Rollerball Itch Relief for eczema patients
Watch how it works!
Watch how it works!
Stainless steel lined and 3-part case for easy cleaning
Rollerball texture explorations
Carbon paper safety test results
What it does
The itch reliever that never scratches. Designed to help eczema patients cope with their unbearable itch, this textured rollerball provides a sensation similar to scratching, while its rolling mechanism ensures that skin is never torn.
This investigation into itch relief is inspired by my own experience with eczema, to live with the intrusive discomfort of flare ups. My role as both a designer and a patient allowed me to balance perspective between medical theory and patients’ reality, revealing misalignments in the realm of itch relief. Most eczema patients scratch until skin is torn, becoming stuck in the vicious itch-scratch cycle. Medical theory tells us to stop scratching while patients compare that to holding their bladder. They are aware of the consequences yet are unable to resist scratching.
How it works
During flare ups, patients can roll the itch relief over their itchy skin for a sensation that is relieving yet safe. When rolled over their skin, textures on the rollerball press into and interrupt the itch pathways to help patients overcome the itch. The rolling mechanism then ensures that no drag exist on the skin, regardless of how vigorously it is used. Made of stainless steel, the rollerball is cooling to the touch even at room temperature so users can further soothe their inflamed skin. Easily disassembled, its 3-part case allows for effortless and frequent cleaning while its seamless interior minimizes dead skin accumulation in the product during use throughout the day. This itch reliever is proposed as an intervention tool, so users will no longer feel helpless and guilty during flare ups.
The rollerball itch relief is designed closely with eczema patients, while consulting dermatologists and skin researchers. The rollerball texture must provide enough relief and feel safe. Patients rated each iteration on 2 scales: relief and safety, with finger scratching and familiar scratchers as benchmarks. Ratings were averaged and then ranked. Textures were first extracted from existing objects, tested on itchy skin and iterated with rapid prototyping. Zooming into the spotted design for its versatility, its parameters were explored to understand how changing them affects the sensation created, informing iterations towards the ideal feeling. The 1-axis rolling mechanism was tested but lacked the effortless control of the rollerball. Various addition to this itch relief were also prototyped for – like making it a cream applicator or increasing friction for mindful scratching. These, however, pushed the product into complex realms of user behaviors, losing the elegance and simplicity of relieving an itch and moving on with their tasks. Safety is also key to the process. Each iteration is rolled over carbon paper, a proxy test suggested by the skin researcher. Its imprints were analyzed to verify that the texture chosen does not drag or dig against one’s skin.
How it is different
Most scratchers in the market involves conventional scratching or are unsightly for public use. I first tried to find a texture that is relieving yet gentle for uncontrolled rubbing over the skin. However, the barrier to safe scratching lies not in the texture, but in the way we are relieving our itch. Dermatologist revealed that “any texture, no matter how gentle, will damage the skin when rubbed hard or long enough”. This insight invalidates some explorations and many existing scratchers, which requires patient’s own self-control to stop before skin is torn. Rubbing creates an experience that is not truly safe. The smooth and uninterrupted rollerball mechanism, however, allows the patient to safely lose themselves in the moment of unbearable itch. Short and fast strokes provide maximum relief quickly and its gesture and size retains patient’s dignity during public use. The stainless steel material also creates a cooling sensation without preparation.
This product will be incubated under the Design Incubation Centre at National University of Singapore in hopes of bringing it to small-scale production. I hope the product can become accessible to eczema patients, who like me, struggle with scratching. Future iterations of this will include optimization for manufacturing and prolonging my exchange with skincare professionals for more understanding into its impact. In its further future, varying textures can also be introduced for a variety of preferred relief intensity to widen its itchy audience beyond the eczema condition.