Eczema and virgin coconut oil

In Hong Kong, virgin coconut oil can be purchased in some of the higher-end supermarkets, e.g. ThreeSixty or CitySuper. You can also get it in some of the smaller organic shops dotted in the territory. When you go to buy coconut oil, it is important that you buy cold pressed virgin coconut oil to ensure the product is 100% natural and pure and not subsequently contaminated with chemicals via modern manufacturing processes.

On virgin coconut oil, I have found two remedies that is useful to treating eczema.

1. Bathing. I bath everyday in lukewarm water for 20 to 30 minutes with 20 drops of pure organic tea tree oil and 4 tea spoons of virgin coconut oil. Sometimes, I would also add organic olive oil. This is very soothing and moisturizing. The coconut oil helps to moisturize whereas the tea tree oil helps to heal wounds as an antiseptic. Note: Do not bath in hot water as you may feel itchy when you step out of the bath and dry yourself. Additionally, if you have cuts and wounds, there may be some stinking sensation but keep bathing for a few days and you will notice the wounds will close and inflammation will die down.

2. Moisturizing oil. I mix the coconut oil with organic olive oil and tea tree oil together to create a oil-based moisturizer and apply it to my skin as needed. The tea tree oil performs the anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral function. The olive oil is rich in vitamin e and heals the skin. The coconut oil is rich in medium length fatty acids that is also good the skin. Note: As this is an oil based moisturizer, if you have very dry skin, you may need to supplement it with a water-based lotion to keep your skin hydrated but it is a good moisturizer with no chemicals.

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Having a good anti-eczema routine

There is a lot of information on the internet that covers different eczema prevention techniques aside from the use of topical steroid creams. In all likelihood, each eczema sufferer will have to develop a routine that works best for them to keep free from eczema. In this page, I would like to summarize my personal routine for reference. Hopefully, there are some ideas here that are useful to the reader.

1. Every day I try to ensure I have an intake of at least 8 to 10 glasses of water to keep myself sufficiently hydrated. I do not intake distilled pure water (a commonly misunderstood product in HK with no nutrients whose original intent was to be sold as an industrial product). I mostly try to intake plain water, else I try to take in liquid that can be easily broken down and absorbed by the body for healing and regeneration, e.g. freshly squeezed fruit juice / vegetable juice / water mixed with a spoon of honey or organic apple cider vinegar or green tea or home-made soup. I keep myself away from soft drinks, alcohol, coffee, and packaged beverages with preservatives as I believe the content in these beverages degenerates the health rather than regenerate the health. Note: To assess your own level of hydration, you only need to look at the colour of your urine, if it is clear, you are fine, if it is yellow, you are dehydrated, if it is orange, you are severely dehydrated.

2. Every day I will moisturize my entire body from head to toe at least once (twice during flare outs) immediately after a cool shower while my skin is still subtle from the wash. When I moisturize, I have also learnt to not just apply the cream to my skin and but to spend time (15 minutes) to massage and rub the cream generously into the skin to ensure the skin is relaxed and the beneficial ingredients are absorbed by the skin. This ensures the cream you are using not only performs the function of barrier protection but also tissue healing and locking in moisture.

3. Every week, I will have a pedicure routine to keep my nails as short as possible. This is to minimize the damage that comes with scratching as an unavoidable part of eczema suffering. Longer nails will do greater damage to your skin during scratching, so it is important to keep your nails short and clean. Additionally, it is a good habit to try and first brush an itch spot with the tip of your fingers rather than scratch it with fingernails but this requires constant mind drumming to overcome the intuitive reaction.

4. Everyday, I would still continue to take antihistamines to control my itching sensation as it makes a huge difference. As my condition improves and health strengthens, I hope to reduce my dosage and reliance on antihistamines. Note: I have been searching for alternatives but yet to find an effective alternative.

