Back to School Eczema Tips

For those in the US, it is almost back to school after the summer break. And those of us living in Singapore, Malaysia and tropical countries, it’s summer all year (and especially hot these days!). I’ve shared ‘Back to School” Eczema tips with my friend Alana Mitchell, at her Skincare by Alana blog, that covers:

  • Eczema Prevention in School
  • Eczema Skincare
Eczema Triggers in School

Eczema Triggers in School

Eczema Skincare Tips in School

Eczema Skincare Tips in School

Meanwhile, here are tips in table form, read the full post on Alana’s blog for further suggestions on prevention and skincare for eczema kids in school.

Back to school tips for Eczema Children

Back to school tips for Eczema Children

Makeup for Sensitive Skin – Eczema Makeup Dos and Don’ts

For this 3-post series, we have Alana Mitchell, the founder of SkincarebyAlana.com. She’s the most suitable expert I know for this topic on makeup for sensitive skin, where we will be covering not just the basics of makeup, but very practical steps on applying and removing makeup and even how to mask the appearance of scars or pigmented skin. 

More on AlanaAlana acquired her esthetician license from the State Board of Barber and Cosmetology of California, allowing her to practice skincare in the California state in her spa business. Alana has worked in the beauty industry for over 15 years, and teaches advanced education classes for esthetician students.

Eczema Skin

Eczema Makeup - What You Have to Take Note Of!

Eczema Makeup – What You Have to Take Note Of!

Eczema skin is quite difficult to manage when it comes to make-up; for one, the cause of the eczema could be irritant or contact dermatitis, whereby the eczema rash is triggered by contact with allergens. Secondly, the nature of eczema skin is dry and the skin barrier is defective. It requires applying emollient for moisturizing, protection from moisture (occlusion) loss and increase moisture absorption (humectant). Thirdly, eczema skin may have more scars/ blemishes or even lichenified/ thickened skin from prolonged scratching.

MarcieMom: Thank you Alana for helping us for the past two weeks on:

Today, we are focusing on eczema skin. Let’s tackle the above difficulties one by one and round-up with your makeup tips for eczema skin.

Eczema Skin and Makeup Ingredients

We mentioned in our previous posts that there are ingredients we can avoid for those with sensitive skin. What in your experience are the ingredients not to have for makeup on eczema skin type? 

Alana: Amongst the most common are: alcohol, artificial fragrances, harsh sulfates (such as sodium lauryl sulfate), chemical preservatives, and chemical sunscreens (such as octinoxate and oxybenzone).

Ingredients to Avoid in Eczema Makeup

Ingredients to Avoid in Eczema Makeup

Moisturizer and Implications on Makeup

MarcieMom: Assuming that an eczema sufferer has very dry skin and needs frequent moisturizing – what is the practical way to go about this? (since it’s not practicable to constantly remove makeup and apply moisturizer, then apply makeup again)

Alana: That is super easy! Find a tinted moisturizer that you love! There are many brands that have tinted moisturizers that will not only deliver SPF protection, but will also provide vital hydration and beautiful coverage to your skin. Granted, the coverage on these products is typically rather light. But if you are doing what is right for your skin, and keeping it healthy, odds are you will only need a light coverage product. If you need heavier coverage, again, do some research. As long as your skin does not tend to get oily with reapplication, and as long as the product you are using is quality, reapplication should not be an issue at all.

MarcieMom: Is there makeup step to avoid for eczema skin? e.g. not to use mascara or adopt a simplified makeup routine

Alana: I wouldn’t say there is anything eczema skin needs to avoid. That is, of course, if you’ve found the right products for your skin type. As I’ve mentioned before, there are products out there for you! It is simply a matter of finding those products.  Of course, if something in your makeup regimen is bothering you, or causing an eczema flare-up, discontinue use immediately!

Covering Scars, Pigmented Skin and Blemishes on Eczema Skin

Prolonged scratching of eczema skin can lead to scars, pigmented skin and thickened skin. It is important not to scratch eczema patch due to infection risk as well as scarring and discoloration.

