I was recently contacted by a concerned son whose mother has developed eczema and also even though he is also in the beauty industry and is following quite rightly so all medical advice, he just wanted to know from my professional experience and personal knowledge of being a long-term eczema sufferer myself what he should take into account when buying beauty products or gifts for his mum.
Firstly, in these inflamed and sensitive skin conditions, your doctor may or may not be able to tell you the cause or may advise you to go for allergy testing but sometimes when the skin is inflamed, trying to work backwards to what inflamed it can be difficult. The priority going forward is how not to inflame it more and to help it calm down and balance itself with the advice of your doctor but also careful management of a lot of situations at home.
I’ve come across this situation, not just with myself but on many occasions, during hundreds of one to one treatments and consultations with thousands of clients that I have had over the years. Whether the skin irritation has been caused by illness, stress, hormones, food allergies, contact allergies etc. it will result in your skin being sensitised and when your skin is sensitised it can suddenly react to even things that you were absolutely fine with before. During this time – which can last many weeks and months – it’s important to go back to absolute basics in what is touching your skin and the chemicals and complexity of ingredients that you are using.
Firstly, be aware of what you are using to wash your bed sheets and clothes in. Your sheets and your clothes may be irritating at the moment so try a non-biological washing powder or go to an eco washing powder that can often be bought in health food shops. This can reduce the amount of detergents that you need to use. Fabric conditioners are a no-no unless a natural eco brand as synthetic fragrance can have hundreds of complex ingredients in them. Also be aware that the type of fibre in the materials that touch your skin can irritate an already inflamed skin. For example, synthetic fibres may make you sweat and even pure wool may make you itch. I remember vividly having to wear cotton full length arm t-shirts underneath any jumpers otherwise my arms would be in agony itching and bleeding and even in the summer months, when in the car as a child, sitting on a cotton tea-towel so that the synthetic fibres of the car seat or bus seat didn’t flare my legs up. This used to affect me to such an extreme that we used to have to travel with a cotton sheet (which I still have today) as when staying away, if the bed linen is not as good a quality as my Northern Nights, it causes me to itch.
Cool temperatures also help to prevent the flare ups so, for example, you are best to have a cooler bedroom and turn the radiator off if you are itching at night in your sleep, as when urtacaria occurs – which is increased inflammatory reaction – you can get redness or swelling with heat, and if you touch or scratch your skin you get swollen wheels. This can be exacerbated if your skin gets hot from either temperature or friction of fabrics which is also why hot holidays can be difficult. Once a day SPF factors are more tolerant for sensitive skins as well as safer for protection as you are not layering up too many products (UltraSun is fab! Specifically their SPF 50+ Family formula is great and can be used by all ages on face and body and indeed, in some areas of the country this is available on prescription from your GP for serious skin or health conditions).
Also look at the chemicals that you are washing your hair, face and body with – unless you have specifically been told you are allergic to something or a certain single ingredient, which obviously you need to avoid, then I find in my experience that the majority of clients have got results by switching to as fewer products as possible which is not then confusing the skin – just in the way that when you have a poorly stomach you have simpler meals – but also that the ingredients of the products you choose have a shorter listing of components.
It doesn’t mean you can’t go back to your favourite products, especially your anti-ageing ones in the future which often have an ingredient list of 30 – 70 components but which, at the moment, are just too confusing for your sensitised skin. Choose the family of ingredients. My first choice would be natural – mineral oil and SLS free, avoiding synthetic colours and fragrance. Stop using fragrance on the skin and instead, spray onto clothing and avoid spray room fragrance. Look to more natural deodorants such as Australian Body Care which we stock, or look at your local health food shop.
Products that we stock that are fantastic are things like the Liz Earle Shampoo and Conditioner, Body Wash and SuperSkin Original Moisturiser, the Josie Maran Cleanser, Argan Oil and Unscented Body Cream, the Elemis nourishing milk formulas, the L’Occitane Shea butter formulas, LuLu and Colour Wow shampoos and conditioners, The Organic Pharmacy, A’Kin, AD Skin Synergy, Silk Oil of Morocco, and This Works are the main brands to look out for.
A favoured example of a minimalistic regime for very inflamed skin would be to use the Liz Earle Shampoo and Conditioner, and Shower Gel, then the Josie Maran Oil Cleanser for face and eyes (remove with a warm cloth) and follow with the Josie Maran Argan Oil and/or Whipped Argan Oil serum all over your face, neck and eyes. If more comfort is required add the Argan Oil Balm or pure Shea Butter from L’Occitaine. If the body is dry, use the unscented whipped Argan Oil Body Creams (you may be alright even with the scented ones as these are natural fruit and herbs). At this point, when your skin is sensitised, you may wish to also use free-from nail formulas such as the Deborah Lippmann nail range with ideally, non-acetone removers.
When your skin is sensitised, especially on the face, also look at the ingredient listing of your make-up and again a free-from brand would be better and your skin will often tolerate it more and, although you should be wearing less make-up i.e.: not as many products which can confuse the skin, you certainly may still be able to wear enough products to give you skin confidence and to hide irritation if your skin can tolerate it.
My favourite recommendations would be the bareMinerals Original Loose Foundation with the Josie Maran Mascara and accent colours or the tarte make-up range if you prefer liquids. When your skin is sensitised and inflamed the trick is to, in conjunction with your medical advice, try and calm your skin down as quickly as possible and minimise the complications of ingredient listing and numbers of products that are touching your skin in a 360 degree approach. Once you feel you are more in control of your skin, you can go back to introducing some of your previous favourite products and regimes (but always knowing that the formulas and products that worked to give your skin a break and help it come back to balance should always be incorporated into your routine or be there for emergencies to calm down any sensitivities as soon as they happen).
To give you some confidence, as a lifelong sufferer of Eczema and sensitive skin which has even involved hospitalisation and steroid injections. I have, over the years been allergic to the skin on a peach, oranges, washing powders, synthetic sheets, mineral oil, retinal, MSG, car air fresheners, air fresheners sprayed at work by the service team! Etc. etc. all of which I have managed to overcome and I don’t have to avoid peaches or oranges but at that particular time it was a particular preservative that was used to travel the fruit that had changed. Although I can have flare ups and they can be violent (like my temper) these are also the rules that I follow so that I can get my skin back under control quickly, often with just my beauty and household routine.
PS: its’ a good excuse not to do any cleaning as I can react to cleaning products (toilet loo seat cleaner = semi-circular rash on legs!) and it is important for you to look at the ingredient listing of anything that may touch your skin. No, I can’t wear marigolds as they make my hands sweat which then starts the eczema – I’m so pleased with this excuse. However, it may be that you have to look at eco-house cleaning products too – some of which we stock on QVC.
I hope that any of you fellow sufferers or any family members, especially children, find this helpful and I would love to hear your stories.