Tips & Advice

for Patients

The tips and advice given in the tables below may help alleviate some of your patients symptoms and reduce the risk of flare-ups as well as answering some common questions and concerns. If after reading these Tips and Advice your patients have any further questions or would like to tell us about tips that have helped them or their child they can contact us or share them with everyone on our Facebook page. To print these tips for your patients click on the PDF link below. Patients also have access to these tips and advice via the consumer section.

Tips and Advice Explanation
When using an emollient for the first time test a small amount on an area of skin and leave for 48 hours. If there is no reaction or irritation apply all over the affected area of skin Some people may be sensitive to certain ingredients found in the emollient and so react to them. Testing a small area limits any potential reaction to the test area alone and so doesn’t aggravate skin that is already sensitive and irritated
Keep finger nails short & smooth Keeping finger nails short and smooth prevents accidental damage to the skin surface when applying emollients or scratching (although scratching should be avoided). Long nails can also harbour bacteria under them, which, along with the bacteria staphylococcus (found on the skin) and other pathogens, can enter broken and irritated skin causing further irritation, inflammation and infection
Wash hands before applying emollients This removes bacteria, which are invisible to the eye, from your hands thus reducing the risk of infection
Pump dispensers reduce the risk of product contamination Pump dispensers eliminate the need to use your fingers to scoop out the emollient from the container so stopping the bacteria, found on fingers and possibly under the nails, from getting into the emollient and subsequently into the broken skin of an eczema, psoriasis or dry skin sufferer
Always use a clean spoon to scoop out emollients that come in tubs and transfer the amount required into a clean container or plate and use from there Putting your hands into a tub of emollient can cause bacterial contamination of the product, which can subsequently get into broken, irritated skin. By using a clean spoon to take out the exact amount needed minimises contact with the emollient
Emollients should be applied regularly, liberally and frequently (at least three times a day) The effects of emollients don’t last long so they need to be applied frequently. Regular emollient application keeps the skin protected and hydrated and can reduce the need for steroid creams. It is important to note that you cannot overuse emollients so they should be applied liberally and as often as needed
Apply emollients downwards in the direction of hair growth This reduces the risk of blocking hair follicles and causing folliculitisinflammation of the hair follicles
Emollients should be applied using gentle strokes Vigorous strokes or rubbing can generate heat making the skin itchy and irritated, which can lead to scratching so exacerbating the itch-scratch cycle
Continue applying emollients after your skin has improved This continues to help hydrate and protect the skin and reduces the risk of flare-ups
Apply greasy emollients at night Greasy emollients are good for night time use as they last longer. Some people also prefer to put them on at night time as they are messy and can transfer onto clothing
Apply greasy emollients on very dry or thickened skin As greasy emollients hydrate the skin more than creams they are ideal for very dry and thickened skin
Apply emollients at least 20 minutes before bedtime This allows time for the emollient to absorb into the skin before you or your child goes to sleep
Keep your child occupied whilst trying to put on their emollient It’s difficult to get a child to sit still at the best of times, let alone while you are trying to put emollients on them. Visit our Kids Zone for some fun, interactive games to help your child learn about their eczema and keep them occupied whilst you put their emollient on.
Many emollients contain paraffin and when using these you should keep away from fire, including any naked flames and cigarettes Emollients can get soaked into dressings and clothes. As paraffin is easily ignited with a naked flame it is important to keep away from fire when using paraffin containing emollients
Tips and Advice Explanation
When exercising wear loose clothing and remove sweat regularly by patting the skin with a towel. Limit the length of time that you exercise for to ensure that the skin doesn’t get too hot and itchy During exercise you get hot and sweaty which can make eczematous skin more itchy, irritated and sore. Wearing loose clothing will allow your skin to breathe and you to stay cool while patting, rather than wiping, the skin with a towel will remove excess sweat without irritating the skin
