by Rebecca Bonneteau N.D.
There are numerous stages to truly eliminating eczema, and the final one can be the most tedious! Once the broken skin has healed and the itch is reduced we are often left with dryness…feeling like we have won a battle because things are so much better than they were…But I want to encourage you to keep going because with a bit of extra support, things can improve beyond your wildest dreams!
Here is a plan you can follow to help encourage your skin to self moisturise again. This isn’t a foolproof plan and you might find other things that help, but I am going to summarise what I have found worked for me and what is helping others as they go through this process.
Healthy skin sweats. In fact we should eliminate about ¼ litre of acidic waste out through our skin each day. It’s not going to happen if we aren’t sweating! Most people who have experienced eczema struggle to sweat. If this is you, then you will need to get to work helping your body remember how to do this. For me, I struggle to sweat. I’m the person in the exercise class that will collapse before the sweat starts (true story, so embarrassing!). So if like me you will go bright red and start to feel faint during the attempt to exercise, then you will need to go slow.
I also have a very thick scurf rim around the edge of my iris, which for those of you who don’t know means that my skin struggles to eliminate toxins efficiently. This is a very common iris sign for those with chronic eczema, and it’s important to note that it means that once you have things under control, you will want to incorporate lifestyle steps in your daily life to support your body with this task.
Here is what I did to turn things around and how I maintain my skin now:
Moving our bodies is essential and if we exert ourselves we should sweat. Even if we don’t sweat a lot, our skin will benefit from this movement. This is essential for adults and children alike. I don’t like structured exercise and so I have had to really try to find something that works for me. I like walking so when the weather is good I will take myself for a walk. I push myself speed wise and I will always break a sweat. As you start out, if you didn’t sweat well, you might find that it stings. It can feel like thousands of tiny needles are sticking in you all at once. I share this because you have to know that is normal and you need to keep going to break through that. It won’t always feel like that. As your body gets used to it, you will feel no needles!
We are also lucky enough to have a little gym space so I go there a few mornings a week and choose some exercises with weights and do three sets of each. In between sets I dance around to whatever music I have on. Sorry, no recording in the gym!!!
For those of you who don’t sweat, you will need to start working to support your body to do this. I struggled too so I used a sauna to solve the problem.
I go to the local sauna 2-3 times a week. I started off doing short sessions (2-5 minutes) in the hottest sauna (not steam room). Then would get out, and rest at room temperature to allow my skin to cool naturally. The key point is that I didn’t dive into the cold pool, I wanted to train my body to open my sweat glands itself. During this time my heart rate would rise and I would just relax and remain calm until I cooled and was able to go back in. I would do this routine as many times as I could in the time I had. When I started, I struggled to remain in there for even 2 minutes. Now it’s a different story. After a few months I noticed that I started to break a sweat while still in the sauna!
I kept going with this training, and managed to stay longer and longer each time, and sweat more and more. Now I start sweating all over my body within a couple of minutes of arrival. I stay about 20 minutes (sometimes longer if there is good conversation!) and then take a dip in the cold plunge pool for a couple of minutes before going into the heat again. The sauna I use is typically 70-80 degrees C, so pretty hot. I do not use infrared saunas. I see those a little like a human microwave, heating us up from the inside. I am not convinced that there aren’t long term side effects of exposure to that isolated spectrum.
Dry skin brushing
Outside of this I use dry skin brushing. This involves gently brushing all your skin while dry to help remove the dead skin. There are brushes available online. Mine has a long handle allowing me to get to my back. You use gentle circular motion to cover all your body and ideally you don’t want to make the skin go red. My body still struggles to get rid of the dead skin so I help it with this. I don’t do this half as much as I used to and so that is how I know I am still making healing gains! The main area of struggle for me is my shins. They are still not quite at the “normal skin” stage just yet but almost everywhere else is.
Dry skin brushing is easy to incorporate for anyone with circulatory problems, skin issues and it works well for children too. If your child has itchy skin, you will need to do this for them, otherwise they will just use the brush to scratch…(not that I’ve ever done that…just speculating!!!).
Arguably the most controversial part of the process, stop moisturising! If you keep giving your body creams, lotions and potions topically, it will never learn to create its own moisture again. I actually accidentally stumbled across this approach. One day I woke up and just didn’t put any of my cream on. I was away on holiday and just didn’t think about it. I only realised later in the day and it was the first day I can ever remember not putting cream on as soon as I got up. I remember that day of freedom fondly!
Moisturising your skin can be helpful in some stages of dealing with eczema, but for true healing we have to be willing to let go of the bottles of cream. For parents of children, this can be difficult to work out what to do. My rule of thumb, if your child asks for cream, give it. If they don’t leave it. You may see the skin is dry but you are not in their body. Often dry skin is more comfortable than a greasy body…trust me! Respect your child's wishes, they will thank you for it later (maybe not verbally but your relationship with them will be better!).
The above specifically applies to those who have gone through detoxification and are in the latter stages of healing. Stopping moisturising is a little more complex in the earlier stages of healing, a subject for another time.
I hope these hints and tips about my journey towards achieving self-moisturising skin give you hope. Never underestimate the power of intention and how much healing you can really achieve!
This blog post is an excerpt from an article in the June edition of my Love Letter (like a newsletter but sent with love 🧡). Interested in continuing your eczema education? Sign up for free membership and get access to the latest edition, amongst other benefits.