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How to Treat Dermatitis

Updated on January 2, 2013

Dermatitis - Self Care and Treatments

Dermatitis is a frequent condition it is non-contagious and is not a severe illness. However, dermatitis can be very uncomfortable and can lower your confidence. A blend of self-care, medication, and natural products can help you keep dermatitis under control and treat it.

What Is Dermatitis - Do I have It?

Dermatitis is a broad term describing different conditions leading to the inflammation of skin. The different types of dermatitis include seborrheic dermatitis, atopic dermatitis, (or eczema), and contact dermatitis. This disorder can have many causes and present various symptoms, however the common denominator is a swollen and reddened skin. Many times the affected area is itchy, or presents blisters or bumpy rashes. Other symptoms are thick and or scaly skin, swelling, stinging and burning, sores from the scratching.
To confirm you have dermatitis, you still need to see a doctor, self diagnosis is dangerous and it can cause you more problems.

The Causes of Dermatitis

The different types of dermatitis are caused by different causes.
Atopic dermatitis, or eczema are associated with dry skin and autoimmune reactions, although the causes are not very clear. Often times, eczema is a reaction to an allergen and people who have eczema have allergies as well.

Contact dermatitis is caused by exposure to an external agent such as detergents, solvents, poison ivy, or other harsh chemicals. The symptoms of contact dermatitis are usually very intense but they disappear after the complete healing, if the causing agent is removed.

Seborrheic dermatitis is a condition that develops gradually, and is many times triggered by stress. The common denominator of seborrheic dermatitis sufferers is oily skin and hair.

Photodermatitis or sun dermatitis is caused by exposure to ultraviolet rays, most usually from sun but also from UV lamps, or even fluorescent lamps. The photodermatoses can have many causes. Exogenous photodermatoses are caused by an external agent that renders the skin photosensitive, essential oils, tetracyclines, some chemicals, etc.. are some of the photosensitisers. Idiopathic photodermatoses are caused by exposure to UV light but the cause is unknown. There are also genetic photodermatoses and metabolic photodermatoses.

It looks like, in most of the cases, dermatitis is aggravated when the natural balance of the skin is broken. This can happen by exposure to an external agent, or excessive washing, or even hot showers/baths.

If the sebum is removed from the skin, skin is easier to dehydrate. Sebum is an oily, waxy substance, produced by the sebaceous glands, with the role of protecting the skin. If sebum is removed, the natural reaction of our body is to produce more to replace it. Without sebum, the skin will lose elasticity, and the natural film formed by sebum, water and other skin secretions will be lost, hence skin will be more exposed to the environment. The above scenarios can apply to both contact and seborrheic dermatitis. In one case, the body cannot regulate the sebum production because of the damaging effects of the external agent, in the other case it will try to compensate for the missing sebum and it will overproduce it.

What is the most interesting is that in atopic dermatitis, dehydration seems to be also a factor. This type of eczema is usually associated with allergies. The allergy causes substantial dehydration, which influences the skin. Removing the allergen, will not necessarily stop the eczema, the skin will still need re-hydration treatment, but it will be . This type of reaction seems to be more prevalent in children and teens.

Skin Dehydration and Dermatitis

Dermatitis is in direct correlation with the hydration level of the skin, and maintaining the skin moist is key in fighting dermatitis. Keeping your skin moist all the time implies not only the proper hydration, but locking in the water as well. The level of your skin hydration is directly affected by multiple factors such as nutrition, environment, skin type, age, and general health.

Nutrition and eating habits can affect the hydration. To prevent dehydration avoid coffee, caffeinated tea, and excessive salt intake. Caffeine is a known diuretic, and salt in large quantities can have dehydrating effect, although in normal quantities helps the water retention.

