Why Does Eczema Make You Itchy? 6 Tips To Stop You Scratching
Ok, short pop quiz before we start.
What’s a more satisfying feeling:
a) Finally being awarded that promotion at work after months of hard work and staying late
b) Grabbing a spatula from the kitchen and mindlessly scratching that huge itchy patch of eczema on your back without a second thought
(We all know you chose the second answer)
In the world of eczema, itchy skin is our arch nemesis. Incredibly difficult to deal with and get under control, it has the potential to completely take over your life if you let it.
Chilling on the sofa binge-watching your favourite Netflix show? Not any more. Climbing into bed and drifting calmly off to sleep? Forget about it!
It’s one of the symptoms that can be the most mentally draining to deal with and is unfortunately made much worse when scratched. We’ve all heard the...“yeh but can’t you just like stop scratching?”
Infact, we can’t. So why don’t you just keep your opinions to yourself in future, Karen (no offence to all the Karen’s out there).
What often then ensues is the itch-scratch cycle - a downward spiral that can be very damaging physically and hard to escape from. You itch, so you scratch, so you itch, so you scratch a little more. And you can see where this one goes.
So, like the wonderful people we are, we thought we’d throw together some tips and advice for anyone currently struggling.
In this article, you’ll find:
1) What is eczema? (Just quickly)
2) Why does eczema itch?
3) Other symptoms to be aware of
4) 6 top tips to help you stop scratching
So, what is eczema?
Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, is a chronic, long-term condition that causes your skin to become itchy, dry and inflamed. It’s thought those who suffer from eczema have a weakened skin barrier, leaving them more open to allergens and irritants entering the body.
Eczema is not contagious and doesn’t mean your skin is dirty or infected, but more sensitive and likely to over-react to certain triggers.
It often shows up in ‘flare ups’ - where symptoms get progressively worse over a short period and can seem very difficult to break free from.
Why does eczema itch?
This is a very complex issue (and requires far more detail that we’ll lay out for you here) but the type of itch associated with atopic dermatitis begins when free nerve fibers are stimulated by nerve endings called C fibers in the top layer of the skin.
The nerve endings can be stimulated by different factors, including eczema flares, dry skin, external irritants and chemical mediators.
In response to itch in the skin, nerve pathways are then activated and send messages to the brain which then causes a behavioural response - usually scratching.
There are two types of itch to be aware of:
1) Neurogenic itch - generated by the central nervous system
2) Psychogenic itch - stimulated by psychological factors, such as a response to stress.
Other symptoms to be aware of
- Dry, sensitive skin
- Patches of irritation or redness
- Oozing or crusting
- Areas of swelling
6 tips to stop you scratching
1) Yan-yee skincare calming spray
Well would you believe it, our very own plant-based calming spray!
Enriched with a blend of 3 traditional Chinese herbs trusted for 1000’s of years in Asian medicine, our natural formula is further backed up with probiotics and ceramides to reinforce and enhance the skin barrier. In doing this, it protects against external irritants whilst fighting inflammation and deeply hydrating the skin.
And the best part? It’s free from steroids, parabens, sulphates and fragrance. Basically, it’s the bee's knees (even if we do say so ourselves).
2) Take a step back, stop, relax, breathe.
You read above how stress can play a part in causing itchy skin, well we’re here to tell you that when it comes to eczema, it’s undoubtedly one of the key underlying factors that might be triggering your flare ups.
When you’re stressed, a number of things occur in your body that can lead to inflammation - a bad thing for eczema sufferers.
We preach meditation, yoga and mindfulness here at yan-yee to help you stay calm. Jump over to our social channels @yanyeeskincare for a nudge in the right direction.
3) Understanding and avoiding your triggers
Crucial in your battle against eczema - this one deserves real attention. You HAVE to get an understanding of what sets off your skin and makes you itchy. Whether that’s through a dermatologist (if you can see one), a patch test or maybe an elimination diet - it’s critical you get to grips with your triggers.
Once you’ve found them? (Easier said than done we know). Stay far away - forever.
4) Moisturise regularly
When you suffer from eczema it’s a fact you have trouble retaining moisture in your skin. So make sure you’re slathering on a thick emollient at least twice a day, especially just after you’ve showered - to help keep the moisture in, and the irritants out.
5) Wet wraps
If the skin sometimes dries out during the night, try wrapping a damp cloth around the affected area after applying moisturiser. Leaving the wet wrap on overnight can help keep the skin hydrated.
6) Take a cold shower
If you’re feeling itchy (maybe you’ve just done some exercise and got all sweaty) DO NOT jump into a scalding hot shower. It will only make your symptoms far worse. Aim for as cold as you can take it and always pat your skin dry after - do not rub in circles.
Bonus - keep your nails short! Should be obvious to most, but easily forgotten.
Of all the eczema symptoms, itchy skin may be the most difficult to deal with. And the worst bit? Friends and family can often shrug it off, not understanding how mentally draining it is to cope with.
But we’re here for you (seriously) and hope what we’ve laid out above has given you an insight into some tips and tricks that might be of use.
What have we missed? Jump over to our Twitter page and let us know!
The yan-yee team
- Ask the allergist: Breaking the itch-scratch cycle. (n.d.). Link
- Itch and the brain. (2011). Link
- Here’s how stress and inflammation are linked. (2018). Link
- Wet wrap therapy. (n.d.). Link
- Atopic eczema. (2019). Link
- Hong J, et al. (2013). Management of itch in Atopic Dermatitis. DOI: Link