If you suffer from eczema or other skin conditions such as sensitive skin, acne or skin irritations, you may be aware of certain triggers that can set off a flare-up – for example, too much sun, strong soaps, different foods or even a stressful day. When it comes to eczema specifically, science tells us that a range of factors beyond genetics, including the environment, physical irritants and allergens, can all contribute to or cause flare-ups [J].
Since there are so many aspects of our day-to-day lives that can aggravate skin conditions, keeping a skin diary can help you keep track of triggers that affect you and your skin. A skin diary can also help you remember maintain habits that are helpful.
Remember, your skin diary is not a replacement for a medical diagnosis. Be sure to speak to a medical professional if you are concerned about your skin or if it is affecting your everyday life. Consult a medical professional before you make any significant changes to your daily habits (e.g. excluding foods from your diet).
Your Personal Skin Diary
Just like any diary, in order to keep motivated to write every day you have to find a way of recording information that works for you. This could mean writing notes before you go to bed or updating your diary during the day, even a paper diary versus notes in your phone. Whatever and however you chose to keep the diary, you should keep track of the state of your skin as well what happened during the day that you think might affect your skin.
Different factors that can affect skin
Below are some particular factors that you may feel are worth taking note of in your diary, however you may have others that you wish to include as well.
Physical irritants can be a major contributing factor to eczema and other skin irritations. Keep track of the things that you put on your skin or that come into contact with your skin can help you keep track of these triggers. Some examples of triggers to watch out for are below:
- Makeup and makeup brushes, plus other skin products such as moisturisers or different washes which can contain irritants
- Remember to gently wash your makeup brushes regularly and follow recommendations on when to throw away your makeup (for example, you should dispose of your mascara every 3 months)
- Skin products, such as hand or body creams
- Hair products, which can also irritate the face
- Soaps and body washes, particular those which are highly fragranced
- Clothing detergents and/or cleaning products around your home
- Clothing, paying attention to different types of fabrics
It’s also worth keeping track of the things you may put on your skin that help when you’re suffering from irritation or a flare-up, including when and how regularly you use these products
Different foods can cause eczema flare-ups or other symptoms in both children and adults. [K] Keep track of the foods you eat, and if you have any reactions – the effects of food can impact eczema suffers hours to days after ingesting certain foods [K1].
Just like anyone, eating healthy in general is important for your overall health and wellbeing. You can speak to a medical professional or even a dietician for personalised recommendations, but here are some general recommendations:
- Eat lots of fruits and vegetables – the World Health Organisation recommends eating a minimum of 400g of fruit and vegetables a day, as they’re an excellent source of dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals and can help prevent chronic diseases such as some heart diseases and cancers [L]
- Keep hydrated – it’s recommended adults drink 6-8 glasses of water (or other non-alcoholic drinks) per day
Before you choose to remove certain foods from your diet, you should speak to a medical professional or an allergologist who can help you diagnose yourself formally and make recommendations on how to proceed. It’s important to be aware that food doesn’t affect everyone suffering from eczema or other skin conditions, and changes in diets that aren’t based on a formal diagnosis can lead to more serious problems [K2].
Did you know that sugar isn’t an aggravating factor in eczema? [M]
Stress can affect your skin, and keeping track of triggers of stress and periods of stress in your life can not only show how these correlations might affect you individually, but also help you learn how to cope. Click here to learn more about stress and eczema.
Your washing routine
It makes sense that your washing routine – how you take care of your skin – may contribute to different skin irritations. It’s useful to know if any changes that you’ve made to your washing habits have had an effect on your skin, but in this case a skin diary can also help you keep up good habits. Some things to watch out for include:
- Does how often you shower, bathe, or wash your face affect your skin irritations?
- Are there different soaps or emollients that help or hinder your skin?
- Are you following proper showering and bathing habits, such as using warm instead of hot water, and patting your skin dry?
- How often do you touch or itch irritated skin on your body or your face? If you try not to do this, does it make a difference?
Remember, keeping a skin diary is no replacement for a diagnosis from a medical professional, but it can help you learn about and start to manage your skin conditions independently.