Eczema isn’t life-threatening, but it can be life-altering because of how it recurs and affects your everyday life as a chronic condition — not to mention its potential to leave marks or scars. It’s bad enough when you can hide it under clothing, but so much worse when it appears on your face.
Facial eczema is particularly frustrating. Like acne, it can damage your confidence, leaving you self-conscious. You never know when a flare-up will strike, so you can’t fully plan for anything. One day your skin looks fine, and the next — at the worst time — it’s cracked, red, and sore.
At The Independent Pharmacy, we understand how difficult it is to deal with eczema, and we want to help as much as we can. That’s why (in addition to our main piece about how to deal with eczema) we put together this piece specifically about dealing with face eczema: how you can get rid of it, how you can stop it from coming back, and what your treatment options (and alternatives) are.
Identifying eczema (atopic dermatitis) outbreaks
There are various types of eczema, but the most common is the type we’re discussing here known as atopic dermatitis or atopic eczema. It often affects children (1 in every 5) before clearing up by adulthood, but it also affects a lot of adults (1 in every 12, in fact) — though, contact dermatitis is the type of eczema that most commonly affects adults.
Atopic dermatitis usually appears as a dry, flaky and itchy rash of thick, bumpy skin. If scratched or damaged in some other way, it may become infected and ooze a substance that will subsequently crust over. It commonly appears in skin creases but can affect almost any area of skin.
If you notice that a patch of skin on your face is getting itchy and starting to flake, you haven’t come into contact with an irritant, damaged that skin, or been exposed to any extreme conditions, and there are no other symptoms suggestive of a broader problem, then it could be that you’re dealing with eczema.
Before you reach any conclusions about how to proceed, consult a medical professional for some advice. They’ll be able to diagnose any new skin condition and confirm if you have atopic skin. You can always start a free consultation with one of our doctors online, by going to one of our treatment pages like Hydrocortisone and starting a free assessment with our medical team.
How to treat facial eczema
If you do indeed have eczema on your face, you’ll want to reduce or eliminate it as quickly as possible so you can go back to living your normal life. There are two ways that you can directly treat eczema: with regular moisturisers (emollients), and with topical steroid creams.
- Moisturisers (emollients) are safe to use without a prescription or specific direction, though it’s best to follow your doctor's or dermatologist's recommendations. By keeping the affected skin from drying out, you stop it from cracking and sustaining further damage and soothe some of the discomforts. If that area isn’t covered by clothing, you don’t need to worry about getting moisturiser on anything. The National Eczema Society advises that they should be applied liberally at least three times daily to keep your skin moisturised and prevent flare-ups of eczema.
- Topical steroid treatments mostly require prescriptions, mainly because they are stronger and should be used following medical advice — especially on thin areas of skin, such as the eyelids or lips. Examples for use on the face include hydrocortisone, or Fucidin H Cream (if the area has become infected). Our medical team can find you the most suitable eczema treatment if you’re unsure. These treatments contain active ingredients that have anti-inflammatory and/or anti-bacterial properties, attacking some of the root causes of eczema and allowing the skin to heal. Stronger treatments, like Betnovate and Fucibet, are not recommended for use on the face as the skin is too sensitive.
Moisturising with an emollient is a safe option for sensitive skin. It should be done regularly as a preventative measure and will help relieve some symptoms of mild eczema on your face, rather than curing a flare-up. However, it is still important to use an emollient during a flare-up to prevent the skin from becoming even more dry, cracked and broken.
Topical steroids are stronger. They will reliably make an impact when a flare-up is present and you have more severe symptoms. Topical steroids should be used sparingly, only for courses of 7-14 days when your eczema flares, as they can carry risks including skin thinning or damage and even topical steroid withdrawal if used excessively. When an infection is also present, a combination product will be more appropriate. Click the link to find out more about Fucidin H cream and its uses for severe facial eczema.
In the event that eczema has spread to your scalp (a condition known as seborrheic dermatitis), the Betnovate Scalp Application will help in relieving discomfort.
