Eczema, asthma and hay fever are all triggered by the same allergens and may have a genetic link. If one of your parents has hay fever, for example, you may react to allergens with eczema instead. Harsh cleansers, dry weather and allergic reactions to substances like fragrances, foods and pet dander can all contribute to the problem.
While eczema can be very itchy, it’s important to resist scratching, which can irritate the skin even more and cause a secondary infection. Antihistamines and over-the-counter hydrocortisone creams will help reduce the itching, and a diet high in essential fatty acids (found in fish, nuts, and flaxseed) can help calm inflammation. Yoga, meditation and other relaxation techniques can also help relieve symptoms and reduce future flare-ups.
If your condition doesn’t improve within three or four weeks, see a dermatologist. Prescription steroid creams will quickly ease itching and inflammation. If these don’t work, your doctor may prescribe a cream that suppresses the immune system, thereby turning off the skin’s allergic response. Eczema is fairly easy to treat when caught quickly but the longer you wait, the worse it will get, which means a longer healing time.
If you’ve ever spent a day on the ski slopes and ended up with red, wind-burned skin, you know how uncomfortable chapped skin can be. Skin becomes dry, sore and cracked when its natural oils are depleted. Extended exposure to the elements is a prime culprit, as well as repeated contact with soap and water, dehydration and a lack of essential fatty acids in the diet. Vitamins also play a key role. A deficiency of B vitamins, for example, can contribute to chapped, cracked lips, while vitamin A is needed to keep skin generally healthy.
Chapped skin can be relieved by using a humidifier or by placing bowls of water near a heater to add moisture to dry winter air. Avoid the use of all soaps and use a creamy, oil-based cleanser instead, followed by a rich, fragrance-free moisturizer.
While ingrown hairs aren’t a result of sensitive skin, they are irritating and may contribute to an already painful skin condition. Ingrown hairs, or razor bumps, occur when the shaved hair gets trapped inside the hair follicle and grows back down into the skin. Shaving too closely can trigger ingrown hairs. To avoid this, don’t pull the skin too taut while shaving, shave in the direction of your hair growth, and don’t put too much pressure on the blades.