Ask #Skinish Mom – Cut Some Slack in Parenting

Have a skin, eczema or parenting question? Ask #SkinishMom

Have a parenting question? Write in via comments and your question will get a reply (on or off the column).

To the #Skinish Mom:

I read last week that we’re right to think that raising eczema kids is tough. But what about parenting them? Seriously, the amount of advice on ‘naughty corner’, helicopter parenting, attachment parenting, spanking, tiger mom is driving me nuts. Can I just forget the whole parenting thing since the skin thing is already such a headache?

Mom Easy

The short answer – Yes. You have a right to choose whatever you think best for your child, family and home.

I believe in not parenting too (Shh…) but it’s a taboo to say that out loud.

Parenting Eczema Child

I imagine if you outright say ‘I Won’t Parent’, responses will be

‘What! You don’t parent! You have a responsibility, you know!’

‘How could you not be bothered with disciplining your kid? They need it to thrive, flourish, grow to their best potential.’

I bet you won’t find one that says ‘You bet. They grow up anyhow. Who picks nose and eat it as an adult?’

Here are my Top 5 reasons to justify not parenting:

#1 – You will turn into a screaming monster if you try to parent.

#2 – You will allow blame, resentment to fester and overwork your in-built calculator on how to divide parenting work between your spouse and you.

#3 – You will spend endless hours deciding on your parenting style and boundaries with your spouse at the risk of a marriage break-up.

#4 – You believe your kid will grow up good and mother’s intuition is never wrong.

#5 – You can’t bring yourself to do it.

The long answer? You can find it under Parenting with advice from Dr Peter Sears, Dr Bill Sears, OzSuperNanny, Heidi Murkoff, Dr Thomas Armstrong, Bruce Sallan, Dr Rosina McAlpine and Sue Atkins.

If it’s all too much to read up on parenting, here’s an interesting article on Professor’s Scott Napper’s view on how being a booger eater will boost your immunity, so you’re covered even if you can’t parent your kid out of eating boogers.

Eczema News – Food Sensitization from Eczema?

Eczema Allergic Sensitization

This is a very interesting topic because it represents a major paradigm shift to how we view allergy – it’s not just what we eat (oral path) but also what’s on our skin. It is now accepted  that what is on our skin can lead to sensitization and allergy. For instance, dermatologist Cheryl Lee MD said in this post:

When allergens come in contact with the skin, then the allergic type of inflammation is turned on.  On the other hand, it has been shown that if you can avoid letting allergens (including foods!) from coming in contact with the skin long enough, then your child’s immune system will build up tolerance to the food when it is presented to the immune system of the gut. What this tells us is that, in susceptible populations, the skin barrier needs a little help as it is maturing.

Let’s take a closer look at this article published in Aug 2014 in Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology by Japanese researchers.

Article title: Eczematous sensitization, a novel pathway for allergic sensitization, can occur in an early stage of eczema

This is an article that looks at the studies being conducted, and it’s not exactly recent but I like it because it reinforces the understanding of outside-in hypothesis.

Link between Food Allergy and Eczema – From the Skin

Researchers started to look at the link between our skin and food sensitization because studies (quoting this article) demonstrated that exposure to environmental peanut protein–containing household dust and use of hydrolyzed wheat protein–containing soap significantly increased the risk of allergic sensitization to peanut and wheat, respectively. In addition, filaggrin loss-of-function mutations were a significant risk factor for peanut allergy. Those findings strongly suggest that epicutaneous exposure to proteins induces allergic sensitization…

presence of eczema is a robust risk factor for allergic sensitization to food antigens and development of food allergy

It is compiled in the article that increase in skin pH, scratching and impaired filaggrin are factors that lead to food sensitization. We have talked about the importance of skin pH for the whole of December last year and in summary, skin that is too alkaline is linked to reduced ceramides, skin lipids (good for our skin) and increase in staph bacteria (bad for our skin). Foods that come into contact on our skin can certainly trigger eczema flare-ups too!

My take: Strengthen the skin barrier – moisturize, use right products of optimal skin pH and without common irritants, treat skin promptly to reduce scratching. Keeping eczema under control or moisturizing to prevent eczema onset can have a real chance of preventing allergy.

What’s your take? Do share your take in the comment so we all can hear from each other!

Ask #Skinish Mom – Is it Wrong to Think I have it Tough?

Have a skin, eczema or parenting question? Ask #SkinishMom

Want to vent on raising an eczema child? Reply to this post a comment to ask your question! Chat with #SkinishMom on twitter or G+!

