Wearing layers in the winter helps us to adjust to varying temperatures as we move through our days. But not any layer will do: from the inside out, follow the right layering system, with adaptations for eczema, and your skin will thank you.
Published On: Dec 16, 2022
Last Updated On: Jan 3, 2023
Open any magazine or go online, and you’ll find hundreds of skincare tools that are advertised to improve your skin and make it glow. But are any of them suitable for people with eczema?
While it’s important to avoid known triggers, it’s okay to want to feel pampered too — and often it’s hard to know where to draw the line between which products might be worth a try with the right precautions and which are probably best for people with eczema to avoid.
We compiled a list of some of the most popular self-care tools and trends right now. While many of the below items might not necessarily benefit everyone’s skin, we asked these ecz-perts if there’s any initial reasons why any of these items might trigger or exacerbate an existing eczema flare (even if used on a part of the skin where you don’t normally flare):
Below, check out our dermatologist-reviewed guide to self-care for the person you love with eczema (even if that person is you):
Cooling masks are known to reduce puffiness and improve the appearance of circles under the eyes.1 As a bonus, they can also be beneficial for some people with eczema. “Cooling masks that you can put in the fridge before going to bed, or just to relax at night, can help, especially if you have facial eczema,” said Dr. Jeff Yu, board-certified dermatologist at Massachusetts General Hospital. Check the mask materials carefully to avoid triggers: silicone is generally considered safe for skin and medical-grade masks are best.
Dry brushes are meant to help exfoliate the skin by removing dead skin cells to promote soft, smooth skin. However, this practice doesn’t often go hand-in-hand with eczema-prone skin since it has the ability to disrupt the skin barrier. Dr. Jhaveri said, “Exfoliation can remove the top layer of the skin which is primarily where eczema is flaring, so this could worsen eczema. Also too much exfoliating or rubbing can be interpreted by the skin fibers as “scratching” and cause more itch hormone to be released.” If you’re going to give it a try, she advised, “Use with caution, likely on non-eczema skin first.”
Ice globes can help cool down stressed out skin on the face and neck. Perfect for gliding over the skin or a DIY rice paper mask (as seen here in Dr. Shi’s About Face webinar), these glass globes can be stored in the freezer. Be sure to clean them with warm water and eczema-friendly soap between each use. Dr. Jhaveri confirmed that for many people, “the cool sensation can help calm down inflammation and decrease itch hormone.”
Looking to open up those pores with your very own facial steamer? Designed to deep clean pores and open up nasal passages, according to Dr. Jhaveri, the steam from this product may also help promote relaxation and indirectly reduce inflammation. Dr. Shi advised that this product should be okay to try, “although increasing blood flow (as advertised) can potentially flare head/neck eczema.” If you are not prone to head/neck eczema and want to give it a try, be sure to moisturize afterwards to lock in your skincare products and maximize their intended benefits.
Talk about a full-body workout — this facial toning device works your facial muscles with microcurrents, a technique popular in many salon or spa facials to help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. The results are thought to help promote tighter, firmer-looking skin.
However, Dr. Shi advised users to be aware that too much friction has the potential to “worsen the skin barrier and atopic dermatitis.”
Dr. Jhaveri also advised that while this device can help reduce inflammation, “Use caution: gels used with the facial toning device could potentially cause a contact allergy.” If you’re going to give it a try, she recommended trying it on a small area first to rule out contact allergy and possible metal sensitivity depending on the brand of the device.
Facial rollers made of jade or other types of stone are another popular skincare tool. They are reported to reduce puffiness and cool the skin.2 They’ve also been proven to increase blood flow in the areas they’re used.3 “Jade rollers are fine and unlikely to cause problems,” said Dr. Yu. Opt for one made of jade or another kind of stone and be sure to clean the roller with eczema-friendly soap between each use to minimize any risk of irritation or infection.
Did you know that different types of light may have some benefit for your skin depending on the color? Given its longer wavelength, the red light given off by a LED light mask is thought to be able to better penetrate the skin to increase collagen production and promote skin rejuvenation.4
Dr. Jhaveri agreed that, “Yes, this may help with reducing inflammation. Typically these have been studied more for acne improvement. However, since these are not FDA-approved, it can be hard to regulate the dosage.” Dr. Shi also advised to avoid LED masks that may produce heat for its potential to trigger a flare.
While silk is undeniably one of the most luxurious fabrics out there, there are a few other reasons you might find yourself swapping out your cotton pillowcases for a silk pillowcase. Silk’s smooth surface is less likely to tug or pull on damaged, irritate skin. It’s also naturally hypoallergenic, which means it’s resistant to dust mites, fungus, mold and other allergens.5 Dr. Jhaveri recommended, “If you have a known allergy to any dye, you can choose a pillowcase in white color.”
Perhaps the ultimate self-care practice is a spa day at your local spa. While there are often many potential triggers (some of which we covered above) at your spa of choice, you can certainly call ahead to see how you can customize your or your loved one’s experience to be as eczema-friendly as possible. This may mean requesting fragrance-free rooms and products (or asking if you can bring your own!) and opting for gentler services (i.e. choosing a gentle massage technique over a deep-tissue one).
Dr. Shi recommended people with eczema avoid aromatherapy, especially with essential oils, for the risk of airborne contact dermatitis. Dr. Jhaveri agreed that relaxation is shown to help decrease inflammation. “I typically opt for massage and sometimes have even brought my own lotion or oil to the studio if I am concerned about flaring.”
When in doubt, check in with your healthcare providers for evidence-based guidance if you’re looking to treat yourself or a loved one but feeling unsure. For guidance on everyday skincare products, browse the NEA Product Directory for eczema-friendly products that have been vetted by dermatologists.