The term eczema refers to a group of diseases which are characterized by itching, redness of the skin and skin rashes. These symptoms occur as the result of the inflammation of the skin which is known as dermatitis.
If you have facial eczema, it may be due to a form of dermatitis known as atopic dermatitis. This disease is an allergic condition which is triggered off by exposure to environmental agents such as dust, pollen, animal furs etc.
Eczema on the face can also be due to contact dermatitis in which case the symptoms of eczema occur as the result of direct contact with a chemical product which can irritate your skin and cause inflammation.
Facial eczema can also be caused by another form of dermatitis known as seborrhoeic dermatitis. This condition is due to excessive production of sebum by the sebaceous glands of your skin.
The excess sebum (oil) can lead to the overgrowth of skin fungi, which can then cause the symptoms of eczema.
When the itching, rashes and redness associated with eczema appear on your face this can be uncomfortable, and embarrassing.
If you do not treat eczema on the face, the skin of your face may eventually become scarred over time, as you continue to scratch your face due to the itching that is associated with eczema.
Again, with time, there may be some changes to the colour of the skin on your face or your skin may even become thicker than normal.
Causes of eczema on the face
Eczema may appear on your face for several reasons:
- It may be due to the irritation of your skin by a chemical. Your soap or perfume or body lotion may contain chemicals which can cause irritation to your skin. These chemicals may be preservatives, fragrances, dyes and artificial colourings etc which are present in these cosmetics.
- Your skin may be irritated by the makeup which you apply to your face, leading to inflammation of your skin.
- The skin of your face may have come in contact with other materials to which you are generally allergic, leading to an allergic reaction on your face. For example, if you sleep in a dusty room or on bed and pillow coverings which are dusty, your face will come in contact with dust, and this can lead to atopic dermatitis if you are allergic to dust.
- The symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis are usually seen on the scalp. However, sometimes, the oil-secreting glands (sebaceous glands) on your face may be overactive and secrete excess sebum(oil). This can eventually lead to inflammation and the symptoms of eczema on your face because the excess oil may encourage the growth of some skin fungi, which will now begin to irritate the skin of your face.
- Eczema on your face may be a manifestation of an allergic reaction elsewhere. Sometimes the rashes and itching of eczema may spread to your face as a result of an allergic reaction elsewhere on your body. For example, if your body mounts an allergic response to a certain food material to which you are allergic, the allergic response may manifest as an attack of eczema in several parts of your body, including the skin of your face.
- Some factors such as constant stress or a high temperature in your environment may also trigger off attacks of eczema on your face.
How to treat eczema on the face
If eczema appears on your face, there are some steps which you can take to handle it.
- You should make use of a moisturizer to keep the skin of your face moist. Eczema is associated with dry skin. Therefore the frequent use of a moisturizer will help you reduce the frequency of eczema attacks. Apply the moisturizer to your face shortly after taking a bath. You can also apply the moisturizer frequently on your face throughout the day. A vase of moisturizer can be carried to the workplace or to school for this purpose. A very good moisturizer that you can use for this purpose is plain petroleum jelly. You can carry a small vase around, and apply it to your face from time to time.
- Depending on the severity of eczema, you may gently apply a mild corticosteroid ointment on the skin of your face. However, you should not use it too frequently, and you should avoid applying it on the skin of your eyelids because corticosteroids can cause thinning of the skin. Do not apply the corticosteroid ointment more than twice a day, and if there is no relief after a while, discontinue its use and see your doctor.
- In cases of seborrheic dermatitis, if you are a man with a beard or a moustache, you may need to shave the beard or moustache. This will make it easier for you to treat eczema on the underlying skin. Another option is to make use of mild shampoo to wash your beard or moustache.
- There may need to apply an antifungal ointment to the affected areas of your face in cases of seborrhoeic dermatitis. This is because seborrhoeic dermatitis is believed to be associated with fungal overgrowth.
- Keep bed sheets and pillow cases clean and dust free, keep all the rooms and furniture in the house clean and free of dust.
- If you are allergic to animal furs, you may need to avoid woolly caps and neck mufflers, as these can also trigger off attacks of atopic dermatitis.
- Try to discover if the attack is associated with any soap or body lotion or spray that you may be using. If such is the case, discontinue its use.
- Stop applying makeup to your face during the attack, and exercise caution with your makeup afterwards.
- Avoid stress and excessive exposure to the sun.
- Try to avoid environments that are dusty, and keep away from smoke, fumes, and the exhaust from machines like vehicles or generator sets etc.
- If you are allergic to any foods like eggs, groundnuts etc, then avoid those food materials.
1) Nicole Yi Zhen Chiang, Julian Verbov. Dermatology, a handbook for medical students and junior doctors. 2nd edition. London, UK: British Association of Dermatologists; 2014.
2) Australasian society of clinical immunology and allergy. Eczema ( atopic dermatitis). www.allergy.org.au. Accessed 4th January 2019.