Friday, November 9, 2012

"Do not scratch your itch. Ever."

When characters like Donald Trump set the standard on Twitter it's hard to get worked up about any single tweet in particular.

Nonetheless, yesterday a tweet in my feed got me riled.

Claudia Aguirre is scientific communications manager at Dermalogica, a skincare/cosmetics company headquartered in California.

The tweet apparently came from an audience member in a talk Aguirre was giving in Antwerp, Belgium. [update: via Twitter, Aguirre implied that I took her words out of context, since she says the talk was not about eczema.]

Aguirre has tweeted the "don't scratch"/eczema message a couple times that I've seen, so my conclusion is that she believes it.

For the record, Aguirre does understand that eczema is a complex problem with many causes and treatments. If you like 17-minute YouTube videos, she's got one for you.

But “don't scratch”? That would be nice. I've spent my whole life trying to pull that off. 

With my customary tact, I made my opinion known. Aguirre replied. My man Gary beat me to the punch.

The problem: you can TELL someone not to scratch, but it doesn't work. It’s not that you won’t stop, it’s that you can’t stop. Google "eczema don't scratch" and the results fall into two main categories: pages advising you not to scratch your eczema, and pages from outraged eczema patients and parents saying that this is bullshit. (See this recent discussion on the NEA forum.)

Not only does it not work, telling people to stop scratching makes them feel bad. They already suffer from the itch, sores, and shame of eczema; now you’re telling them they don’t have any self-control. They then believe it’s their fault they look and feel the way they do.

The urge to itch in cases of extreme eczema is so intense that willpower is no defense. Not to mention that willpower is irrelevant while you're asleep, which is when many patients scratch.The intensity of eczema itch is hard to believe. I know, because I and my daughter have eczema, and when she’s itchy and I’m not, I can hardly understand what she’s going through. But when I’m itchy, it’s like a demon has possessed me, like Linda Blair’s character in The Exorcist.

So is it possible to exorcise the demon?
  • Topical steroids give you some control, but not many people would claim they are the answer.
  • Yoga and meditation: meh.
  • Keeping your hands busy with art or a musical instrument might work  as long as you keep doing that activity. Once you stop, the itch starts.
  • I am aware of a handful of psychiatric techniques, including habit reversal, made popular by Christopher Bridgett in the UK. I like habit reversal, and believe that it works to reduce habitual, nervous scratching—and thereby calm the itch/scratch cycle and bring overall relief to a degree. But it’s not a solution for everyone. It takes work, and commitment, and for some people, habitual scratching is not the dominant factor in their eczema. (E.g. I get eczema on my face which is caused by pollen. I get outbreaks caused by weather, exercise, food triggers, dust mites, animal dander and stress.)
Dr. Aguirre, you say it’s possible for eczema patients to stop scratching. Would you mind telling us how?


  1. It's not perfect (what is) but cold is helpful against the burning itch - e.g. an ice pack in a clean cotton tea towel or pillowcase held against the itchy bit

    1. Yeah I agree. I've got the itch right now and the only thing that keeps it at bay is a cold pack wrapped in a teatowel or pillowcase held on the area after moisturising. It calms down the irritation for a few hours. I don't know what to do about sleeping though. Tonight I'm going to try going to sleep with an cold pack on the area and see how that goes, because otherwise I scratch in my sleep. I also recommend managing diet during outbreaks. No wine or acidic foods and drink. No dairy, coffee, etc. :(

    2. cold packs are good for small areas but when it covers both legs ,arms, head and back,my only option is the deep freeze{fridge},iv tried everything to stop the itch,all creams and methods,but nothing,,i itch that bad i scratch till i bleed,till i have no skin left,and still i itch,,please help me ,im going itchy,,,,,,,

    3. Icy cold showers daily, you may need to work up to this. Ice baths for 10 to 15 minutes daily also helps

    4. Oatmeal soak baths. 20 minutes. Don't stay in too long. Make sure the water is lukewarm/cool. Not a nice "Bath" feeling or "clean" feel, but hot damn, the sound I make getting into the tube is like water on hot coals... As a 28 year old eczema sufferer, this was my go to after a long, hot, football practice. All the grim, sweat, dirt, and heat felt like it was just falling off.

  2. Agreed. I have tried that and it's a pleasant, if temporary, relief. As is a sharp pain, like a pinch, at the itchy spot! Unfortunately, neither method is good when you have eczema spread over wide areas.

  3. Reading about scratching makes me scratch more! Hehe!

    1. When I was younger, I made a friend at the park. She was older than me. The next day I scratched. I went to the park. The girl asked me what the dry skin with small cuts was. I replied,"dry skin." Then she yelled,"IS IT CONTAGIOUS?!?!" The next 2-3 years of my life I was insecure and because of that I wasn't very social. Because I wasn't very social, I didn't have many friends. I'm not friends with that girl anymore, and I've forgotten her name. But she ruined two years of my life because I had a disease. A disease I couldn't control. Thanks, bïtch. You REALLY helped my self esteem.

  4. What a ridiculous thing to tell somebody with eczema! "Don't scratch!" Thank you so much! There have been times when my back or neck have been so itchy that I literally have to sit on my hands and bare my teeth just so that I don't rip my skin off!

