Is It Dry Skin Or Eczema? Here’s How To Tell The Difference.

It’s dry. It’s itchy. It’s driving you loopy. But is your downside simply dry pores and skin, or is it eczema, which is often known as atopic dermatitis?

“The difference between dry skin and eczema is the presence of inflammation,” dermatologist Joshua Zeichner advised HuffPost. “With eczema, the skin barrier is not working as well as it should be, resulting in loss of hydration and disruptions in the outer skin layer. If your skin is red, itchy and flaky, then it’s probably more than just dryness, and you probably have eczema.”

Another clue is the place these dry, itchy patches are situated. “It most commonly affects the antecubital fossa (elbow creases) and popliteal fossa (back of the knee),” dermatologist JiaDe (Jeff) Yu defined. (And you now know two new physique half names, so that you’re welcome.)

A key distinction between the 2 situations is that eczema will proceed to worsen if it’s not handled appropriately, in response to Vivian Shi, a dermatologist and affiliate professor within the division of dermatology on the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. “It can lead to severe symptoms like cracking, skin thickening and more intense itching,” she stated. “People with eczema also are more prone to skin infections by a bacterium called staphylococcus aureus.”


What causes eczema?

“Eczema is caused by a deficiency in one of the proteins that makes up the top layer of the skin,” dermatologist Julie Russak stated. “Skin is designed to be a protective barrier for our body, with proteins that act like glue and hold cells together. When there’s a mutation in the proteins that holds the cells of the top layer of skin together, the cells start falling apart, and the skin can’t act as a protective barrier.”

What’s making your pores and skin act up?

“It can be triggered by cold weather, stress, infections and illness,” Yu stated. “And in most people, it affects more than the skin, since it’s been shown to be associated with depression, insomnia and other medical conditions.”


The excellent news is that there are issues you are able to do to assist. You’ll want to begin by taking note of every little thing which may have an effect on your pores and skin.

“We need to do some careful questioning to look for irritants that can damage the skin barrier and even cause irritation,” stated Peter Lio, a dermatologist and scientific assistant professor of dermatology and pediatrics at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. “In addition to other factors, you might also consider things like frequent washing, the use of hand sanitizers and certain chemicals you might be exposed to at work or home.”

When ought to I am going to a dermatologist?

“If your skin is dry and itchy and doesn’t improve with good, thick moisturizers, then it’s time to see a board-certified dermatologist,” Yu stated. “That doctor can provide you with targeted, site- and age-appropriate therapies.”


Are there merchandise that may assist?

“The care regimen for dry skin and eczema is similar, since in both cases the goal is to repair and protect your skin barrier to prevent water loss from the skin,” Shi stated.

So, begin with what you’d do for dry pores and skin. Yu urged thick moisturizers that stop water loss from the pores and skin, particularly in drier and extra arid situations. He really useful ointments like Vaseline petroleum jelly, Aquaphor, Cerave and Vanicream, or lotions from Cerave, Cetaphil, Eucerin and Vanicream.

Check out this list of greater than 200 merchandise with the seal of approval from the National Eczema Association to be taught extra.

“In general, you want to choose a product that has very few ingredients in it and ideally one that contains ceramides,” pediatric nurse practitioner Sam Casselman suggested. “Those are the proteins which repair the skin barrier and relieve dry skin, so use that moisturizer with ceramides as often as possible. For more severe dry skin, get a thicker alternative with a petrolatum base.”

Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, is marked by the presence of inflammation, which typical dry skin does not have.Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, is marked by the presence of irritation, which typical dry pores and skin doesn’t have.

When and the way usually ought to I exploit topical therapies?

After you’ve bought a moisturizing product, the hot button is to make use of it — incessantly. “The brand of product may not be as important as how liberally you apply it,” Shi stated. “Make sure you’re applying it several times a day, especially after showering.”