MarcieMom: Alana, what are your makeup tips to cover these scars and blemishes on eczema skin? Are these concealers typically more irritating to skin than the usual foundation? 

Alana: Much like foundation, there are many fabulous concealer options that not only mask but heal your skin. Do not, no matter how tempting, apply the first concealer you see in an effort to mask your eczema! This can lead to a negative reaction that will cause you even more problems. Take time to research brands that are especially good for sensitive, eczema prone skin, and take the time to patch test it before slathering it on the effected area. What many people don’t know is that irritated skin is often broken skin, and you do not want to be quick to slap a product on top of that. You will want a product that is specifically indicated to be able to be worn on irritated skin. Many of my eczema clients have had success using Lycogel’s Breathable Camouflage, which was designed specifically for users with rosacea (yes, even when it is in a reactive state).

Alana’s Makeup Removal tips for Eczema Skin

MarcieMom: Can you share your makeup removal tips for eczema skin? (with a view to minimize skin irritation and hydrate skin)

Makeup Removal tips for Eczema Skin

Makeup Removal tips for Eczema Skin

Alana: My makeup removal recommendation for eczema skin is honestly the same as it would be for eczema skin (and normal skin), just with different products! If you go beyond simply having sensitive skin, and have eczema prone skin as well, use products that are indicated to be good for super sensitive skin, and more importantly, for eczema skin as well. Just because a product does not indicate these things does not mean it cannot be used, but you should discuss it with your skin care professional before use. As I mentioned before, fewer and more natural ingredients are usually better. If you know your skin agrees with a certain oil (coconut oil is fantastic), you can use this to remove your eye and lip makeup before cleansing.

Thank you so much Alana for being with us for these past three weeks, it’s been such a pleasure and a great learning experience!

Makeup for Sensitive Skin – Applying and Removing Makeup

For this 3-post series, we have Alana Mitchell, the founder of SkincarebyAlana.com. She’s the most suitable expert I know for this topic on makeup for sensitive skin, where we will be covering not just the basics of makeup, but very practical steps on applying and removing makeup and even how to mask the appearance of scars or pigmented skin. See last week’s post on Skin Types and Makeup

More on AlanaAlana acquired her esthetician license from the State Board of Barber and Cosmetology of California, allowing her to practice skincare in the California state in her spa business. Alana has worked in the beauty industry for over 15 years, and teaches advanced education classes for esthetician students.

Sensitive Skin

There is no strict definition for sensitive skin but generally, it means being more prone to getting a hypersensitive reaction to ingredient/chemicals. You can find out which ingredient you’re sensitive to via a patch test and your patch test results can be entered into the CAMP (Contact Allergen Management Program) database in the US to obtain a list of products you can use.

Makeup and Removal for Sensitive Skin

Applying and Removal of Makeup for Sensitive Skin

Applying Makeup – Moisturizer and Foundation

MarcieMom: Alana, thanks for helping out this week with application and removal of makeup. We are getting into the specifics of makeup for those with sensitive skin this week.

Can you share with us how we can figure out our skin tone and choose the right foundation (color, texture)?

Alana: If I’m being totally honestly, there is a lot of guesswork that goes into finding your perfect shade. Foundation shades are typically crafted on the most common skin tones, and you will notice that there are usually only 10-20 shades in a typical range. Since everyone has their own unique skin tone, it is usually a matter of trying a shade that looks closest to yours. Another option is to buy one shade darker, and one shade lighter, so you can blend them to meet your exact skin tone.

For brands that label based on undertone, finding your exact shade might be much easier. The first step in figuring out your skin tone is knowing your skin’s undertone, which is a lot easier than many people might think! Simply look at the inside of your wrist and observe the color of your veins. If they appear to be blue, you are likely cool toned. If they appear to be green, you are likely a warm undertone. If you notice both blue and green, or something in between, you are likely a neutral undertone. Whichever tone you observe, you will want to lean towards that range (warm ranges are usually labeled with a W, cool with a C, and neutral with a N). After that, it is all a matter of finding the right shade. Just because it matches your undertone, does not mean it will be an exact match. It might still be too dark or too light – so trial and error will come into play yet again.

