When I was a child, I had the most horrible itchy scalp a person could imagine. My mom thought it was just dry scalp, and so I did too. I never really thought about it when I was younger, though — its cause was never on my mind, not even through high school. It was just “Eh, this is my skin, and it is how everyone’s skin is, so it’s normal.”
I was using dandruff shampoos daily, coupled with conditioners to replenish the moisture being stripped from my hair by the dandruff shampoos. My hair was brittle and coarse, which I chalked up to genetics, and the itch just never seemed to go away. Scratching became more habit than impulse. I scratched because I itched, and I itched even more after scratching, and so it was a cycle I couldn’t get out of.
It was always worse in the summer — a lot of things were always worse in the summer. But then slowly, I developed a patch of incessantly dry skin near my left eye, just at my eyebrow, and then the same started showing up on the sides of my nose.
“It’s just my skin,” I continued to think. “It’s just how it is.” I continued onward with my life, scratching away those loose flakes of oily patches on my face and scratching my scalp, because what else was I going to do? I just had bad skin.
Well, it took the pandemic to shake me out of that. I suddenly developed a rash on my hands, one that itched so bad, it felt like it was crawling down into my muscles and bones and up my arms. I tried for four months to get a handle on it on my own, but absolutely nothing helped.
One trip to the dermatologist turned everything I had known about my skin on its head. Not only did I have eczema, but I also had seborrheic dermatitis. This changed everything. Instead of home remedies and dandruff shampoo, I had topical steroids to use and, oh my, the difference that it made. This revelation also caused me to rethink my soaps and shampoos — everything I put onto my skin had to be reinvented.
I started my research and ultimately found that bar shampoo was said to be better than bottled. I gave it a try because I had a whole closet full of bottled shampoos that just weren’t cutting it. It took me a bit to find a bar shampoo that would work for me without causing my head to itch, but within a month of finding it, my hair was softer and healthier than it had been in all the years I could remember, plus my scalp was not inflamed and itchy. These results were sustainable as long as I used a bar without saponified oils, which don’t wash clean out of your hair and make it sticky and waxy. I could wash my hair and not scratch like a madwoman afterward.
Hand soaps were a little trickier. I found that coconut oil was one of my triggers, so I had to be careful with the ingredients of every bar I tried. I started with pure castile soap bars, making sure they were based on olive oil and not coconut oil. This turned out to be a dud. I didn’t find many products on the market that didn’t use coconut oil.
So, back to the drawing board I went, and I eventually discovered goat’s milk soaps. These bars have been a lifesaver and a half! I carry one in my bag for when I’m out and about and keep one at home. They are super moisturizing and extremely calming on the skin. I like to buy mine from small businesses, and if they have a lotion, I’ll pick that up too. Even though the soaps may be super moisturizing, I always put on lotion after washing my hands, just to be on the safe side.
Speaking of lotion, if I can’t get my hands on goat’s milk lotions, I try to find something endorsed by the American Eczema Association. These lotions are specifically designed to calm and moisturize skin afflicted with eczema. If I can’t find one, I’ll look for something with colloidal oatmeal in it.
Even my sunscreen had to change. For the longest time I tried SPF clothing, but that wound up to be too suffocating in the heat. I turned to mineral sunscreen instead and haven’t looked back.
I still experience the symptoms of my seborrheic dermatitis, but the condition is manageable, as is the eczema on my hands, which is well under control. As long as I remain vigilant and stick to my skin care routine, the itching stays away.
On MyEczemaTeam, members discuss eczema from a specific point of view. Members’ articles don’t reflect the opinions of MyEczemaTeam staff, medical experts, partners, advertisers, or sponsors. Content on MyEczemaTeam isn’t intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.