Your pores and skin covers all of you, so you have to maintain all of it on the identical time. “Treat not only spots where you have active eczema, but the rest of the skin as well, because your skin barrier is not functioning optimally all over,” Zeichner stated.

While you have to be beneficiant in making use of over-the-counter moisturizers, be cautious in utilizing a topical prescription as a preventative measure. “It’s a very common mistake for people to continue applying topical steroids even after a flareup is resolved,” Casselman stated. “Research is unclear if topical steroids applied to chronic areas of eczema will prevent it from flaring again, and the risk of chronic use of topical steroids on healthy skin outweighs that possible risk.”

Still, timing is every little thing, and also you need to get after it immediately when there’s a flare-up, Casselman stated. “A common mistake patients make with prescription topical products is waiting to apply them until an eczema flare gets ‘bad.’ If you wait to treat it, the inflammation and itching will continue to worsen and can become very intense. When you treat early and effectively, you’ll shorten the time of an eczema flare and likely use less medication in the long run.”

Are there any new therapies on the market?

Russak stated we now know eczema “is a chronic genetic immune-mediated condition” and up to date scientific and genetic research have helped clarify it. “This means there are new targeted therapies that use small molecules to block specific pathways for the development and flares of atopic dermatitis.”

One of the extra promising new topical therapies is ruxolitinib cream. “It targets and blocks a special inflammatory marker in the skin called janus kinase,” or JAK, Yu defined.

Another product, dupilumab, is the primary biologic treatment for moderate-to-severe atopic dermatitis. “This has been a game-changer for those with more difficult-to-control eczema,” Lio stated. “Because it isn’t an immunosuppressant or a steroid, it can be an important option for those who are stuck in a loop of medications that might have more significant side effects.”

There are in all probability much more therapies on the best way. “We dermatologists are really excited, because after a seemingly interminable drought of new treatments for eczema, we are finally witnessing an incredible explosion of new medications,” Lio stated. “With topical therapies, oral medicines and even injectable medications, we finally have a pipeline of more than 100 therapies in development.”

Even although these medication are nice information for a lot of, chances are you’ll not want them. “For many of the milder cases, the new medications are likely unnecessary,” Lio stated. “More conventional therapies like good moisturizers, topical corticosteroids, topical calcineurin inhibitors and crisaborole may be enough to keep things under good control, and to do so safely.”

What else can I do?

“Stick to ultra-gentle, soap-free cleansers,” Zeichner stated. “I recommend Dove Sensitive Skin Body Wash, which contains extremely mild cleansing ingredients in a formula that contains the same type of hydrators found in traditional moisturizers.”

“My favorite option is just plain Vaseline petroleum jelly,” Yu stated. “It’s highly effective, has a low side effect profile and is very affordable. It’s similarly effective compared to other much more expensive topical moisturizers.”

“Be mindful of everything that comes in contact with your skin, from topical creams to the clothing you wear, Russak said. “Try to maintain a relatively cool, neutral humidity environment in your house. Use a humidifier during winter if you’re prone to dry skin and eczema. I recommend using fragrance-free detergents for sensitive skin, such as Arm & Hammer Sensitive Skin Detergent. And some people find it helpful to store their moisturizers in the refrigerator for a cooling effect.”

Will my eczema ever go away?

The excellent news is that there are many therapy choices. The unhealthy information is that eczema is a continual situation, and essentially the most you’ll be able to count on is to handle it effectively with solely occasional flare-ups.

“A complete cure isn’t possible in a majority of the cases, because the presence of eczema generally means there is a genetic predisposition,” Casselman stated. “In my practice, I focus on educating patients around what help they need and how I can support them.”

Shi tells sufferers to arrange for “diligent care over a long period of time.”

“Even though your skin may look calm and have no active rash, there can still be underlying inflammation and problems with the skin’s protective barrier,” Shi stated. “It’s important to keep up with your moisturization routine and establish long-term care with your dermatologist.”

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