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Skin Focus : Eczema

February 11, 2010

What is it?

Eczema is a skin condition largely prevalent in Singapore. In a more medical context, it can be referred to as an inflammation of the epidermis, and the condition is known as dermatitis. Epidermis is the outermost layer of the skin, acting predominantly as the body’s major barrier against any inhospitable environment. (And yes, that includes being under the sun.) Eczema comes in various forms, differing in the levels of severity, parts of affected areas and sources of allergens. The most common variant would be that of the atopic dermatitis. When atopic dermatitis develops, the stratum corneum (the outermost layer within the epidermis) breaks down. Refer to picture for illustration.

With gaps in our stratum corneum, the skin becomes more easily irritated. These gaps also makes it easier for bacteria and viruses to enter the body, weaken the immune system and render the human body more susceptible to infection. Though the cause of atopic dermatitis had not been medically proved as yet, the disease seemed to result from a combination of genetic (hereditary) and environmental factors. Emotional factors, such as stress, play a part in aggravating the condition but do not function as a source. In Singapore especially, where the weather is frequently warm and humid, the condition is more likely to be triggered into red bumps/ rough itchy patches. Additionally, there are two main categories of aggravating sources:

–          Irritants are substances that directly affect the skin and, when present in high enough concentrations with long enough contact, the skin turns red and itchy. Specific irritants affect people atopic dermatitis to different degrees. Over time, many patients will learn how to identify the irritants causing the most trouble. For example, frequent wetting & drying of the skin may obliterate the skin barrier function. Certain cosmetics and perfumes, or even wool or synthetics fibers on your clothes may also work to irritate the skin. If you are a patient of eczema, you need to be particularly observant to irritants that trigger your condition.

–          Allergens are substances from food, plants, animals or the air that works to inflame the skin because the immune system overreacts to the substance. When people with atopic dermatitis come into contact with an irritant or allergen they are specifically sensitive to, inflammation producing cells become active. There, you may be able to observe broken skin and some oozing from the affected area. If that happens, the itch may become overbearing and unconscious scratching will only deteriorate the condition further.

Treatment

When it comes to treating atopic dermatitis, dermatologists are mostly concerned about consistent moisturizing and proper, yet gentle cleansing on the face and body. Remember, our skin is our barrier – our first line of defense. It protects us from microscopic invaders such as bacteria, viruses and other potentially harmful organisms and toxins. Usually, patients diagnosed with atopic dermatitis will be encouraged to use a recommended moisturizer. Moisturizers forms a protective coating that reduces the amount of water lost through the skin, This, in turn, reduces dryness, itch and cracking skin.

Depending on the patient’s signs and symptoms, it may be necessary to apply moisturizer 4 or more times a day. Moisturizer should always be applied after a shower or bath while the skin is still damp. This helps to lock in moisture.

Gentle cleansing is also encouraged especially given the harsh environment, sebum and impurities accumulate. If they are not regularly removed, they can oxidize with air and in turn, becomes factors which irritate sensitive skin.

On my last note, do keep in mind that although eczema is a chronic condition, it can be contained without recurrences given the right and proper moisturizer and cleanser. Consistency in maintaining your skincare regime is crucial as well.

La Roche-Posay’s Recommendation

The Toleriane range is La Roche-Posay’s first complete hygiene and skincare program for all sensitive skin. Its efficacy charter endorses 0% fragrance, preservative and alcohol, and 100% Thermal Spring Water that is naturally rich in Selenium.

  •    Toleriane Purifiying Foaming Cream is more suitable for combination to oily skin, since the lathering effect   from the soap content will render the skin dry.  
  •   Toleriance Softening Foaming Gel, on the other hand, will be more apt for normal to combination skin.
  •   Toleriane Fluid – a light moisturizer that should be applied day and night for sufficient hydration.
  •   La Roche-Posay Thermal Spring Water can be used daily to soothe and protect the skin.

This piece is researched upon and written by La Roche-Posay with references.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 12, 2010 7:20 am

    Some good general information about eczema. It should be known that there are certain know triggers… so avoid these foods:

    Citrus, seafood, alcohol, coffee, black tea, sugar, spicy food, oily fried food, meat, and diary. Take these out of the diet for some time and if you have good results, you can put them back in one by one, helping you find *your* trigger.

    • February 12, 2010 9:26 am

      Hi Afshin,

      Thank you for your feedback. We do agree that certain food may be of known triggers to eczema such as acidic fruits, seafood, dairy/milk products, chemical food additives, preservatives and colourings. It can be considered as an internal factor that exacerbates the skin condition, apart from hereditary and emotional factors. However, since every individual is different, it is possible that any food can cause a reaction in any given individual and that wouldn’t be just a remote source. Nevertheless, your suggestion is excellent. Essentially, prevention is key and it starts from having a proper skincare regime to defend against irritants, a proper work-life balance to avoid stressful situations, as well as you have suggested – an observed diet to ensure minimal exacerbation.

      Best,
      LRPSG

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