5. On taking showers, I always take a cool shower (lukewarm during the winter). When my skin is extremely dry during the middle of bad flare outs, I would take 2 showers a day to keep the skin soft and moist contrary to a lot of advice on minimum showering. However, the key with this routine is a cool shower rather than a warm/hot shower that would make the skin drier and more irritable. When I take a shower, I do not use soap. Instead, I use sebamed’s shower oil during bad flare outs (massaging it into wet skin before rinse off) and baby cleansing products when my skin is in reasonable shape. I would always end a shower with a 30 seconds cold rinse (as cold as possible). This helps to close up pores and stimulate circulation. I find it also helps to subdue the nerves from “heatiness” and “extreme itching sensations” as I step out of a shower. After a shower, I tend to drip dry for 30 seconds and immediately rub and massage on my moisturizers before the skin dries up. I do not towel dry which may irritate the skin and if it do, I tend to pat dry with a towel rather than doing a rub down.

6. Getting sufficient rest and avoiding late nights. If you want good skin, it is imperative to get rest early and have sufficient sleep. The body begin it’s renewal cycle from 9pm and this is optimally performed when you are resting. On the contrary, late nights is bad, it not only impedes the renewal cycle but overworks the organs accumulating more toxins in the body. I use to goto bed between 1 to 2 am and rely on coffee to carry me through the day. I now tend to goto bed around 12am. Hopefully, I can move it to 11pm as my health strengthens and I become more active and stop taking naps.

7. You become what you eat and this isn’t just about staying away from allergy foods. This is a big topic and I will separately cover in another page.

8. Wear cotton clothes. Stay away from man-made synthetics.

9. Under your allergy triggers. Go and take a skin prick test or blood test to find out your allergy triggers.

My story so far

I am an overseas born chinese guy, married with a toddler child, currently in my late 30’s and work in a bank.

I have been a lifetime sufferer of eczema starting with hayfever allergies during my early teenage years in the UK. During those summer periods, I would also sometimes get bouts of mild eczema on the fold of my arms, legs and on my neck due to heat rash. It was uncomfortable but largely non-intrusive and life was largely normal in those days with doctor’s prescription of antihistamines, creams and sometimes mild steroid cream.

I settled in Hong Kong in the late 1990’s looking for better career opportunities and adapting to the metropolitan lifestyle of Hong Kong, my eczema condition started to slowly take on a whole new lease of life since my move to Hong Kong. Over the years, my bouts of eczema flare outs had gotten more aggressive and frequent over time with more intensive itching sensations spreading the condition initially to the legs, then body, back and eventually everywhere including the face. Over the same period, I would goto see different western skin specialist doctors to address the issue and they would prescribe stronger and stronger dosage of anti-histamines and steroid cream. After every prescription dosage, the eczema flare out would reside returning firstly after a year, then shortening to 9 months, and then with stronger steroid cream shortening to 6 months, and then progressively to 3 months and eventually more recently to 1 month even after taking steroid pills as a medication.

Over the same period, my general well being had deteriorated with lower energy levels and a less active lifestyle due to the eczema condition. At it’s worst, I couldn’t sleep from the itch and inner heat, I couldn’t concentrate to work, I couldn’t walk without pain and dreaded having showers everyday with the burning pain that came with cleaning the thousands of wound cuts all over my body. Social life became an embarrassment and my self esteem was very low. It got to a low point where I basically concluded western medication isn’t going to work and I had to take charge of my own health or face a prolonged slow death from the torture that I was experiencing. I started to seriously research and read up on eczema treatment.

Interestingly, it became apparent to me and I am also convinced by it from personal experience that steroid creams not only doesn’t really help with eczema but it deteriorates your health to make eczema more problematic over the long term. Hence, over the last six months, I have completely stopped using steroid cream and have been trying alternative remedies. In this blog, I hope to share some useful experiences to readers and I truly wish strength and inner peace to other acute eczema sufferers who are reading this blog. I understand that eczema can feel like a life-long torture but it can be managed out!