Coffee and Dermatitis

If you are coffee drinker and a dermatitis sufferer, you are up for some great and some bad news. The great news is that it might be a simple way to dramatically reduce your dermatitis. The bad news is that it implies giving up coffee. This is tested by me. I drink a lot of strong coffee. I suffered dermatitis for around two years. I reduced my caffeine intake under half of my daily dose and my eczema has dramatically improved. In a couple of weeks it completely disappeared.
So quitting coffee can really cure or at least dramatically improve your eczema.

Washing habits are a way to diminish the eczema. Avoid hot showers as the combined action of hot water and mechanical friction will excessively remove the sebum from the skin, leading to dehydration. Sebum is a hydrophilic substance, which means it retains naturally the water. In its absence, the water is easier evaporated, rendering the skin dry. Prolonged showers and baths will have the same effect, immediately after the shower, the skin will be imbibed with water, but this will evaporate very fast without the outside sebum layer to lock the water in. (I will describe later on a method where excessive baths can be useful.)
The use of scrubs can also lead to skin damage and in the end incapacity of retaining water.
The excessive washing, as well as using strong soaps and shampoos will leave the skin too clean, stripping it down of the protective layer. Use a soap with a balanced PH that is less aggressive on your epidermis.

Chemicals and astringents will remove sebum and affect your skins health eventually leading to contact dermatitis.

Sun exposure in moderation can treat eczema and reduce it drastically or heal it. However, too much exposure and failure to apply sunscreens will have the exact opposite effect damaging your skin through dehydration.

The use of improper moisturizers can have a negative impact on the skin. If the cream you apply is too light it will provide little to no protection leaving the skin without a barrier to lock in the water.

The air conditioning, heating devices, and the climate can cause the air to be too dry. A low humidity in the air can cause the skin to dehydrate. Use humidifiers to maintain the proper humidity levels in your house.

The Best Moisturising Cream for Eczema

Choose Non-scented Hypo-allergenic Moisturising Cream

One effective way to fight eczema is to maintain your skin moisturized all the time. For people with healthy skin this is very easy because our body has its own mechanisms to do that. However for people who are predisposed to eczema this is not as easy. The good news is that it isn't very hard, you can do it at home, and it's not very expensive.
Keeping your skin moist all the time implies two things, hydration and locking down the moist.

A non conventional approach for moisturizing the skin is to take a long bath rather the short ones which are usually recommended for eczema. The key with this approach is the water temperature, which needs to be lukewarm, and the generous application of a moisturizing cream all over the body immediately after the bath.
"WARNING" failure to apply a good quality moisturizing cream right after the bath will only worsen the eczema.

As explained earlier in the article, a good cream is essential, so it actually locks in the moisture. If the cream is not a good one, it will leave the water evaporate from the epidermis, making things worse.
If we do not apply the cream after a long bath, the effect is the same. The skin will be soaked in water but it won't last long because there is no sebum film to keep it.
The advantage of using this method is that for severe dermatitis cases, the skin can be hydrated much faster, hence a faster healing time.

The two creams I trust most are Cerave and Eucerin. You can click on the links to buy the online at Amazon. Any of the two are great for moisturizing the skin.

Take a look at this eczema cream comparison for more info about the top six products on the market.

How to Prevent Dermatitis?

Preventive methods of fighting dermatitis are very tight linked to preventing the natural balance of the skin.

  • Avoid washing hands too often, as soap is very harsh on skin.
  • Avoid any chemicals on your skin.
  • If you need to wear protection gloves, make sure they don't cause you any reactions on the skin.
  • Avoid hot showers. Bath is better than shower.
  • Use good quality moisturizers
  • Use air humidifiers for enclosed dry spaces
  • Control your allergies, some types of allergies cause dehydration
  • Get sun exposure, this can dramatically improve your skin's health
  • Do not stay too long in the sun as this can damage your skin. Use sunscreen.
  • Avoid caffeine and any other diuretic. These will accentuate dehydration.

Topical Steroid Creams and Ointments for Exma

If you battled exma for the logest time ever, you probably tried many topical steroid creams and ointments. These work for fast relief and are a of a great help, but they don't heal the skin.