    1. I want to click... "like"!

  5. I have tried a fair number of gimmicks myself. Sitting on your hands is a new one!...but I imagine you would then just find yourself rubbing your back against the chair.

  6. Aguirre and I have exchanged a few tweets about this. Her position is that my post is bad journalism because it is based on an RT of a tweet from a talk I wasn't at. Fair enough. But beyond saying "there are ways to control the urge" she has not shown that she understands the intensity of eczema itch. This is what you'd expect if you approach the skin from the perspective of beauty rather than basic function.

  7. How can you resist an urge when you're asleep!? Even when wearing cotton gloves, i will take the gloves off (in my sleep!) to scratch. Does Aquirre have eczema? She's clearly never had The Itch!!

    1. eeeeeekkkkk! I know, I have really bad eczema and I wear cotton gloves and I just rip them off at night. I need the advanced advice!!!

  8. Yes, first question that came to my mind too! Does Aquirre have eczema? I suspect not, given the complete lack of empathy demonstrated by her tweet. Everyday, without fail, I quietly declare to myself that; "today I will not scratch!" I have never honoured this declaration, despite trying every method under the sun to stop this self harming behaviour. Do I want to harm myself? Hell no!! Can I stop myself from doing so at the hands of this merciless, tormenting disease? Hell no!!

  9. I have been suffering with eczema for ten years now, I know its useless to advise an eczema patient not to scratch but off late I have been trying this technique of telling myself, that, the bleeding and open wounds are not worth the momentary relief from scratching. This technique doesn't always stop me from scratching but helps me to at least mellow the ferocity of my scratch. Oh this life!

  10. Hey guys try this,when ur showering in your bathtub, aim the shower towards your patch of eczema,use cold water and shower that part. it will cause the area numb. but do not turn the pressure too high, it will break the skin. It should done no harm and slightly relieve and gives u pleasure towards the itchiness.
    Hope this works

  11. Good tip, thanks! ...though I'm a wuss when it comes to cold showers. Might use an icepack for the same effect.

    1. Borage cream works absolute wonders for me. It's a little pricey to begin with, but it lasts for longer than you'd think, and it cools down my eczema almost instantly. It doesn't get rid of it, but it gets rid of the feeling that my skin is on fire, and most importantly, the dreaded itch is gone!

  12. I know for sure I have eczema although the skin specialist didn't give a name for that 9 years ago when I visited his clinic. When he said told me not to scratch, I've decided there and then it's useless going back again, at least not for this problem. I get extremely frustrated when people penalize me for the broken skin and pus on affected areas...I felt I needed to give excuses for "bad habit" of scratching. What I do in recent years is to pour very hot (not to the point of scalding) water over the affected area, towel dry, and then put either moisturizer or if it's flaring, topical cream. Works quite well for me.

  13. Hot water, yow! As mentioned above, I would prefer an icepack or bag of frozen peas. The hot water is going to remove what's left of your natural skin lipids. But thanks for sharing.

  14. I just want to say THANK YOU ALL!!!! Everyone I am around from my husband to my parents growing up always tell me to "just don't scratch!" and I have felt totally ashamed of it as I feel like I have to hide in the bathroom to itch my hands and wrists (where my patches usually flare the worst). They don't/can't understand the incredibly overpowering urge to do it and how good it can feel (temporarily of course until the skin breaks/is raw).

  15. The only time I get relief is during winter, the flare ups become less frequent and easier to ignore. But then there's this butthole called summer, my favorite season and my eczemas favorite to! It doesn't stop and spreads to become severe flare ups in all 5 of my areas, there is never a time when I have less than two infections! My medicine becomes ineffective and the ITCH, don't get me started on the ITCH! Luckily schools out and I rarely have to see anyone, but the horror from friends and family is enough to make me want to disappear

    1. Your comment really moved me...My daughter suffers from the ITCH and severe eczema, and summer is worse for her too. She's five but is growingly getting confident of telling people.. It's just my "eczema". (it is a big deal, but she is getting comfortable explaining to others that its not a big deal (as far as they are concerned at least). I hope people will be kind as she gets older and people get crueler.

    2. Yes!! I know. My birthday is in the summer and I just can't get a good break to celebrate it! My feet, face, and just EVERYWHERE is just so ITCHY!!!!

  16. Just came across a quote by Albert Einstein, thought it'd be worth sharing with you guys.

    "Life is like riding a bicycle, to keep the balance you've got to keep moving."

    Hoping for a eczema-free-tomorrow for all of us.

  17. Anon August 6--one good thing about growing up is that you get to move around to different places and see which suit your skin better. Not that there's anywhere perfect, but some places are better than others. West Coast works for me.

  18. I also wear gloves at night (and at home during the day)--sometimes two pairs. This definitely helps limit the damage. My favorite gloves are the silk liner gloves--they don't stretch out as quickly and I'm less likely to take them off in the night. I've also been rubbing my skin with a wet washcloth when I have an itching fit--my skin still gets irritated, but not as badly when I use my nails.

  19. I was the one who suggested using hot water. Happy to say that my eczema on my knuckle is cured. It just miraculously decided to stop itching one day and for a long period of time - I did not change my diet and I live in a tropical country where there is no real seasonal change throughout the year. With no scatching, the patch healed and disappeared. The patch on my left elbow healed too but the right elbow remained. And I also got a new one on another knuckle. Jeez.

