It may itch, crack, and even start to bleed: Dry skin is definitely not a pleasant sensation. Its most extreme form, eczema (also called dermatitis), affects an estimated 35 million Americans. It's characterized by patches of incessantly dry skin, sometimes with blisters and inflamed rashes.
And then there's sensitive skin, which is an even more prevalent affliction than eczema. Symptoms vary, but it's an increasingly common phenomenon. This surge is due, in part, to modern-day triggers ranging from air pollution to product overuse.
Whether your skin is itchy, inflamed, or easily irritated, the trick is to soothe it without causing further aggravation. Here's how to find relief from eczema and for sensitive skin, naturally…
Eczema is a catchall term for several chronic skin conditions. The most common types are atopic dermatitis, recognizable by irritable, inflamed patches, and contact dermatitis, which manifests in reactionary rashes.
Sensitive skin encompasses afflictions like rosacea, psoriasis, acne, and hives. If your skin easily erupts into pustules or bumps, it's considered sensitive.
The causes of eczema and sensitive skin vary. Some are uncontrollable, like genetics or defects in the skin barrier. Others are more situational, such as an individual's surrounding environment and lifestyle.
Ever noticed how your face tends to break out when you're stressed? That's because when stress seeps in, it wreaks havoc on just about everything—including your skin. Tackle stress and skin issues at the same time by getting plenty of sleep and exercise.
If your skin seems to be reacting specifically to something, try isolating potential culprits. Common triggers include harsh solvents and detergents; types of pollen (skin irritation is actually a lesser-known symptom of hay fever); and even plants, such as stinging nettle.
Avoid cosmetics containing synthetic fragrances, which are often chemical blends listed in labels as "fragrance" or "flavor." Since the FDA can't regulate cosmetic labels to the same extent it does food, it advises individuals with skin sensitivities to opt for fragrance-free products.
Reducing the number of products you use in general may help, too. Applying multiple formulas with different active ingredients not only reduces their efficacy, but can also cause additional irritation. Stick to hypoallergenic laundry detergent, which won't send already-sensitive skin spiraling further.
If dry skin is your top concern, keep your skin moisturized at all times. Slather on lightweight lotion frequently, even if your skin isn't particularly itchy or irritable. A humidifier may also provide relief, especially during the dry winter months (and summer, if you run the A/C).
The adage "you are what you eat" could very well have been coined specifically as a skincare precaution. Candy and other highly processed sources of sugar have been linked to inflammation, which in turn ends up damaging skin. Opt instead for foods rich in the powerful antioxidant agent zinc, such as pumpkin seeds and chickpeas. Other dietary solutions include incorporating probiotic supplements, which, in conjunction with a healthy diet, may reduce inflammation. Or try an elimination diet to see if any common allergens are aggravating your symptoms.
Exfoliation is key for maintaining optimal skin health, since it gets rid of dead skin cells and speeds up the epidermal renewal process. Don't overdo it—two to three times a week is plenty for sensitive skin. Use only gentle ingredients on your face, like Puracy organic lotion. Below the neck, try dry brushing, or DIY your own exfoliator using kitchen staples.
Skip the hot showers in favor of lukewarm ones. While washing up, use a gentle cleanser that doesn't contain sulfates or other irritants. Apply the soap sparingly, avoiding any affected areas altogether. Pat, don't rub, your skin dry. And lock in moisture immediately after showering—within 2 to 3 minutes is ideal. According to NBC, this helps "create a barrier to prevent 'trans epidermal water loss' and keep the skin plump."
Food-based tactics may prove effective alleviators as well. In a pinch, use the inside of a banana peel to quell itchy skin. Or pour a bit of milk into a bowl, dip in a clean washcloth, and apply the damp cloth straight to any dry patches for five minutes. A colloidal oatmeal bath can help soothe different skin ailments, and is deliciously easy to DIY.
Applying ice or a cold compress to any affected areas will further help to freeze itches in their tracks.
Prevent yourself from scratching, which perpetuates the vicious itch cycle. Make sure your fingernails are trimmed short, and keep your hands occupied during downtime. Take to knitting, try out an adult coloring book, or squeeze a stress ball. Wear gloves at night if necessary.
Even your wardrobe is a factor. Avoid scratchy fabrics like wool (except pure cashmere), and synthetics like nylon and polyester. Instead, opt for loose, pure cotton and silk, and fine-grade linens. These high-quality fabrics may be an investment up front, but will prove worth it for extremely sensitive skin.
Consider tackling any underlying issues. If your skin flares up when you're stressed, for example, yoga and counseling may provide healthy outlets. And get tested to rule out medical conditions. In rare cases, chronically itchy skin is a symptom of greater problems like iron deficiency, thyroid autoimmunity, and certain diseases. Seek medical attention if the scratching is so persistent that it keeps you up at night.
Eczema affects even more children (an estimated one in four) than it does adults. Additionally, babies have inherently sensitive skin as their epidermis develops during the first 30-34 weeks of infancy. This warrants careful monitoring of what's applied topically to your smallest family members.
The good news is most kids outgrow their eczema naturally. And in the meantime, be sure to read our blog post on how to treat your child's skin issues with the gentlest tactics possible.
Whether you or a loved one has a skin condition, the best treatments are ones that are both effective and gentle. Puracy products are safe, nurturing options for individuals looking to combat and prevent chronic skin afflictions without the use of harsh chemicals or irritants.