Figuring out Your Skin Tones for Foundation

How do you tell your Undertone?

When in doubt, there are two things you can do: ask you local makeup artist or esthetician. They should be able to give you some recommendations, and might even be able to test products on you in an effort to find your exact match. When it comes to testing makeup, I am a huge advocate of doing so in a safe manner. If you head down to your local department store, see if they have small, sealed samples that you can test in-store or take home to test. If you feel comfortable allowing a makeup artist to test products on you in-store, make sure you understand the risks (those products are tested on many people, not just yourself) and watch them sanitize both the product and the makeup brush properly. I am not personally an advocate of using in-store testers, unless they are housed in an airless pump container, which most makeup products are not. But is very much a matter of personal preference.

MarcieMom: What about for those with sensitive skin? How can sensitive skin types choose the right foundation and what ingredients should sensitive skin types look for or avoid in foundation?

Alana: When it comes to sensitive skin, I always recommend seeking the advice of a dermatologist or medical esthetician. They are going to be able to give you the best recommendations for your skin type, because they have an understanding of the ingredients that go into skin care and makeup, and also have an understanding of sensitive skin in general.

As far as things to avoid: many sensitive skin types don’t do well with harsh chemicals, alcohol, artificial fragrances, and the like. However, each person is different, and an ingredient that does not irritate one sensitive skin user might irritate another. Brands like YoungBlood Cosmetics and Glo Minerals are fabulous options for sensitive skin users. YoungBlood Cosmetics, founded by Pauline Youngblood, delivers a range that can cover raw, inflamed or discolored skin while allowed it to breath and heal! So yes, most sensitive skin types can definitely use this ultra-gentle makeup range. Glo Minerals bills itself as being a “clinically advanced mineral makeup that covers, corrects, and protects”. They indicate on their site that they are suitable for “even the most sensitive skin,” and I have seen great success with sensitive skin clients using this brand.

MarcieMom: Moisturizing the skin and sun protection are important. How do these go with make-up? e.g. apply them all separately or it’s better to choose makeup that is both moisturizing and offers broad-spectrum UV protection?

Alana: While I am a firm believer in keeping moisturizing and makeup separate, you can definitely combine SPF protection with beautiful skin coverage. As I mentioned in my last post, I am a huge fan of tinted sunscreen. If dry skin is a concern for you, you can definitely reach for products that are more moisturizing.

There are many products that offer full coverage results with SPF foundation. I do urge users to be selective when it comes to picking out a brand and formulation, and to really consider if this option is best for them. Full coverage products are typically “heavier”, meaning most people will not want to reapply it throughout the day. Reapplying SPF every 2 hours (at least) is crucial for optimal sun protection, which is where product selection comes into play.

Lastly, powdered sunscreens make for a great and easy option! Though these are typically on the lighter side of the coverage spectrum, they do a great job of masking imperfections, while absorbing excess oil and mattifying the skin. I happen to be a huge fan of this method for touch-ups (after applying my tinted sunscreen in the AM).

Alana’s Makeup Removal tips for Sensitive Skin

MarcieMom: Alana, what would be your top makeup removal steps/ pointers for those with sensitive skin? (with a view to minimize skin irritation from the products, the beauty tools used e.g. brush and cross-irritation)

Alana: Makeup removal should always be a priority, but I personally like to keep it simple (and enjoyable) to make it feel less tedious at the end of a long day. First and foremost, be sure to remove any makeup around your eye area. There are many eye and lip makeup removers out there that are gentle enough for sensitive skin, and many that are actually indicated for sensitive skin. After you remove makeup in these areas, it’s time to cleanse your face. If you are not the proud owner of a skin cleansing device, make sure you cleanse twice a night to ensure you get any excess dirt, oil, and makeup off of your skin. That is about it! Of course, be sure to follow your cleansing up with your typical skin care routine.