  20. I've been having eczema on and off for years. But recently within these past months, I've been getting at least two constant patches all over my body, if not more.

    Currently, I have a wide patch from my left armpit stretching to my left chest, a small new one in my right inner, a small semi old one on my left inner thigh, and an old one on my ankle that keeps coming back but is barely visible.

    So far I was able to wrap a thin towel around my ankle, and secure it with masking tape. This prevents my nails from ripping it up at night, where I have NO control whatsoever.

    By the way, clipping your nails, at least for me, does not help at all. I have a finger+nail structure where I can not cut close to the nail without it bleed. The rest of my family have nails where they can cut it very short and would not have trouble scratching. I, however, have nails that always appear outside no matter how close I clip them. =(

    I also find it hard to use this wrapping method around my thighs, which is much bigger, and keeps sliding off. So I found another way: wrap a long-sleeved shirt around the thigh area. You don't even need masking tape! Just start with one sleeve on your patch, hold on to the shirt as you wrap it around, keeping the tension a little tight (not TOO tight!). As for the main body of the shirt, just fold it a few times so it fits your (hopefully smallish patch), and continue wrapping until your sleeves come around and you tuck it into itself to secure it.

    It works because most shirts can be stretched, and it wont slide off as easily as if you used a towel. I have used this for several days now and only once it kinda fell out of place because I didn't apply much tension to it.

    Now I don't have a method to cover the torso area. I suffer through like the rest of you, applying cream and hoping it will work long enough so I don't wake up scratching. So far, the cream kinda works, but I have already scratched it to the point of bleeding a few times at night.

    I suppose i can wear 5 layers of thin tight clothing so there's no way my hands can work its way under the shirt to scratch it. Hmm.... I might try that. Might not need 5 layers. I'll test it tonight.

    I also tried using long tube socks and stuffing my hands in them so I can't scratch at night. Nope...doesn't work. I wake up with the socks on the floor because I instinctively take them off. I'm gonna try to buy some cotton gloves, but I believe they will just be taken off by my hands at night. >_>

    I also will try to avoid eggs and wheat, while eating more fruits and vegetables.

    Let me know if any of these methods helped yall :D

  21. I have had eczema for 15 years and counting.. And it's been absolute torture.. Almost everyday I get scolded, mostly by my dad, for scratching and it's been so difficult.. They don't understand what it's like.. I wish they could just for a week live in my shoes and feel what it's like to have eczema.. Sigh.. I just want to say thank you to everyone for that said something, I at least know I am not the only one that suffers so greatly with this dreadful disease.. It really touched me reading everyone's stories knowing exactly what everyone of you is going through..

  22. Wow.......amazed to see how many of us suffer from this skin condition. For a very long time I thought I was the only one suffering from this disease, but it turns out alot of you share the same torture, shame and hopelessness I've felt and still do feel. I have had eczema my whole life...37 years to be has moved from one area to the next torturing and destroying whichever body part it moves to..I too have been advised to not scratch....and as hard as I have attempted to try this its impossible to pull that off. I live in The Bahamas, so the weather here is pretty much hot throughout the whole year, not that a little cold brings any relief either...I can only pray that they find a cure soon.

  23. I have been battling this 13 years now finally this year I now found by taking Atarax genric hydroxzine 25 mg 3 times a day by my dr i dont really itch which is a blessing

  24. I'm guilty of telling my under 2 year olds to 'stop scratching'. I know they are itchy, but I don't want them to scratch and make it worse. I will stop saying 'stop scratching'… I know it's impossible for them. I want to cry everyday watching them in pain. I lather them from head to toe as often as I can throughout the day and try to keep them as distracted (and cool) as possible. My poor little babies. I feel so helpless. The steroid creams, ointments, wet-wraps all soothe, but they aren't a cure…. WE NEED A CURE FOR ECZEMA

  25. For crying out loud we really do need cure for eczema. I think doctors should just stop telling us not to scratch because they're not helping, but instead they must come up with a plan to get rid of this eczema shit.. I feel bad, I wanna cry if I hear people saying they've had eczema for YEARS and I jst had it for almost a year but I can not stand it anymore. I feel like dying, the itching is too much, feel sooooo helpless, as I'm writting this my body is damn itchy and m scratching cause seriously I can't help my self. The treatments only help for that particular time once the meds are done the eczema comes back.. Now I just don't know what to do. Somebody heeeeeelp, we need cure for this disease, not just a treatment but CURE.. This is not a way to live, Nooooo!! Too much pain.