Different levels of eczema severity
Remember that eczema can be hugely variable, ranging from very mild dryness to extremely-sore patches of weeping, sore or dry skin. You need to choose your treatment accordingly. Very mild eczema can clear up with some good skincare, while a more serious case may require the application of steroids.
In addition to using these treatments, you can take action to address the root causes through your general habits — adjusting what you eat, what types of clothes you wear, and how you approach life, can all play a part. We’ll look at this in more detail next.
How to avoid developing eczema on your facial skin
Whether you’re currently suffering from eczema on your face, or you’re eager to reduce the chances of developing it because you’ve dealt with it before, there are various things you can do to keep it at bay. Here are some eczema triggers and suggestions for avoiding them:
- Go makeup-free (or keep it at a minimum). Wearing makeup might seem like a good idea because it can help conceal or obscure eczema, but it’s only going to make things worse by blocking pores and potentially irritating the affected skin.
- Moisturise regularly. Keeping your skin moisturised is a great habit to keep. It will look better, and be less likely to suffer damage and further the leading causes of eczema. It’s also important to stay hydrated at all times.
- Limit exposure to UV light. UV light damages and reddens skin, so be careful when encountering direct sunlight or harsh artificial lights. Wear a cap to shield your face somewhat, and use a moisturising sunscreen of at least SPF 30.
- Keep the temperature moderate. Excessive heat will dry out your skin through moisture being lost to sweat, while excessive cold will dry out your skin through losing moisture being lost to the air — stick to moderate temperatures whenever possible.
- Steer clear of irritants or allergens. Eczema will often emerge as a reaction to an allergen or an irritant. So if you know that something gives you an allergic reaction (or that a particular substance or fabric irritates your skin) then stay away from it.
This guide to clearing your skin has even more tips that will help you to prevent eczema from developing on your face.
How to treat babies or toddlers with eczema on their face
Babies often develop eczema, and it can cause them a lot of discomfort and distress, so it’s understandable to want to do everything you can to treat it. That said, babies have thinner skin than adults, so you need to be even more careful.
Typical treatment of a baby’s eczema will involve consistent moisturising and, only at the direction of a doctor, limited use of weak corticosteroid treatment. If you’ve been prescribed treatment for your eczema, do not use it on a baby’s eczema — the strongest eczema steroids, in particular, can cause a lot of harm when used inappropriately.
Are natural remedies worth trying?
Some people strongly recommend natural remedies instead of the treatments usually prescribed by medical professionals, with examples including aloe vera gel and coconut oil. Most of these substances are harmless, and some do possess antibacterial and/or antimicrobial properties, but be warned: much of what they’re claimed to do has never been verified.
Prescribed treatments don’t sound exotic or fancy, but that’s because they’ve been purpose-developed to achieve specific goals safely and effectively. If you’re sure that it will be safe to try a natural remedy, then you’re welcome to try — but don’t expect to get results similar to those you’d get from prescribed medication.
Let’s recap what we’ve looked at in this article:
- Common eczema is atopic dermatitis: dry, cracked, itchy, flaky skin
- Eczema on the face is particularly hard to deal with
- You can treat your facial eczema with moisturiser or topical steroids
- By taking action to change your habits, you can help keep eczema at bay
- Natural remedies aren’t proven or worth using over prescribed treatments
In this section, we answer some of your common questions about facial eczema.
What is discoid eczema?
Discoid eczema is a chronic skin condition that causes your skin to become swollen, cracked and itchy. It’s also known as discoid dermatitis and it’s noticeable for causing coin-shaped and sized patches of eczema to appear on your skin. If you don’t get treatment for discoid eczema then it can last for weeks, months or years.
Do people get eczema on their eyelids?
Eczema can appear on and affect any part of the body with skin on it. This means it is possible to get eczema on the eyelids and around the eyes. Seborrhoeic dermatitis is another skin condition that can affect your eyelids. It appears on eyelid margins and is more common among adults than children.
Do people get eczema in their ears?
People can get eczema in their ears, however, the most common types (atopic eczema and otitis externa) both occur on and around your ears. It’s not uncommon for people to get eczema in their ears or around them. If you think you have eczema in or around your ears then speak to a doctor or pharmacist.