It’s May 2020 as I write this, possibly the worst year since the end of WW2. Most of us are living with pretty high levels of stress and anxiety and some of us are living with teenagers, with eczema. The reason for writing this is that my daughter is 13 and has always had a spot of eczema. Indeed, the creation of my now world famous Scratchy Balm was because of her eczema, and mine, and a need to find something incredibly gentle and effective. She named it Scratchy Balm, well she used to say, “shall we put my scratchy cream on now Mummy?” when she was about two and still delightful and sweet.
I have always controlled my daughter’s eczema incredibly well through diet and lifestyle and good skincare products. What I didn’t factor into this equation is that when a child becomes a teen, they develop a mind of their own and an ability to walk into town on a weekend and buy themselves all manor of disgusting perfumed skincare from Superdrug (other shops are available) and buy themselves sweets and chocolates, drink fizzy drinks, and eat pizza and absolutely no vegetables, and as a mum, you can’t control that. As a self-confessed control freak, I struggle with this.
Throw in teenage hormones, the start of periods, friendship issues, all of which create anxiety and therefore impaired gut health, and you have yourself the makings of some really shitty eczema flare-ups. Then throw in a world-wide pandemic where your teen cannot see her friends, does not like leaving her bedroom, and you have some quite serious eczema.
About three weeks ago, my teenager’s eczema started getting quite sore in her arm creases, knee creases and on her hands and some on her face. I wasn’t phased and popped on a touch of Scratchy Balm, and I asked her to pop some on throughout the day. However, with her constantly scratching, and feeling anxious, and eating rubbish, I realised after a few days that this just wasn’t enough. Plus the fact that she didn’t ever put any balm on because she couldn’t be bothered (too busy looking at TikTok). After a further week, her skin had become a total mess, really red, raw, bleeding in places, and she was feeling even more low about it.
To those of you who I’ve talked to about eczema, when buying my eczema products, I always say, it will help the skin to recover and soothe it, but it won’t actually stop the eczema coming. That can only be done by lifestyle and diet changes. The other thing I have struggled with is that as an adult with eczema, I reached a point where I had totally had enough of being ill with eczema, and I wanted to make myself better. Teens just don’t think that way. They can be a bit more defeatist, like “Oh, my eczema is bad, poor me.” not, “what can I do to change this?”
Get it under control
So to cut a long story short, once I saw that her skin was borderline infected because it had become so out of control, here’s what I have had to do to get my teenagers eczema under control:
- encouraged her to cut her fingernails short, those night-time scratching sessions have severely damaged the skin
- removed from the bathroom all hideous perfumed, synthetic products that were stripping her skin of it’s natural oils and deeply irritating her already very sore skin (shower gels with unicorn dust in, shampoos that stink like an air-freshner, you get the pic). She now has to use the things that are in the bathroom that are approved by me, like Scratchy Soap.
- stepped in to improve her diet. This is hard and she’s a vegan that doesn’t really like veg….. but I’m making her a proper breakfast which I take up to her room (yeah, I know, but I urgently want her to eat better which will improve her skin and her mindset) and prepare nice, wholesome-ish food which I leave out and gently encourage her to eat. Avocados and olives feature strongly.
- got her a little weekly pill dispenser and lay out each day what she needs – this includes omega 3 supplement (vegan), vitamin D, a child-friendly mixed vitamin which includes pro-biotics, and zinc, all of which are vital for skin health and improved well being.
- I apply the scratchy balm onto her twice a day, and spend this time sitting and having a little chat with her, gently massaging it in. This means I know she’s got it on, and she knows I care enough to help her with it.
- keeping her room relativly clean and tidy and hoovered, dust obviously makes eczema worse. I also open her window each day to let fresh air in.
- this one is the hardest – be kind and patient, wow this takes some work when they are being grumpy and unresponsive, but I’m doing my absolute best to give her space, be there for her and help her without nagging.
Three weeks on, it is just starting to heal. But I know that if I veer away from any of the above, it will be back like a shot.
Obviously washing powder is a massive issue with children and eczema so I’m only using either soapnuts or Surcare.
For more information on what to do to improve eczema you should probably read my Eczema Book.
Also, if you do think eczema is infected, please consult a GP or pharmacist asap.
Hope this is helpful. Do let me know if you’d like any further information on any of this.