  26. I hav been suffering from extreme eczema for 4yrs, at e start it wasnt tat bad still managable but then as time went by it became worse n no one understood wad i was going through, not a single person knew, thr was this one day where my itch got really bad n thr was way too much pain for me to endure, i jus broke down with only suicide attempt goin through my mind, all i could think was to end this miserable life i was living, tat was when my sis told me that god has given me diesease because he knows tat i cant endure it, god will nvr something tat one could not bear, suffer now, he will definitely award something u would nvr dream, wad she said did help me to stay strong and hav hope agn, well now even though my eczema state has gotten btr, im hoping it will, well i believe it will eventually, lets jus endure in this shit together guys, we are strong, i bet those tat had nvr understood us, will not be able to survive like how we did if they were in our shoes, not that im cursing them or what, but we definitely hav higher tolerance, willpower,strength, and we definitely know how to take care of our skin more than anyone else out thr, but since the flaring is not in our control in turns out to hurt ourselves, but u know, i know wad it feels, hopefully we could find a cure for eczema n get back our normal skin

  27. Hi guys, I have been suffering with whole body eczema for 12 years now. I've spent the best years of my youth itching my flaky skin. I've no idea of the amount of oral steroids i must have popped over this period, god alone knows how much damage this has/will cause.

    anyway, please try consuming vitamin e capsules. Try 400 mg or 600 mg capsule twice a day depending on the severity. I have been consuming this for a two weeks and it has definitely helped. I'll admit that the itching is still there but it has definitely improved my earlier condition of severely flaky skin and serum oozing out of the lesions.

    pl do try this, i believe vitamin e capsules are reasonably cheap and you never know what might just work for you.

    take care and stay strong guys.

  28. Hey, I have been suffering with eczema for about 5 years it definitely sucks... I don't remember a day that I haven't suffered since theses 5 years... I took two months off from work I was a server and behind my knees would get so raw I could barely walk and pretty much covered my body as well... It really ruins your life I've taken lots of prednazone and anti biotics for the infections as well as the lovely cortisone creams I get and right now I have used cell cept and am on methotrexate a pretty strong drug for eczema ( which isn't working either :S ) it sucks to suffer like this I want to do so much but I feel held back... All I want to do is lay down and sleep hoping the next day will be better...Being stared at isn't really fun either, being asked whats that on my face.. The only thing that helps me is 2 benedryl and sleeping pills at night..
    Ughh I can Imagine what you guys are going throughhhh it reallly sucks hopefully we will get somewhat of a cure soon ( or one day ) hopefully..

  29. Thanks everyone. At least I know that I'm not alone. I suffered for more than 15 years. And right now, the condition is the worse in my life. Embrace it. That's all I got to say.

  30. I finally tried a prednisone taper for a week and all of the eczema subsided. I was in heaven. Then when the prednisone wore off, it all came back.
    Back in hell.
    Isn't there a way that we can train our endocrine system to release whatever cortisol or natural steroid is needed?

    About itching: I tried the hot water and felt orgasm in my hands. I started to look forward to this twice a day. By the second day my hands were bright red. Lesson learned.
    One insight about itching is that if it feels good, it is bad.
    What really sucks is that when you don't scratch it, it doesn't seem to go away either. So non-scratching is not a solution. The only thing not scratching does is not make it worse. When you are in a raging fit of madness, rubbing or scratching and stifling your breath, you don't care that it will get just don't care.
    I also heard one person on the internet mention an "internal itch". I too have this. It is truly an itch that you can not scratch. It feels like your insides are crawling around.
    She says "Don't Scratch". I CANT SCRATCH INSIDE ME ANYWAY!
    The advice is irrelevant.
    My solution would be as I stated above. We need to train our glandular secretions somehow. If we could do naturally what steroids do, it would be a cure. But how? Maybe I am totally off base. ...anyone?

  31. i too had the same effect from prednisone.
    i like that idea that one could somehow train glandular secretions to balance.

  32. Hello, I was reading through this article while I was off sick from school, and I must say that a lot of you have the mind set that your eczema is terrible and it isnt going to go away. I am 14 yrs old, and have suffered eczema all my life, and what I really came on here to say is, Don't. Give. Up. If you have an itch, treat it, I know myself that it is impossible to stop scratching, believe me. My family has been telling me that for my whole life. I find that cold temperatures really help soothe he itch. It has been the only thing that helps me, as well as moisturizers. I don't think people realise how lucky they are, to have eczema instead of a life threatening disease. There is always a reason in life, remember that and never give up.

    1. thank you Justin. My daughter is five and suffers tremendously. I do research and read blogs almost daily, for support and ideas, etc. I feel so hopeless, but you have inspired me. thank you.

  33. hi, for me is helping taking zinc and vitamins b complex, also eating more slowly if you can so your food is well digested. also non acidic foods (even apple makes me itch) but fruits or things that help you make enzymes! found on the net grapes, pineapple, papaya, avocado are good or try taking supplements. enzymes too.
    yes heat is bad or sweet things make in your stomach acid that kills enzymes and then the food is rotting in gut !
    really it can even give you cancer so try zinc and zinc cream like sudocream this dryes skin with blisters. my skin still cracks but there i apply panthenol cream (only inside the crack) the rest zinc cream for night and later as it heals little calcium cream in the day. this is helping me more than elocon cream, also 5 years ago i had triamcinolone acetonide this was much better but now i breast feed so i can not use that one. eczema i did not have 5 years but after giving birth in october 2013 now have it again. this zinc supplements are helping much and also b complex calms me down so i'm getting much better but still have like 4 small blisters on hands each evening. before it was like 7 on each finger and top of hands. so there is big difference after 1 week!!! also sometimes in night during feeding my baby i used to scratch till bleeding but i feel better now...hope it will go away again and yes cotton gloves after applying night creams! good luck to you all!

