What is eczema
Atopic dermatitis (eczema) is a persistent, non-infectious, inflammatory skin condition characterized by itchy, dry, red, scaly, and sometimes weeping areas. Approximately 1 in 5 people are affected in Australia and New Zealand and therefore affects a large part of the population. (Scott-Lang & Su, 2017).
Normal skin function:
Skin is the largest organ of the body and it functions as a barrier keeping infectious, harmful or irritating agents out. It also provides the other vital functions such as managing the body’s hydration levels, electrolyte balance, body temperature, synthesizing vitamin D and operating as a sensory organ.
The lower layer – hypodermis – stores fats which have an insulating effect and form a buffer between the internal organs and the outer layer.
Some facts about the skin
- Optimal pH is between 4 – 5.5 which is slightly acidic
- The top layer of the skin is called the stratum corneum (SC) which is the layer that is responsible for the barrier function (Telofski, Morello III, Correa, & Stamatas, 2012).
The eczema cycle:
“Compromised skin barrier is thought to be critical to the early onset and severity of Atopic Dermatitis” (Telofski, Morello III, Correa, & Stamatas, 2012). It has been observed that any disruption to the SC layer is linked with Eczema (Scott-Lang & Su, 2017). The disruption allows foreign particles into the lower layers of the skin which causes the body to treat them as infectious agents activating the immune system. The immune system, in turn, releases inflammatory hormones to deal with the perceived threat. Therefore, keeping the SC intact and supporting its barrier function is key to blocking the inflammatory cascade keeping eczema symptoms under control.
The main aim of treating eczema is to manage symptoms. “The main principles of treatment are moisturisation, control of inflammation, control of itch and control of infection” (Scott-Lang & Su, 2017). First line treatment is always to moisturise and then add other agents to control symptoms which affect skin health. The other agents which can be used to treat eczema are outside the scope of this article and this website. These are to be used after medical consultation and under medical supervision.
Please view attached links to find more information about eczema.
The different types of Moisturisers
A foolproof prevention strategy has yet been established. At present the optimum plan is MOISTURISATION. Two studies have evaluated the results from full body application in high-risk infants with an emollient and have found that it prevents the development of eczema (Scott-Lang & Su, 2017).
When looking for moisturisers be aware of the following ingredients:
- Olive Oil - contains oleic acid which has been shown to dry your skin and increase skin barrier disruption (Kuller, 2016). Recent research recommends using oils (such as sunflower oil) which have the lowest oleic acid content to reduce the risk of eczema. In contrast, it has been demonstrated that linoleic acid plays a large role in maintaining skin integrity helping the skin prevent the triggers of eczema (Zhong & Santiago, 2017).
- Lavender - fragrance compounds found in lavender essential oil have been shown in a 2015 study (Hagvall, 2015) to cause allergic eczema.
- Vitamin E - often touted for being a strong antioxidant for your skin, Vitamin E is also used as a preservative to increase the shelf life of the product. Research has shown that there is insufficient evidence that the use of Vitamin E produces a beneficial cosmetic outcome. In one study 33% of patients who used a Vitamin E moisturiser developed contact dermatitis (Baumann & Spencer, 1999).
Medica Kawakawa Balm has all the types of moisturisers blended into one product, so you won’t need to use emulsifying wax based products followed by a barrier cream and a product with a humectant in it. Medica Kawakawa Balm has specifically been designed with only the bare essentials to increase hydration of the barrier layer of the skin, reduce the loss of water through the skin, decrease inflammatory cytokines and protect the skin to promote repair. The addition of Kawakawa works as an anti-inflammatory agent working on the effects of eczema.
Kuller, J. M. (2016). Infant Skin Care Products, What are the Issues. Advances in Neonatal Care, S3-S12.
Lin, T.-K., Zhong, L., & Santiago, J. L. (2017). Anti-inflammatory and Skin Barrier Repair Effects of Topical Applications of Some Plant Oils. International Journal Of Molecular Sciences 19(1).
Baumann, L.S., and Spencer, J. (1999). The Effects of Topical Vitamin E on the Cosmetic Appearance of Scars. Dermatological Surgery 25(4), 311-315.
Hagvall, L. (2015, May 29). Hidden Fragrance Compound in Lavender Can Cause Contact Allergy. Retrieved from National Eczema Association: https://nationaleczema.org/hidden-fragrance-compound-contact-allergy/
Scott-Lang, Victoria, and John Su. 2017. "Moisturisation in the Management of Paediatric Atopic Dermatitis." Research Review. May 25. https://www.researchreview.co.nz/nz/Clinical-Area/Paediatrics/Child-Health/Educational-Series-Paediatric-Atopic-Dermatitis.aspx.