Warmer weather can be both a blessing and a curse if you have eczema – some people see a marked improvement in their skin, while others experience a decline. So what steps can you take proactively to help?
Be ‘sun smart’ by applying sunscreen, staying in the shade between 11am and 3pm, wearing clothing that offers additional protection (such as long-sleeved tops or items that have built-in UV protection) and putting on a hat and sunglasses.
But don’t rely on it! Even if you’re sitting completely in the shade you are still indirectly exposed to the sun’s rays when they are reflected off surfaces such as water, sand and concrete. Always protect your skin, even in the shade.
If you have eczema, moisture loss is already a significant issue for your skin. Warmer temperatures therefore mean you need to take on more liquids to ensure your body stays well hydrated.
Avoid extremes of temperature
Try to maintain an even body temperature, i.e. don’t go directly from an air-conditioned office to a sunny park on your lunch break.
Keep your cool
Sweat can be a huge irritant for those with eczema so choose clothing that allows your skin to ‘breathe’, such as loose-fitting garments made of natural fibres.
If you are using a moisturiser that is greasy or oily, be careful not to overdo the application of the moisturiser as this can cause a ‘frying’ effect in the sun. Leave a gap of at least 30 minutes between applying emollient and sunscreen to ensure that the sunscreen retains its protective properties.
Review your medication
Many drugs, including some used to treat eczema, can cause phototoxic reactions so be sure to review the patient information. People who are using topical calcineurin inhibitors such as tacrolimus (Protopic) and pimecrolimus (Elidel) are advised to protect the treated area from sunlight (by covering up or applying sunscreen) to avoid the theoretical risk of developing skin cancer.
Plan in advance
Sun cream is one of the biggest sources of frustration for those with eczema and needs to be tackled early:
- While a product may have suited your skin the last time you bought it, always check if the formulation has changed before buying it again.
- If you find something that works, consider stockpiling a few bottles in case the manufacturer suddenly stops making it – always monitor the ‘use by’ dates though.
- If you’re still seeking that elusive ‘good fit’ with your skin, approach brands about supplying you with a sample to try prior to purchase and test it on your inner arm once a day for 5 days.
- Many people with eczema find that mineral-based sunscreens are less irritating than chemical absorbers, but this isn’t true for everyone.
- Unperfumed products are less likely to trigger a flare.
More tips can be found on our Sun and eczema page.