skin is different. If you’re living with eczema and need help with your skin, please get in touch with your GP.
The skincare routine that truly works (for me)
In the past my eczema has covered me from head to toe, literally from scalp, face, boobs, elbows, back, thighs, the lot. I’ve managed to reduce it somewhat over the past few years on my body, but my face is still incredibly sensitive and eczema-prone. So here’s a roundup of the products I use daily and why I don’t deviate from them.
I tend not to cleanse my skin in the morning, as I go all out with the hydrating products in the evening, so thankfully I wake up with pretty balanced skin. If I’ve got a long day coming up, an important day at work or an event like a wedding, I might do a speedy Acid Gold mask before getting in the shower, literally for 5-10 mins, just to blitz away any dead skin, using it to prime skin so my makeup sticks and stays put.
An absolute staple in my routine, a plumping hyaluronic acid face mist. I love it because you can see the difference after using it, both instantly and long-term. The fine lines on my forehead and around the eyes visibly reduce. It’s so easy to use and when you’re getting ready you can just leave it to absorb and don’t need to pat it in. It draws water into the skin as it absorbs, so always use on damp skin to avoid dehydration. Working in beauty I love to try out other hydrating mists, essences and serums, but without fail I always come back to this, it’s soothing as well as plumping and truly is the best.
CBD & Strawberry Boosters/Supercharge Serum
I apply the CBD Booster to my breakout and eczema ‘hot spots’; neck, jawline and around the mouth. I’ve found it minimises hormonal breakouts and reduces redness effectively. If I run out I notice a difference pretty quick, my skin reverts to its normal self, red, angry and out of balance.
I use the Strawberry Booster when my skin is feeling particularly dry. Its texture is incredible, it’s so silky and moisturising, yet absorbs quickly and doesn’t leave a film on the skin. If you have eczema you might reach for the richer, more nourishing formulas, which you no doubt need - but I’ve found that some can cause deep congestion after continued use. Strawberry Booster is great for providing the needed nourishment, without being heavy.
Supercharge Serum is a rich facial oil that intensely nourishes and rejuvenates the skin. If your skin is sensitive, broken or irritated, unfortunately it might not be for you. It contains essential oils that brighten skin and help reduce hyperpigmentation and scarring. I press a single drop of Supercharge Serum onto darker areas, where my skin is healing, it seems to speed up the process, whilst also providing a glowy finish.
I’ll be honest and say I’ve done a bit of a u-turn on this product, because my skin is so dry I can easily reach for Night Nutrition in the morning too. But recently I’ve really got into it and feel as though it’s working on brightening up some darker areas of scarring, plus I love the finish, glowy but not too dewy. Top tips, a little goes a long way, the product lasts forever. Allow your oils/serums to fully absorb 5 mins before applying, similarly, wait 5 mins before applying makeup to avoid pilling.
I'm currently loving Day Defence. It's super nourishing for my dry skin but doesn't feel greasy. It's a mineral SPF which means it's better for sensitive skin than chemical SPF so it doesn't irritate my skin at all and the zinc actually helps to soothe it.
Every evening routine starts with Swipe Clean cleansing oil. It’s easy to use and contains no essential oils, so is great for drier skin types, removing eye makeup and my eczema-prone skin. Massage in a liberal amount to melt away makeup, SPF and daily grime. It leaves my skin feeling conditioned, cleansed and moisturised.
Same as above, I can’t get enough.
Bakuchiol Booster/Supercharge Serum
The Bakuchiol Booster is a God send, a gentle collagen boosting alternative to retinol, aka vitamin A. I’ve never actually attempted to use retinol, as I feel like that’s the equivalent of taking a flame to gas for my skin. It’s not a good idea. Eczema-prone skin types typically experience sensitivity too, so retinol can be off limits. However, the Bakuchiol Booster contains 1% bakuchiol + olive squalane. It not only helps to boost collagen production, improve skin texture and reduce fine lines, but it’s moisturising too. In a nutshell, you wake up glowing. It’s so popular that we’ve just launched it in a new larger 50ml, with a saving of 25% on each bottle.
I switch between this and Supercharge Serum as listed above if I’m seeking intense overnight repair.
Hands down the best night cream I’ve tried. I apply Night Nutrition as the final step in my evening routine to seal everything in. Some may want to apply it before their facial oils, but either ways works and it’s totally up to you. I love its creamy texture and how my skin drinks it up. I’ll be honest and say the first time I used it my skin reacted slightly, which is standard for me when trying something new. I didn’t try again for a couple of months until my lockdown skin was really in need of hydration and moisture, and this is the perfect product that caters to both skin needs. If you have eczema I recommend starting with a small amount on a less sensitive area of your face. I’ve been using it solidly for approximately 2 months now and I don’t think my skin has been this good in years.
Performance-led ‘treatments’, face masks, peels, exfoliants etc can be unbelievably difficult to navigate when you have eczema. I’d say on the whole, less is more when it comes to punchier products, but that doesn’t mean you should avoid them all together. For example with Acid Gold, I leave it on the skin for 5-10 mins, rather than 15, and I’d never apply it to broken or irritated skin. Acid Gold is an AHA resurfacing face mask, packed with natural exfoliating acids such as lactic and glycolic. These ingredients are also paired with glycerin and sea buckthorn oil, so it caters to drier skin types, but leaving skin moisturised and not stripped. Sometimes my skin can feel itchy from dead skin cells sitting on the surface, so I use Acid Gold to gently remove them and it leaves my skin calmer and less red.
