Worrying new research has revealed that a staggering 80% of Brits who suffer from an itchy skin condition – be it eczema, psoriasis or dermatitis – say it undermines their confidence, with embarrassment, intentional social distancing and feeling more isolated, just a few of the common impacts that Brits experience.
The research, carried out by Typharm, an innovative UK life sciences company also discovered that 97% of younger adults believe they would be more confident if it weren’t for their itchy skin condition. What’s more, over half of sufferers (52%) say they suffer from a low mood with a third (34%) having less patience when dealing with a flare-up.
With these dermatological disorders affecting millions of people in the UK, it’s concerning to think just how many people are dealing with the mental impact of skin issues. In fact, one in six of us are living with psoriasis, eczema, dermatitis, and other increasingly common conditions. A quarter (24%) suffer from more than one skin issue and three-quarters of the survey respondents say they have a visible scar, which the majority (64%) wish was not visible.
GP and skin expert, Dr Nisa Aslam of the Skin Life Sciences Foundation – www.slsf.uk – explains: “Skin conditions are often dismissed, but they can have a devastating impact on our quality of life and mental health. We live in a world where selfies are the rage and it’s cool to have self-confidence, but these skin conditions, from psoriasis through to scarring, aren’t doing us any favours in the self-confidence stakes.”Dr Nisa Aslam adds: “Skin conditions are often trivialised and I find that patients don’t think it’s important enough to mention their psychological health when they book a GP appointment.”According to the latest Typharm research, 11% believe that skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and dermatitis still aren’t seen as medical conditions with almost one in five (19%) finding it difficult to discuss their issue with family members. But as Dermatologist, Dr Sangeeta Punjabi and Dr Nisa Aslam notes, there are ways to reclaim your self-confidence.
Keep going to your GP
Struggling with the symptoms of an itchy skin condition? Although 15% struggle to talk to a health professional about their condition, Dr Nisa Aslam says it is important to open up to your GP. “It is so important to keep going back to your GP if your symptoms are not under control — particularly if your treatment plan has not been reviewed for a while.
If you don’t tell them your itchy skin condition is an issue, they may assume everything is fine.”Dr Sangeeta Punjabi notes that our skin is a complex structure and needs to be cared for. “Skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and dermatitis and any wounds which damage the skin barrier require timely and effective treatment, so the skin barrier is restored as quickly as possible because once the skin barrier has been damaged, there’s a heightened risk of bacterial, viral, and fungal infections taking hold.”Dr Nisa Aslam adds: “Under-treated eczema, psoriasis and dermatitis can have a serious impact on quality of life and increase the risk of infection and chronic skin changes, so it’s important to seek out evidence-based information and support and ensure your condition is managed as effectively as possible. If you are experiencing flare-ups, or skin symptoms which are affecting your day-to-day life, it is really important you speak to your GP or another qualified health professional to explore your options. “In fact, there really is no need to suffer in silence as there are a variety of prescribed skin treatment options from ointments, creams to formats like medicated tapes such as fludroxycortide tape, which is also waterproof, to help deliver steroids within a different format that can be used for flare-ups as well as wound healing.”Dr Sangeeta Punjabi adds: “With wound care, medicated tapes can help stem overgrowth of granulation tissue or keloid scarring, which can slow down wound healing.”
Be ready to change your routine
Just over half of those surveyed spend half an hour or more every day on their skin care routine, and whilst a regular skin care routine is vital, it’s important to remember that our skin does evolve over time.Dr Sangeeta Punjabi explains: “Over time, your response to different creams and emollients can change. Something’s that’s worked well for a long time may eventually become less effective. In some cases, a product that has worked well can suddenly start to irritate your skin.”Ultimately, the best product is the one you are happy to use every day. It not only needs to be effective, but it also needs to feel good. “It doesn’t matter how effective a cream or emollient is if you dislike the texture so much you are reluctant to use it regularly,” adds Dr Sangeeta Punjabi.
Be careful of cover-ups. Over three-quarters (76%) of respondents in the latest Typharm survey say they dress to cover their skin condition. But this can make conditions worse, which can knock confidence even more.
Dr Sangeeta Punjabi explains: “Many patients find that synthetic materials such as polyester and nylon can cause overheating and sweating, but wool can irritate skin, too. Pure cotton is ideal because it’s breathable, though steer clear of ‘cotton rich’ fibres as they can still have large amounts of polyester. Bamboo and silk are also good for regulating body temperature and another eczema-friendly fibre is Lyocell, which is made from cellulose.”
With stress and anxiety often making skin conditions worse, exercise can offer a useful ‘feel good’ tool. Dr Nisa Aslam explains: “Not only does movement help to relieve us of stress, but it can also help to improve the look and feel of skin.” Plus, exercise has been proven to improve self-esteem.Ultimately, as Dr Nisa Aslam says, ‘When we are unhappy with the way we look, we often feel low and anxious and this can undermine relationships, our physical and mental health, and the way we interact with the world. And this is the reality for many people with skin conditions.She adds: “Learning to work with our skin conditions and to care for them appropriately is a big step towards improved confidence and a happier day to day life.”