The Only List of Eczema Tips You’ll Ever Need
Don’t scratch your skin! Drink more water! No. None of those so-called eczema tips here. This list contains 50 most important, time-tested, evidence-based, experience-backed tips organized in five categories. This list is simple, substantial, and shareable!
The eczema recovery framework on Cure Eczema Slowly, and as proposed on The Eczema Manual, includes three (plus one) major components:
- Gut-skin Connection
- Liver-skin Connection
- The Stress Complex
- Living with Eczema (Other Aspects)
Putting the pieces together result in these tip categories:
- The Fundamentals, Concepts, Approaches
- Diet: What to Eat, What Not to Eat, How to Eat
- Detox: Truth and Fad
- Maintaining a Positive SES Trio
- Skin Management Practices
The Fundamentals, Concepts, Approaches
- Eczema is not a skin disease, it’s a much more complex autoimmune disease caused by a multitude of factors.
- Visualize eczema on the ‘Disease’ end (right side) of a spectrum of lifestyle habits and factors (e.g. diet, smoking, genetic predisposition for allergies); this means you can fix it by moving towards the opposite to the ‘Health’ end.
- Begin any recovery process by gradually tapering off your steroidal treatment. Don’t go cold turkey because that will certainly be difficult.
- Using non-steroidal ointments or lotions does not mean you are using safe medications. What remains unchanged is the dependence or necessity on drugs to alleviate your symptoms which should not be.
- The difference between food allergy and sensitivity: allergy is acute (immediate effects to within several hours) and can be fatal, whereas sensitivity is chronic (can take up to several days to induce noticeable effects) and add long-lasting burden to your eczema spectrum.
- In the majority’s understanding of “cure” means, eczema has no cure because there is no simple and direct solution that can explicitly be traced to remove symptoms of eczema until disappearance. You can, however, manage and control eczema up to a point where you have no noticeable symptoms that affect your life. Is that a cure?
- Priority of health consultation. If you had to consult a health professional, here’s the priority who you should first seek (the earlier in the list, the better): licensed nutritionists with a certain angle (e.g. ancestral health like Chris Kresser) using an evidence-based approach with results to show for eczema, certified nutritionists with experiences treating eczema, dietitians, certified holistic health doctors, immunologists, food allergists. Recommend reading from nutrition science expert Georgia Ede.
- Three types of nutritionists in the world exist: nutritionist, natural nutritionist, dietitian. Former two are not accredited by the government, everyone can call themselves a nutritionist but a natural nutritionist (or similar terms) require certifications having passed alternative exams. Dietitians have to pass state exams and rarely practises more than the universal templated approach in treating diseases. They are ups and downs for all three types. An patient advocate with experience under the belt can be as good as a dietitian without first-hand experience. Of course, the best of both worlds is best (i.e. patient advocate using research-backed solutions; cannot be the other way around with a dietitian promoting semi-scientific or new approaches).
- Develop the habit of reading nutrition labels every time, everywhere you go. If you go to a restaurant and you are unsure of the ingredients, either ask the waiter or do your own research online. It’s important to know what’s in your food.
- Notice an effective eczema reversal approach is principle-based. Whether it’s Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD), the Mediterranean Diet, or any diet that is “healthy in general,” then it can support the body in anti-inflammation. This means any diet that helps you become healthier overall will ultimately reverse your eczema given a certain period of time. The way to make the approach faster, and more effective, is then to personalize the treatment with personal restrictions and avoiding individually different triggers. Read more on how different diets achieve the same in the end.
Diet: What to Eat, What Not to Eat, How to Eat
Leaky gut syndrome? There are many debatable conditions in the field. Originally, only people with celiac disease needs to strictly avoid gluten (e.g. anything from wheat, barley). But now people suffer from non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS). Regardless of the reason, whether fully psychological or not, a precautionary approach to minimize burden on our gut is best. This means avoid gluten in the restrictive period of dieting for eczema.
- Avoid other potential (or debatable) gut irritants including: nightshades, legumes, beans.
- Fix microflora imbalance. Our gut is a host of both good and bad bacteria (i.e. flora). It’s always a balance. Obviously, the more healthy you eat, the better the balance and the better skin you’ll have. But if you eat junk food (among many other possible negative health habits), you will develop microflora imbalance.
