Summer can be a particularly difficult time of year for eczema sufferers as the dry air and increased temperatures can take a toll on your skin, often stimulating a vicious flare-up. That’s why it’s important to really look after your eczema-prone skin during this season, which is why I’m here today to go into a little bit more detail about why summer can be such a tricky time and what you can do if you want to prevent a flare-up!
Summer is just around the corner and while the majority of us might be hoping for a bit of sunshine or even venturing further afield to chase the heat, for the 6 million eczema sufferers in the UK, it can be a tricky time. This is because, with summer, a number of factors that could potentially upset your eczema symptoms arise, such as:
The UK will never be famous for its heat-waves, in fact quite the opposite! However, occasionally during May, June and July the temperature can climb into the 20-27oC range which might be fantastic for some, but for eczema sufferers this heat can spell trouble. The hot air can easily irritate and dry out your epidermis, resulting in sensitive skin that’s more prone to redness, flaking and inflammation.
You also have to consider that when things heat up, you may also sweat more. This can also influence your skin as sweat contains a mixture of water, lactate and sodium. Sodium can sometimes irritate sensitive skin while the evaporation of sweat can cause a loss of fluids – not good news for your epidermis or eczema symptoms!1
When things heat up outside, we instinctively try to cool things down inside. However, as with central heating in winter, circulating dry, cold air around a room will readily cause a flare-up. Not only will you be moving from two extremes in temperatures, cold dry air is just as capable of dehydrating your skin as hot humid air!
Regardless of whether or not you suffer from eczema, everyone should be wary of over-exposing their skin to the sun during summer. This is because the UV rays can seriously damage skin cells, harming your production of collagen and even creating the free radical molecules responsible for oxidative stress and premature ageing.
Even healthy skin can be vulnerable to sunburn which will leave your it red and inflamed but in eczema-prone skin, it can cause a drastic loss of hydration, leaving you with extremely sore and extremely flaky skin that will need further treatment.
Summer is also a key season for plant pollination which can bring about pollen allergies such as hayfever and allergic rhinitis. In these instances, your immune system starts to perceive harmless substances such as pollen as a threat, triggering an inflammatory immune reaction that can stimulate symptoms such as coughing, congestion, dry eyes etc.
However, there is also a link between eczema and hayfever, and some believe that those with eczema could potentially be more vulnerable to hayfever. This is because those with eczema may also suffer from a defect in their epidermal layer of skin that makes it easier for allergens to penetrate the body.2
This can then trigger an inflammatory reaction if you are sensitive to pollen, resulting in not only the typical range of hayfever symptoms, but also an eczema flare-up.
My top 10 tips for preventing an eczema flare-up during summer
1 – Drink plenty of fluids
When summer rolls around it can become easy to lose sight of keeping hydrated, particularly as fruit juices, fizzy drinks and cocktails all become more popular during the holiday season. However, dehydration is never good news for any of your bodily functions, including your skin.
Firstly, drinking plenty of water helps to flush all those nasty toxins from your body. If you’re not getting an adequate supply of water, these toxins will linger which can upset and irritate your delicate skin. You also have to consider that during summer, you may be more prone to sweating which can cause you to lose valuable electrolytes such as zinc and vitamin D, which are crucial for the health of your skin. Dehydration can also cause fatigue and sometimes affect your mood, making you more irritable and prone to stress.
That’s why it’s important to drink plenty of water, especially in hot weather. Try to keep a bottle of water on you at all times and, if you are going to be drinking alcohol, always order water for the table so you can keep yourself hydrated.
2 – Avoid going outside during certain times
If you are planning any activities, try to schedule them in the early morning or late evening when it’s cooler and the sun’s rays aren’t as strong. Going out during peak hours, or between 10am and 3pm, will expose your skin when the sun is at its strongest, making you more vulnerable to UV radiation and sunburn.
3 – Moisturise!
A top tips list for eczema would definitely be incomplete if I didn’t at least mention the importance of moisturising. Skin that’s dry and prone to cracking and flaking, such as eczema-prone skin, needs plenty of hydration and one way you can do that is by picking an ultra-nourishing moisturiser and applying it to your skin liberally throughout the day.
The problem is that not all moisturisers are created equal and, in fact, some high street brands do contain a whole plethora of unwanted chemical nasties and parabens that may upset your sensitive skin. That’s why, as a rule, I always opt for organic moisturisers that are completely free from artificial fragrances and chemicals.
Fortunately, our friends over at Jan de Vries offer a range of natural moisturisers specifically tailored for eczema-prone skin. My favourite brand would have to be Salcura, particularly their Omega Rich Face Hydrator, which is infused with omega fatty acids and sea buckthorn, jojoba and chamomile to soothe and revitalise your skin!
4 – Wear loose clothing
It’s well known that tight clothing can agitate your skin, but during summer it’s even more important that you stick to loose clothing. Tight clothing can sometimes increase your body temperature, making you more prone to flare-ups. Instead, opt for loose, breathable fabrics and try to avoid dark colours and synthetic material – not only will synthetic material irritate your skin, dark clothing can also attract more sunlight making you more susceptible to UV radiation.
