Living with eczema comes with plenty of challenges. From troubleshooting symptoms to navigating important lifestyle changes and finding the right resources for treatment, there’s a lot to take on.
But as if these things weren’t enough, individuals with eczema often also have to deal with unwanted commentary and questions from their circle of acquaintances (and sometimes even total strangers!)
If you’ve ever wondered how best to support someone who has eczema, one of our biggest pieces of advice is to be mindful of how you talk to them about their condition. So in case you’ve ever wondered what is and isn’t okay to say, we’ve put together a list of some common things to avoid. Here’s the scoop:
#1: “Is it contagious?”
Bottom line? Eczema is not contagious and spreading this kind of misinformation can be harmful. Instead, these types of questions can be easily answered by doing a little research online. We recommend taking this approach first.
#2: “That looks awful! Have you considered covering it up with makeup?”
Regardless of the circumstances, commenting negatively on someone’s outward appearance can be hurtful and may contribute to feelings of insecurity around something that’s nothing to be ashamed of. In other words, avoid this one at all costs.
#3: “If you scratch, you’ll only make it worse.”
One of the most common symptoms of eczema is itchy skin and scratching is a natural response to the discomfort that comes with it. Telling someone with eczema not to scratch is telling them something they’re already well aware of, and simply isn’t helpful.
#4: “_____ worked for someone I know. Why don’t you try that?
Although you may feel like you are offering well-meaning suggestions, something that’s important to know about eczema is that different things work for different people. Adding to someone’s to-do list of things to try may only contribute to stress and confusion around an already challenging situation.
#5: “I’m sure it will go away eventually.”
For most people, eczema is a chronic condition that will come and go throughout their lifetime. And that’s perfectly okay.
#6: “Have you tried cutting _____ out of your diet?”
While we don’t know exactly what causes eczema, dietary triggers are only one factor and will look different for everyone. Or for some, they may not be a factor at all. As part of managing their condition, people with eczema likely already know what foods are best for them and don’t need additional advice.
#7: “Why don’t you go to the doctor?”
Treatment from a medical professional may be part of someone’s eczema journey, but it’s worth noting that not everyone feels comfortable with this approach, or may not have the resources to access care. Understanding that health is a very personal topic for most people, it’s best to keep these types of questions off the table.
#8: “Maybe you’re just stressed. You should try to relax more.”
If telling someone to stress less actually worked, wouldn’t most of us be stress-free? Whether they have eczema or not, this advice is generally not helpful and may actually bring up additional stressful emotions.
How To Talk To Someone With Eczema
For the most part, supporting someone with eczema has less to do with what you should or shouldn’t say and more to do with caring about the person behind the condition. Coming from a place of non-judgment and trusting that your friend or family member is doing the best they can to care for themselves, may seem simple but can go a long way in terms of making them feel seen and heard.
Rather than making the conversation about your own concerns, it’s often best to just lend a listening ear and ask open questions, such as “How are you feeling?” or “What can I do to support you today?”