Comments from a Teenage Eczema Sufferer

Here are my comments/notes on the Teenage Eczema Pamphlet

• The layout and everything is really good, and

• You’ve put in all the right headings

Also, just in case you want an opinion from someone who suffers from eczema as a teen:

Take Control

Fortunately I’ve had a lot of help with this area from my mum. She’s pretty much dealt with my eczema the majority of my life. I’ve been to numerous doctors over the years and they’ve all tried and tested different skin treatments with me. I’ve tried so many different brands I’ve pretty much gone through a whole aisle at the chemist. I now use a variety of different moisturisers, body washes and steroid creams and they’re all working for me.

• Bath: QV body wash or Derma Veen bath powder

• Shower: Aveeno Skin relief body wash (and sometimes a body scrub from the Body Shop but only when my skin is clear!)

• Moisturiser: Aveeno Skin Relief moisturising lotion (w cooling menthol)

• Steroid Creams: (Really bad areas) Advantan (not severe but still irratable) Celestone

• Face: I’ve been using Clinique’s 3 step since about the age of 13 and haven’t had a single problem yet.

When I was about 3 years old, I went on a no cow’s milk diet for a year because they thought I was allergic to it and they thought its what made my skin worse. The only thing that diet did was absolutely nothing. Didn’t help one bit. Soy milk ice cream anyone?

One thing I’ve been very diligent about, is the use of soap. I only ever use it on my hands. Never anywhere else. It dries out my skin. And I very rarely wash my hair in the bath. Chemicals in the shampoo and conditioner do the same thing as soap. I also don’t wash my dog for the same reason (he does get washed, don’t worry, but not by me).

Body Image

In your teenage life, you are very conscious of how you look and having eczema all over doesn’t help. Being in a warm climate the majority of the year, I’m not always able to hide my eczema but thankfully as I got older, the amount I got and where I got it changed. I hardly ever get it on my arms anymore and luckily I’ve never gotten it on my face. My chest does flare up from time to time and it can get really red and sore but I don’t let that stop me from wearing what I want. I’m so used to it and so are my friends that it doesn’t bother me anymore. I am aware that some people have it worse then me but you shouldn’t let it stop you from doing what you want. I’ve had kids ask me what it is and tell me how gross it looks but I’ve learnt to not let it get to me. The opinions of those you care about most should be the only ones that count. A friend should like you because of who you are, not what you look like. Don’t let what’s on your skin get you down. I promise you, most of it, if not all of it it will go away!

Clothing and Jewellery

Living in Australia, I wear summer clothes 90% of the year. The majority of summer clothes here are cotton which is good for the skin and I try not to wear any fabrics that would irritate my skin in summer such as silk. In winter I still wear most of my summer outfits. Fortunately it doesn’t get cold enough here to wear a scarf and if i wear a wool cardigan or a trench coat I make sure I have something cotton underneath. The only non-cotton items I tend to wear in winter are jeans or stockings. But even then, they don’t bother me.

Makeup

What I wear on my face is very important to me because I have had some eczema near my face before. I don’t wear heavy makeup (i.e. liquid foundation), I only use mineral powder and blush. I don’t wear much eyeliner because the skin on my eyes can get irritated but I do wear mascara. The eyeshadow I use is also mineralise (MAC) but the only time I wear it is when I go out at night. I use soft brushes that won’t irritate my skin and to remove it I use Clinique eye makeup remover and the wash off make up remover.

Shaving

I’ve tried shaving with a dry shaver before and it just made my skin really dry and irritable so I stopped using it. I really try to limit when I need to shave (as gross as that is) especially if my leg’s have really bad eczema at the time. I don’t use shaving cream, I use body wash before and after I shave. I go lightly over infected areas, not fussed if I miss a few hairs as to minimise the risk of cutting the sores. As soon as I’ve finished, I pat my legs dry and moisturise them straight away.

Hair Dying

Not relevant – natural blonde : )

Tattoos

Sorry, can’t help.

Acne

Fortunately, I’ve never had any.

Eating and Drinking

Like I mentioned before, I went on a cow’s milk free diet for a year at the age of three. It didn’t do much and it was the worst year of my childhood. Well, in terms of food that is. Soy milk ice-cream isn’t exactly what I’d call child friendly. In my teens I’ve had a very healthy diet with the occasional treat. I eat a lot of protein and bread with very high fiber as well as lots of vegetables however I tend to eat a few too many carbs. If I have chocolate, it has to be dark and if I have desserts, I try and stick to “diet” ones or things that are low in sugar, but I do cheat from time to time. I’m not a huge coffee drinker anymore, I prefer tea. I limit the amount of soft drink I have and instead have turned to lite iced tea. I’ve never been a very big water drinker but now I try to have at least one litre a day. Being 18, I’m now legally able to drink however if I do go out, I usually only have 2 or 3 drinks. I’ve never really found anything food wise that has irritated my skin but it still helps to eat healthy and sensibly. Especially since our bodies change the most during our teen years.

Exercise

Living in Australia it is very difficult for someone with eczema to exercise outside. Thankfully my parents have given me a gym membership. I strongly suggest if you have eczema to see about getting one, especially in the summer months (NB: most gyms offer student discounts). Gym’s are air-conditioned and this way you can control the climate in which you are in. If you feel you’re sweating too much and its starting to irritate your skin, don’t hesitate to ask them to turn down the air-conditioning.

If you’re unable to afford a gym membership or you prefer exercising outside, make sure you shower as soon as you get home and then moisurise when you’re finished. I used to not shower as soon as I’ve finished exercising and the sweat just dries your skin out and it gets really itchy.

Exams/School/University

My study has only been affected once by my eczema fortunately. It was a few weeks into grade 12 and I started getting really bad eczema over my chest and all up my neck. I wasn’t sleeping at night and I was getting really annoyed and irritated. I ended up having to go to the sick bay one day because I was so fed up with it. Mum was called and I slept until she got there. I went to the doctor and he told me to not go to school the next day and take some sleeping medication and I spent pretty much all night and all day sleeping. It eventually went away but every now and then flares up again, usually when I get stressed. If you find you’re getting too stressed and your eczema is starting to flare up here are a few tips:

 

• Take a cold shower – it will not only cool your skin down, but will also calm yourself down

• Take a break and watch some TV – stop thinking about what you have to do and just calm down – your body and your skin heat up when you’re stressed.

• Have a nap – you’ll de-stress and your body will cool down

• Eat/drink something cold – Have some milk (or something else if you can’t have milk) and chocolate. Chocolate has calming effects because it releases endorphins and, to quote Elle Woods, “endorphins make you happy”. Other healthy alternatives: a smoothie, yoghurt and/or frozen berries.

 

Career Choices

Can’t really help with this one.

 

Hope this helps,

Beth MacKenzie (eczema sufferer since 1991)

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