Frequently I get asked how I manage my dermatographia. My new friend Ellen in Hong Kong asked how I deal with our skin condition, so I wrote this post.
About 5% of the population has dermatographia, and it affects us all quite differently. Some choose to take antihistamines because the itching is so bad. My dermatologist offered me a prescription and I refused–thankfully the itching isn’t intolerable to me because I’ve figured out other ways to take care of it, alternatives to antihistamines.
Following are my suggestions for an itch-less (not totally itch free, but every little bit helps!) life:
1. Eat fresh, organic, and whole foods as much as possible. Fruits, vegetables, rice, beans, nuts, etc., staying away from processed food and sugar. Especially sugar! That will definitely trigger itching. Basically, eating foods that are anti-inflammatory are your best bet.
2. Drink lots of water! I drink coffee in the morning (my weakness), but otherwise mostly just water the rest of the day. No soda or sugary drinks, and limit alcohol intake as that increases redness and is dehydrating. Make sure your water is filtered, just in case the tap water is contaminated. Drinking tons of clean water is one of the most helpful things you can do for your skin and overall health. That, and taking lots of deep breaths, making sure you’re breathing deeply all day.
3. Use products made for sensitive skin, preferably those with natural ingredients, and stay moisturized. Coconut oil is a great addition to your skincare regimen. It soothes irritated skin immediately, smells good, and is all natural and inexpensive. Stay away from added perfumes in skin care products as well as laundry detergent, as these can be aggravating to sensitive skin. If coconut oil is not for you, try 100% shea butter. It comes in different scents–mango is my favorite–and the softness is heavenly. Alternatively, sometimes I’ll rub a little almond oil on my skin before getting out of the shower, that way I don’t need to moisturize after showering, and the almond oil feels great on my skin.
4. Exercise and get lots of rest. My favorite things to do are yoga, jumping on a fitness trampoline, and walking–it’s important to get your heart rate up and also to stretch.
5. If itching gets really bad, use a cold compress in the area where it started, or run cold water over it. Don’t scratch! Because then it spreads all over, along with the welts. One reader suggested keeping aloe vera gel in the fridge and rubbing that on irritated skin. The coolness combined with the aloe will be extra soothing.
6. Take care of yourself by easing stress, getting lots of rest, and and having fun–and your skin health follows. Meditation, laughter, reading, writing and knitting are examples of relaxing activities that give you some quality alone time.
It takes time to notice a reduction of dermatographia symptoms. Be patient with yourself while making these changes, and give your body time to adjust. It took about a year for me to notice a huge difference in my symptoms, and it just keeps getting better. I’ll continue to post more dermatographia skin care tips. If you have suggestions, please send them my way: [email protected], or comment below. And if your condition worsens, see your doctor.
Update: Ellen just wrote to tell me that she’s been following my tips and her itchiness is subsiding. Great news!