How to deal with eczema as winter in Edinburgh approaches

Because all hot girls have skin problems

There is never an appropriate season to suffer from eczema. From the irritation provoked by summer sweats to the drop in temperature in Autumn that leaves the skin dry and sore, eczema is a year-round silent battle fought by many, but heard by few.

Indeed, there are a variety of products on the market that claim to relieve its itchy symptoms, however, the veteran eczema sufferer knows that these lotions and potions only stretch so far. As a member of said veteran eczema community, I can vouch for this. With cracked and red elbows, an angry and inflamed neck, rough and bumpy eyelids, and itchy ‘kneepits’ – you name it, I have scratched it.

If you have made it this far, I assume you’re in the same boat, also feeling the agonising urge to itch these areas (please don’t!). You’re probably also dreading winter, the deadliest season for us. Even the thought of ice, snow, and storms looming is enough to provoke a scratch attack for me, that insatiable and unstoppable urge to rip my skin to shreds. Given that the average temperature of only 5° from December through to February, Scottish winters can simply be described as a nightmare for sensitive skin.

I have already conquered multiple Edinburgh winters head-on – my freezing student flat with ridiculously high ceilings the perfect microenvironment for my eczema to prosper. The only benefit of which, I suppose, being the variety of products tried and tested by yours truly.

It is thus only fair that I share such product wisdom with you all, having over the years compiled a comprehensive list of products to avoid and buy. I will also detail some advice for tackling the winter season because if I have made it this far, so can you. Eczema is so much deeper than just a skin condition, it is a source of embarrassment, insecurity and simply, pain. But remember, you are not alone in this struggle.

Top of the table, the one and only Balmonds Skin Salvation

To be honest, I am disappointed that I didn’t know about this product sooner. My best piece of advice – if you don’t know, get to know this miracle emollient. Comprised of 100% natural ingredients such as beeswax, hemp seed oil, calendula, and chamomile extract, there are zero harmful or irritating fragrances, synthetics, or paraffins in this wondrous jar.

In fact, it almost feels wrong to refer to it as a product, with a single thin layer of this balm being what I can only describe as natural goodness. Unlike many phoney expensive creams, Balmonds is true to its word, leaving a buttery, non-sticky sealant over your affected areas. Best of all, it can be found in good old Holland & Barrett (a shop I presume, MANY of you frequently visit) for as little as £7.99 for a pot.

A close second, Savex Original Lip Balm

I am not speaking in hyperbole when I say this product, quite simply, saved my chapped and raw eczema lips. A struggle I believe is not addressed enough, facial eczema is perhaps the most debilitating place to have this condition, with cracked lips, sore eyelids, and flaky cheeks hard to disguise or treat. Aggravated by makeup, but an insecurity for many, facial eczema had made me almost reclusive, too self-conscious to leave home.

So, when I discovered this lip balm, needless to say, I was delighted. Recommended by a family member who was also tormented by sore lips, this balm brought a soothing feeling like no other. Providing a thick, soothing coating on your lips, this balm is basically Carmex’s superior older sister. It is also unscented, which is an eczema sufferer’s best friend. Remember, the plainer, the better, with ingredients. I have found this balm in many of my local pharmacies; however, you can also buy it directly and easily from Amazon.

Steroids – friend or foe?

If you have frequented your doctor’s office concerning eczema, you will surely have heard the word ‘steroid’. In fact, every doctor I have met (and trust me, I have been to A LOT) has not heard my eczema plight without prescribing a steroid treatment, whether it be a cream, oil, or gel. True, every course of action for treating eczema is individualised, however, personally, steroids have negatively impacted my skin’s healing.

Yes, they took away the initial rash, but within mere weeks, my rashes returned with a vengeance. This is because the skin becomes addicted to steroids, beginning the vicious cycle of needing stronger and stronger prescriptions. My advice – try steroid-free products on smaller rashes if you see symptoms appearing. This way, you can avoid your skin becoming reliant on creams that simply cease to work over an extended period.

That being said, always consult your doctor if you think something is not quite right with your skin, but do not be blind to conditions such as ‘Topical Steroid Withdrawal.’  For more information, listening to people’s personal experiences is your best bet. I recommend tuning into LittleMissPlumful and CTRL Skin on TikTok for honest and poignant advice and first hand expertise. You can find official NHS guidance on eczema here.

Best drugstore finds

Sometimes the best creams can be found on your doorstep. That is, if your doorstop is Boots or Superdrug. Having ransacked the ‘skincare’ sections of both, Superdrug’s Aveeno Skin Relief, and Boot’s Avène Cicalfate Protecting Cream have come out on top.

If your preference is a lighter, non-stick creamy coating, I would highly recommend any of Aveeno’s products, their Skin Relief for ‘Very Dry Skin’ being ideal for eczema of the body. However, if you’re in desperate need of deep moisturisation, Avène’s cream is suitable for both the face and body, leaving a thick, rich layer of skin goodness. A combination of both is a sure winner this winter. I would recommend application post-shower, maximising hydration by locking in moisture on the skin’s surface.

Some Bonus Top Tips…

Here are some of my quickfire eczema tips and tricks!

–       Repeat after me: I must resist all temptation to scratch. Easier said than done, I know, and a slightly hypocritical mantra for me to include, however, this is vitally important! A small amount of antihistamines usually help me to control my scratching urges, as well as trusty Diprobase Anti-Itch Cream.

–       I discourage shaving on particularly sore areas, but have found for legs, shaving directly under the shower with no additional products causes minimal irritation.

–       Compression socks and gloves are a hand and feet eczema sufferer’s best friend.

–       Look into if the water in your area is hard and soft. Edinburgh’s soft water often leaves my skin itchy and red, so I try not to have long showers.

–       Try and incorporate anti-inflammatory foods into your diet to settle your flare-ups. These include berries, spinach, salmon, chia seeds, and flax seeds.

Although I, unfortunately, can’t conjure a cure for you all or myself, there are things we can do to make the winter season more bearable. Happy moisturising!

You can find official NHS guidance on eczema here. Always speak to your GP or a medical professional. 

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