If it's not itching, it's burning, and though it's twenty below, I find it ironic that my crawling skin when touched or scratched feels like a lingering sunburn. A recent trip to the dermatologist confirmed that I am dealing with eczema from my head to my toes and faced with a prescription of cortisone cream to slather all over, I chose to go green to see if I could handle things the natural way. These are my solutions.
Eczema is caused by the top few layers of the skin unable to retain moisture. Though it's very dry, exfoliation is not a solution, moisture is.
Solution #1: Epsom Salts
Every night I take a bath. I pour in about 2 cups of epsom salts and sit in a tub of lukewarm water for about 10 minutes. Epsom salts are incredibly healing and very skin-softening. I've found it also dramatically reduces the itch. I make sure to use water that is not hot, as too much heat - especially hot water - will exacerbate the problem. Once out of the tub I pat dry and move on to solution two.
Solution #2: Oil Application
Both when fresh out of my nightly bath and from quick morning shower (also not too hot and quite quick), I slather on some oil. I say slather, because I mean I layer it on. I usually start with coconut oil, depending on how parched my skin is that day. The lower the temperature outside usually means the more oil I put on and the more I re-apply during the day. If it's very cold, I'll add a few drops of pure carrot seed oil to the coconut oil and apply from my head to my toes. On areas of note, specifically the back of my neck, shoulders and shins, I'll quickly spread on a layer of jojoba oil on top of the coconut oil mixture. Until I used up the entire jar, I would spot treat very bad spots with Zoe Organics Extreme Cream. I've also had my eye on Province Apothecary's Healing Eczema Balm for spot treatments - specifically any place that has turned red and is rough to the touch.
Solution #3: Humidifier
Until the air outside develops regular (and nearly suffocating) humidity, my humidifier will be on all night. It takes ten seconds to fill up and makes a big difference in sleeping soundly or waking up in the middle of the night with my skin crawling, praying for some relief. No matter how late I retire, I will not forgo this step, and if it were to run dry while I slept, believe me, the next day I would notice how much my skin missed it.
Solution #4: Clothing Changes
When the first of a rash began to appear after returning from Phoenix to an ice-covered Toronto, my doctor suggested taking a closer look at the fibres that had I had come into contact with and what detergents I may have used. The warmest winter hat I had was a fisherman's hat from Newfoundland. Once I'd narrowed it down, it seemed a no-brainer, as my knitwear-expert mom informed me it was a maritime sheep's wool; a very coarse and hearty fibre made for withstanding cold, but a little too rough to be in direct contact with my sensitive skin. Some wools are better than others, but I've found I've had to stick mostly to cotton and other much softer blends like bamboo to avoid discomfort. I've also switched up the laundry detergent, which on sheets I've noticed have made bedtime better.
Solution #4: Dietary Changes
My sis Angie Adventure is big on dietary solutions for skin problems. Upon hearing of my winter skin troubles, she sent me a list of links and made a few suggestions. One was noting what I ate that caused itch to ensue and then reducing or eliminating the offender. I've found the one thing that made the biggest impact was to up my water intake. A couple extra glasses of H2O per day can see me feeling much more comfortable. (All I have to do is remember!) Another of Ange's suggestions was the addition of a probiotic. I can't say for sure, but Dr. Ben Kim agrees that it may have positive results. I can say it doesn't hurt and I have been taking my flora regularly.
Eczema is a high-maintenance condition, but it's important to stay on top of it to maintain a level of comfort. The problem is obviously the lack of humidity and moisture in the air, and I am confident that when spring arrives my problems will not linger. I feel you if you are dealing with the same uncomfortable and irritating skin problem, but I recommend you to talk to your naturopath or doctor if you have the same condition. Remember, it's tough right now, but we're on the path to sunny - and humid - days ahead.
What are some solutions you have been using to get through this winter?
Images by me!