5 – Keep your skin cool
Keeping your skin cool should help to prevent irritation and inflammation, which can be a huge help during the summer months. That’s why I sometimes recommend storing any gels or lotions for your skin in your fridge, so they’re nice and cool when you apply them to your skin. You could even try making your own cold compress using a towel dipped in cool water, or infused with cucumber, to help ease any itchiness or discomfort – just make sure you don’t apply this compress to broken skin!
6 – Wipe away the sweat
If you’re out and about or seeking shelter indoors, it’s important that you try and consider sweat. When the weather heats up, your body will naturally trigger sweat as a mechanism to cool you down but, as I mentioned earlier, the accumulation of sweat on your skin may irritate your eczema.
Now, ordinarily one way to get rid of sweat would be to enjoy a shower or a bath. If you suffer from eczema though, this may end up doing more harm than good. Instead, you could try keeping a soft, non-abrasive towel on you to wipe the sweat away whenever it starts to gather on your skin.
7 – Choose a natural suncream
If you’re going to be out and about in the sun, it’s extremely important that you apply plenty of suncream to protect your skin against UV radiation. However, just as with your moisturiser, the type of suncream you opt for can go a long way towards influencing your symptoms. Some sunscreen and suncreams can contain harmful ingredients that could potentially upset your skin as well as your endocrine system, with chemicals like oxybenzone being particular culprits to watch out for.3
That’s why it pays to go natural with your suncream. In this case our recommendation would go to Aloe Pura’s Aloe Vera Sun Lotion. Not only is this formula infused with nourishing ingredients, such as jojoba oil, chamomile oil and avocado oil, it also comforts sun-damaged skin and is completely free from parabens and paraffin!
8 – Treat your allergy symptoms
If you do suffer from flare-ups of hayfever or allergic rhinitis during summer, it’s important to try and tackle your symptoms. You could start by becoming a bit more pollen savvy, using our fantastic pollen forecast to track when pollen levels will be high in your location. Our hayfever and allergic rhinitis advisor, Rachel Berlandi also offers a plethora of useful tips and information over at A.Vogel Talks Hayfever which may be worth checking out!
We also offer a range of remedies specifically aimed at treating the symptoms of allergic rhinitis and hayfever, such as our Pollinosan Hayfever Tablets. These non-drowsy tablets contain extracts from 7 different tropical herbs to help reduce your hayfever symptoms. It can also be used in conjunction with our Pollinosan Luffa Nasal Spray, which helps to cleanse your nasal passages of allergens such as pollen or animal dander, restoring moisture.
9 – Watch where you swim
It’s summer so now is the time to hit the pool or even the ocean. However, if you do plan on taking a dip, it’s important you bear a couple of things in mind. Firstly, chlorine is not your friend if you suffer from eczema.
This harsh chemical which is used as a disinfectant in most swimming pools can act as an irritant for eczema so it might help if you look into locating a swimming pool that doesn’t utilise this particular chemical or at least try to determine when it is added to the water. Chlorine is capable of evaporating so the concentration can vary.4
As for swimming in the ocean, opinions can vary. Some find that the saltwater can be soothing for their eczema symptoms, with your skin absorbing the minerals present in the ocean, whereas for others it can trigger a flare-up. Again, it can depend on a number of factors, but I certainly wouldn’t recommend spending hours at a time in salt water, or any water for that matter!
It’s also important to bear in mind that you may be more vulnerable to sunburn in the ocean and an outdoor pool so make sure you moisturise before and after coming out of the water!
10 – Don’t forget the little things
It’ all very well focusing on moisturisers and suncreams but the little things can also make a big difference.
For example, I imagine that, during summer, you may become more conscious about body odour and sweat and feel more tempted to opt for a stronger deodorant or even an antiperspirant. However, while most supermarket deodorants and antiperspirants do work to combat sweat, they can sometimes lead to a few undesirable side-effects.
For example, antiperspirants fight sweat by physically blocking your sweat glands, often utilising aluminium-based compounds. This can be problematic as the chemicals used in such products can easily irritate your skin, stimulating a flare-up.
That’s why I’d recommend using our Salt of the Earth Deodorant. Not only is this product completely free from alcohol, aluminium chlorohydrate, parabens and triclosan, it’s made using 100% natural ingredients and is completely suitable for vegans! Instead of harsh chemicals, this deodorant uses potassium alum, a natural antibacterial mineral salt that works by leaving a thin layer of mineral salts on the skin, neutralising any odour.
You may also have to consider other beauty products that you use, such as perfumes, body sprays and cosmetics. In this case, I would recommend avoiding both of these products as most conventional fragrances can easily irritate your skin. I can appreciate though, that going without make-up is probably a bit too much to ask so I would consider swapping to a more natural brand, such as PHB Beauty or INIKA.