It started with a red, scaly, bumpy, and itchy thing in the front of my neck, which appeared on one sunny day in July 2022. Little did I know that it would be the first glimpse of how my adult life with eczema would be. And, believe me, living well with eczema is easier said than done.
I endured the itch for a couple more days, but it became more unbearable as the days went by. I went to our company doctor when I could no longer bear the discomfort. He prescribed me an anti-fungal cream, which didn’t make any difference. The breaking point was in September 2022. Boom, I woke up one day with swollen eyelids, an itchy face, nasty dandruff, and a scaly scalp. I called in sick from work, got off my ass, and ran to a board-certified dermatologist.
As you can see in the photo below, red patches were around my eyes, and my scalp was flaky. Behind the mask were also some flare-ups on my cheeks and chin. Neither seen nor exhibited in the photo was how itchy my face, neck, and scalp were. 🥴
That day, I was diagnosed with atopic and seborrheic dermatitis.
Atopic dermatitis is a common form of eczema. It is a condition that causes the skin to be dry, itchy, and inflamed. While it can manifest on any part of the body, symptoms most often affect the face, hands, feet, elbows, and knees. Seborrheic dermatitis, on the other hand, is a skin condition that mainly affects the areas around oil-producing (sebaceous) glands like the scalp, ears, eyelids, nose, etc. Manifestation for both conditions can vary, but they share common symptoms such as itching, rashes, red skin, thick or hardened skin patches, and irritated or inflamed skin. Aside from environmental factors, there is no single known cause for either condition, but in many cases, you might have your genetics (my genetics, in my case) to thank. Unfortunately, there is no cure for these chronic conditions, but they can definitely be managed. Another lowdown I thought I should highlight here is that either atopic or seborrheic dermatitis is never contagious!
October is Eczema Awareness Month, and I want to use this platform to share what it is like to live with eczema and my personal stories of how I try living well with eczema. For some reason, I’ve always known that I’ve always had it because my mom had asthma, and two of my siblings have atopic asthma. I just don’t know when it will come about.
The day I was diagnosed with eczema, the doctor prescribed me oral and topical medicines, which, ngl, cost a lot. It took three days for the swelling and redness in my face to completely dissipate. From that day on, my flare-ups became my life’s constant. Although my doctors warned me of my possible triggers, such as topical irritants, environmental allergens, stress, food, and extreme temperatures, I could not pinpoint a common reason that would set off my condition. To be perfectly honest, I would get frustrated when my skin gets “exasperated,” and I could not identify what would cause it.
The following are some of the health hacks I follow for living well with eczema:
1. I manage my everyday stresses because most often, but not always, stress is the culprit of my flare-ups.
2. I cut down on my citrus fruit consumption because I was told by my doctor that they can cause eczema flares. I cannot simply say “no” to them because they are one of my favorites. 🙁
3. I avoid extreme temperatures and places with terrible air pollutants.
4. I always keep my hands and mind occupied. Otherwise, I’ll always have the urge to scratch the itch. I place ice on the itchy area when the itching and burning become unbearable.
5. I keep my place dust-free (but I can only do so much because the damn thing keeps on coming back).
6. I’m always wary about the stuff I put into my skin and use products for sensitive skin.
7. I always have regular check-ups with my doctor.
Here are some of the products I’m using that don’t require a doctor’s prescription:
I didn’t want to share this information, but I thought there was no point in gatekeeping. The shampoo that I swear by is the Davines Purifying for Oily or Dry Dandruff. I promise you this is the ONLY shampoo that totally got rid of my dandruff! I always buy it from HairMNL. It’s not cheap, but it’s totally worth it!
I use Cerave Hydrating Facial Cleanser. Not only does it work for me, but it also has the National Eczema Association’s seal of acceptance.
The key to keeping my flare-ups at bay is to maintain my skin moisturized. These are the moisturizers that I’m using alternatively:
- Aveeno Dermexa Daily Emollient Cream
- Oillan Restorative Cream with 30% Urea
- Avène Tolerance Control Soothing Skin Recovery Cream – works well for my eyelids
- Vaseline Petroleum Jelly
Just like everything, my skin has good and bad days, too. There are days that I have zero flare-ups and I can enjoy a carefree life. But then there are those days when my skin is like a total time bomb and anything, seriously anything, could just set it off. And you know what’s even worse than dealing with this condition itself? It’s having to constantly explain to everyone why I look the way I do.
Up to this day, I still do not know what I did to “wake up this beast” in me. Although I have accepted the fact that I might have this condition for the rest of my life and pass it on to my future children (sorry, kids), I’m still doing everything I can to manage it and stop it from getting worse. I’m also thankful that I only have a mild condition and I have a strong support system.
I had neglected my skin for many years, especially when I was younger. While there is no easy thing about having this common condition, the silver lining I perceive is that it offers me an opportunity to take better care of myself, my mental health, and my overall well-being. Living well with eczema is a longshot game but well worth trying.