It’s thought 15 million people in the UK are living with eczema. The non-contagious condition, which causes dry and itchy skin, can be triggered by all manner of things, but those with it know one thing: skincare products (particularly perfumed ones) can sometimes do more harm than good.
Of course, when the sun shows its face this bank holiday weekend, many people with eczema will have no choice but to use products to protect their skin against the sun’s harmful rays. So what is the best sun cream to use?
We spoke to five people with eczema about the creams they swear by and discovered one thing: finding ‘the one’ is really a process of trial and error.
Gabi Cox, 26, primarily gets eczema in the crook of her elbows and around her ears, scalp and nose. She says it’s usually triggered by her allergies to cats, dust mites and pollen.
Cox, who is founder of Chroma Stationery and lives in Bristol, says her go-to sun cream is Garnier Ambre Solaire Light and Silky in either factor 15 or 30. “I have used Ambre Solaire ever since I was a child after testing lots of different ones,” she says. “I don’t find it soothes my eczema but it is moisturising and doesn’t make it any worse. I’ve found I often have a reaction to other suncreams. I now don’t ever use anything else.”
Amara Howe, 24, gets eczema all over her body, but especially on her elbows and chest. “Having eczema is awful and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, it constantly takes over your physical and mental health and I get upset about it a lot,” she says. “If I happen to use the wrong product my skin will flare and I’ll have to jump straight into the bath before I have an itch attack.”
Howe, who works as a communications assistant in London, says she swears by Piz Buin In Sun Ultra Light Spray in factor 15. “My mum recommended it to me last year and it’s been wonderful,” she says. “It doesn’t react with my eczema at all. The sun really helps my skin anyway, so I know as soon as the sun is out my eczema will start to clear up.”
Kelly Lees says her daughter Lilly, 13, gets eczema on the inside of her arms. “We spend summer break at the beach where the heat, sweat and salt water irritate her eczema,” she explains. “And during winter months the dry weather and indoor heat irritates her skin.”
The family, from London, swear by Boots Soltan Protect And Moisturise sun cream, factor 30. “Other creams sting and irritate her eczema, this one doesn’t,” says Kelly. “She has other creams to sooth the irritation.”
Lisa McCartney, 50, also struggles with eczema, but finds her skin agrees with Nivea Sun Protect and Moisture sun cream in either factor 20, 30 or 50.
The chartered accountant and business owner, who lives in Cheshire, says: “I get eczema all over – my hands are worst affected, which suggests it is like a contact dermatitis, but I also get it in patches on my face and body, together with the obvious places: behind the knees and on the elbows.”
She says flare ups are often triggered by things like stress, contact with cleaning products or mascara, and consuming foods like yeast. “The Nivea sun cream doesn’t soothe the eczema, I use it because that is the only one that doesn’t make it worse,” she adds.
Alexa Cobbold, 29, goes through phases of having eczema on her face and near her elbows. She uses La Roche-Posay Anthelios Ultra Light Fluid cream, factor 50, on the areas affected, and then uses Riemann P20 Once A Day cream on the rest of her body.
“Actually, any of La Roche-Posay’s products are my go-to,” says the PR strategist from York. “They’ve been an absolute lifesaver and their BB cream has really great coverage but is super light, which is perfect if you’re having an eczema outbreak and don’t want to plaster yourself in heavy foundations.”
The National Eczema Society advises that finding a suncream that suits your skin is going to be a matter of trial and error. “Test any new sunscreen by dabbing a test area on the forearm before applying it to the whole body, just in case it causes a reaction or stings,” they advise. It is recommended that you do this once a day for five days as sensitisation can take some time to develop. It is also recommended that you patch test creams that you have used in the past since the formulation, or indeed your skin, may have changed.”