Shower immediately after exercising and apply emollient Showering immediately after exercise will remove sweat from the skin as well as cooling it down. However showering can dry the skin so, after patting the skin almost dry, apply an emollient to trap in moisture
Apply an emollient before and after swimming Chlorine and water can irritate and dry out your skin. Applying an emollient before exposure forms a barrier which can help alleviate this. Once you finish swimming rinse off thoroughly or shower straight away to wash off the chlorine. You should not wait until you get home as the chlorine will have dried onto your skin and while it’s in contact with the skin it will keep irritating it. Remember after showering pat the skin and when it is almost dry apply the emollient, this will trap moisture in and hydrate the skin further
Apply a pre-bathing emollient before bathing Bathing can dry out the skin, applying a pre-bathing emollient beforehand forms a barrier which can help alleviate the drying effects
Use a SLS free emollient in the bath rather than bubble baths which may contain sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) Sodium lauryl sulfate can irritate the skin
Take warm, NOT HOT baths, lasting no longer than 10-15 mins The heat from the water can cause your skin to get hot which in turn causes itching and flare-ups so a warm bath is better than a hot one. Baths can also dry the skin so should be limited to 10-15 minutes
Use a non-slip bath mat in the bath or shower Emollients can cause bath and shower surfaces to become slippery so a non-slip mat will stop you slipping and prevent any injuries
Always pat your skin dry Do not rub the skin as this generates heat and can make the skin more itchy and irritated, always pat it dry
After bathing apply an emollient to skin that is almost dry An emollient should be applied, within 3-4 minutes of getting out of the bath or shower, to skin that is almost dry as this will trap in moisture thus hydrating it further
Tips and Advice Explanation
Avoid scratching instead gently stroke itchy skin Scratching can cause further itching, which can lead to further scratching so exacerbating the itch-scratch cycle and making the condition worse. Scratching can also cause the skin to break leaving it open to infections
Know what your triggers are and, if possible, avoid them
  • Certain foods can trigger the symptoms of eczema however identifying the food culprits is not an easy process and should only be done with the help of a dietician or doctor. Before avoiding any foods you should always consult your doctor or dietician
  • Some people find that contact with pets aggravates their symptoms, this is due to animal dander. Keeping pets outside may help however if they are allowed inside they should be regularly groomed and cleaned, kept off chairs and sofas. You should also make sure that no pets are allowed into bedrooms and that carpets are hoovered regularly
  • Stress can be another trigger so learning to cope with it and avoiding stressful situations can help
  • Other triggers include pregnancy and hormonal changes before a period, unfortunately these cannot be avoided
Apply an emollient in cold weather and use a humidifier Cold weather can cause the skin to dry out and crack so applying an emollient before exposure may help. Humidifiers can also be useful as they add moisture back into the air thus reducing its drying effects
Use a cold compress on itchy and inflamed skin Cold compresses can cool itchy and inflamed skin. It is important to make sure that you do not put the compress directly onto the skin as it can burn it – instead wrap it in a towel before applying
Wear 100% cotton clothing Cotton clothing allows your skin to breathe. Certain fabrics can irritate the skin (e.g wool) and so should either be avoided or cotton clothing can be worn unde these so that they are not in direct contact with the skin
Keep the bedroom cool and use cotton sheets People with eczema sometimes have problems sleeping as their skin can get hot and itchy through the night so keeping the bedroom cool will help, as will cotton sheets as they allow the skin to breathe and keep cool
Drink plenty of water Water keeps the skin hydrated thus helping to maintain the skin barrier
People with psoriasis should avoid sunburns Sunburns can cause existing psoriasis to get worse and new psoriasis to form
Wash new clothes before wearing with the correct amount of laundry powder or liquid New clothes contain dyes and fabric finishes which can irritate your skin - washing them before wearing can help alleviate this. Using more than the recommended amount of washing powder or liquid doesn’t make clothes any cleaner but can irritate your skin, so make sure that you follow the directions on the container. You should also make sure that clothes are rinsed properly so that no powder or liquid is left behind on them – it may be worth double rinsing them