They rank high on the list of most common skin disorders and they affect millions of people each year. On top of physical discomfort from symptoms such as rashes, bumps, redness, flaking, and severe itching, these conditions also often come with anxiety, misconceptions and self-consciousness. Here, how each skin disorder differs and the top ways experts help sufferers manage their symptoms and get back to healthy skin.
What It Is: An inflammatory condition that is a type of dermatitis
31.6 million people in the U.S. have some form of eczema.Source: National Eczema Association
Symptoms: Itchiness, dry skin, rashes, scaly patches, blisters, and skin infections. Itchy skin is the most common symptom.
Types: Atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, dyshidrotic eczema, nummular eczema, seborrheic dermatitis, and stasis dermatitis
Background: ”The cause may be a combination of genetics, the immune system, allergies, environmental triggers, and stress,” explains Miami dermatologist Dr. Deborah Longwill. Other triggers include weather changes, environmental allergens, certain foods (like peanuts or eggs), nickel, smoking, and strong scents or perfumes, says Montclair, NJ dermatologist Jeanine Downie, MD. “While it is thought to be caused by genetics and a weakened immune system, it’s multifactorial,” she adds. “We don’t know exactly what causes it.”
Treatments: “Conventional treatments often begin with gentle cleansing and rich emollient moisturization,” says Bloomfield Hills, MI dermatologist Linda C. Honet, MD. “Patients will improve over the years into adulthood, requiring only daily hydration, but some may continue to have flareups and will require persistent treatment and fastidious skin care.”
Medications: Eczema may require systemic medications, such as corticosteroids, antihistamines, and/or injectable biologics such as Dupixent (dupilumab) or the topical Opzelura (ruxolitinib).
Doctor’s Note: “The best at-home solutions include rich moisturizers, ice to calm the itching, keeping fingernails short and trim, and soothing oatmeal baths,” says Dr. Downie. “Cool humidifiers and air filters can help too.”
Description: A buildup of skin cells that form scales and itchy, dry patches
Symptoms: “Psoriasis can present with red, flaky, scaling patches and plaques that cover the knees, scalp, ears, and nails,” says Eagan, MN dermatologist Charles Crutchfield III, MD. “These areas are common, but it can occur anywhere on the body.”
Types: “It’s also associated with psoriatic arthritis, or inflammation of the joints,” adds Dr. Crutchfield.
Approximately 7.5 million people in the United States have psoriasis.Source: American Academy of Dermatology
Background: ”Unfortunately, we don’t know the direct cause,” shares Dr. Longwill. “Genetics and environmental stressors play a significant role in outbreaks.” Every person who experiences psoriasis may react differently to different types of triggers. “Some may be stress-induced, or caused by weather, allergies to specific products, foods, alcohol, an injury, or environmental factors.”
Treatments: “If the psoriasis is mild and localized to small areas, over-the-counter (OTC) topical medications, such as emollients and creams, lotions and/or shampoos containing salicylic acid, tar, or a mild corticosteroid, may help control flare-ups,” says Dr. Honet.
Medications: “Luckily, we’ve entered a new generation of treatments,” says Dr. Crutchfield, who typically designs a bespoke plan of medications for his patients. “By combining topical and systemic medications—including oral and injectables—and biologic agents, we’re able to achieve 95- to 100- percent clearing with most patients.” Phototherapy may also be used to decrease pain and itchiness.
Doctor’s Note: According to Dr. Downie, an anti-inflammatory diet, exercising and decreasing stress will help with these skin concerns. Whatever you do, don’t scratch she says: “Scratching, picking or aggravating your symptoms will make it worse.”
Description: Rosacea is characterized by reddening of the face. In the early stages, it may look like blushing or a sunburn.
Symptoms: Red, sometimes swollen skin around the middle of the face, forehead, cheeks, and nose
Types: Rosacea is categorized according to four subtypes: facial redness, acne-like breakouts, thickening of the skin and eye disorders.
415 million people suffer from rosacea worldwide.Source: National Rosacea Society
Background: Dr. Longwill says that like psoriasis, we do not know the actual cause of rosacea. “We believe it is due to an overactive immune system, genetics, environmental factors, or a combination of these things,” she notes. “Sun exposure, alcohol, hot weather, stress, wind, freezing temperatures, hot baths, and certain skin-care products or foods can also trigger flare-ups.” Dr. Crutchfield says there aren’t many great at-home solutions other than maintaining an anti-inflammatory diet and avoiding triggers, even though the list is quite long. “Most people only have a few things they need to avoid.”
Treatments + Medications: Accutane and topical agents like Metrogel, Finacea foam, Rhofade, and Mirvaso; and the recently FDA-approved Epsolay (benzoyl peroxide) 5% cream can temporarily reduce redness in the skin. Think of them like Visine for bloodshot eyes. “They can decrease some of the redness and many of the papules, pustules and cysts associated with acne rosacea,” says Dr. Downie. “I typically use them in conjunction with laser treatments to treat the broken blood vessels.”
Doctor’s Note: As with all skin concerns mentioned, sunscreen is a must. “OTC topical skin-care ingredients containing extracts of green tea, licorice and daisy can be soothing for their anti-inflammatory effects,” adds Dr. Honet. “Other anti-inflammatory ingredients to look for are niacinamide and azelaic acid.”
The best new products for diffusing skin discomfort.
SkinCeuticals Phyto Corrective Essence Mist is ultra-nourishing with 5-percent hyaluronic acid and glycerin. ($67)
The oatmeal, tapioca and Epsom salt mix in Codex Labs Soothing Sea Salt Soak gives instant body relief. ($17)
Éminence Organic Skin Care Calm Skin Arnica Boosting Serum helps reduce redness and inflammation. ($64)
Say “ahhh,” with Eczema Honey Itch Cooling Rounds, which soothe with aloe vera, colloidal oatmeal and honey. ($17)
Naturally derived hinokitiol in AlumierMD Calm-R helps improve the look of redness-prone skin over time. ($118)
Repair a damaged skin barrier and keep skin healthy with EltaMD’s amino acid–rich Skin Recovery Night Mask. ($50)
Active antioxidant-rich water extracted from the Lotus flower’s root in Pai Century Flower Mist serves as a base for this calming mist that also helps prevent flare ups. ($59)
Although the effects of our diet on our skin are still not completely understood, Dr. Honet notes that “key components, such as vitamins C, D, E, zinc, selenium and omega-3 fatty acids, have well established benefits to support immunity and improve these skin conditions through their antioxidant effects.”
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