To the #Skinish Mom:

I feel that it is so tough raising a baby with eczema – the scratching, the sleepless nights… Some days I added comments like ‘I’m not having another child cos raising one with skin problem is so tough’ or ‘Do you know how difficult it is?’ but most of the time, I feel that I get back response like ‘They all grow up’ (from my in-laws) or ‘Yeah, I’m tired too’ (from my husband). I’m starting to wonder if I’m wrong to think I have it tough? Why doesn’t ANYBODY think so?

Exasperated Mom

First off, hugs and I know it is tough. Period.

Parent of eczema child stressed

How can it not be? There’s a post on this blog way back in 2011 ‘10 Reasons why Parents with Eczema Child have a Tougher Time‘. Moreover, it’s been CONCLUDED in studies that the stress levels in mothers caring for young children with eczema are equivalent to those mothers of children with severe disabilities. So there you have it, it’s scientifically proven.

Now, back to your question on Why Doesn’t Anybody Think So?

My guess is:

1. Your other half knows but it’s not humanly possible for him to respond lovingly for 15 minutes every time you bring this up, especially if you’re bringing it up 3-5 times a day.

2. Your in-laws know nothing if they are not staying with you and part of the ‘village’ that’s raising your kid. So, best advice, ignore.

3. Nobody is thinking about anything. Therefore, they can’t respond thoughtfully.

4. Nobody is able to wrap their brains around what you’re telling them. Therefore, they can’t respond in the manner you hope they would respond. Particularly true if you’ve gone into so much detail about parenting eczema kids that are confounding and a mystery except to those of us with eczema kids AND you’re telling them so many things but hoping all the time they answer with a simple ‘You have it tough, poor thing’.

Best bet? Tell yourself you have it tough and you deserve to chill. Right now.

Eczema News – Abdominal Pain and Allergy, Sensitization in Kids?

We’ve been looking at eczema research news for the past 2 weeks and this week, I came across an interesting study looking into the correlation between abdominal pain and allergy-related disease. My child sometimes complain of tummy ache and now I’m wondering if it got anything to do with her eczema. Let’s check out this study!

Study title: Allergy-related diseases and recurrent abdominal pain during childhood – a birth cohort study

Study objective: Examine the association between allergy-related diseases or sensitisation during childhood and abdominal pain at age 12 years.

Study method:  2610 children in Sweden, using questionnaires. Parents answered questions regarding asthma, allergic rhinitis, eczema and food hypersensitivity and children answered questions on abdominal pain at 12 year old. IgE blood tests were taken at ages 4 and 8. Celiac disease and inflammatory bowel disease excluded.

Why focus on Abdominal Pain?

Recurrent abdominal pain affects 8% of children in western countries and often leads to school absence and lower quality of life. Multiple factors contribute to it, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It’s also related to low-grade gut inflammation and the link to asthma, eczema and rhinitis had also been studied (with no conclusive result).

Abdominal Pain Allergy Disease

What’s the Possible Link between Abdominal Pain and Allergy?

As written in the study,

Children with multiple allergy-related diseases may have a low-grade inflammation in the gut, resulting in barrier defects in the gastrointestinal tract, thus increasing the risk for disturbed motility and pain sensitivity. IBS patients with an allergic background have demonstrated increased IBS symptom scores, colonic permeability, mast cell counts and tryptase release or increased gut permeability compared to IBS patients without an allergic background.

Conclusion: Among 2610 children with complete follow-up, 9% reported abdominal pain at 12 years. All allergy-related diseases were associated with concurrent abdominal pain at 12 years and the risk increased with increasing number of allergy-related diseases. Asthma at 1 and 2 years and food hypersensitivity at 8 years were significantly associated with abdominal pain at 12 years. There was an increased risk of abdominal pain at 12 years in children sensitized to food allergens at 4 or 8 years, but in stratified analyses, this was confined to children whose parents had not reported food hypersensitivity at time of sensitisation.

My take: It’s not causal and admittedly, associations are not accurate. As pointed out in the study, it could be allergy kids already go to clinics more often or have increased anxiety and stress that lead to the recurrent tummy aches. But I do believe in benefits of a healthy gut – an area where increasingly gut influences more than just gut! Eat a low oxidation diet, fruits, vegetables and probiotics.

What’s your healthy gut diet? Do you monitor the foods for your child with allergy, asthma, eczema or rhinitis? Do share in the comment so that everyone can hear from each other!

#SkinishMom – Mirror Mirror on the Wall, is being the Fairest Worth it All?

Want to know if something is huge business? Check out Google Ads.

You don’t need to read statistics or wordy reports, a quick way is to type in ‘Skin Whitening’ and viola, count the number of ads that appear. Where I am, there’re 11 ads on the first search results page. For the fun of it, try ‘Skin Bleaching’ and there’re 10 ads. One of which caught my eye – Anal and Vaginal Bleaching.

