Atopic Dermatitis, also known as Atopic Eczema, often flares up on the face: this is commonly known as eczema on the face. This article explains how to recognise the symptoms and looks at the possible causes and triggers. It offers suggestions on how to care for atopic skin on a daily basis, as well as advice on how to soothe and calm your skin during flare-ups.
Facial Atopic Dermatitis The causes, symptoms and how best to calm and care for skin
What are the symptoms of facial Atopic Dermatitis?
The symptoms of facial Atopic Dermatitis, or facial eczema, are similar to those of Atopic Dermatitis anywhere on the body: the skin becomes dry, red, itchy and irritable. Some people also feel stinging and/or burning sensations. Scratching the itch only makes symptoms worse, and the skin can become damaged, infected and start to thicken.
Facial Atopic Dermatitis, as with all forms of Atopic Dermatitis, is particularly common in babies and children and normally appears when they are between two and six months old. The cheeks and forehead are often affected first, but dermatitis on the face can spread to other parts of the body as they get older. Read more in Atopic Dermatitis and babies and Atopic Dermatitis and children.
Many children grow out of the condition; it can persist into adulthood, however, and some adults suffer from dermatitis on the face without having had it in their youth. Adult facial eczema can appear on the scalp, forehead and cheeks, behind the ears and in the delicate area around the eyes. You can read more about this in Atopic Dermatitis on the scalp and Atopic Dermatitis on the eyelids. To find out more about skin on the other parts of the body, read Atopic Dermatitis on different parts of the body.
Symptoms differ from person to person, from season to season, and even from day to day. The disease has two distinct phases:
- The flare-up, or acute phase, when the skin is at its most itchy and irritable
- The calmer period between flare-ups
Facial Atopic Dermatitis is distressful precisely because it is so visible. Whilst non-contagious, it can create social issues for both children and adults and contribute to feelings of low self-esteem. It is known to have a considerable impact on the quality of life of those who suffer from it and their families. You can read more about this in How Atopic Dermatitis affects sleep and quality of life.
Atopic Dermatitis is not the only kind of Dermatitis that can affect you or your child on the face. Other varieties include:
- Seborrheic Dermatitis: the symptoms are similar, but the skin is rarely itchy. Find out more in Seborrheic Dermatitis.
- Contact Dermatitis: an allergic reaction to something with which your face comes into contact, such as make-up (although make-up may also trigger the symptoms of Atopic Dermatitis on the face).
- Photodermatitis: this occurs when the skin reacts to the sun. Sunlight can also be a trigger for Atopic Dermatitis, while other sufferers find that it can ease the symptoms. Read more in Understanding Atopic Dermatitis.
What causes and/or triggers Atopic Dermatitis on the face?
Atopic Dermatitis is a genetic disease that is linked to a compromised skin barrier function and an immune disorder.
Triggers vary from person to person but can include climate and pollution, stress, sensitivity to allergens and other external aggressors, such as harsh facial cleansers and certain make-up products. You can read more about these in Adult Atopic Dermatitis, Atopic Dermatitis and children and Atopic Dermatitis and babies.
The symptoms of Atopic Dermatitis are also its triggers. When your face feels itchy, it is very tempting to scratch it. This causes a bacteria called Staphylococcus Aureus to multiply and infect the skin, and this infection causes inflammation and itching, which worsens the condition. This vicious cycle is known as the Atopic Skin Cycle; you can find out more about it in Understanding Atopic Dermatitis.
What’s the best way to calm and care for Atopic Dermatitis on your face?
There is no known cure for Atopic Dermatitis, but there are steps that you can take to reduce flare-ups, both in terms of their number and severity. There are also ways in which you can prolong the periods between flare-ups and calm and soothe your skin during a flare-up.
Effective treatment requires an accurate diagnosis of your symptoms to check that you or your child do actually have Atopic Dermatitis, rather than one of the other kinds of facial Dermatitis. Consult your doctor for advice and recommendations on the most appropriate treatments for your skin. If you do have Atopic Dermatitis, the following steps will help:
Reduce or avoid triggers
Identifying any potential triggers and taking steps to avoid or limit them is a key step towards reducing the number of flare-ups. You can find out how to do so in Understanding Atopic Dermatitis.
The primary aim when caring for atopic facial skin on a daily basis is to prolong the non-acute phase, and regular moisturisation is crucial here. Look out for moisturisers (also known as emollients) that contain proven ingredients, such as:
- Licochalcone A: soothes skin and reduces redness
- Ceramides: strengthens the skin’s barrier function
- Omega-3 and Omega-6: soothes and nourishes the skin, while replenishing its protective barrier.
These are the key ingredients in Eucerin AtoControl Face Care Cream, which is proven to give atopic facial skin the daily care that it needs.
Specific care during flare-ups
Eucerin AtoControl Face Care Cream can also be used during a flare-up, but you may find that your face needs additional care in order to relieve itching and soothe redness and irritation.
Eucerin AtoControl Acute Care Cream (with antibacterial Decanediol and cooling Menthoxypropandiol) has been specially formulated to give skin the care and comfort that it needs during flare-ups.
Both products can be used alongside medical treatments which often help to calm severe symptoms. Find out more about them in Identifying and managing flare-ups.
Harsh cleansers can irritate facial skin, so choose a mild facial cleanser such as Eucerin UltraSENSITIVE Cleansing Lotion. If you like to rinse your cleanser off with water, make sure that it isn’t too hot, as hot water can cause further dryness.
Some people find that a little bit of sun helps with their symptoms, whilst others find that it exacerbates them. Either way, make sure you give your skin the protection that it needs, with products that are proven to be suitable for atopic facial skin. You can read more about the importance of sun protection in skin and the sun.
Choose products that are fragrance-free and, ideally, that have been proven to be suitable for sensitive skin. Be sure to remove your make-up fully before you go to bed.
You can find out more about skincare for atopic skin in how to care for young atopic skin and how to care for adult atopic skin.