If you suffer from eczema, you are not suffering alone. Fortunately, there are many ways to reduce the appearance of the condition. Sunlight has been long credited with improving a range of skin conditions, but is tanning good for eczema?
With all the safety/fear campaigns targeted at sun safety and the evils of UV rays, how is it that some people swear their eczema improves and even disappears when they get themselves a wicked tan? I mean, if we are to go by the hype, shouldn’t UV rays be doing us a disservice?
What is Eczema?
Eczema (also known as dermatitis) is a common, non-contagious, dry skin condition which affects 1 in 5 children in Ireland, and 1 in 12 adults. Mild cases may present as dry, scaly skin with some erythema (redness) and pruritus (itching).
Sufferers of severe eczema may note fissuring (cracks) of the skin, bleeding and crusting with significant pruritus.
Atopic dermatitis is a genetic condition based on the interaction between a number of genes and environmental factors. Many people will have a family history of either eczema or one of the other ‘atopic’ conditions Eg: Hay fever
What Causes Eczema?
In eczema sufferers, the skin produces less fat and oil than normal skin and is therefore less able to retain water. So the skin’s protective barrier is compromised and gaps open up between the skin cells.
This because they are not sufficiently plumped up with water and moisture is lost from deeper layers of the skin.
This allows potential allergens such as bacteria or irritants to pass through more readily. Everyday substances such as Soap, bubble bath and washing-up liquid, will remove oil from anyone’s skin. But if you have eczema your skin breaks down more easily, quickly becoming irritated, fissured and inflamed.
Because it is prone to drying out and is easily damaged, skin with eczema is more liable to become erythematous (red) and inflamed. That is if in contact with substances that are known to irritate or cause an allergic reaction.
Benefits of Vitamin D
Sunlight has been credited with healing powers since the dawn of time because of its unique ability to provide us with Vitamin D. Medical professionals recommend that people of all ages spend at least 20 minutes a day soaking up direct sunlight.
It sounds like a short time, but 20 minutes of direct rays are enough to give you your daily recommended dose.
Vitamin D is essential for us because it enables us to absorb the calcium we consume and as a result, allowing us to grow and maintain strong healthy bones.
When adults receive less vitamin D than their daily dose of vitamin, it results in a general weakening. It could also result in poor overall health, and various skin ailments, such as – you guessed it, eczema.
Because of this obvious link, this has led many chronic eczema sufferers to experiment with large doses of sunlight, in the form of tanning, which has proved a popular method for reducing seasonal flare-ups of the condition.
But interestingly, the effect of sunlight on the skin proves was recently discovered to be much more complex than we originally thought.
Tanning is Good for Eczema
While you’re waiting for nitric oxide to be available to consumers, the best way to get benefit from the effects of tanning is to spend time outdoors. However, health professionals generally warn against uncontrolled tanning as a method to improve your skin.
If you choose uncontrolled tanning, meaning exposure to the sun, then you should be aware that this choice comes with the real possibility of future skin cancers.
According to the Mayo Clinic, there is no scientific evidence that confirms a tan or a base tan provides you protection against sunburn, meaning any damage your skin endures is damage, plain and simple.
But as we have seen, both scientific and anecdotal evidence confirms tanning is good for the reduction of eczema.
Tanning provides the skin with a burst of UVA/UVB light, both of these wavelengths are credited with improving the immune system, therefore, improving the appearance of skin affected by the ailment.
The best way to do this is under controlled conditions, such as through hospital-approved light therapy.
Can Sunbeds help Eczema?
As standard sunbeds provide the same quality of light you receive from the sun, sunbeds are capable of providing eczema busting results.
The benefit of sunbeds is that it can be used any season and in any weather, meaning you don’t have to wait until summer to get your skin enhancing fix. There is a wealth of anecdotal evidence that confirms sunbeds are an effective way to manage eczema flare-ups.
As popular opinion has turned against sunbeds, and regulations have become more demanding worldwide, innovative manufacturers have created a new kind of sunbed which provides a more controlled range of sunlight, known as UVB light.
If you want to make a large investment in the quality of your skin, then it is worth investigating whether the outright purchase of a UVB full-body sunbed is a good choice for you.
You can venture into it also if you have a chronic eczema condition that doctors have confirmed you’ll have to manage for life.
Alternative Ways to Treat Eczema
- Take a short daily bath – under 10 minutes – in lukewarm water using a fragrance-free emollient.
- Pat the skin dry as opposed to harsh rubbing.
- Apply any prescribed topical therapies to affected areas (inflamed, red areas), followed by a fragrance-free moisturiser all over the body.
- Sleep in a cool room – a hot room may encourage scratching during sleep.
- Dress babies in baby grows with built-in mitts and older children in cotton gloves.
- Use wraps/bandages under pyjamas or Babygro’s if necessary.
- Wear cotton clothing, removing any irritating labels/tags and avoid the skin coming into contact with rough seams etc.
- layer clothes to avoid a child becoming too hot.
- Sleep in a cool room.
- Avoid known triggers such as grasses, animals, house dust mite, food or sand pits.
1. Are There Any Changes In How Eczema Is Perceived?
Historically treatments were much more limited and patients may have been told that nothing can be done to alleviate the condition. Many myths are passed from generation to generation and through the internet.
2. Have You Seen Any Notable Trends Around Eczema In Recent Years?
There are now more clothing options for children to wrap their hands and body and prevent them from scratching.
Having an open and honest discussion with your dermatologist is one of the best ways to control your condition. While eczema doesn’t have a cure, you can reduce the frequency and severity of flares.
Living with this condition may become easier with the right guidance and learning how to manage your symptoms.
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