It’s real – women do bleach their vagina and there was an advertisement by an Indian cosmetic product Clean and Dry Intimate that caught the attention of website Jezebel in 2012. The video had been taken down but basically, if you have a fairer vagina, your husband will ignore you no longer.

SkinishMom Cartoon Column Skin Whitening

Skin whitening is huge and controversial business everywhere. The latest controversy is Canada’s Toronto train coming under fire in Dec 2014 for displaying ads featuring lightening of african and asian women’s skin.

I don’t judge. Especially for so many women who risk severe side effects for fairer skin in developing nations, why do they do that? I couldn’t find a report with statistics on whether life after skin bleaching improves but whatever the motivation, it is driving over 70% of Nigerian women, 60% of Togo women, 60% of Indian women, over 30% of south african women to regularly use skin whitening product. In the black market, products are not regulated and even injected into the skin when it is to be applied topically.

Fairer skin is sought in developed nations too. Check out products in stores and many of them have some whitening element to it. Does fairer skin really give us better life? It is accepted that good looks get you further in life – this article ‘Do good looks get you further in life?’ on Courier Mail explores many facets of it. There’s a funny part that says productivity increases when you feel you look good or when you are around good looking people, so we can’t totally disqualify good looks from getting a pay premium.

My take is

1. Avoid direct sun, apply sunscreen – not just to be fair but for protection against skin cancer. Sunlight exposure ages skin too, so quit getting a sun tan then go looking for products to make you younger. Btw, on having to sun to get Vitamin D, you need no more than 15 minutes. After that, it’s sun burn all the way (whether you see it or not).

2. If bleaching your skin is to 

a. Make you love yourself more

b. Make someone love you more

c. Make you more successful in life

these are likely voids that will not be filled even after your skin is fairer. Instead, apply Matthew 6:33 ‘But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.’ (I know I sound preachy, but I believe it.)

Finally, I can’t assume everyone reading this will take my word for it. So, if you still want to whiten your skin, avoid the following ingredients.

1. Mercury – it’s no brainer right? Since young, we are taught not to go anywhere near the broken mercury thermometer and you should never clean it up with bare hands. Mercury causes rash and psychiatric, neurological and kidney problems. It is banned.

2. Hydroquinone – Used to be very common but banned now or limited to 2%. It blocks the production of melanin, which gives the skin its color. However, its side effects are blue-darkening effect of skin, causing an untreatable skin discoloration Ochronosis. More here on DermNetNZ

3. Glucocorticosteroids – It doesn’t make sense that we are so steroid phobic when it comes to our kids but use skin whitening products with steroids. Steroids give the impression that skin has whitened as the blood vessels are constricted after use.

4. Topical retinoids – This causes skin thinning, sensitivity under sun and is a risk to pregnancy.

Hey, if fairer skin works to get your husband to love you, he’s not worth it at all.

Eczema News – Use of Bath Oil Reduce Xerosis and Eczema

Last week, we looked at the study on detergent and this week, we’re focusing on bathing (video on Baby Bath Basics). We know that soaps are to be avoided as it is drying to the skin and adjusts the skin pH to more alkaline than it should be. You also know that I use bath oil for my daughter Marcie, including a cartoon below on care after the bath!

But does bath oil really help dry skin (xerosis) and eczema? This study in Norway examines that, let’s take a look at it!

Bath Oil for Eczema Child

We use bath oil, instead of soap for shower; A few times, we slipped cos the floor is really bath oily!

Study title: Can Early Skin Care Normalise Dry Skin and possibly Prevent Atopic Eczema? A pilot study in young infants

Study objective: Assess if xerosis, and possibly eczema, could be reduced at six months of age by early introduction of frequent oil baths/facial fat cream in infants with dry skin.

Study method: 56 six-week-old infants with xerosis (dry skin), but not eczema, are separated into 2 groups – one using bath oil frequently (up to 7xs/week) and moisturizer on face, while not the other (sparse use). The skin outcome is measured at 6-month old.

What’s Bath Oil to do with Baby Skincare?

The observation is that for babies with eczema, the onset of their eczema (45% of eczema kids have eczema in first 6 months of age) is characterised by altered skin barrier, increased water loss and defective lipid layer. Bath oil retains the moisture on skin. Moisturizers and bath oil are often part of eczema skincare but can it have preventive effect? 

