Hair Removal With Atopic Eczema
Atopic eczema, the most common form of eczema, causes redness, inflammation, and intense itching. Removing hair either by shaving or waxing can be especially difficult with eczema because so many things can irritate the skin. A look at some considerations and tips to reduce irritation before, during, and after hair removal.
This or That
What hair removal method do you prefer?
Shaving with eczema
Shaving is the first option we will look at for hair removal. While it may seem intuitive - shaving in the shower or bath can be the best place when you have eczema. Keep the water temperature warm, not hot, so your skin doesn't dry out. The warm moist air can help open the hair follicle and soften dry or scaly skin. Allow a couple of minutes in the shower or bath for the skin to get ready. If you are shaving your face, using a warm towel on the skin can also help open the follicles. It is a good idea to wash the area you plan on shaving with soap first before shaving. Skin can accumulate things from the environment throughout the day, so cleaning the area first can help remove oils, bacteria, etc.
Another important aspect of shaving is making sure to replace razor blades regularly. Dull razors can be grounds to irritate already sensitive skin, especially if you have to go over papules (skin lesions) more than once. When choosing a razor, there are many options. Some prefer electric razors over hand ones. Finding a razor with a lubricating strip can help protect the skin and allow the razor to glide rather than drag or scratch. Each person finds their own preference of razor to use.
Shaving cream or soap
Whether you are using shaving cream or going with soap, it can help to find a product that has moisturizing properties. Using a shaving cream or even too thick soap may not be the best option as it can hide eczema patches that may be extra sensitive and should be avoided. Remember to read the product's label as well. Products that are fragrance-free or labeled for sensitive skin or hypoallergenic may be preferred. Aloe, chamomile, and allantoin are ingredients that typically soothe, calm, and reduce inflammation, but each individual finds what product works best for their skin.
Preventing nicks and cuts
Shaving in the direction that the hair grows is a technique that protects against irritating skin and reduces the chance of human error- i.e., nicks and cuts, which can help avoid getting an infection. While shaving in the direction the hair grows is less aggravating for the skin, you may not get a close shave this way, but if it helps create less irritation, it may be worth it! Avoid dry shaving, dry skin can be a trigger for eczema, and therefore, it is important to avoid making the skin drier than it might already be.
Waxing and eczema
Waxing and depilatory creams are other options for hair removal. If using a wax or depilatory cream for the first time, it is important to test on a small patch of skin before use to gauge how your skin will react. Never use wax that is too hot, as this can cause damage to the skin. Waxing products should not be used on active lesions as this will cause further irritation to the skin. While waxing and depilatory creams are less popular than shaving, they tend to have longer-lasting results. As with shaving, it is important to find a waxing product formulated for use on sensitive skin types. If you are experiencing weeping eczema, or your flare is moist or begins to bleed, it is a good idea to wait until it clears up before booking a wax or waxing at home. Any cracked or open skin is open to infection and must be fully healed before applying wax products to the area.
Laser hair removal and eczema
There are other options for hair removal that are more expensive than shaving and waxing. Laser hair removal is one of those options. Laser hair removal works by drying up the blood capillary at the base of the hair follicle. The laser is targeted and attracted to the pigment in the hair, so the laser actually has very little interaction with the skin. Some people with atopic eczema may receive phototherapy so it is important if you are considering laser hair removal and are receiving phototherapy to discuss with your doctor.
No matter what method you choose, a key part afterward is to moisturize! Choose either your favorite over-the-counter product or emollient and lather away. Remember to read those labels as you want to avoid an aftershave that contains alcohol, highly scented products or contains ingredients that are known irritants to your skin.
Atopic eczema can be quite the ordeal in and of itself without the hassle of exacerbating your symptoms with hair removal. Do some experimenting and find what works for you. Remember you can always talk to your dermatologist. It may seem like a minor thing, but this is about the health of your skin. Come up with a plan that works for you. Your doctor may have other options that work better.
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