Eczema is a common, long-term skin condition affecting thousands of people in the UK. Although often lifelong, some people find the condition clears up completely over time. Eczema is typically treated with topical creams and ointments, but it is a stubborn condition and treatment is not always simple. Even when creams are able to relieve symptoms, they can’t stop the itchy, red skin from returning during flare-ups.
Skin flare-ups are our body’s way of telling us that something is not quite right, and at the root of it all is usually stress
Camille Knowles, health coach and author of The Beauty of Eczema, has suffered from eczema all her life. She believes stress could be the root cause of the condition, and that tackling stress can help manage it.
“As someone who has suffered from eczema all of my life, one of the things that I am deeply passionate about is helping people to understand that skin flare-ups are our body’s way of telling us that something is not quite right, and at the root of it all is usually stress,” said Knowles.
“When it comes to addressing skin problems long term, there really are no miracle creams, lotions and potions (although a quality daily moisturiser is a game changer).
“The first step to healing is always about understanding the underlying issue behind a flare-up and addressing that head on.
“It is only then that you will see a long-lasting respite from problem skin and will be equipped with the tools to tackle a flare-up if it does occur.”
According to Knowles, stress can make the skin more sensitive by causing a chemical reaction in the body, while also negatively impacting the immune system.
Ultimately, when we experience periods of stress it can be hard to focus on healthy lifestyle choices – such as healthy eating, exercise, reaching out to friends, getting outside – that will make us feel better.
Instead, we revert to more negative coping techniques such as comfort food, alcohol and binge-watching TV or mindlessly scrolling through social media.
“I have spent years and years battling with my eczema and trying to work out that miracle fix,” said Knowles.
“Eventually I realised that, for me, healing is the sum of many parts and if one or more areas of my life is out of sync or lacking attention (almost always because of stress), then it manifests itself in my skin and I experience a flare-up.
“Long-term healing can and will take time, and it is an ongoing journey that requires focus every day.
“For me, it is about caring for every single part of me, every single day.
“The food that I put into my body, the products that I put on to my body, how much I sleep, how much I move, my mental outlook – all of these things matter.”
Tips for living with a skin condition
Nine things you should know about coping with skin conditions.
Resist the itch – Eczema is almost always itchy no matter where it occurs on the body and although it may be tempting to scratch affected areas of the skin, this should be avoided as much as possible
In order to tackle stress, Knowles advises spending more time outdoors, ensuring you get enough sleep, writing down your thoughts and feelings, and decluttering your house.
She also advises “making friends” with your skin condition.
“It may sound crazy but I truly believe that having eczema is a blessing. It has forced me into living a healthier lifestyle and listening to my body and what it needs to thrive.
“Because of my eczema I have been forced to tackle any stress in my life head on – working out what is out of balance and working hard on getting myself back on track.
“One crucial part of this jigsaw is to see the positive in your skin condition and to reframe how your see and treat yourself.
“A flare-up of any kind of problem skin can make you feel really low but to truly heal you need to give your mindset a makeover and make friends with your skin.”
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