  34. I have been suffering from eczema for 17 years now, and not a day goes by where I don't want to cry my eyes out. Not only do I have a low self esteem because of it, but the sheer pain I go through after the guilty itches drives me insane. I have heard that black seed oil is a miraculous thing, and will defo start having this on a daily basis. I had no idea that others were waking up in bed with blood on their clothes like me. I only hope that all of us are cured of this horrible thing so we can just live our lives like everyone else. Best wishes

    Eczema sufferer

  35. hello again I wrote on 9. feb, i am still getting better. although i did get 2 lfare ups since i eat acidic foods too. i am breastfeeding so i try to eat everything my flares were once after eating quickly bread for dinner with some smoked ham and cheese and second after raspberry yoghurt.
    now i am happy because these i beat up with pint of fresh tap water! that is alcaline and helps fast. i do pee again as if i was pregnant but doesnt itch just google up list of non acidic foods, get supplements and try it!!! zinc is not sooo expensive and this diet too
    water is cheap and eating kiwi, grapes and papaya instead of sweets is not costly too
    of course these are going to help only sadly to those people who don't have it since being born i think...but still you'll stay healthy as all illness and cancer comes when your body is acidic!
    please if anybody tries this with me let me know hwre if you see improvement too. it will make me so happy that i helped someone..

    1. My daughter suffers and is 5. Been trying everything for a year.. for last few weeks trying this "alkaline diet". Alkaline water, eating vegetables, less meat (meats are highly acidic in your body), less grains, etc. I feel it definitely does help. But she is five so its really hard to limit her food choices. Glad it seems to be working for you.

  36. Personally, I used Triamcinolone after battling with eczema for years, then in 2 weeks it was gone for good.

    If anyone wants a tube of this stuff let me know, I have plenty.

  37. Reading all of your stories has brought me to tears. As someone who has been suffering through this hell for my entire 23 years of life, I know exactly what you're going through. The insecutiry that it unleashes, the open wounds, the constant stares, are not foreign to me.
    Having the audacity to say "Don't scratch" to Eczema patients is not only insensitive, it's utterly moronic. They don't call it 'The itch that rashes' for nothing. If she actually had Eczema, she would then be able to comprehend the vast severity of the itch. Doesn't she realize that if we COULD stop scratching, we would? It doesn't even feel like a choice anymore. More habitual than anything.
    Last year I managed to clear up my entire body for the very first time. Surprisingly and miraculously, it even stayed gone for about a year. Alas, it's back... and with a damn vengence. Out of the countless creams/moisturizers/steroids that I've used throughout the years, Aveeno is by far the best over the counter product that is being sold. I highly recommend picking some up.
    Though there is no cure, and hell, maybe there will never be, there is relief with managability. Good luck to all of you. And because it feels so damn good, happy scratching!

  38. It has been too long for me. I have suffered from eczema for way too long and am sick of all the staring and judgmental words, spewed from the mouths of my very own flesh and blood.
    I have decided to stop putting my trust in my doctor. The consequences? Both my hands are covered with eczema, I have trouble walking due to the excessive amount of eczema on my feet and the blasted thing has now spread to my inner legs and thighs. However, I refuse to go back to the doctors and be prescribed with steroids. I would much rather find a permanent way out of this hell.
    Many people have suggested to me to use Aveeno, so that is next on my to-buy list.
    I also like the idea of having oatmeal baths. Maybe that would work.
    After reading all these stories, I can only pray we eczema sufferers are given a cure soon. Please update me here on whether your eczema is getting better. Even though I do not know you all here, I do care about you! Always in my prayers,


  39. This comment has been removed by the author.

  40. Hello, request everyone to kindly refrain from posting under the "Anonymous" tag. Please provide your firstname/nick name/ pen name and city you live in. This enables the prayer said for the sufferer to be much much powerful.

    All of you are going to be completely cured very soon.

    1. Post under the 'Anonymous' tag will not make the prayer said to be less powerful. I am posting with sincere, long-thought-out thoughts and blessings. And people will understand this for sure.

    2. I do not want to post with my real name. I'd rather just state that I am anonymous instead of making up a fake name. Any posts are sincere even if they are anonymous.

  41. MY THANKS:
    Like others, thanks for posting about this. No one ever understands how badly I itch. The amount of willpower needed to "just not itch" is inhuman. I get ferocious like a dog in a cage when I try not to, until I cant stand it any longer and do more damage than had I just addressed it immediately.

    I have a patch along my bikini line that is ridiculously itchy, but I have not been to the dermatologist for that specific area out of embarrassment, so I cannot say if it is indeed eczema. I have struggled with it for about 15 years, scratching it during conscious hours with a great flood of relief (what is that? endorphines?? its almost addicting!). I have struggled with scratching it while I sleep - it use to wake me up and I could try to stop myself, but now I just sleep through it and wake up with bloody nails and sores in the morning. I have tried gloves at night - like others, I would take them off without knowing it. I have tried asking my partner to ducktape the gloves to my long sleeve shirt so I could not take them off - this helped not cause any bleeding, but unknowingly, I would scratch so very hard I would have big bruises instead. I went as far as falling asleep with my hands tied to my nightstand, but I just couldnt deal with this. I learned to live with it, and the embarrassment it caused. It would come, it would go, it would always be back. My worst season is winter, I think because I am so cold when I crawl in to bed that I have too many blankets and get hot overnight.

