The fundamental cause of eczema is a genetically weakened or under-performing skin barrier.
However, research is increasingly discovering that although the underlying causes of eczema are largely genetic and therefore inevitable, frequency and intensity of flare ups and worsening symptoms could come down to something that can be controlled……bacteria.
Bacteria is both and enemy and friend when it comes to controlling eczema flare ups.
The realisation of just how much bacteria effects eczema is a relatively new line of investigation in dermatology.
There are many different types of bacteria living on the skin’s surface and some make eczema worse while others can help control it.
The key is distinguishing between bad skin bacteria and good skin bacteria and controlling levels of both. Put simply, lower levels of bad skin bacteria and higher levels of good skin bacteria will lead to less eczema flare ups and reduced intensity of flare ups.
How does bacteria effect eczema?
Bad skin bacteria roam the surface of the skin like a bully looking for trouble. When it finds a weakness in the skin barrier such as a crack or an area of raw dryness, it rushes in, gets through the skin barrier and starts to multiply in the cosy environment of the epidermis to try and wreak as much havoc as it can.
Once a dry crack or weakened patch of dry skin is populated with bad skin bacteria, that’s when infection and inflammation starts to develop and a patch of eczema goes from being itchy patch of skin to a red, inflamed and often an open slow-healing wound.
Good skin bacteria live deeper down in the epidermis and it’s this bacteria that helps repair and strengthen the skin barrier.
In people with eczema good skin bacteria has a harder job than normal because the skin barrier is weak and so is often easily broken allowing bad bacteria to come galloping in.
How to win the bacterial battle to reduce eczema
The key to winning the bacteria battle is to have more good skin bacteria and less bad skin bacteria. It sounds so simple, but how is this achieved?
Here are tips on how to get the bacterial balance better on your skin to help reduce your eczema flare ups;
- It’s important to make sure nothing that is being put on skin is wiping out any good skin bacteria or effecting its growth. Any form of antibacterial agents in skin care products will be negatively effecting the level of good skin bacteria. So it’s best to avoid all antibacterial products such as hand washes, soaps, wipes, cleansers and cleaning products.
- Skin allergies and skin reactions, even mild ones, to chemicals in skincare products can further weaken the skin barrier function and let in more bad skin bacteria.People with eczema tend of have very sensitive skin so skin allergies are common. Watch out for hair care products as they tend to have harsher detergent chemicals in than skincare products, yet are still on contact with skin during the washing and showering process, especially around the face, neck and shoulder areas.
- Make sure nothing being put on the skin is further dehydrating it and therefore increasing likelihood of cracking and damage. Anything with alcohol or petroleum can have a dehydrating effect.
- Always cleanse away dirt and cosmetics from skin at the start and end of each day to reduce the risk of bad bacteria forming on the skin’s surface. However, do not use an anti-bacterial cleanser or make up remover. Opt for a waterless cream-cleanser with moisturising ingredients and as few chemicals in as possible. Facial oil cleansers also be beneficial.
- Increase the levels of good skin bacteria through the use of smart anti-microbial skincare products. Smart anti-microbial products such as those containing microsilver ™ only attack bad skin bacteria while leaving good skin bacteria to thrive and grow. This is a crucial aide for helping to control bacterial balance in skin prone to eczema.
- Help good skin bacteria to grow. This can be achieved by opting for moisturising products and cosmetics than contain skin prebiotics. Skin prebiotics are ingredients that are essentially ‘food’ for good skin bacteria, so they help good skin bacteria thrive and grow. These can really help change the bacterial balance on skin and allow more good skin bacteria to grow, which not only helps repair and strengthen the skin barrier which in turn will reduce eczema flare up, but will also cause bad skin bacteria to recede reducing the risk of inflammation and infection in eczema lesions.