Eczema is a generic term used to describe a variety of inflamed skin conditions, and usually develops when an individual becomes overly sensitive to allergens such as moulds, pollens, dust, chemicals, animal dander or certain foods. Sufferers experience persistent and painful itching as they develop hot, flaky, itchy patches on their skin which may become extremely inflamed, dry and cracked, eventually leading to bleeding and weeping blisters.
The cause of eczema is not fully understood, although it’s believed to be caused by an over-reaction in the body’s immune system when it responds to an allergen attack. It strikes men and women of all ages and nationalities and can appear on any part of the body, most typically on arms and legs, cheeks, forehead, around ears, and on body parts where the skin folds and rubs together such as the back of knees and elbows. Despite it being unsightly and troublesome, eczema is not contagious.
Although it may initially disappear after treatment, eczema will often return with a vengeance becoming increasingly resistant to treatment. Unfortunately, long periods of persistent scratching or rubbing can induce chronic eczema with its distinctive dark, thickened, scaly, crusted red patches of skin. This can be extremely distressing and leads to further anxiety and stress, which in turn can cause flare-ups.
Conventional eczema treatments
Non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen, naproxen and others, and corticosteroids, drugs that mimic the hormones produced naturally by the adrenal glands, are often prescribed to help reduce the inflammation associated with eczema. Benzocaine can also help reduce inflammation when applied topically. In some cases, antihistamines, immuno-modulators and light therapy are prescribed.
The problem with many of these treatments is they only seek to relieve the symptoms and do not address the problem at its source, which is often left entirely un-investigated. More importantly, corticosteroids should only be used for temporary relief since they cause serious side effects such as thinning of the skin and even osteoporosis. This makes finding a more natural and gentle form of treatment an absolute priority.
Diet monitoring can be an effective form of eczema treatment since it is known that dairy and wheat products can be responsible for triggering or aggravating eczema attacks. Exchange cow’s milk for soya or lactase free milk, and try cutting out eggs, strawberries, shellfish, pork, orange juice, wheat, nuts, and foods having a high number of preservatives such as processed meats and fizzy drinks.
Eczema can also be caused by animal fur, commercial soaps, household cleansers and detergents, products containing chlorine, earrings and jewellery containing silver or nickel, woollen fabrics, synthetic materials, latex rubber, formaldehyde and other similar preservative chemicals. Check the materials in the clothing you wear since you may react to certain fabrics such as wool or silk, and even laundry detergent and fabric conditioners.
Hygiene is particularly important in severe cases of eczema as a precaution against infection, so regular showers or bathing is important. This can be really beneficial, but use only gentle, natural soap cleansers and not the harsh high-street or supermarket ones containing sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) or sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), since these can lead to dry skin which will aggravate the condition further, and alter the pH balance of the skin.
Hydrate and protect
Keeping your skin properly hydrated becomes especially important when you suffer from eczema since dry skin is more prone to cracking, especially around the creases of elbows and knees which increases the risk of infection. The difficulty is finding hydrating creams and lotions that do not contain any ingredients that will aggravate the condition, since many skin care products contain synthetic chemicals that can cause eczema in the first place!
Vitamin E in the form of creams helps to heal eczema and reduce scars, and Aloe vera is effective at reducing the swelling, redness and rash-like appearance associated with the condition. After showering or bathing, be sure to apply a soothing and moisturising body lotion to prevent your skin from becoming over-dry. Always look for hypoallergenic products that use natural ingredients, and at all costs avoid those containing synthetic fragrances.
Help from aromatherapy
Several essential oils are effective with alleviating the inflammation, itching and pain associated with eczema, particularly the ones that exhibit cytophylactic (skin cell rejuvenating) properties such as helichrysum, neroli, rose otto and lavender. Roman and German chamomile and yarrow essential oils are the most effective for reducing the inflammation and soothing the sore patches of skin, and at least one should be included in any blends you make.
However, German chamomile and yarrow essential oils are very powerful and only a tiny amount is needed. For example you could choose to use 2 drops of lavender, 1 drop of helichrysum, and 1 just drop of German chamomile or yarrow, so you ensure that neither of these oils ever makes up more than 25% of your essential oil formula. Often with essential oils, less really is more.
Calendula, St Johns Wort, coconut, evening primrose and rosehip carrier oils all provide soothing nourishment to parched dry skin patches, but if the eczema is on your body use only small amounts before retiring to bed to avoid your clothes chafing the skin. Experience in my clinic has shown that adding essential oils to our hypoallergenic Base Lotion brings the best results with eczema, possibly because it contains healing botanicals of goldenrod and rose mallow.
Stress is very often a contributing factor with eczema, and it is quite common for sufferers to experience a severe bout of eczema when life becomes too stressful for them. If this applies to you, remember to vaporise some relaxing essential oils to combat stress together with applying lotion to the affected areas.
Over a period of 25 years I have tested dozens of essential oils in different formulations to combat eczema for literally hundreds of clients, and the oils listed in the side panel have proven consistently to be those that bring the most relief without irritating the damaged skin. These essential oils are also excellent for reducing stress too, and this possibly accounts for their consistent – and amazing success with controlling this condition.
I have also discovered that adding between 25% and 50% of our Aloe Vera and Seaweed Gel to the cream or lotion base speeds up the healing process dramatically and hydrates and softens the dry, scaly skin associated with eczema. Aloe vera has been used since the time of the ancient Egyptians to treat a wide range of skin conditions effectively, and when combined with essential oils Aloe vera is a highly potent treatment for eczema.
Copyright © Quinessence Aromatherapy Ltd 2009. Written by Sue Charles
Essential oils & Eczema
Did you know?
The most serious risk associated with eczema is that of infection.
Eczema can be so itchy that affected individuals sometimes scratch the area until the top layer of skin has been broken.
With the skin's ability to provide external protection from invading organisms compromised, harmful bacteria can make their way into the damaged area and cause an infection.
This luxurious, soothing lotion is the perfect remedy for all types of itchy, red, flaky, sensitised and problem skin.
Containing an expert blend of organic essential oils and soothing botanicals to ease the misery of eczema, our natural botanical moisturising lotion works to encourage a healthy blemish-free complexion with a youthful, fresh glow.
See Quinessence Problem Skin Lotion
Eczema relieving oils
These are some of the most effective essential oils to ease eczema;-
• Bergamot FCF
Important note: Eczema can damage the skins acid mantle which causes the skin to become much more porous.
Use your essential oils at only 1% (half the usual concentration) to avoid irritating the already inflammed skin.
Hydrosols can offer effective relief since they can by sprayed directly onto the affected area to bring a cooling and soothing action.
Choose from Roman or German Chamomile, Rose Otto, Neroli, Lavender or Melissa for instant relief from the symptoms of itching.
See our full range of organic Hydrosols
Recipes for eczema
To ease the symptoms of eczema, add the following essential oils to 20mls of hypoallergenic lotion or cream base;-
• 1 drop Cham. Rmn
Here's another essential oil blend to try;-
• 2 drops Cham. Rmn
Essential Oils For Eczema Relief
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