In my quest for curing my exma, (as I love to call my atopic dermatitis), I tried cortisone creams, various brands, Protopic, (active ingredient tacrolimus), and other over the counter creams. They helped my outbreaks but never cured the eczema. The most helpful for me was the cortisone cream, make sure the cream has a high absorption rate, otherwise it will stay on your skin and will have little effect. Higher concentration creams were less effective than lower concentration ones, because they didn't get absorbed into the skin.

On the other hand a close friend responds better to Protopic and the symptoms are very fast relieved compared with hydrocortisone.

If you use topical steroid creams you should know that the use over long period of times is not indicated. You should only use it during the outbreaks. When you use it, you need to apply it twice a day for the best results.

Home Made Eczema Cream Recipe

I had the most amazing results with a home made moisturizer cream. My atopic dermatitis responded well to this cream, and the results are amazing. Anyway here is the recipe of my homemade dermatitis cream:

The base of your cream consists of the following:

  • 5% of the cream is MSM powder, (Methylsulfonylmethane)
  • 35% Shea butter
  • 5% Cold pressed olive oil
  • 20% Pure coconut oil
  • 10% Jojoba oil
  • 25% Water

Add to this base the following two essential oils:

  • 10 drops of Tea Tree oil for 1 fl. oz of base
  • 10 drops of Carrot seed essential oil for 1 fl. oz of base

To prepare the cream you need first to dissolve the MSM in the warm water. If the MSM doesn't dissolve completely, means the solution is saturated and you need to add a bit more water. The MSM will saturate at about 15% solution in water. I saw products advertising that they contained 25% MSM, I am not sure how they got that much MSM in a cream.

Adding too much MSM solution though, will render your cream into a liquid. In a separate bowl mix thoroughly the base oils: Shea butter, olive oil, coconut oil and jojoba oil. You can use a kitchen mixer to speed up the process and make sure the mixture is uniform. After the oils are mixed, you will obtain a thick consistency cream. While mixing continuously start slowly adding your MSM solution. Slowly add the solution, because if you add it too fast the water might separate from the oil and you will have to start all over again. If you feel the cream is getting too thin, you can always add some more Shea butter. When the cream is ready, add the essential oils as above.

Pure Aloe Vera gel is the last ingredient of my dermatitis formula. The last ingredient is not part of the cream but will be applied after the cream. It will help the cream penetrate the skin and will form a protective layer on the skin. Apply two or three times per day, massaging in the cream, and at the end apply the Aloe Vera.

In case of an outbreak use your topical steroid cream as indicated by your doctor, and this cream. Otherwise, use only this cream and it will drastically lower the occurrences of your dermatitis outbreaks if not stop them.

This dermatitis cream recipe is based on empiric testing and inconsistent information, and is provided as is without any promises. It works for me. As with any new product, test it on small patches before using. If you are allergic to any of the ingredients don't use it, obviously.

Very important:

Use the comments section for suggestions on how to improve the recipe and for feedback. More important, share you story, did it work for you?

Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple Cider Vinegar is reported to be very effective in fighting against eczema. Take 1 tablespoon of ACV in a 16. 9 ounce bottle of water once per day. The eczema will fade away until eventually disappear. The best thing about the ACV cure is that will help mot only the eczema, but your whole body will benefit from it.

Eczema Video

What Is Your Experience with dermatitis?

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    • Tracy Lynn Conway profile image

      Tracy Lynn Conway 

      6 years ago from Virginia, USA

      Thank you for this useful information. Some of my children have inherited this skin condition from my husband. The condition only appears during the cold winter and is made worse by some dairy products in the diet. Your advice about treating the skin after a certain type of bath is something I haven't heard of and will try this coming winter.

    • Dr Funom Makama profile image

      Dr Funom Makama 

      7 years ago from Europe

      Lovely and such a fantastic share..


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