Some people found it easier to list the areas of their bodies that hadn’t been affected by eczema than to list all the parts of their body that had. Anissa said that she’d had eczema ‘anywhere that there’s skin really’. One place where people said that they’d not had eczema was on the sole of their feet (although it is possible to have eczema here), but nearly all other skin surfaces were mentioned by at least one person we talked to. This includes Maham who’d had eczema on the palms of her hands before.
Some parts of the body were thought of as ‘normal’ places for eczema, such as where the skin creases or folds like the inside elbow and behind the knees. The most commonly mentioned parts of the body were the hands, scalp and face. Other parts of the body were often seen as less likely to be affected by eczema, such as the chest/breasts and genitals.
People had different concerns and difficulties, depending on where their eczema was. Some people said they felt self-conscious about having eczema or related scarring on their face and hands because it could be seen. For others, having eczema on their back was most difficult because it was harder to apply topical creams like emollients (see here for overview on emollients and here on their use) and steroids. Eczema could also have a big impact on movement and flexibility, making it difficult to do even simple tasks like making a hot drink.
Eczema on the hands
The hands were often an affected area among the people we talked to. Some said this was tough because they are visible. This could be a focus of teasing and bullying. Aadam remembers being nicknamed ‘old man hands’ when he was at primary school. Since the hands are ‘constantly’ being used, it could also be difficult to avoid touching triggers or to keep on top of management routines such as frequent moisturising. Laura said seeing eczema on her hands was a good reminder to use her emollients though.
Scalp and hairline eczema
The scalp, hairline and neck were also common areas affecting people. These could be difficult places to have itchiness or to scratch, as some worried that other people would think they had head lice. Scalp eczema was described as a more extreme version of dandruff and people worried that skin flakes in the hair or on clothes would look bad in a work setting. Vicky and Abid also spoke about feeling uncomfortable getting a haircut, but Alice’s hairdresser wasn’t too concerned when she got her hair bleached and coloured.
Eczema on the face
Eczema on the face was seen as particularly difficult because it is so visible and important for identity. Having eczema on particular facial features (such as around their eyes, ears and lips) could have extra concerns too. For example, eczema on the eyelids could cause swelling and putting creams on this delicate area could make it difficult to blink properly or concentrate.
Having eczema on certain parts of the face was also linked to other health issues for some people. Aadam has a condition called keratoconjunctivitis related to his eczema which affects his eyes, making them extremely dry. Vicky had eczema inside her ears which scarred one of her eardrums when she was a child, causing some long-term hearing loss.
Facial hair, as well as body hair, can be tricky when you have eczema. Some people found that shaving frequently caused less irritation than stubble but others found that shaving on eczema-affected areas was too painful and could damage the skin more. Some people had lost some hair on their face or scalp if they had damaged the skin and the eczema had scabbed over. For example, Vicky remembers losing her eyebrows as a result of rubbing at the eczema on her face when she was a child.
Eczema in ‘intimate areas’
Having eczema on an ‘intimate’ body part (for example, the genitals) not typically thought of as a ‘normal’ place for eczema could make a person feel especially self-conscious. It could also mean that getting a diagnosis took longer because doctors might suggest other possible causes first, as was the case for Jessica who had vulval (near the vagina) eczema. A few people said they would like more specific information about genital eczema – this included those who’d experienced eczema in ‘intimate’ areas or were concerned about this happening in the future.
Some young women we spoke to had experienced eczema on the chest and breasts. These parts of the body can easily become ‘sweaty’, making the eczema even more itchy and sore. Bras can also rub, but some women said that they wouldn’t feel comfortable going out in public without one on. Ele would leave it until last minute before putting on a bra and going out because of the pain. The inner thighs and bum were other body parts that some people had found tricky to have eczema on.