- Fix microflora imbalance in two ways: increase consumption of good ones e.g. through yoghurt, fermented vegetables, kimchi, sauerkraut; or decrease bad bacteria populations via gut-strengthening nutrients like garlic, onions, ginger, which can block bad prostaglandins production and are also antimicrobial and antifungal in nature.
- Food-based nutrients are almost always better than supplements.
- Further boost recovery with gut-targeting nutrients like: glutamine, vitamin Bs, vitamin E, magnesium.
- Minimize chemical load (salicylate, histamine). Refer to Salicylates Food Guide.
- Eat food as fresh as possible. The longer food remains unconsumed, the higher histamine accumulation due to chemical reactions happening inside the food you cannot see. For example, from newly caught fish frozen until being transported all the way to your plate, to the leftovers you saved up from previous meal. Refer to the Histamine Watchlist.
- Minimizing below threshold not complete eradication. Although many problematic chemicals we can identify and wish to minimize e.g. histamine, salicylates, understand these substances naturally exist and it’s not about 100% eradication. It’s simply consuming the good food with those substances but not too much to cross over an optimal threshold. Where is this threshold? You will find out personal testing over time if you eat too much of the same thing.
- Restrict problematic carbs. Consume in a low-FODMAP diet. Refer to the FODMAP Food Guide.
- In eczema recovery, as outlined in the article of four stages of recovery, there lies the important transition from Highly Restrictive Period to Lightly Restrictive. But how do you know which reintroductions are tolerated and received well by your body, which are not? Indeed you need to keep track of them using a food journal.
- For reintroductions, try 2-3 food items once per week. For example, this week I tried milk and oranges. Then I somehow developed a flare, and suspect it’s one of them. Then I continue to test between the two at different times. Once I find out which is the culprit, I move the item to the bottom of my list to test again after a few weeks going through my list of food items to reintroduce.
- Dieting is the MOST difficult and puzzling part of reversing eczema. Many recommendations will contradict. For example, garlic is not always a friendly carbohydrate to the gut according to the low FODMAP diet. But it is a great antimicrobial agent. Many situations like this take place, and it’s for you to judge which is more important e.g. are you strongly affected by the carb intake? Is it convenient for you to forgo garlic and source another dietary substitute? Read this SUPER detailed explanation for more eczema tips.
- Supplement your gut health with probiotics in the billion Colony Forming Units (CFUs). Anything too low won’t even reach into your intestines.
- Probiotics PLUS prebiotics. Populating with probiotics is one part of the equation. You also need to feed the good bacteria with what they eat: prebiotics. There’s plenty of natural food-based prebiotics like garlic.
Detox: Truth and Fad
- Avoid the The Candida Diet. It’s confusing because it mixes good and bad science together. If you take care of your microbiotic health in the gut, things will fall in place.
- Avoid the acid-alkaline diet. Although it can ultimately help improve your immune health, it is not eczema-specific in that it may contain triggers, problematic carbohydrates, etc. Its philosophy is not even grounded in science.
- Since your liver is the primary organ for detoxification, boost it with specific nutrients. Refer to Liver Detoxification Nutrients.
- How to be scientific. How do you know if a new diet or nutrition product is effective to its claims? Read the nutrition label and seek the active ingredients which are usually in the first few of the entire list because ingredients are listed in order of composition (e.g. the higher up the list, the more the product contains it). Then, Google the active ingredient along with the search term “ncbi” (National Center of Biotechnology Information). Then, read the conclusions of multiple studies researching the effects of the so-called active ingredient. This process gives you a basic self-service fact-check.
- Don’t go psuedoscientific. Stay away from sources purporting psuedoscientific or controversial health practices e.g. detoxing, acupuncture, reflexology, aromatherapy. Check Science Based Medicine or Quackwatch for quality information and explanations of what is real and what not.
- Alternative medicine is a problematic grey area containing both good and bad use of science. Every health claim needs to be evaluated in its context e.g. just because garlic oil contains antimicrobial properties used as part of herbal medicine or aromatherapy DOES NOT everything else promoted under herbalism and aromatherapy is effective, and could even be harmful to health. Do your due diligence.
- Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)? Commonly used alongside conventional medical science. Both have ups and downs. TCM can be effective based on using certain types of proven herbs, but not all of its many theories can be entirely followed. Conventional medicine is fast and direct but generally only treat the surface and not the root cause. You’ve probably heard these eczema tips a thousand times.
