This morning I had an appointment at the Skin and Cancer Foundation in Melbourne’s CBD for some allergy patch testing.

I have always had a history of eczema (as well as hayfever and asthma) from when I was a young child. It flared up between the ages of 4 and 7, and then disappeared again until I was about 20 years old. Since then I have had it on and off on the insides of my elbows, ankles and back of my knees. Within the last 6 months it has appeared around my mouth as well. Because of my job, I went to see a Dermatologist to address the issue, as I can’t be seen with bad skin when I’m trying to promote great skin to my clients. My Dermatologist prescribed various creams, topical cortisones and things to avoid, but it didn’t seem to get much better. She then recommended I receive Patch Testing.

Eczema is a skin condition that can be found on all parts of the body, but is mostly seen inside the elbows and behind the knees. When it is found around the mouth or eyes, it is often caused by an allergic reaction to something. It can show up as a red, bumpy, raised area that can become very dry and even crack and bleed when scratched. It often gets itchier when hot.

Around 5% of men and 10% of women will develop eczema as a result of workplace exposure to certain allergens and/or chemicals. Some chemicals will cause a sever allergic reaction resulting in a more severe dermatitis. Anyone can get occupational eczema, however those with a history of eczema are more susceptible, even if they only had it as a baby and it went away. Stress can also play a major role.

There is no cure for eczema, however there are many treatments that can keep it under control. Allergy testing helps to work out if there are any specific allergens or chemicals that cause flare ups that need to be avoided. Some treatments include protection of the area, for example wearing gloves, moisturisers, soap substitutes, topical steroids, antibiotics, antihistamines and phototherapy.

Certain treatments such as antibiotics and topical steroids cannot be used long term, as they can have severe side effects on the body. They are great to use when there is a significant flare up to get it back under control, but other treatments should be used to maintain a healthy skin state.

Patch Testing does take a fair amount of time out of your week. The first appointment is held on a Monday for around 2-3 hours. This is where the Dermatologist finds out your history, inspects the areas affected and sorts out which of your products need to be tested. I had to bring in ALL of my skin care ranges from my Balwyn Beauty Salon, as well as my shampoos, conditioners, hair treatments, hand soaps, gloves, makeup, toothpaste, mouth wash etc. Basically anything that touches my skin I had to bring in to be assessed. The Dermatologist then selects around 20 products that will be tested, and they are sent off to a nurse to be transferred onto patches. After a short wait, you are called into a small “Patch Testing Room” where the nurse applied the patched over your back and arms (if necessary). I now have 120 small samples over my back and left upper arm. These must stay completely dry for the duration of the testing. On Wednesday I have my second appointment, where the patches are removed and checked. I then go back the following Monday for the final assessment and results. The Dermatologist may or may not find that I have had allergic reactions to certain ingredients – sometimes the results are inconclusive, as eczema and atopic dermatitis are still being researched and there is no ‘cure’ as such, making it difficult in some cases to also find the trigger.

If you are suffering from eczema or dermatitis, make sure you keep the area as dry as possible and constantly moisturised, and seek advice from a Dermatologist. Phototherapy (LED Light Therapy) can also be a great relief to some clients. We provide LED Facials at our Balwyn Luminescence Beauty Therapies Salon, but can also treat other areas of the body. I have found it has helped to keep my eczema at bay when used at least once or twice per week for the duration of a month.

For any enquiries on how we can help with your skin conditions or concerns, contact our Balwyn Beauty Salon and book in for your complimentary Skin Consultation.