    I have also cut out sulfates from all my shower stuff, which has helped with other weird breakouts that I get. I tried oatmeal baths and it was soothing but didnt last long. And, this is an odd one, but I have associated the itch with when I have to pee really badly (I dont always have time with my line of work). Maybe something chemically is happening there?

    Anyway, recently, I went for a patch on the back of my head (something about lichen complex) and was given a medication that I decided to try on my bikini line. My itchy head paled in comparison to the itchy bikini line. Ive tried all the over the counter things, so here was a prescription.

    I admit I should just see my dermatologist for my itchy bikini line, but I havent the gumption. I can say what he gave me works though - I was able to get the itch to stop for long enough that I thought it was completely cured. We're talking months without a fight! Any time I get the slightest tingle, i use the medicine for a day or three and it doesnt come back for weeks.

    I also have small patches that come up around my ears, nose, and elbows. A little bit of this stuff and in a day or so, its gone. I think I have eczema, truly, but Ive not been diagnosed.

    Check with your doctors - the stuff I now call magic is Mometasone Furoate Topical Solution USP 0.1%. It burns like alcohol if I had been scratching, but just for a second, and then NO ITCH. I use it just after a shower. It is the generic version of something else, which I liked more but was just way too expensive (I had been given a sample originally.)

    I hope that helps at least some of you. After 15 years of struggling with shame, itch, and pain, this has been such a blessing for me.

  42. I agree, "don't scratch" is really bad advice. I've gotten Staph Infection a few times because of my eczema, and now after the most recent outbreak of the Staph, I have finally learned to channel my willpower not to scratch. When you have an itch, just try to think about how great it will feel to have perfect skin when you haven't scratched for a while. This might not help, but it sure did help me.

  43. Growing up with eczema ever since I was 2, I've learned about how to control it as well as some useful tips too.

    Stress, weather, diet, and fragrances can affect someone depending on how their body reacts to a change in said factor.

    Being stressed or anxious could be a likely trigger for an eczema flare. The person would have to find a relaxing activity to unwind. I usually read, draw, listen to music, meditate, or play video games when I have time. If the stress is due to a long time event, take breaks to relax as you pick an activity and make sure to get some rest as your body needs it.

    If it's weather problems, in the summer wear light, breathable long sleeves (I recommend cotton, but that's me.) If you can't bear to wear long sleeves in the summer due to the climate, do your best to moisturize. Also stay cool to prevent yourself from sweating; you could bring a chilled water bottle with you to cool down with.
    For winter/autumn, dress warm enough that you won't sweat while still feeling comfortable and warm. More emphasis on the lotion since the dry cold air is worse than a sweltering heat as the cold air dries out skin faster.
    For spring, if your eczema is affected by your allergies in some way, even if it's small, do your best to stay on top of them.

    This is what I learned recently: the skin is sometimes a reflection of our inner health. Taking this from a Chinese herbalist that I've visited a few months ago, eczema can also be controlled by following a strict diet. The diet can vary from person to person, so all I can recommend is to eat a healthy wholesome diet while cutting out any food item that may trigger a flare-up. Also, drink lots of water and cut down on the sweet drinks and junk food.

    The reason I state this is because, I hope I'm not jumping the gun here, but I think that we're either eating poorly - causing our spleen to overwork itself, thereby creating a poor quality of blood to run through our system - making us scratch, or have a spleen problem that caused the eczema. The spleen cleans out whatever toxins we ate with our food along while creating our blood. So, I'd recommend eating healthy while cutting out anything that might cause a trigger.

    For fragrances, I use arm & hammer along with a gentle conditioner for my clothes and sheets. Also, find a light perfume or cologne to use if you really want it, but it's best not to have any at all. I usually use a body mist spray while avoiding my eczema patches, and then I fan myself so it doesn't irritate my skin.

    Allergies could also be a trigger for eczema. I allergic to cat, dog, and bird dander - so no pets for me. I'm also allergic to dust mites, so I have a plastic cover for my mattress to go under my bed sheet.


    - Take cold showers if you can handle it, if not, go as cold as you can while not staying under the shower head as long as possible. (I shower with warm water.) Before showers, you could lather yourself in coconut oil. After showers, pat dry and immediately apply your lotion.

    - Products that utilize aloe vera, oatmeal, and coconut are your friend, but make sure to look at the ingredients before trying anything.

    -Use a cold pack or at least just something cool to the touch for an itch.

    - Sleep in a cool environment with a humidifier (if possible). Make sure the sheets are comfortable for you, material wise and temperature wise, and that they're also fragrance free.

    - Exercise when you can, and if you sweat immediately take a shower. Touching up on what I wrote about blood and the spleen, poor blood flow can also be the cause of eczema. So, walk/jog/run/play/swim to increase your blood flow while unclogging your arteries. (I recommend swimming as you can't feel yourself sweat and that there have been some cases claiming that the chlorine is helping them by cleaning their skin. Iv'e done it myself, and the chlorine barely stings. Just immediately take a shower and use that lotion!)

    This is all the advice I can give so far. Good Luck!

