Everything You Need to Know About Eczema and Psoriasis

Like, are they contagious?

No matter where you get your beauty info from—whether it’s magazines, social media or good ol’ word of mouth—it’s safe to say that the abundance of sources and information available at any given time has made things, well, pretty confusing. With so much info at our fingertips, it can be tricky to differentiate between what’s factual and what isn’t. That’s where we come in. We’ve tapped the top pros in every area of the beauty industry, from hair care to skincare to makeup and more, to bust some common myths and shed light on what you *actually* need to know.

Did you know that 17% of Canadians live with eczema? Or that one million Canadians suffer from psoriasis? Both skin disorders can leave skin looking and feeling red, itchy, inflamed, rough and scaly, and this can, of course, affect the day-to-day life of those dealing with these conditions. In fact, 87% of respondents in about eczema reported that their daily life is negatively impacted by the disorder. Seventy-five percent of psoriasis sufferers report a “moderate to large negative impact on their quality of life.”

Which brings us to the fact that October is Eczema Awareness Month in the U.S. (Canada’s is November) and October 29 is World Psoriasis Day. To do our part to raise awareness about both disorders, spread information, bust any misconceptions and set the record straight about eczema and psoriasis, we tapped some industry experts to learn more about these common skin disorders.

True or False: Psoriasis and eczema are basically the same thing

False. They are two completely separate conditions. Eczema is “the name for a group of conditions that cause the skin to become itchy, inflamed or have a rash-like appearance,” according to the National Eczema Organization. “While the exact cause of eczema is unknown, researchers do know that people who develop eczema do so because of a combination of genes and environmental triggers.” Psoriasis, on the other hand, is a chronic autoimmune condition that causes the rapid buildup of skin cells (they can multiply up to 10 times faster than normal), which results in scaly clusters on the surface of the skin. Your doctor will be able to provide a proper diagnosis if you think you may have one of these skin disorders.

True or False: Eczema and psoriasis are contagious

False. Neither skin condition is contagious. “This question is one that I’m especially sensitive to,” says Amy Liu, founder of skincare and makeup brand Tower 28, which is not only formulated for the most sensitive of skin types, but is actually the only makeup brand to 100% follow the National Eczema Association’s ingredient guidelines. “As a longtime chronic eczema sufferer, I’ve definitely been made to feel like [I’m contagious] at times. You can’t ‘catch’ eczema and there are a multitude of internal and external triggers that cause the immune system to overreact, resulting in inflammation or a flare-up. Personally, I try to avoid things like citrusy essential oils, dairy and synthetic fragrances to keep it under control.” That being said, everyone can have different triggers. “One of the things that inspired me to start Tower 28 is that my kids also have it and this made me think about what will happen when they start wearing beauty products. So our products are non-irritating and safe for sensitive skin.”

The same goes for psoriasis. The American Academy of Dermatology Association states that “psoriasis is caused by an overactive immune system and unless you transfer your entire immune system to somebody else, like with a bone marrow transplant, you can’t give psoriasis to someone else.”

True or False: Eczema and psoriasis are genetic conditions

True. “Eczema and psoriasis are conditions with genetic predispositions,” says dermatologist Dr. Orit Markowitz. “What this means is that both one’s environment (such as stress, diet, etc.) can impact these diseases but people have a genetic predisposition for them as well.” In fact, have found that “approximately 30% of psoriasis patients also have joint involvement, indicative of psoriatic arthritis, [demonstrating that] genes and environment play a key role in the pathogenesis of these diseases.”

True or False: Eczema and psoriasis are caused by stress

False. “They are not caused by stress, but they can be exacerbated by stress,” says Dr. Markowitz.

“Increased stress may trigger an outbreak or make things worse,” says Liu. “High levels of cortisol, a steroid hormone released when the body feels stress, can cause inflammation, so learning how to properly deal with stress has had a really positive effect on controlling my eczema.”

True or False: Eczema and psoriasis can be cured

False. “Eczema and psoriasis are neither preventable or curable,” says Dr. Markowitz. “They are chronic diseases that can be well-managed and considered ‘under control,’ but they cannot be prevented and/or cured.”

True or False: Eczema only flares up in the winter

And actually, sweat can actually further irritate eczema, resulting in uncomfortable patches inside your knees and elbows,” says Liu, making it more common in the summertime for some people.

True or False: People with eczema should avoid makeup and fragrances

False. “People with eczema should certainly be very cautious when choosing makeup and/or fragrances,” suggests Dr. Markowitz, “as certain fragrance mixes or ingredients can cause eczema flare-ups, but there are products that are hypoallergenic and are specially made with these patients in mind.”

“Makeup that contains irritants and allergens like essential oils, synthetic fragrance and certain botanicals can potentially be harmful for eczema sufferers,” says Liu. “And just because something is natural does not mean it’s safe for sensitive skin. I’ve worked in the beauty industry for a long time now, and for many years I couldn’t even try most of the products that I was working with because they contained instant triggers. I created Tower 28 as a reaction to not being able to find makeup that was safe enough for my sensitive skin. We are proud to be the first and only makeup line to 100% follow the National Eczema Association’s ingredient guidelines and avoid every known irritant and allergen.”

Here are a few products that may help soothe eczema and psoriasis flare-ups.

Glaxal Base Colloidal Oatmeal + Aloe Cream, $16, amazon.ca

Formulated with skin-replenishing properties, like oatmeal and aloe (both of which are proven to soothe irritated and itchy skin), this nourishing cream was developed for those with sensitive, eczema-prone skin and designed to restore lost moisture while simultaneously relieving dryness and flakiness.

Tower 28 SOS Save.Our.Skin Daily Rescue Facial Spray, $16, sephora.ca

“This was “one of the very first products I created and that completely changed the game for me in terms of controlling my eczema,” says Liu. “I no longer use topical or oral steroids. The main ingredient, hypochlorous acid (HOCl), is found naturally in our white blood cells and helps to fight harmful bacteria and inflammation. I always keep a bottle beside me at my desk, just in case I feel a flare up coming on.”

Topicals Like Butter Eczema Hydrating Mask, $42, nordstrom.ca

Founded by women of colour with skin conditions (post-barbae folliculitis and eczema), newly launched brand Topicals works with dermatologists to ensure its products are synthetic fragrance and dye-free, vegan, cruelty-free—and suitable for sensitive skin. And because people with chronic skin conditions are two to six times more likely to experience anxiety and depression, Topicals donates 1% of their profits to mental health movements that help raise awareness about the connection between mental health and skin health. Pre-launch, Topicals donated $10,000 to mental health organizations like Black Girl Therapy, Fearless Femmes and Sad Girls Club. As of the brand’s August launch, they are directing donations to the JED Foundation, which works to prevent suicide in teens and young adults in the United States.