Makeup Removal Tips for Sensitive Skin

Makeup Removal Tips for Sensitive Skin

Thank you so much for sharing the makeup basics for those with sensitive skin. It’d give those of us with sensitive skin so much more confidence when we approach makeup. Next week, we will focus on makeup for those with eczema, an area that many eczema sufferers struggle with.

Makeup for Sensitive Skin – Skin Types and Makeup

For this 3-post series, we have Alana Mitchell, the founder of SkincarebyAlana.com. She’s the most suitable expert I know for this topic on makeup for sensitive skin, where we will be covering not just the basics of makeup, but very practical steps on applying and removing makeup and even how to mask the appearance of scars or pigmented skin. 

More on AlanaAlana acquired her esthetician license from the State Board of Barber and Cosmetology of California, allowing her to practice skincare in the California state in her spa business. Alana has worked in the beauty industry for over 15 years, and teaches advanced education classes for esthetician students.

Skin Types and Makeup

Skin Types and Makeup with Alana Mitchell, the founder of SkincarebyAlana.com

Skin Types and Makeup with Alana Mitchell, the founder of SkincarebyAlana.com

If you check out product labels, you will generally find that they cater to (i) normal skin, (ii) dry skin, (iii) oily skin or (iv) sensitive skin. In this blog, we have always been focused on eczema skin that typically belongs to the dry skin type, sensitive skin (when we cover and irritants to avoid) and to some extent oily skin, when we discussed about acne

MarcieMom: Alana, thank you so much for helping out with this series on makeup! I’m excited to learn more about it, especially when I’m clueless when it comes to makeup (I hardly use any!).

I read that the first step to figuring out what makeup and beauty products to use is to figure out your skin type. From WebMD, I noted that the different skin types are characterized by:

Normal Skin Type – (i) No or few imperfections, (ii) no severe sensitivity, (iii) barely visible pores and (iv) radiant complexion

Dry Skin Type – (i) Almost invisible pores, (ii) dull, rough complexion, (iii) red patches, (iv) less elasticity, (v) more visible lines and (vi) when exposed to drying factors, skin can crack, peel, or become itchy, irritated, or inflamed.

Oily Skin Type – (i) Enlarged pores, (ii) dull or shiny, thick complexion, (iii) blackheads, pimples, or other blemishes

Alana, most people may have difficulty figuring out their skin types or have a combination of skin types. Moreover, certain conditions such as skin disorders, smoking, medications, diet, stress, sun exposure, pollution, climate and existing beauty products may mask the real skin type. What is your advice on how we can figure out our skin type and how important is it to get the skin type right?

Alana: First, finding your right skin type is so important. Many people purchase products that aren’t necessarily right for their skin type, which can be either useless, or counterproductive in terms of achieving desired results. For instance: if someone with dry skin were to purchase a product specifically designed for oily skin, they are not likely to get the level of hydration they want (and more importantly, need). Figuring out your skin type is not always easy, which is where dermatologists and medical estheticians come into play! Going to one of these professionals may seem extreme, but it is the best first line of action in realizing your skin type and finding products that will work best for your skin type!

It's important to figure out your skin type to get the right make-up

It’s important to figure out your skin type to get the right make-up

MarcieMom: I’m interested to find out what are the key differences in the formulation when a company label its product as suitable for (i) dry skin, (ii) oily skin and (iii) sensitive skin? Are there any regulations that govern when a company can label itself as such? 

Alana: Key differences in these formulations typically address the markers of each skin type. For instance: dry skin formulas are typically more emollient. Many of these products use oils to nourish the skin, which is essential when you are dealing with any type of dryness or dehydration. In regards to makeup, dry skin users will want to lean more towards liquid formulations more than powder. I highly recommend looking into mineral makeup brands like YoungBlood Cosmetics, which use only the finest minerals while catering to even the most sensitive skin types.

