Follow these expert tricks the next time you have an eczema flare-up on your face.
Eczema is a skin condition that can occur anywhere on the body, leading to itchy, red patches of skin that may become cracked or have blisters. The condition is frustrating wherever it occurs, whether on the arms, back, or hands. But eczema can be especially painful and debilitating when it appears on the face. Take it from social media star and fitness expert Carys Gray, who bravely shared a photo on Instagram last February to convey how serious an eczema flare-up on the face can be. Gray's photo showed a side-by-side comparison of her skin on a "normal" day versus how it looks in the middle of a bad flare.
"When my eczema isn’t under control, it’s very blotchy, sore, and I can’t wear any makeup," Gray told her followers. She added that she hoped her photo would act as a reminder that things aren't always what they seem on social media.
In a more recent post, the Instagram star shared another side-by-side photo of her face before and during an eczema flare.
"Eczema (or any insecurity) is such a small part of my life and I shouldn't allow it to control me," she wrote.
It can be difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of eczema, but experts believe environment and genetics both play a role. Something triggers the immune system and the result is that the protective barrier of the skin becomes dry, sensitive, and irritated. The problem isn't curable, but certain things can make the symptoms worse, whether an allergen such as dust, household products like soap or synthetic fibers, cold weather, or stress.
Experts say that soothing and concealing eczema on the face can be a challenge, since the skin on this area of the body is often very delicate.
"The most common areas for eczema on the face are the eyelids and the lips, given how thin and sensitive the skin is in these areas," explains Shilpi Khetarpal, MD, a dermatologist at the Cleveland Clinic and clinical assistant professor of medicine at Case Western Reserve University.
There are a few key ingredients in skincare and makeup products that people with eczema should look for. "Ceramides, which are part of the skin barrier, are a key component to treating eczema," says Amanda Doyle, MD, a New York City-based dermatologist. Dry skin lacks hydration, she explains, and ceramides help trap water in the skin, which may ease an eczema flare-up. You don’t need to spend a fortune on an eczema-friendly moisturizer; some of Dr. Doyle’s favorites include drugstore finds like CeraVe Moisturizing Cream ($12, target.com) and Vaseline Intensive Care Advanced Repair Unscented Lotion ($6, target.com).
Use caution when applying makeup on an eczema rash on the face, since it can sometimes lead to further irritation. If you do decide to use makeup, choose a liquid foundation instead of oil-absorbing powders, which can exacerbate existing dryness. "The liquid is more moisturizing, so it can help to accelerate the healing process,” explains Dr. Khetarpal.
Dr. Doyle often recommends makeup from Clinique or bareMinerals for patients with eczema. "These [brands] tend to be a bit more friendly to eczema patients and those with sensitive skin who are looking for coverage,” she says. One product to try: bareMinerals bareSkin Pure Brightening Serum Foundation Broad Spectrum ($30; sephora.com), which contains SPF.
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If you experience an acute case of facial eczema, an over-the-counter topical steroid like 1% hydrocortisone may help relieve short-term itching and irritation. Just don’t use it for longer than two days, and always avoid contact with the eyelids, warns Dr. Doyle.
To protect against future facial flare-ups, skip soaps, moisturizers, and laundry detergents that contain fragrances. Dr. Doyle recommends Vanicream Cleansing Bar for Sensitive Skin ($4, walgreens.com), a mild, fragrance-free cleanser that’s ideal for people with sensitive skin.
The bottom line? "Less is more," says Dr. Doyle. "People often want to apply all kinds of things when they get these types of rashes on their face, but it’s really best to use minimal, gentle products that rehydrate the skin so it can heal itself."