The internet has almost commoditized information. Anyone can learn anything about any subject. If it’s on the internet it must be true, right?
The trick is no longer finding information, but finding the right information. If you have a child who suffers from eczema, you are probably an expert on the disease. The problem is that you have probably found some myths along the way and it’s difficult to figure out what’s accurate. Here are 4 myths of eczema treatment: you need a steroid cream to treat eczema, food allergies are a leading cause, you can’t actually control eczema, only its symptoms, and all moisturizers are created equal.
1. You need a steroid: False. In many cases, eczema can be controlled by providing the optimal environment for the skin to heal itself back into its healthy state, with a repaired lipid barrier, a low pH, no infection, no inflammation, and no allergens.
There are many different degrees of severity of eczema. In many cases, mild to moderate eczema can be controlled by optimizing the skin barrier by the use of skin barrier repair creams and ointments. If one has severe eczema with thick, bleeding scabs, then the use of topical steroids is ONE important part of treating severe eczema. In these severe cases however, it is still VERY important to employ all the barrier repair tactics possible, replace deficient skin lipids, adjust the skin pH into its natural acidic range, address infection from Staphylococcus aureus (Staph infection). Adjusting the pH into its natural acidic 4.6-5.6 range can discourage the growth of Staph. The use of bleach baths and hypochlorite gel products can also help.
2. Food allergies are one of the biggest causes: False. One thing we do know is that food allergies are not a huge contributor to the cause of eczema. In some isolated cases however, there are people whose eczema is definitely related to their diet. This is an exception and not the rule however. The more common allergy in eczema is actually a contact allergy—an allergy to something that comes in contact with the skin. This is precisely why it is important to avoid chemicals like the following:
- Lotion: may have over 80% water
- Cream: may have 50% or less water
- Ointment: a true ointment has NO water.
There are debates at to which is better for eczema prone skin, but most dermatologists believe that an ointment is the best option for eczema and any other skin disease as it provides a true barrier between the environment and the skin. Infection, toxins and allergens are sealed out.
Most moisturizers, whether they are lotions, creams or ointments are a combination of petrolatum, oils, and water with a bunch of preservatives and fragrances. To optimize the treatment of eczema, we know that replacing skin lipids is very beneficial as is a pH that is between 4.6 and 5.6 (to optimize the lipid production in the skin and to discourage the growth of Staph. aureus), anti-inflammatory ingredients like niacinamide and 18-B glycyrrhetinic acid, and the avoidance of allergens and toxins.