It could be used as a dry skin treatment, balm cleanser, lip conditioner, natural highlighter - the list goes on! Babe Balm is multipurpose and a skin saviour if you have dry skin. Anytime a patch of eczema appears I slather it on to soothe, moisturise and provide a protective layer. Its base is squalane, so it’s light, creamy and non-comedogenic.
Five key learnings from 11+ years of flaky, infected, eczema-prone skin, the short and sweet version
1. Gut health, what you eat and alcohol
Nothing shocking or revolutionary here. BUT, there’s definitely some easy dietary additions and swaps that I feel have made a huge difference to my skin.
First up, probiotics. Widely available, sometimes not the cheapest, can be confusing. I was once told that anything under 4bn spores per capsule was basically like drinking a Yakult. So I try and go for something more like 10-20bn spores per capsule when my skin is angry. Why would you take them? Eczema is a form of inflammation and the health of your gut can quite literally reflect in your skin. Your gut needs thriving, healthy bacteria to function well and probiotics can help support this, in turn reducing the inflammation of your skin.
Over the years I’ve also become obsessed with kefir, which is a ‘live’ probiotic drink. It doesn’t taste or smell that great (although supermarket options are now excellent!), but I do find that it works. If I can feel my skin getting hot, itchy, swollen or particularly dry, I make my own by fermenting a sachet of starter cultures from Whole Foods in a litre of my chosen milk every week. The difference is noticeable, my skin is always less red and feels more resilient after a flare up.
If your skin is unpredictable, flaring up randomly (or regularly) and you can’t pinpoint why, keep a food diary. It took me almost a decade to work out that I have a pretty intense allergy to paprika that causes severe skin reactions! And it’s in a lot; from ketchup, mayonnaise and sauces, to curries, chips, crisps, jelly beans, cheese (yep, all the unhealthy stuff!). If i’d written down everything since the beginning, I might have been able to work that out sooner, saving me many tears and a lot of money.
When it comes to alcohol, I’d recommend steering clear of prosecco and cocktails. Karoline of Team BYBI also worked out the same thing, you can read her Rosacea Diaries Part 1 and Part 2. I haven’t looked into this scientifically, but I’m pretty sure it’s simply the sugar. There’s something about the high sugar content that can really set my eczema off, and it may not even flare up until the next day - so you think you’ve gotten away with it when going to bed! Swap them out for a G&T or something similar.
2. Epsom salts are LIFE
You think I’m joking. I’m not. I bang on about epsom salts to anyone that will listen. Epsom salts = magnesium, which your body can quite literally leak when you’re stressed. One of the most effective ways to get magnesium back into the body is via your skin. Aside from finding skincare that works for me, I’d say these are up there with the most impactful eczema treatment for me. Widely available, add a good 500g to a bath, it helps to remove dead skin without damaging it and noticeably calms skin down.
3. Skin barrier is everything, don’t over exfoliate or pick to get rid of flakes
When you’ve got eczema it’s tempting to use ALL of the products, ALL of the time. At one point I was exfoliating everyday to get rid of my flaky skin, not fully appreciating that this was destroying my skin barrier, weakening it and leaving it more susceptible to infection - which happened a lot. You don’t always have to exfoliate to get rid of dry skin, you’d be surprised what comes off with just an oil cleanser in a warm shower! Respect your skin barrier, tune into it and don’t be tempted to use stronger products if your skin feels like it’s on the turn.
Try not to pick flaky skin. It is difficult, but when you go just that little bit too far and your skin starts to bleed, you’re opening up your skin to bacteria and the healing process starts all over again. It’s not worth it for the satisfaction, the scarring or the antibiotics you may need.
4. Don’t change too much at once
How many times have I done this? Too many. When your skin is either really flared or consistently ‘bad’, it can be tempted to completely change tack, drop everything you’re doing and reverse it. Which sometimes, might be just what your skin needs. However it’s then really hard to identify what caused your flare up. Was it your moisturiser, your washing powder, a new concealer, the apple you ate? You literally have no clue. Introduce/takeaway anything from your daily routine that you’re suspicious of one thing at a time.
5. It’s ok to feel totally sh*t
I didn’t fully appreciate it until my skin was consistently ‘good’ for a few months, which was after I'd identified the paprika allergy. But eczema and other skin conditions can significantly affect your mental health. Whether it’s being upset by your appearance, being in physical pain, repeatedly cancelling on friends because your skin is weeping or cracking when you speak, not being able to exercise properly because your face is so hot, not being able to use fake tan because it sticks to every possible dry patch or feeling like you need to warn people that skin is bad before seeing them. The severity of impacts varies greatly, but it all adds up.
It’s ok to feel totally shit, to cry, to be frustrated and broke from trying every supplement and skincare product under the sun. At times like this it’s really important to try and identify your eczema ‘triggers’, which we’ll discuss in detail in Part 2 (coming soon). It’s also worth saying that even when your face is peeling and crusting, your best mates don’t care what you look like. So even though you might not fancy the pub, a cuppa and a walk with your bestie goes a really long way.
Written by Hannah, Assistant Communications Manager