Products designed for oily skin types are typically more mattifying. These formulas are often oil free, and lightweight, which helps to absorb excess oil and regulate oil production. Many people with oily skin will favor makeup that comes in powder form, but there are many fabulous mattifying liquid options that have recently hit the market as well.

Sensitive skin products are known as the more “gentle” formulas. These are typically (though not always) formulated with fewer harsh ingredients, and have been made with sensitive skin types in mind. It is important to note that just because a product is designed for sensitive skin, that does not mean your skin will take a liking to it! All skin is different, so even with sensitive or gentle products, you will still want to apply a patch test 24-48 in advance to using the product to ensure your skin will react well to it. I have not typically seen brands that put out a “sensitive” range for makeup. They are either friendly to sensitive skin as a whole, or they don’t formulate with sensitive skin in mind at all. Because of this, it is essential to look into the brands you are buying from, before you actually make your purchase. I have had wonderful experience with brands such as 100% Pure, Blinc Cosmetics, Glo Minerals, La Bella Donna, and again, YoungBlood Cosmetics.

There aren’t any firm regulations when it comes to labeling products for skin types. That being said, companies do have reputations to uphold, so it is important that they label their products for the right skin types accordingly. Your best bet is to ask your esthetician or dermatologist, and reading product reviews can also be very helpful as well!

What to Note for Makeup when You have Dry, Oily or Sensitive Skin

What to Note for Makeup when You have Dry, Oily or Sensitive Skin

MarcieMom: I’m the sort of gal whose makeup is just foundation and lipstick. Alana, what in your view, are the must-haves for makeup and are there certain types makeup (foundation, blusher, mascara, eyeliner) that certain skin types should not use or is it possible to find something for every skin type?

Alana: My three essentials are: mascara, tinted sunscreen, and lip gloss. Being a busy mom and business owner, I know all about getting ready on-the-go, and these three things are fantastic for making you look and feel confident in a pinch!

Makeup must-haves are always a personal thing, but if I could list one essential, it would be some form of tinted SPF. Tinted sunscreens are a great way to get coverage, protection, and hydration. If oily skin is more of a concern for you, you can also reach for a powdered sunscreen brush! These brushes are amazing, because they are so easy to keep in your purse, so easy to touch up, and will mop up oil without making your face look cakey or over-done.

The good news is: regardless of you skin type, there is bound to be an option out there for you. It is all a matter of research and recommendation. If you have had little to no luck, call an esthetician! My medical estheticians and I are available during business hours via phone, chat, and email to help shoppers in finding the perfect products for their skin type. It may sometimes be difficult, but I guarantee you it can be done.

Thank you so much for sharing your expertise on skin types and makeup with us. I think we all benefit from knowing more about skin types and understanding how that relates to selecting makeup. Next week, we will focus on sensitive skin, can’t wait!

Eczema ‘Cure’ Series – Does the type of Water Matter?

If you’ve been following this blog, you’d know I don’t jump into eczema (miracle) cures. I still don’t.

But as I read journeys of how eczema sufferers are cured, I realized that there are common approaches they take. These may not be THE (or even an) eczema cure but I think there’re certain situations which they may help improve eczema. I hazard a guess and this series is more about a holistic approach to controlling eczema – I suppose you can call it a cure if one approach singularly works well for you!

Water for Eczema Cure

The Water Not to Use – HOT

Hot water strips moisture from the skin and it is never recommended by dermatologists. It may feel good because the heat temporarily numbs the (itch) nerves and so a hot shower offer temporarily relief – avoid at all costs. Consider other bath options that are more beneficial for eczema, dry skin and relief such as a cool compress.

Does the Water Type Matter?