    1. Very good advice, thank you!

  44. Hi to everyone here. I'm also suffering from eczema for 4 years now. It's getting worse.. I try to control it by making it a habit not to scratch an itch but to rub it instead. No guarantees when I'm asleep tho. And I also try to cut my nails short.

    Looking at all this replies here, I have decided to enforce a habit into my life style and that is to only rub an itch and not scratch it. Yup that's right, I'm trying to change my instinctive reaction since the day I was born(22 years) of instinctively scratching an itch. I hope everyone else will be cured from eczema one day. I'm trying to keep my sanity from eczema. It almost feels like Eczema is the devil itself.

    1. Hi! I'm the last person who commented before you.

      I just wanted to check if there were people who were still having problems.

      Of course I can't actually help with relieving the itch itself, but perhaps your skin just isn't hydrated enough? I don't necessarily have a problem with scratching per say, my main problem is keeping my skin moist enough so my skin isn't irritated in the first place.

      I've recently tried something new. It's a DIY homemade olive oil sugar body scrub. All you need is olive oil, sugar, and vanilla extract (or something to cover the smell of the olive oil).

      Just mix 1/2 a cup of sugar (your choice on what kind: granulated, brown, or cane), 2 Tbsp. of olive oil (I use extra virgin for added moister), and 1 Tbsp. of any extract.

      The sugar will exfoliate your skin while getting rid of the dead skin cells. It also heals your skin while promoting collagen production and skin's retention of moister. The olive oil will moisturize while the sugar does it's work, and the extract will relax you as you take a shower.

      I honestly had an open sore from scratching as I had tried this and a few minutes after applying the body scrub, I saw that the sore healed shut! It didn't sting either! It works great, and my elbows are all smooth now too!

      I hope this helps!

  45. I was just writing about this myself! Love this post-thanks for being honest! People that do not suffer form eczema themselves have no idea what it take to not scratch. Even though I know it will make things worse for my skin, it sometimes is impossible and I don't want to be judged for that!

  46. I saw this in seattle at a fisher's market and I bought the hemp salve. It seemed to heal some of my scars. they also sell it on amazon too.

  47. Keith here, in the same situation as a lot of the above, 1 VERY important thing I have learned is cortisone creams have some very unpleasant consequences. google "red skin syndrome" and you will horrified. I had previously had eczma for about 10 years but it had gone away, permanently i hoped. I was using cortisone cream back then but cannot recall if I stopped using it and eczma went away of vice versa. was free for approx 8 years but it returned late last year, just 1 patch inside my left elbow. gradually got worse and appeared in the other usual places. Got some cortisone cream and started using that when it seemed to be getting worse, had been using it for almost 2 months.
    I noticed the classic "red skin stops at wrist" symptom when I had not used the cortisone cream for a few days (was only using it sparingly). further searching revealed a lot of medical experts of the opinion that the cortisone although initially helping in fact worsens eczma.
    Since stopping the cortisone the eczma patches at the backs of my knees have improved although I am still unable at times to resist the scratch urge,( Anything less than total teeth clenching concentration ) the inner arms are proving to be a battle but I keep telling myself get the legs under control and then concentrate on the inner arms. Using moisturiser frequently during the day makes my skin feel better, although it still itches intensely in the creases and a couple of very loccalised spots.I have found "Aveeno" moisturiser works well and seems to last, it contains colloidal oatmeal. Available in Australia under that name
    I think I am over the skin chills and random anywhere on the body nerve/skin pains associated with cortisone withdrawal, nowhere near as bad as the first week or so anyway.
    If you are using cortisone cream please check up on red skin syndrome and decied whether you should continue. Parents please check up on cortisone withdrawal if you are using it on your children.

  48. Apparently it is possible to stop scratching the itch. The book The Eczema Solution by Sue Armstrong-Brown introduces a programme called Habit Reversal that helped her eczema to improve from a horrendous state to an almost flawless skin.

  49. Hey guys, I am a near-severe eczema sufferer.

    I am Chinese so my English might not sound too clear to you.

    Methods of itch-relief without causing the skin as much damage as scratching that I find very very useful are as follows (you may try as well):

    - Get a piece of kitchen paper towel - the paper towels from kitchen paper towel rolls. It has about the right size where you can hold it comfortably, place it on your itching eczema area, and scratch with the piece of kitchen paper towel you place on the eczema area as a platform for you to scratch on. This allows you to use your nails to scratch but without causing bleeding, and does not actually involve your nails scratching the area, because the paper towel acts as the barrier. You can also try a bit of pinching the itchy areas with the paper towel between your nails and the itchy area - a fast and can-really-relief-the-itch method of itch-relief.

    I find this method useful because it relieves the pain really quickly (I am very busy at work so need quick itch relief), and obviously does not cause as much damage to the skin and significantly decreases the chance of infection of your skin as you don't scratch your skin with your nails directly at the skin, compared to scratching the skin directly without any barriers in between and with your nails involved.

    After you have felt all your itch gone, you will feel only pain (not too much of pain, but the feeling of the aftermath of scratching, when you don't feel that you want to scratch anymore) and no more itch. The more you do this scratching-with-a-kitchen-paper-towel-in-between, the more itch-relief you have accomplished, and the more you will start to not want to scratch. At this point, you will not have the urge to scratch anymore.