- Placebo effect. If you were given a useless sugar pill (you didn’t know) masked as a drug claiming to reduce joint pain, you believed it and actually felt better, it’s because your mind has actual influence over how you feel. This is the effect that is prevalent across many treatments. It’s hard to remove placebo completely. But sometimes a treatment even if unscientific happened to work, this might be your reason, and it’s important for your to realize and acknowledge it might be all about your psychology.
- Healing eczema doesn’t cost much. In the entirety of healing eczema from start to end, there is almost no need to spend extra money on products because the healing comes from your immune system itself. The nutrition from supplements can usually be found with food. The only areas your finances change is: shopping for fresher foods than previous which can more expensive, and skincare products based on natural ingredients to alleviate your skin recovery process.
- Integration is key. A commonly neglected concept behind nutrition is the importance of INTEGRATION. We never really know the emphasis on anything because every article on a different nutrient, vegetable, or fruit, etc, all tell you what types of vitamins and minerals they have and what health effects they are linked with. When you eat them and find no noticeable difference in your life, it is not a fad but because the effect is not strong enough because you need to eat a variety of health-promoting foods for a sustained period of time, instead of just one food, for 1-2 weeks and expect a noticeable difference.
Maintaining a Positive SES Trio
- Stress less. No special tips here. Take care of your emotional baggage, and try not to let workplace or strong emotions affect you overall. Leo Babauta from Zen Habits can help. The more emotions overwhelm or take control of you, then worse it is for your skin.
- Stop smoking. No special eczema tips here.
- Exercise more.
- Sleep well. 7-9 hours of sleep. Make it regular and stick to a routine.
- Avoid stimulants e.g. coffee, tea, alcohol. Avoid taking hormone-affecting pills (for the ladies).
Skin Management Practices
How to shower? Not bathe. Shower as cold and as short as possible because the longer and warmer otherwise strips away too much of the natural body oils the body already is limited in.
- Pat dry your skin and avoid scrubbing for obvious skincare reasons. You don’t want to irritate the already delicate and cracked skin wounds.
- Trim your nails frequently so even if you scratch, the damage is less.
- Apply a gentle layer of Vaseline petroleum jelly to coat up the cracked skin pores (if any) to minimize chances of pus-filled infections, which can lead to complications. You could also use the red-colored Lucas’ Pawpaw ointment.
- Check all ingredients list you use, including shampoos, body wash, lotions, moisturizers. Even the ones that specifically say “natural” or “designed for dry skin.” These phrases are not regulated. Usually, these products contain various chemicals like fragrances. One time using them may not be an issue, but the sustained use does further dehydrate the skin.
- Use chemical household products sparingly, or none at all if possible. For example, don’t use soap. Don’t use hand sanitizers unless absolutely necessary.
- Read this list of natural and chemical-free list of skin care products to use. (Some, I’ve tried and works well.)
- Mitigating itch urges. Apart from these tips like punching or slapping the affected area I published previously, one can attempt to press your palm on to the skin as hard as possible. Just breathe. Try to resist it. Gradually, the behavioral self-control practices CAN reduce the frequency and intensity of your itches.
- Comfy clothes. Wear better, more breathable, more comfortable clothing. Don’t use restrictive clothing of polyester or anything that irritates your skin. Personally, I find wool really annoying. Cotton always goes well.
- Anti-scratch garments. If you are managing an infant with eczema, obviously it’s hard for them to control the itching. Consider getting eczema-friendly garments designed to minimize damage caused. Check out Scratch Me Not (their blog also has some eczema tips), and Reduce AD Rescue Wear.
Any Special Eczema Tips?
If of all, I am only given a one-worded answer to someone who is new to reverse eczema, then the one word is:
If you follow CES long enough, you might have realized I’ve failed a few times in the past for a few months each time where eczema has resurfaced upon my originally clear skin. But it doesn’t simply just go on and off. It resurfaces for very clear reasons every time (e.g. coffee, sugar, lack exercise and sleep are my four biggest culprits).
The reality with 250 million (and growing) people around the world with eczema is NOT the lack of solution, but the lack of discipline.
Of course, other problems follow after discipline: misinformation, lack of guidance.
But the most important is still the very essence of self-motivation to push through the dietary and non-dietary interventions (e.g. sleep, stress, exercise, household and skincare management) even when they seem difficult and confusing.
Got more tips? Add them in the comments below!