The Best Ways To Cope With Eczema on Your Face

Follow these expert tricks the next time you have an eczema flare-up on your face.

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Eczema is a general term for skin conditions that cause itchy, red patches of skin that may crack or develop blisters. Frustratingly, eczema can occur anywhere on the skin—including on the arms, back, or hands.

But eczema can be especially painful and debilitating when it appears on the face. If you experience facial eczema, you may notice itchy red patches of skin on your face that may crack, blister, bleed, or ooze. There is no specific cause of the condition. However, if you experience allergies or asthma, you may risk developing facial eczema.

Here's what you should know about eczema when it occurs on the face—including common triggers that elicit painful symptoms, treatments, and how to deal with the condition.

What Triggers Eczema on the Face?

One of the most common types of skin conditions that causes eczema on the face is atopic dermatitis, often plainly referred to as eczema.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD), a number of different factors may cause that type of eczema, such as:

  • Family history of eczema
  • Allergies and asthma
  • Weakened immune system
  • Location
  • Environmental factors, like stress, pollution, and tobacco smoke

Some people who come into contact with irritants, like allergens, can trigger facial eczema. And often, that's because of a weak skin barrier.

Typically, your skin acts as a barrier, protecting you from irritants, like allergies and bacteria. However, per the National Eczema Association, about 30% of people who have eczema have genetic mutations that cause their skin to have less moisture and small breaks in their skin barrier.

Basically, something triggers the immune system, resulting in the skin's protective barrier becoming dry and sensitive. Those triggers include allergens (such as dust, pollen, or certain foods), household products (like soap or synthetic fibers), changes in weather, or stress.

When it comes to facial eczema, for example, a few key ingredients in skincare and makeup products could trigger a flare-up.

Other people with eczema may lack ceramides, substances that help trap water in the skin. Eczema that causes dry skin may be due to a lack of hydration that ceramides provide, explained said Amanda Doyle, MD, a dermatologist at the Russak Dermatology Clinic in New York.

Changes in hormones, specifically estrogen and progesterone, may also lead to an eczema flare-up on the face. According to one study published in 2019 in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, researchers found that balancing those hormones helped alleviate eczema symptoms.

What Are the Symptoms of Facial Eczema?

Per the Johns Hopkins Medicine Library, the tell-tale symptoms of eczema include:

  • Dry skin
  • Red patches of skin that may appear scaly
  • Swelling at the site of irritation
  • Itchy skin that may crack, bleed, or ooze when scratched
  • Marks on the skin from itching
  • Thickening of the skin

Eczema may pop up on different areas of your face, depending on the type of skin condition.

For instance, people with contact dermatitis, another type of skin condition that causes eczema due to irritants (like perfumes and jewelry), may cause eczema near your neck or earlobes.

But for people with atopic dermatitis, dry, red patches of skin commonly develop near the eyes and lips.

"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," explained Shilpi Khetarpal, MD, a dermatologist at the Cleveland Clinic.

Coping With Facial Eczema

In particular, soothing and concealing facial eczema can be challenging since the skin on this body area is often very delicate. And although eczema is chronic and not curable, there are steps that you can take to cope with having it.

Avoid Eczema Triggers

As noted, there may be certain irritants that trigger eczema on your face, so you'll want to avoid coming into contact with them. It's also important to know what makes your facial eczema appear: What triggers dry, red patches of the skin in one person may not trigger it in someone else. If you're not sure about what your triggers are, a dermatologist can help you determine what you should avoid, the AAD says.

Have a Good Skincare Routine

You don't need to spend a fortune on an eczema-friendly moisturizer. Some of Dr. Doyle's favorites included drugstore finds, like CeraVe Moisturizing Cream and Vaseline Intensive Care Advanced Repair Unscented Lotion.

"Ceramides, which are part of the skin barrier, are a key component to treating eczema," said Dr. Doyle. So, look for moisturizers that contain ceramides to add to your daily and nightly skincare routines.

Also, avoid soaps and moisturizers containing fragrances to protect against future facial flare-ups. Dr. Doyle recommended Vanicream Cleansing Bar for Sensitive Skin, a mild, fragrance-free cleanser that's ideal for people with sensitive skin.

"Less is more," added 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."

Carefully Choose Your Makeup

Use caution when applying makeup on existing facial eczema rash, since it may lead to further irritation.

If you decide to use makeup, choose a liquid foundation instead of oil-absorbing powders, which can exacerbate dryness. "The liquid is more moisturizing, so it can help to accelerate the healing process," explained Dr. Khetarpal.

Dr. Doyle recommended makeup from Clinique or bareMinerals for patients with eczema. One product to try: bareMinerals bareSkin Pure Brightening Serum Foundation Broad Spectrum, which contains SPF.

"These [brands] tend to be a bit more friendly to eczema patients and those with sensitive skin who are looking for coverage," said Dr. Doyle.

Try Different Treatments

If you experience an acute case of facial eczema, an over-the-counter (OTC) 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, warned Dr. Doyle.

You might also benefit from other topical treatments like crisaborole or tacrolimus ointments, pimecrolimus cream, or coal tar, the AAD says. Another treatment is phototherapy. Phototherapy, or light therapy, is when your skin gets exposed to ultraviolet (UV) light to help reduce any itchiness or inflammation.

A Quick Review

Eczema is a skin condition that can happen to anyone, and it can occur anywhere, including on your face. You might experience dry, patchy, itchy skin on different areas of your face as a result of eczema. Although there isn't a cure for the condition, there are treatments you could try such as avoiding irritants that trigger a flare-up or being careful about your skin care routine. Ultimately, if you have more concerns about your skin, you can always contact a dermatologist for help.

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