It's no secret that one of the most problematic symptoms of eczema includes incessant itching, but why does this skin condition itch so much?
If you're one of 31 million Americans who experience regular eczema flare-ups, we're here to tell you everything you need to know about:
The causes and triggers behind your eczema
Eczema's itch-scratch cycle
Natural eczema treatment options to soothe itchy rashes
Keep reading to learn more about why does eczema itch and how you can find fast relief for your eczema itch and eczema flares today.
The Causes of Eczema
While there is no singular origin for all forms of eczema per se, it is believed that a combination of genetic and environmental factors causes this disease.
For people with eczema, your immune system will likely overreact in response to specific environmental triggers, such as pollen, chemical substances, wool clothing, food allergies, dust mites, pet dander, or emotional stress.
As a result, this sparks eczema flares, which are characterized by outbreaks of highly itchy, dry, and flaky skin patches.
Key Eczema Symptoms
While your symptoms will be largely dependent on which type of eczema you are experiencing, there are some commonalities to look out for:
Dry skin patches appear pink or red on lighter-toned skin and hyperpigmented, brown, grey, or purplish on darker skin tones.
Cracking and flaking at the skin's barrier, particularly on the backs of the knees, elbows, eyelids, hands, and feet
Changes to skin color
And most notably... moderate to severe itching
Why Does Eczema Itch?
Eczema is linked to an issue with your nervous system which creates dysregulated skin barrier formation, particularly in the topmost layer of the epidermis - the stratum corneum. Consequently, people with eczema are predisposed to the irritation caused by environmental exposures.
On top of this, due to the weakened skin barrier, your body may struggle to hold and retain moisture, causing dry skin.
The Problem With Scratching
When you experience an eczema flare, the temptation to itch your dry skin can be overwhelming. Some people would describe eczema itches as akin to a burning or stinging sensation.
While scratching may feel very satisfying at the moment, when you rub the itchy area on your body, you activate the nerve fibers within your defective skin barrier. This releases chemical itch mediators called neuropeptides.
These chemicals tell your brain to experience even more itching, sparking a vicious pattern described as the 'itch-scratch cycle' that makes you symptoms worse.
There are two types of itching:
Neurogenic itch: stimulated by scratching, this is where your skin nerves transmit itch signals to your brain.
Psychogenic itch: stimulated by psychological factors and originating in the brain, this type of itch describes a conscious or unconscious urge to scratch, which is brought about either via habit or in response to stress.
It's also worth noting that broken skin caused by constant itching may aggravate eczema even more. Your cracked skin barrier becomes even more vulnerable to environmental irritants like sweat.
Due to changing sensations in the sweat gland nerve endings within your skin, perspiring can worsen your itchy symptoms.
Natural Treatment Options
Because itching stems from skin damage and a defective skin barrier, when treating eczema, it is essential to focus on restoring, nourishing, and moisturizing your skin's upper layers to help improve your body's resilience towards environmental trigger factors.
While many people may turn to medical solutions such as topical medications, oral medications, or sedating antihistamines, we've got some more natural alternatives for you to try.
As a great starting point, we'd recommend our Organic Manuka Skin Soothing Cream, made with soothing natural ingredients, including manuka honey, olive oil, and beeswax. Gentle enough for babies and effective on adults, this soft, buttery balm has been specially designed to calm even the most aggravated and sensitive skin, including all eczema types. Manuka honey also contains potent antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties which helps fight skin infections and reduce swelling.
Anti-Itch Bathing Products
Particularly in the case of atopic and contact dermatitis, an eczema flare-up may be triggered by different chemical substances in your hygiene and skin products, such as fragrances within your soaps, shower gels, and shampoos.
We suggest switching to a fragrance-free soap such as the Coconut and Sunflower Oil Soap Bar to avoid activating the chemical mediators within your skin's barrier. This natural soap bar is gentle and nourishing, combining coconut oil, shea butter, and sunflower oil to create a fatty cleanser and moisturizer that will leave your skin feeling soothed, soft, and supple and reduce your eczema itch.
Be sure to shower or bathe with lukewarm water rather than in very hot temperatures to avoid worsening itchy symptoms.
In extreme cases, your eczema itch may keep you up at night or hold you back from getting through your day worry-free. If this is the case, try wet wrapping - a traditional technique used for hundreds of years in treating sensitive skin and suitable for severe eczema.
The Wet Wrap Process
First, lather your itchy eczema generously with a gentle moisturizer such as the Organic Manuka Skin Soothing Cream mentioned above.
Next, wrap a slightly damp fabric gauze around the eczema patch to help lock in the moisture. For this step, we'd recommend using the Remedywear™ Eczema and Psoriasis Sleeves, which are eco-friendly and TENCEL embedded with anti-itch zinc oxide.
Combat Your Ezcema Itch Today
Follow these tips to help you understand your eczema itch, tweak your skin care, and stop scratching today.