Facial Eczema: How to Treat It, According to Dermatologists

It goes without saying that atopic dermatitis, aka eczema, isn’t fun in any form. But, when a skin condition characterized by red, itchy blisters appears on your face, of all places, it makes it all the more frustrating and impossible to ignore.

While there is no study evaluating the prevalence of facial eczema, specifically, New York City-based dermatologist Neil Sadick says he believes the disorder affects about a third of the population. Nevertheless, anyone with facial eczema knows first-hand how uncomfortable and emotionally exhausting the condition can be. Good news, though: You’re not alone, and there are solutions, as well as ways to keep it under control.

We spoke with several board-certified dermatologists to find out what exactly constitutes facial eczema, what triggers the condition, and most importantly, how to keep symptoms at bay.

How do I know if I have facial eczema?

Believe it or not, one of the most cumbersome aspects of facial eczema is figuring out whether you actually have eczema. Your dry or irritated skin could be the result of a bad reaction to a product you’re using, harsh weather, and other common factors that can impact skin health.

“It can be difficult to distinguish the two as skin affected by eczema is dry and irritated, [but] generally, dry skin is not irritated and itchy to the level of eczema and will readily respond to moisturizers, gentle skin care, and bringing humidity back to the environment,” explains Sejal Shah, a New York City-based dermatologist.

Sadick adds that unlike the mild flaking, dullness, and tightness associated with dry skin, facial eczema generally involves intense itchiness, cracked skin, and even bleeding. All this to say: If you’re still stumped, or just want a second opinion, visit your dermatologist to find out for sure.

What causes it?

Eczema actually refers to a group of conditions that cause the skin to become red, itchy, scaly, and inflamed, says Shah. There are several types, too. Atopic dermatitis, a form that often appears in adolescence and is more prevalent among those with a family history of the condition, is the most common type.

“Often when people say ‘eczema,’ this is the condition they are referring to [and] atopic dermatitis can affect the face,” explains Shah.

That being said, contact dermatitis can also affect the face and Shah says there is a myriad of things that can induce flare-ups, including cold weather, hot water, food sensitivities, sun, sweat, stress — the list goes on and on.

One thing she notes, however, is that not all people with eczema have the same triggers. So while one fragranced product may elicit a reaction in one person, it’s entirely possible it won’t in another. This is why it’s important to see your doctor in order to determine if what you have is, in fact, actually eczema, and if so, figure out the underlying cause (if it wasn’t inherited).

For instance, Sadick says some people develop facial eczema after having an allergic reaction to eggs, peanuts, and/or shellfish. So, if allergies tend to run in your family, that’s definitely something to be wary of.

Should I treat facial eczema differently than I would eczema on my body?

The short answer? Yes. Both Sadick and Shah recommend using milder products (especially when it comes to steroids) on your face, as the skin is thinner and more sensitive than the skin on your body. “I would use eczema skin-care products designed for face and body respectively as they contain different concentrations of active ingredients,” says Sadick.

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