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Skin deep: Your ultimate eczema survival guide

How do you get through uni with a skin condition? The Glasgow Guardian offers some advice from experience

You’re officially in your glow-up era, you’ve made your dating app profile, you trawl through your camera roll – oh wait, you weren’t wearing eyeshadow that night, or the time before, so why are your eyelids ruby red? If you’re an eczema sufferer, be assured that there are loads of you – 1 in 10 adults. Whether your skin condition is a minor inconvenience, or a genuinely invasive health concern, you’ll find being a student a challenging part of your individual eczema journey. Still, all of us can probably care for ourselves a bit better. Make it a New Year’s Resolution, maybe. Here are some top tips so your skin, eczema-ridden or not, can slay another day.

1: Become the cream of the crop

You need to know your Elocon from your Eumovate, your Epaderm from your E45, your go-to moisturisers (probably not E45) and your last-resort steroids. I have friends who won’t go near steroids, and I’m sure that’s the right decision for them, but trust your doctor if they prescribe you some. You absolutely don’t want your skin to get infected, because you can end up in hospital. Know the side effects, not as a result of frantic late-night google searches, but from the packaging and instructions on the creams themselves. If you’re not sure how much you should be using, ask your pharmacist or doctor, they want to help you. In the past I have lathered far too much Elocon on my face at 2am, praying for a quick-fix, but the recommended dosages are there for a reason.

2: What you eat is what you get

The unpredictabilities and complexities of student life render any form of dieting, for most of us, a near impossible endeavour. Still, it’s no bad thing to be aware of the foods which make you feel all tingly and prickly. Unfortunately, you can only find this out the hard way, but I know now, for example, that eating a curry from Mr Singh’s, or dark, rather than white chocolate, is more problematic for my skin than for my taste buds.

3: Beware the terrible two

The stimulant and the depressant, those staples of uni life – I’m talking, of course, about caffeine and alcohol. You might be a regular at the level three library vending machine post-8pm, or, like me, down one (or several) too many tequila shots on a night out. Either way, doing so will give the itchy and scratchy show yet another reboot. Try swapping coffee for tea, and stick to one form of alcohol per night, so you can discern the worst culprits. (I find red wine particularly awful, but who knows, maybe that’s just because I’m drinking it from Spoons.)

4: Escape to the country

Glasgow City Council can introduce as many low emission zones as it likes – you still live in a city, it will be dirty, it will be polluted. I, unusually, find the return to uni to benefit my skin, but that’s because my parents live in London, which is even dirtier, even more polluted, and boasts the triple whammy of hard water (just to make those morning showers even more crucifying). Get yourself along to Troon for some sea air one Saturday, or walk the West Highland Way.

5: Just chill

The hotter you are, the more you will scratch. The need for layering, not just to survive a Glasgow winter, but to participate in the fashion show on University Avenue, does not, unfortunately, lend itself to overcoming this relationship. Try to substitute wool for cotton where possible, and think about whether you really need to keep your scarf on while studying in the library.

6: It’s okay to be bland

Your tenancy agreement doesn’t allow you to have incense in your flat, but you get some anyway. Who cares what your landlord thinks? Inadvertently, your skin does. Avoid, avoid, avoid buying scented soaps if you have eczema on your hands, and try to get some Dermol on prescription if it’s really bad. I remember my fingers were practically peeling after exam periods spent in the library (god knows where that soap comes from). So what if you get voted Baroness Basic at your next drinking game? Your skin will be glowing when it happens.

7: Test your stress

Once, a school tutor said that the best way to cope with stress was to stop being stressed. This piece of advice feels similarly futile, since being at uni is an almost inherently stress-inducing experience. Still, don’t be afraid to use the resources you have at your disposal to mitigate it – ask for those extensions, take those weekends off.

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