Drinking water – There was a study in 2005-2006 in the US that showed a possible link between the chemical dichlorophenol present in tap water and higher incidence of food allergy. If the food allergy manifest as skin rash, then it’s possible that changing the water we drink help our eczema. Apart from this one study, no other study was found in Pubmed. Apart from tap water, fruits and vegetables also contain this chemical, found in pesticides. (note: See Singapore PUB link on Singapore Drinking Water Quality, dichlorophenol is present)

Updated on 27 Oct 2016 – For those of you wondering about the benefits of alkaline water, interesting read on MedicalNewsToday – no benefit and even showed harm!

Bathing water – Too Alkaline – Tap water is alkaline with an average pH value of 8. As the skin pH is slightly acidic, washing with alkaline contribute to skin dryness. Thus, another reason to limit your shower time. Read more from dermatologist Dr Cheryl Lee on vinegar bath increases the acidity of the bath water.

Hard water vs soft water – Hard water is caused by limestone (calcium carbonate) dissolving in the water and it is the white deposit that is seen in kettles, bath tubs and steamer. Hard water has been associated with higher incidences of eczema and identified as environmental trigger. However, in a randomized-controlled trial, there was no significant difference in families whose eczema children use hard water versus soft water (via a water softener). However, many eczema sufferers personally feel better about using soft water, partly due to lower pH level and less detergent needed in soft water washing.

Spring water – A well-known spring water spa for eczema sufferers is La Roche-Pasay in France. It’s possible that a higher selenium content or the presence of a certain bacteria (Vitreoscilla filiformis) in spring water is beneficial for dry skin.

What Matters for Shower

The important thing is to moisturize immediately after a shower – this one step outweigh the type of water you use or even what you use to shower with (no soap). Immediately moisturizing traps moisture on the skin and limits the evaporation of moisture from the skin after bath. Leave some moisture on the skin, don’t rub very dry and trap some of that with an emollient cream/ointment right after bath.

For me, I don’t use any special water but always limit the time taken to shower. It’s usually quite fast like within 5 minutes, followed up moisturizing. What’s your experience on water you use at home? Do share in the comments! Also if you missed the rest of the Eczema ‘Cure’ Series, below are the links:

Diet

Home Remedies

Chemical-Free

Does How we Bath Matter

Eczema ‘Cure’ Series – Do How We Bathe Matter?

If you’ve been following this blog, you’d know I don’t jump into eczema (miracle) cures. I still don’t.

But as I read journeys of how eczema sufferers are cured, I realized that there are common approaches they take. These may not be THE (or even an) eczema cure but I think there’re certain situations which they may help improve eczema. I hazard a guess and this series is more about a holistic approach to controlling eczema – I suppose you can call it a cure if one approach singularly works well for you!

There is a fair amount of suggestions by the dermatological community on how and what to bathe with to help eczema skin. Some eczema sufferers also shared on what they use, though in general, it is less often cited as a ‘cure’ compared to the first 3 series of this post on:

Personally, I alternate between an oatmeal-based bath, a chlorhexidine-based bath lotion and a hypoallergenic cleanser for my eczema child (Marcie, who’s 6 years old now!). I haven’t dared to try a bleach bath nor mixing vinegar though these two have also been recommended by dermatologists. Let’s explore the various baths for eczema sufferers!

Bath for Eczema Skin

Bath to Try #1 – Soaking

If you have a bath tub or your child still fit into one, soaking in a bath tub (not hot water, but use lukewarm or room temperature) for not more than 10 minutes can help the skin to absorb water. Especially for those of you who have to endure dry, winter months, possibly dissolve a thick emollient into the bath as well! Note: Don’t soak your head in the tub!

Bath to Try #2 – (Colloidal Oatmeal) Bath Oil

Bath oil – Try colloidal oatmeal bath or other bath oils but be sure they do not contain the key irritants such as fragrance. Oatmeal bath can relieve eczema itch. Bath oil tend to leave a film on the skin and possibly a quick rinse will suffice instead of trying to wash the ‘film’ away – I guess that’s a bit defeating the purpose of using a bath oil. Here’s a study on bath oil for infants.

