I've had eczema since forever. I don't remember when was the first time I went to a dermatologist to ask why I had dry and itchy patches all over my chest, my knees, my elbows and even some on my scalp. It felt like I had the world map on my body and I was scratching like a cat who didn't bath for years!
It first began when I was six where I was diagnosed with mild psoriasis by a dermatologist who also happens to be the head of Indonesian Psoriasis Research Center. There was no biopsy involved or anything but he just said right then and there, "you're born with psoriasis."
Now, now, I know what you guys are thinking: "I thought this is gonna be about eczema?" and yes, I'll get to that soon.
My psoriasis was quite annoying when I was younger. I was prescribed with medicated shampoos and soaps, creams and ointments. No light therapy or whatsoever but it was so annoying having to apply topical creams and ointments every single time. I had dandruff-like fallout due to mild scalp psoriasis. Dang, I felt dirty and disgusting.
I don't remember when I stopped visiting the dermatologist because I hated medicated shampoos and soaps, especially the shampoos. I hated how they dried out my hair, how it felt like I was applying medicine and not shampoos...if you know what I mean. I tried using drugstore anti-dandruff shampoos and I even tried different moisturizing soaps.
Years passed and I found my psoriasis began to disappear. Well, not completely but my skin improved a lot; no more crazy, intense itch and no more dry, scaly patches anymore. It felt awesome.
Unfortunately soon after, eczema came along. I remember standing under the sun one afternoon for hours and going back home with itchy, red coin-shaped spots on my legs. I thought my psoriasis came back but no, they were eczema. *encores sarcastically*
I've always thought it's either psoriasis or eczema and never both. Well, I guessed wrong. Although my scalp is no longer itchy and scaly and my body is no longer looking like the world map filled with thick, dry and scaly patches, my (body) skin is sensitive and eczema-prone. My skin feels thinner and gets irritated easily, probably the side effect from using topical steroid ointments. As a result, I have dry, sensitive body skin that needs intense moisturizing treatment.
I am not going to go in too deep with psoriasis, eczema and the differences between them. All I can say is that both of them are NOT contagious, are autoimmune disease characterized by red, itchy and sometimes inflamed skin. Those who are born with psoriasis or eczema will have different level of severeness, experience different symptoms, have different triggers. For instance, mine is considered mild, does not affect my face as they only affect my body (80-90% of the time) and sometimes my skin folds and is triggered by extreme stress (depression, anxiety, etc), extreme heat and wrong products that strip moisture off my skin.
You can read more about them here, here and here.
Moving on to the real topic at bay, I will list down a few of my favorite bath and body products that I have found to work with my body skin. Keep in mind that 1). the skin on my face is of combination sensitive instead of dry-sensitive and 2). these products may or may not work for you.
L to R: Shiseido Tsubaki Damage Care / Shiseido Ma Cherie Moisture / Kracie Ichikami Smoothing Shampoo / L'oreal Total Repair 5 Repairing Shampoo
Shiseido Tsubaki Damage Care — honestly, I've tried all the Tsubaki lineup from Shiseido. While the white one is dedicated to damaged hair, they have the purple one for volume boost and red for extra moisture. Shiseido Tsubaki is silicone-free (only comes at 500ml).
Shiseido Ma Cherie Moisture — like the Tsubaki line, Ma Cherie was brought to you by Shiseido and is silicone-free too. It has two variants; the moisture feel and the air feel for dry, frizzy and rebellious hair. Although I like it as much as the Tsubaki line, the Ma Cherie is more expensive and comes in two sizes (200ml and 450ml).
Kracie Ichikami Smoothing Shampoo — silicone free and sulfate free, it has a mild sakura scent and does not produce as much foam as usual non-sulfate free shampoos. What I don't like is how my hair feels squeaky clean if I don't use conditioner afterwards so there's definitely pros and cons with this one.
L'oreal Total Repair 5 Repairing Shampoo — unlike Ichikami or Shiseido, the L'oreal Total Repair contains sulfate and silicone. It also contains salicylic acid, which is the ingredient that some people claim to be able to combat scalp psoriasis. It has a strong smell and sometimes it works on me, sometimes it doesn't which is weird, I know. I stopped using this because it contains silicone.
Like I said before, different people's eczema / psoriasis is triggered differently. I find that the moment I stray away from silicone in my shampoo, the better it is for my scalp — no more dry, dandruff-like flakes. Take note that I only avoid silicone in my shampoo and not my conditioner because who even applies conditioner to their scalp anyway?
L to R: Cow brand additive free (mutenka) body shampoo / Cow brand Bouncia body wash / Amway Glycerin & Honey Bar Soap / Cow brand Milky Body Soap / Pigeon 2 in 1 Hair & Body Wash / Johnson's Baby Milk & Rice Bath
Cow brand additive body shampoo — sulfate free, fragrance free and made with milk. This is the most gentle body wash I have ever used in my life. Yes it left my skin squeaky clean but it did not strip any moisture, at all. It's particularly difficult to get this one though so I have only used it once, cries.
