Eczema on the Face: Causes and Treatment

Skin Care

Nobody likes suffering from eczema and the irritation that comes with it, but it can be particularly bad when eczema flare-ups occur on the face. Not only can this cause discomfort, but it can also understandably be a source of embarrassment or insecurity too. We’ve put together this guide to give you a better understanding of what facial eczema is, how it is triggered, and what you can do to manage it.

What is facial eczema?

The term ‘eczema’ is used to describe a skin condition characterised by red, dry patches of skin. The affected skin often has a rough, itchy, and flaky texture, and can sometimes have the appearance of scales. There are multiple different types of eczema which present in different ways and can have a number of different causes. These symptoms can, in some sufferers, present on the face and neck area. This is what we refer to as ‘facial eczema’.

What causes eczema?

To date, scientists have not been able to determine an exact cause for eczema, but it is thought that genetics may be a factor. Therefore, if you are an eczema sufferer and you have children, it’s worth having a read up on baby eczema and what you can do to keep your child’s skin healthy.

There are several things, though, which have been identified as probable environmental triggers for flare-ups of eczema. We’ve listed some of them below:

Irritating chemicals – the abrasive chemicals often found in fragranced bathroom products such as shower gels and shampoos can cause skin irritation.
Dry skin – while the causes of dry skin should be addressed independently, having dry skin makes the skin much more susceptible to flare-ups of eczema.
Hard water – hard water has been proven to be a cause of dry skin due to its high mineral content. If you live in a hard water area, it’s very possible that this is what is triggering your flare-ups.
Heat and sweating – as eczema is symptomatic of an underperforming skin barrier, conditions such as hot or dry air can cause irritation.
Allergens – common allergens such as pollen and dust can also be a trigger for eczema flare-ups. If you don’t have any identified allergens, it’s worth doing a test to check you aren’t having a reaction to something in your environment.
Synthetic/wool clothing – sometimes the fibres in your clothes can be the source of irritation. Or it can even be a response to the chemicals that were used to treat the clothing when it was made.

Symptoms of facial eczema

The symptoms of facial eczema will vary for different people, but some of the most common symptoms can include:

  • Dry, scaly skin
  • Areas of redness and swelling
  • An itchy rash
  • Rough, thickened skin
  • Dark skin around the eye area
  • Oozing or crusty skin

Treating eczema on the face

It can be tricky to know how best to treat facial eczema, particularly to avoid making the symptoms worse. While facial eczema cannot be cured, there are steps you can take to reduce the frequency of flare-ups. How you choose to treat your eczema will depend on a few factors, so here’s an overview of the most common remedies.

Moisturisers (also known as emollients)

You should seek advice from a pharmacist on which type of moisturiser will be best for your skin, and it may take a few tries to find one which is most effective for you. There a large amount of variety between moisturisers, depending on whether you use a lotion, cream or ointment. The main difference is the amount of oil present; ointments contain the most, lotions the least, and creams fall somewhere between the two. While a large amount of oil can make the moisturiser feel quite greasy, these tend to be the best at retaining moisture in the skin.

When applying your moisturiser, you should use a generous amount and, rather than rubbing it into the skin, smooth it in following the direction of any hairs present. You should moisturise twice a day at a minimum, but particular dry skin may require more applications.

Steroid creams

Steroid creams can be prescribed by your doctor to reduce any skin inflammation. There are different strengths of steroids available, and your prescription will depend on the severity of your eczema:

  • very mild (e.g hydrocortisone)
  • moderate (e.g clobetasone butyrate)
  • even stronger (e.g mometasone)

Antihistamines

Antihistamines can often provide relief to eczema sufferers as they can calm any itching sensations. Antihistamines can be sedating or non-sedating, but sedating antihistamines will rarely be prescribed unless your flare-ups occur whilst you sleep.

Bandages or special body coverings

Applying medicated bandages or wet wraps can be used to help affected areas of skin to recover from a flare-up. This can also help to prevent scratching and to stop the skin from drying out.

Additional tips

Don’t scratch it – scratching your eczema will only make the symptoms worse, and can open your skin up to infection.
Check for fungus – if your eczema is occurring in the head and neck area, this can sometimes be caused by a fungal infection due to a high presence of a type of yeast.
Be gentle when cleansing the skin – soap can cause skin irritation, so you should use a non-soap cleanser to keep your face clean.
Monitor the temperature and humidity – avoid places that are hot and activities that can cause you to sweat, this will only make the itchiness worse.
Keep an eye out for signs of infection – excessive pain, redness, heat or pus-filled bumps can indicate that you have contracted a skin infection.

When to see a dermatologist

You should contact your doctor in the first instance if you feel that over-the-counter solutions aren’t treating your facial eczema effectively. If they feel it appropriate, they may choose to refer you to a dermatologist. This is usually if the GP wants to get a second opinion on the type and cause of your eczema, regular treatment is not working, or your flare-ups are affecting your day-to-day living.

Further reading

NHS: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/atopic-Eczema/
National Eczema Association: https://nationaleczema.org/eczema/treatment/
National Eczema Association: https://nationaleczema.org/eczema/treatment/

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