Bath to Try #3 – Bleach Bath

The main purpose of bleach bath is to kill the staph bacteria that often colonizes eczema skin. I’ve the privilege of interviewing dermatologist Dr Cheryl Lee who is an early proponent of bleach bath (more here). Bleach bath is to be limited to no more than 3 times a week. A study on bleach bath here and updated research news on bleach bath here.

Bath to Try #4 – Chlorhexidine

I used to wipe my child’s skin with chlorhexidine when I noticed persistent itch or redness. Since I’ve been prescribed a chlorhexidine-based shower lotion, I’d use it say once a week especially as my child has quite a few ‘high bacterial’ habits! More on chlorhexidine and bleach bath from my interview with dermatologist Dr Clay Cockerell.

Bath to Try #5 – Vinegar Bath

If bleach sounds too aggressive/ chemical/ toxic to you, consider vinegar. I’ve had an informative interview with Dr Cheryl Lee where she shared how vinegar balances the skin pH level on top of killing the staph bacteria. Vinegar bath may be stinging for some eczema skin/wounds, check with your doctor first.

Other Baths

Some like to add magnesium flakes into bath, while others use salt.

Bath NOT to Take #1 – Hot

So many eczema sufferers SUFFER FROM ITCH and sometimes, uses hot water to numb the itch for a relief during shower. However, hot water strips moisture from skin, avoid at all costs.

Bath NOT to Take #2 – Soap

Soap is drying because it’s way too alkaline for our skin, more here on soap here. It often causes skin irritation too.

Bath NOT to Take #3 – Too Long

Too long a shower strips moisture from skin – it’s a bit mind boggling when you first heard of it, shouldn’t the longer you shower be more moisturizing? It’s not – think of it as a thunderstorm washing off the cement in the brick wall.

Bath NOT to Take #4 – Bubble Bath

Most of the bubble bath solutions contain irritants, avoid bubble bath for children with eczema.

Bath NOT to Take #5 – Exfoliating Bath

Our skin exfoliates on its own – using scrubs can further break down the skin barrier which is already ‘weak’ for eczema sufferers.

Bath NOT to Take #6 – Bath without Moisturizing After

Pat dry (not rub dry), moisturize within 3 minutes after shower. More in this video.

If bathing is so troublesome, why not forgo bathing? First of all, that’s downright unbearable, especially for us in hot weather cities (Singapore, Asia, Australia and parts of US too!). Secondly, bathing has a purpose to remove dirt, sweat and skin debris which can also be irritating if left to accumulate on the skin. Instead, you can try shortening the length of a shower or reducing the number of times you shower (in a day, not a week! – No way I can don’t shower everyday in Singapore!).

Do share your bathing tips in the comments, we love to hear more of what you’re doing!

Eczema ‘Cure’ Series – Chemical-Free

If you’ve been following this blog, you’d know I don’t jump into eczema (miracle) cures. I still don’t.

But as I read journeys of how eczema sufferers are cured, I realized that there are common approaches they take. These may not be THE (or even an) eczema cure but I think there’re certain situations which they may help improve eczema. I hazard a guess and this series is more about a holistic approach to controlling eczema – I suppose you can call it a cure if one approach singularly works well for you!

There are some eczema sufferers that report an improvement in their eczema after ‘cleaning’ their homes of all chemicals (no pun intended!). Personally I don’t use much chemicals at home, for instance, my floor is cleaned with water and we don’t use anti-bacterial wash every time. It can be very difficult to adopt a zero-tolerance for chemical in your life, given how they are in a lot of products, even baby wipes! I do believe though that some individuals’ skin are more sensitive to chemicals than others and therefore for them, eliminating chemicals work well for their eczema. For the rest of us, perhaps a moderated approach to limit chemicals only in certain areas. These are my suggestions!