    And, because you have only been scratching with your kitchen paper towel but not with your nails, you will achieve the aim of not wanting to scratch anymore, and not-as-serious-eczema-aftermath areas left and no bacterial infections on your eczema area by the end.

    Hope this help you guys!

    P.S. The kitchen paper towels have to be clean ones!

  50. Also, when you dry yourself after showers/baths with your towel, only pat-dry, do not rub dry. For temperature of the shower - no hot water or ice-cold water. Use water which you feel a bit of warmth in it, but not too much. That is the right temperature of water for shower. And, only shower for 5 minutes or less (not when you also have to wash your hair of course - can take more than 5 minutes if you also need to wash your hair for that shower). Get out of the shower straight after the 5 minutes or less.

    Wear 100% cotton clothing (or 95% Cotton). No wool clothing, because the wool irritates your skin. Cotton is most natural.

    If you need to put on moisturizer, do not put too much. Only put on a thin layer, enough just to make your skin appear not dry. Too thick of a layer will perhaps make the skin itch more, making the moisturizing process ineffective.

    Personally, I don't find moisturizers useful. I itch when I put on moisturizers, and I don't itch if I don't put any moisturizers on. I only put a little bit of Vaseline petroleum jelly on flaky facial skin areas - just for better appearance of myself when I have to meet people at work. When I don't have to see anyone, I don't use any moisturizers. My grandparent who is very wise advised me not to put too many additional things on your body. Anything not from your own body is not that good. This of course includes chemicals. Any moisturizers are chemicals to some extent.

    That said, a few years ago, when I had very severe eczema flare up, I did follow the doctor's advice to put steroid medical creams on eczema areas and antiobiotic cream on eczema wounds to stop my severe eczema inflammation. That was essential for initial stopping of the eczema spread. For now, I don't need to use steroid creams anymore.

  51. I have been living with eczema since the day I was born. I have always had in the crooks of my elbows and knees but over the last two years it has spread to my neck, chest, eyelids and I have terrible eczema scabs on my scalp.

    I have seen countless doctors, used all the creams, worn wet wraps, tried to coach my self to stop scratching but still nothing seems to help.

    As a teenage girl it is extremely hard to live with eczema. I have developed pigmented and discoloured skin around my eczema areas and I have been teased more than once about my "hickeys" on my neck.

    The other terrible aspects of my eczema is that most things I love just make it worse. I am extremely sporty and thus I am prone to sweating which makes my eczema flare up horribly. I love winter but the dry climate I live in does nothing to help me, and I LOVE scalding hot showers but heat in itself is a big no no.

    I am constantly berated to stop scratching by my parents, family and friends but no one that has not suffered from eczema does not understand the gut wrenching burning desire you feeling to rid yourself of the itch in the only way you know how - by scratching.

    So there is my extremely frustrating story that I felt I needed to share.
    Good luck to you all :(

    1. All the best to you sweetie. NEVER take it to heart, that person just simply doesn't understand. x

  52. least I don't feel so alone in my suffering.. If i figure out the cure I'll let the internet know. But so far menthol (mix it into a safe cream) is my best friend against the horrible itch!

  53. Aawwww, yes, it is such stupid advice to give people with an itch that she would never in a Million years understand!!. Don't judge people until you have walked a mile in their shoes!. Silly woman. I have it mild but one year (a few years ago now) I did have it particularly bad and woke up scratching away, wild horses wouldn't have stopped me!. People with Eczema try the best they can and need help/support, not this!. Am here for friendship if anyone needs it, just reply. x

  54. These doctors don't understand. They can't unless they've had eczema or allergies. Last summer I developed allergies after only having a patch of eczema from high school and severe eczema as a baby. I went to a doctor in sweden, 3 in the u.s, a dermatologist, and an allergist.Dr.1- ran no test for allergies but assumed I had pollen allergies since I came to Sweden in the summer did run test for strep throat ( I have naturally enlarged tonsils) turns out I had Scarlet fever which goes hand in hand with strep. He gave me cortisone pills for rashes, antihistamine pills, and antibiotics for the Scarlet fever. Helped until the cortisone ran out and the rashes were back in full force. Not going to bore you with Dr.2-3 but let's just say I was on alot of steroids since none of them believed I had allergies heck they probably would have said I was lying all together if my face wasn't pink and puffy with hives,my eyes mucusy,and rest of body red from my non-existant nails. I had Scarlet fever twice more. The dermatologist was the worst.. didn't look at my rashes or anything just asked if I was allergic to anything and I answered yes I was told it was pollen but I wasn't properly tested. She gave me a test tube of a cosmetics lotion. It didn't work my rashes were so bad..the steroids seemed the only thing making it better. The allergist finally gave me a solid answer and I was so happy and so sad. I live with these things but because of it I have stress related high blood pressure. Sometimes the rashes are so bad that I scratch myself raw I am constantly shaking because of the pain. I WANT to stop believe me I want to so bad. My boyfriend grabs my hands from me and I start crying in frustration because I can't stop..the medicines barely work unless they are super strong. Honestly I am so depressed that suicide sounds more and more good. I try to stop but I can't..but I know it could be worse and I know I'm lucky to just have it as bad as I do..and seeing all these people I can relate to makes me feel so much better. If you guys can handle this then maybe I can hold on too.