Build a daily
Using the appropriate emollient regularly can help keep your skin hydrated and healthy
Tips for a good daily skincare routine
Finding an effective emollient is key to managing your skin condition, but using it properly and regularly can be just as important. You need to find a routine that works for you – one size won’t fit all!
It might take a bit of experimentation, with guidance from healthcare professionals, before you find one that really helps your skin.
- A good skincare routine is regular and consistent, but is also responsive to the times your skin might need a bit of extra help
- Patience is important: the time it takes for skin to feel better can vary from one person to another
- However, if your dry or itchy skin condition seems a lot worse, you should see your healthcare professional straight away
Emollients that work for you are the foundation for a good daily skincare routine.
Here are some ways you can help your skin throughout the day.
In the morning…
- Cool the temperature: have a warm, not hot, shower – hot water can dry your skin more
- Switch your soap: try using emollient-based washes instead of regular soaps that can dry your skin
- Make it gentle: instead of rubbing your skin, try patting it with your towel until it’s nearly dry, then use an emollient straightaway while water is still trapped in the skin for extra hydration
During the day…
- On the move: you could take a small tube or pot of emollient with you when you’re out and about
- Healthy hands: try to use emollient-based washes if you can, and keep a tube of emollient or hand cream close by, so you can top up afterwards
In the evening…
- Extra hydration: some people like to shower before bed as it means they can put a thicker emollient on afterwards, so it has more time to absorb into the skin overnight
- Night time tips: indoor heating strips out moisture from the air – and your skin. Cooling your room down can help lessen skin drying and itching during the night. Try keeping the room ventilated, the heating turned down, and using loose cotton sheets and bedclothes
Dealing with flare ups
Every now and then eczema and psoriasis skin conditions might flare up. If you’ve lived with dry or itchy skin for years, you’ll know how to manage them when they happen. But if you’re not used to them, they might feel daunting and you may need some advice.
When your skin is in flare, it feels more itchy, red or weepy than usual. This can be caused by lots of different things, such as cold weather, stress or detergents.
For example, many people with eczema may experience an itch-scratch cycle. When your skin gets drier, it can get itchy – and when you scratch your skin, it gets damaged and releases inflammatory chemicals that make it itch more. So it’s important to try and resist the urge to scratch as much as you can, as it won’t stop your skin from itching and can do damage that allows more moisture to be lost so your skin becomes even more dry and itchy.
You might have an idea of what has caused your skin to get worse, so as well as adapting your skincare routine to deal with the symptoms of the flare up, you could try to avoid what’s causing it – to help prevent future ones.
There may be times, however, when you’re not sure what’s caused the flare up. In these instances, you should speak to your doctor to identify any triggers of your symptoms. You’ll need to manage symptoms as they occur and focus on maintaining a good skincare routine to help your skin stay healthy.
During a flare up, you might need to use your emollient more often. You could also use an emollient product that contains specific ingredients to help relieve itching, like lauromacrogols that have a mild anaesthetic effect.
For some flare ups emollients on their own will not be enough, so a healthcare professional may recommend using a topical steroid to reduce inflammation. Steroid creams come in different strengths, so healthcare professionals will recommend the appropriate one for you. You’ll need to follow their instructions carefully to make sure you’re using them in the right way for your skin.
It’s important to find an emollient that suits your needs: it can help make your routine a bit more enjoyable, so you’re more likely to apply enough emollient to help keep your skin healthy
Tips for parents
To create a skincare routine for your child, you can follow much of the same advice shown above.
With very young children, you’ll be very involved in their skincare routine. You can build emollients into their bath-time and bedtime, and make this more special by turning it into a bonding exercise.
“I have an emollient cream for him… you do have to do it for a few days… sometimes a few weeks before things will improve.”
Claire’s baby Arlo has eczema so she’s developed a good routine to care for his skin
If you have older children, you can help them take charge of their skincare routine. This could mean explaining what’s happening to their skin, involving them in choosing their emollient, and giving them the confidence to keep to their routine. If they understand the importance of their skincare routine, it’s more likely they’ll be able to keep it going. It’s also a good idea to start this early if you can, so effective skincare can become part of their normal daily routine.
Supporting your child away from home
When your child’s following a complete skincare routine to treat their dry or itchy skin condition, there may be times when they need to apply their emollient themselves – for example, when they’re at school, on trips or staying with other family members. Here are some ideas to make things easier:
- Keeping your child’s teacher informed can help them be more aware of the impact of your child’s dry or itchy skin, and it can help the teacher feel more confident about supporting your child
- There may be some small things schools can do to help – for example, letting your child keep a tube of emollient handy, helping to store their emollient, or offering soap substitutes for hand washing
- For younger children some parents might find it useful to write down notes and create a pack about their child’s routine. This can help anyone looking after their child make sure their routine is consistent. You may even want to try creating a fun pictorial pack with your child. This will help them understand their routine, and because it’s in their own words, they’ll be able to explain it to others if they need to.
The National Eczema Society has lots of useful resources on their website about talking to schools, along with some handy checklists you can use with teachers.
Managing changes over time
Over time, our skin changes in ways that can cause it to lose moisture more easily.
- We lose more of the natural oils (lipids) between our skin cells, which weakens the protective barrier and makes it even harder for our skin to retain moisture
- We also lose natural moisturising factor (NMF) so our skin is less able to attract and retain moisture
- And the pH level of our skin naturally increases, which can weaken our skin’s natural protective barrier
The skin starts becoming thinner and is slower at replacing old skin cells with new ones. This can mean your skin loses its ability to heal itself as quickly as it used to, making it more vulnerable. Scratching is more likely to result in cracked skin, meaning there’s a higher chance of the skin getting infected.
There’s more to caring for our skin over time than just preventing wrinkles. Keeping it hydrated and healthy can help it work optimally. In addition to maintaining a skincare routine that includes emollients and soap substitutes, there are some things you can consider to make sure your routine meets your skin’s changing needs:
- Decisions, decisions: consider choosing an effective emollient that can work with your skin to keep it hydrated
- Relieve the itch: if your skin’s itchy, consider an emollient containing ingredients that can specifically help with soothing the itch as well as hydrate your skin
Janet's story (part 2)
“As I get older, it looks as if my skin is getting drier and drier... it’s a case of knowing that your body changes and accepting what happens.”
Janet, who’s skin has got drier as she’s got older