By: Rashida Ashley
The winter months are a time for hot beverages, fuzzy socks and sweaters, and time spent with loved ones. For those with irritating skin conditions, such as eczema, the winter months can be somewhat difficult to get through. According to the National Eczema Association, eczema is the name for a group of conditions that cause the skin to become itchy, inflamed, or to have a rash-like appearance. If you’re like me and have had to deal with the disease for many years, you’ve probably experienced rashes in places such as your legs, arms, fingers, face, or other body parts.
Although eczema is a non-life-threatening disease, it often makes life uncomfortable. If not managed properly and without the right habits consistently put into place on a daily basis, the skin becomes irritated and inflamed leading to itchiness, redness, at times bleeding, and the growth of a rash on the body. I can remember the interesting smell of oatmeal when I was younger, as my mother drew my bath to soothe my eczema.
I had an enlightening chat with Dr. Uchenna Okereke, a board-certified dermatologist and Dove partner. Dr. Okereke has shared her expertise on how to properly prepare and take care of the skin to have a better chance of preventing eczema from occurring during the winter months and her must haves to give our skin a fighting chance.
What appears to be the biggest misconceptions around eczema that you have seen in patients?
I think one of the biggest misconceptions about eczema that I’ve seen in patients is that it’s often seen as someone else’s condition: my brother, my mother, my friend, anyone else but me. Another misconception I often see is that eczema can be cured. While some people may grow out of eczema as they get older, oftentimes it is a chronic condition. I think this is due in part to a lack of education and understanding of the different ways eczema can appear on the skin, particularly darker skin types. What a patient may have thought of as dry skin for years may be eczema.
What are some popular foods and beverages you recommend people who suffer from eczema steer clear of during the winter months?
If you already have a proven history of a food allergy, I’d advise steering clear of it. At the same time, I know there are some who may have eczema-like food reactions; however, it is not as common as often thought. In fact, it’s rare. It is also very challenging to identify triggers given that when a patient is experiencing an eczema flare, just about anything seems to make it worse. Oftentimes once the eczema flares, they can go back to eating most foods.
What advice do you have for those who experience this skin disease on their face during this season?
Be proactive with your management. Do not wait for the flare to occur; if you know cold/dry weather triggers eczema, apply moisturizer regularly. Use a humidifier every night in your bedroom. Use a gentle cleanser in the shower on your body and face. Doing so allows you to take control back and not feel like you are a victim of your condition.
What is the best way to combat/prevent flare-ups from occurring?
I advise my patients to have an active flare regimen and a maintenance regimen for managing eczema. Develop a routine for when your skin is flaring, and for when your skin is doing well. Having a regimen for active flares allows you to activate a response quickly to calm and soothe your skin. Having a maintenance regimen helps to reduce the number of flare-ups that you have.
Why would you recommend the Dove Irritation Care Body Wash for those who suffer from various skin conditions such as rashes, dryness, and skin irritation?
I recommend Dove every day to my patients. I particularly love the Dove Irritation Care Body Wash for sensitive skin because it’s hypoallergenic, free of sulfates, parabens, and fragrance while still maintaining an ultra-creamy texture that feels great on the skin. It’s also received the National Eczema Association seal of acceptance. When I’m treating dry skin, irritation, and rashes in my patients, the last thing I want is for their cleanser to potentially make a tough situation worse. I don’t have to worry about that with Dove. In fact, I think it can make things better.
For the individual who is always on the go, what are five must-haves that they must keep in their bag to ensure that their skin is as moisturized, clean, and healthy during this time?
Around this time of the year, I recommend always keeping a moisturizer with you when you’re on the go (especially for your hands, too!) Dove recently launched the new Dove Body Love Intense Care Hand Cream and I’ve been loving it. It’s non-greasy, fast absorbent, and provides 48-hour moisturization with Dove’s Restoring Ceramide Serum, which works with your skin to help produce its own ceramides, strengthening it from within, replenishing moisture, and protecting it against dryness.