Cow brand Bouncia body wash & Cow brand Milky Body Soap — both of them are sulfate-free but not fragrance-free. I found that eczema on my skin is triggered by sulfate and not fragrance since I've been switching between the two and my skin has been free from any flare-ups. Both of them produce a lot of foam when used with shower puff, making my shower time even more enjoyable.
Amway G&H Honey Bar Soap — I used to use this bar soap when I was younger and I'd like to think this was the miraculous soap that cured 95% of my psoriasis. Yes, what a claim. Sadly, I'm not fond of bar soap and this is pretty pricey so I've stopped repurchasing.
Pigeon 2 in 1 Hair & Body Wash — hypoallergenic, sulfate free, fragrance free. I have not tried this yet but I will.
Johnson's Baby Milk & Rice Bath — I liked this at first but then it soon dried out my skin which is surprising since it's supposedly gentle on baby's skin. Johnson's liquid soaps contain sulfate so there goes the explanation.
Lock The Moisture
L to R: The Body Shop Honeymania Shower Scrub / The Body Shop Wild Argan Oil Body Butter / The Body Shop Peppermint Intensive Foot Rescue / The Body Shop Satsuma Body Butter / Vaseline Intensive Care Cocoa Radiant Body Lotion
The Body Shop Honeymania Shower Scrub — I love exfoliating but I can't exfoliate my body as often as I do with my face because it's a lot more sensitive than my face. I only use this scrub once a week but even that doesn't happen every week. It leaves my skin feeling supple and soft though.
The Body Shop Wild Argan Oil Body Butter — body butter for very dry skin and has a thick, hard consistency. I don't use this often because I hate feeling sticky so I only use this on my body but not on my arms and legs, if that makes sense.
The Body Shop Peppermint Intensive Foot Rescue — even though I wear slippers inside the house, I sometimes get dry feet. Sometimes they crack , other times they do not.
The Body Shop Satsuma Body Butter — for normal to dry skin, it's not as thick as the argan one but it's not thin and runny either. I love the energizing citrus scent it has.
Vaseline Intensive Care Cocoa Radiant Body Lotion — perfect for daylight moisture since I hate turning into a sticky, greasy hot dog during the day. It absorbs quickly and has that sweet cocoa scent. Not a huuuge fan of the scent though since it can get pretty...sickening.
I know I know, you're probably thinking: "dang gurl, are you doing a Body Shop haul?" I admit, I've always used body butters and lotions from The Body Shop. I used to use Vaseline a lot though. For some reason, body moisturizers from other brands never really give me enough moisture the way I want them to. I can't stand fragrances from Bath & Body Works either as I find them too strong they give me headache.
BUT this does not mean everyone has to go for The Body Shop's body butters. Everyone's skin responds differently to different body moisturizers so always experiment and try various brands to find the one that fits.
I admit, living with this skin condition is not an easy and pleasing one. I still flare-ups from time to time even though they're not as intense as before. Occasionally, the dry patches do not vanish completely and instead, leave some darkened leftover patches on my skin. It's gross, I know but if I can use certain products to reduce the flare-ups and maybe prevent them, I would.
Below are some tips that I've made a note for myself:
- Find your triggers. Psoriasis and eczema are commonly triggered by extreme stress and I can tell you that it's true. My flare-ups are also easily triggered by dry, tight skin, extreme heat and direct exposure to afternoon sunlight (after 10am) and some ingredients in certain products.
- Moisture, moisture, moisture. It's okay to be lazy once in a while and not apply body butter or lotion after shower but when there's a tight, dry feeling to the skin, it's time to moisture. No buts!
- Try not to scratch. Scratching may lead to wounds and bleeding skin. Nuff said. Instead, apply moisturizers and/or topical ointments / creams.
- Use gentle, hypoallergenic products. Better yet if they are sulfate and fragrance free. Not only body wash, I find that if I use anti-bacterial or harsh hand soap, my hands will get really, really dry and tight and that will trigger flare-ups. Sometimes, I'd rather use wet towels rather than washing my hand with a hand soap.
- Always prepare topical ointments. This one is optional but for me, I have to have my topical ointments ready all the time. I don't use them unless my dry patches get really intense and thick. It's safer to use a Vitamin D ointment like Daivonex since it does not thin your skin out.
So that's it for today's post. I know this is such a looooong and probably boring post but I just feel like writing down the products that actually help my skin condition. It might be borderline gross for some people to know that something like this exists but it's tiring to live my days pretending that I do not have flare-ups from time to time because I actually do and I'm not afraid to admit it — just like how I'm open about my depression and anxiety.
Question time: have you ever heard of psoriasis and / or eczema? Have you ever experienced eczema caused by irritants before? Feel free to suggest any other products that actually work for sensitive skin in the comment box below!