I first developed dry skin on my hands when I was 13 years of age. I remember being in my first year of secondary school and getting a tube of hand cream to keep in my school locker because my knuckles were always dry. By sixth year, my hands and elbows were constantly dry, itchy and inflamed, and my GP diagnosed hand dermatitis.
My college years as a medical student were a balance of studying indoors cosy by the radiator, shadowing the hospital teams on the wards with repeated handwashing, and then running in the wind and rain in the west of Ireland in my downtime. My hands have had a tough time – they were frequently dry, cracked and very painful. My GP prescribed topical steroids for my flares, but always emphasised the importance of emollients.
Emollients moisturise the skin, relieve the itch, and replenish the barrier protection of your skin but what I learned from personal experience, and from encountering many patients with eczema, is that finding the right emollient is key. If it doesn’t work, you won’t use it, and you’re back to square one, with dry inflamed hands that are painful and crack easily, increasing the risk of infection, and often requiring steroid ointments for treatment.
For me, the biggest obstacle was the texture of my hands after I applied an emollient. I have tried countless brands and consistencies. I found light hand creams not moisturising enough, leaving my hands dry, a real battle as a doctor, constantly washing my hands to examine patients.
On the other hand, I found other, more hydrating emollients too sticky or greasy, which made it very difficult to slide on a pair of gloves quickly or write with a pen. It is the practical elements of the skin disease that can really affect your daily life. I have a special interest in dermatology, so learning from both personal and clinical experiences, I understand and persist with constant emollient use, and persevered with these frustrations to keep my skin free from fissures and infection.
I first came across the Relizema range in February 2020, at the Primary Care Dermatology Society of Ireland conference in Cork. The RELIFE team introduced me to Relizema ultra hydrating lotion and Relizema cream. That was February 27th, the day that the first case of Covid-19 in Ireland was announced. Soon our lives were dominated with infection control, handwashing and sanitising: a disaster for a GP with hand dermatitis! However, with a full tube of Relizema cream and the ultra hydrating lotion in my bag, I switched to these as my emollients. To say they saved my hands is an understatement: my skin stopped feeling dry and itchy, and no fissures appeared, ensuring I had no burning pain using soap and sanitiser and keeping me and my patients free from infection. I applied the cream twice daily, as I hopped into the car going to and from work, and I used the ultra hydrating lotion regularly throughout the day. They are moisturising enough to soothe and retain the integrity of my skin, and amazingly, aren’t in any way sticky or slippy. I have finally found the one!
The past year has shown how crucial handwashing is to prevent the spread of infection. Never before have we washed our hands so diligently: before and after grocery shopping, after touching door handles, after putting our hands on anything! I have incorporated Relizema ultra hydrating lotion into my lifestyle by leaving a bottle inside my front door, in my car, on my desk and on my bedside locker. I am never without it. When I look at my hands now, I am just so grateful to have found an emollient that is such a pleasure to use and does the job. For the past year, I have, with confidence, recommended the Relizema range to my patients with dermatitis. This reduces the need for GP visits for topical steroids, and most importantly, restores self-esteem, comfort and protection from infection. The feedback has been incredibly positive, with similar life-changing experiences.
For parents, looking after a child with dermatitis or eczema isn’t always easy, especially in a busy house with lots going on! It can be time consuming, but by encouraging your child to make it a normal part of their routine just like brushing their teeth, it will become easier. Once they are old enough, teach them how to apply emollients themselves. Consider having pots of emollient upstairs and downstairs, in the car and schoolbag, so it is easily accessible. The fact that the lotion is light and easy to rub in, while hydrating enough, suits the busy lifestyle and practicalities of getting dressed and being on the go! If you feel it is starting to have an impact on school, sports/activities or their social life, chat with your child and see if there are any obstacles or worries. Talk to your GP.
Stick with it – the results will be worth the effort and your child will feel better and happier. Reward yourself and your child for your efforts and make the time spent together using emollients and bath time a fun and laughter filled one.
Ask the experts
Ask your GP or pharmacist for advice any time, please don’t be shy, and tell them about your lifestyle so we can really step into your shoes and find what will work for you. And remember, always use your emollients, even when the skin has cleared, and you are well.