Bath Oil Preventive on Xerosis and Eczema

A note on Xerosis (dry skin)

The study aims to investigate if frequent use of bath oil and moisturizer can reduce dry skin. Dry skin is an indication of defective skin barrier, being unable to retain moisture and have low skin lipids. The defectiveness of skin barrier is in-part genetic, linked to filaggrin gene, but also have an environmental element to it. In the study, the researchers put it succinctly as

Xerosis (dry skin) is a common feature of AE.. The abnormalities found in the stratum corneum involve increased water loss through the skin and reduction in total skin surface lipid. Normal desquamation of the stratum corneum depends on pH dependent proteases with normal function at low pH. Elevated pH of the stratum corneum increases serine protease activity, with secondary generation of inflammatory cytokines and reduced activity of lipid-processing enzymes, resulting in a defective lipid layer.

A Western lifestyle with excessive use of soap and water and skin care products may change the pH of the skin surface in addition to changing the hydration of the skin, thereby influencing the barrier function of the skin.

Skin pH is one of the many factors leading to defective skin. Do read Dr Cheryl Eberting’s series on skin pH. In the post I did with Professor Hugo in 2011, it is mentioned that the lack of filaggrin gene also increases the skin pH and leads to increased skin inflammation. (fyi: elevated skin pH, increasing skin pH = more alkaline than the skin should be, one of the reason why soap is never recommended for dry skin as it’s alkaline – we want the skin to be slightly acidic).

Conclusion: The intervention group had more often normal skin (75%) at six months than the observation group (37.5%), and less often probable atopic eczema. No adverse reactions were reported.

My take: I do use oatmeal-based bath oil on alternate day. Now that my child is at preschooler age, we no longer soak her in the bath tub but just apply and rinse like normal bath lotion.

What’s your take? Do you have a few seconds to drop a comment and share?

Ask #Skinish Mom – How to Fend Off Well-Intentioned Eczema Tips from the Ignorant?

Have a skin, eczema or parenting question? Ask #SkinishMom

Have a skin, eczema or parenting question? Ask #SkinishMom

To the #Skinish Mom:

My son has eczema and it’s quite obvious on his neck and joints. I get  unsolicited advice all the time – some of it are outright wrong, like to make sure I wash his skin thoroughly with soap! Soap! The one thing not to use on eczema skin! How should I respond  – I so feel like telling them to f* off but I know it’s so wrong to do so.

Anonymous Mom


I totally understand – the frustration (at getting tips all the time as if we are stupid and can’t read EczemaBlues for the right advice), the complete waste of time to pretend to listen to tips which we either already know or know it’s useless and the difficulty of how to get the person to stop giving advice without sounding offensive. Here are what I suggest, use at your own discretion:

Unsolicited Eczema Tips for Baby Skin

Babysitting Eczema Baby

1. Take Your Brain Elsewhere – We all know it’s hard to practice being present at every moment. Now is the chance to actively practice not being present.

Best part? Doing this will fend off dementia.

Harvard Health Letter’s executive editor Heidi Godman wrote an article in April 2014 “Regular exercise changes the brain to improve memory, thinking skills” and it gave me the idea – when you don’t want to listen to the person, but feel obligated to pretend to be, do (i) Memorize something (for me, I would run through bible verses) and (ii) Fidget like you need to pee. If you are munching dark chocolate at the same time, you are on your way to a healthy brain from diet, exercise and brain training. If the person stops and asks if you’re ok, say you need to pee and really got to go, ciao!

2. Stop the Talk before the Talker Gets Going – Take it from me – I give advice all the time and once I start, I can’t stop (evidently!). So, the trick is to stop the talk before it gathers the momentum that will snowball you.

Of course you ask, how do I do that? State as it is but trick the person’s brain – ‘Gosh, don’t get me started. There is so much to do for an eczema child which reminds me I got to find that hypoallergenic detergent. You don’t want to hear how difficult it can be, got to run!’ See, how diplomatic it is – the ‘me’ and ‘you’ reversed without hurting anyone’s feelings.

3. Reverse the Situation – Try this only if you have plenty of time. See (or think!) giving advice never work. You’d know since you are precisely trying not to listen to the advice without even hearing it. From Professor Thomas G. Plante on Psychology Today, he wrote “research using reactance theory informs us that whenever someone tells us what to do and how to do it, we respond with a defensive defiance because we want to maximize our personal freedom and decision making.” So, if you start giving advice and sharing your eczema skincare knowledge on sensitive skin productsstaph bacteria and skin pH, you may be at the receiving end of an excuse to run off!

Wait, should I really listen? Yes, if that person is a dermatologist (not just any doc).

Why should I wreck my brains to find a way to excuse myself? That’s additional work for me that I don’t need!

Practically, it is better for you to use some brain cells and be diplomatic about not listening than outright blowing the person off. 1st, you use your brain. 2nd, you save the agony of worrying that you have been rude and 3rd, you come out feeling good about how cleverly you’ve handled the situation and celebrate it for at least a few hours after. Maybe even boast to your spouse. (But keep the boasting short, you want to impress not nag.)

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