Chemical Alerts for Eczema

Chemical Alert #1 – Detergent

This is likely one area you have to be careful with because detergent residue can be irritating to child’s sensitive skin and it is also worn in close contact with the skin. Detergent residue can make up 2% of the weight of a clothing and it contains irritants such as

  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
  • Triclosan
  • Formaldehyde
  • Sodium Hydroxide
  • Linalool
  • Sodium Flouride

These chemicals are also present in fabric softener, bubble bath and baby wipes; read more in What and How Much Detergent to Use for a Child with Eczema

These chemicals irritant and can cause contact dermatitis. What I do is wash using a longer cycle and use a hypoallergenic detergent. It may also mean that the clothes don’t get cleaned as it would with stronger detergent but it beats having eczema. Be careful of new clothes too, wash them before wearing as they also contain chemicals (read this mom’s sharing on trying on new clothes for her eczema child).

Chemical Alert #2 – Anti-microbial Products

This is one of those oxymoron – we want to clean to be safe but the cleaning leads to more danger. Generally speaking, the concerns are:

  1. Increased use of antimicrobial products (ingredient triclosan and triclocarban) lead to prolonged contact through the use of everyday products like dish washing detergent, hand sanitizer, deodorant and soap. This overtime can lead to contact eczema where the skin starts to develop rash when in contact with these, for instance, occupations that involve frequent hand washing tend to get this.
  2. Exposure to the ingredients in anti-microbial products had been associated with wheezing and allergic rhinitis
  3. Avoid soap and surfactant that remove skin lipids, understand more from Dr Cheryl Lee in Moisturizer and Skincare Products
  4. Constantly using anti-microbial products to kill bacteria can actually lead to bacteria becoming resistant to cleaning, partly contributing to why hospitals have higher rate of staph bacteria infection although they clean the hospital often (see this study)
  5. Also the hygiene hypothesis, whereby the more ‘ bacteria cleaning’ we do, the less our body is capable of dealing with foreign matters thus sometimes going into an overdrive when exposed to something harmless

Chemical Alert #3 – Fragrance

Fragrance is undoubtedly the top irritant – avoid fragrance for the whole family with a baby with sensitive skin, as advised by dermatologist Dr Cheryl Lee MD in Eczema and Skin pH, point 7 on allergy avoidance. Other chemicals to avoid are nickel, formaldehyde releasing preservatives, propolis (in beeswax), neomycin and bacitracin. For alternative names to fragrance, see the compiled list from dermatologist Dr Verallo Rowell on Sensitive Skin Products – Top Irritants.

Other common irritants for children with eczema is listed in Contact Dermatitis for your Eczema Child and nickel is one that showed up in quite a few studies. Coins and jewelry of nickel has to be avoided for those sensitive to nickel.

Chemical Alert #4 – Hair Dyes and Tattoos

It would unlikely be affecting eczema children but teens and adults should take care of the potential dangerous effects from using hair dyes (with A-List Celebrity Hairstylist Kristan Serafino on alternative hairstyling tips) and tattoos.

Chemical Alert #5 – Chemical in the Air

Chemicals that we breathe in can also affect allergic condition, like asthma. Read how dermatologist Dr Cheryl Lee avoid VOC paint and redo her home carpeting. Avoid polyaromatic hydrocarbons as well.

Chemical Alert #6 – Baby Wipes

Baby wipes are a life-saver, especially when traveling. Be careful not to use it on the face though as the skin is thinner on the face and an ingredient in baby wipe methylchloroisothiazolinone or methylisothiazolinone has been linked to cause skin rash overtime.

On the point about the air, many food allergens can come into contact with our skin from the air. Especially if you or your child has egg allergy, it’d be best to dine in a restaurant with good air ventilation instead of hawker centre where the ‘egg’ content in the air is higher (something my co-author Prof Hugo Van Bever shared in our book launch). What other chemicals are you avoiding? Share in the comments!

Eczema ‘Cure’ Series – Home Remedies

If you’ve been following this blog, you’d know I don’t jump into eczema (miracle) cures. I still don’t.

But as I read journeys of how eczema sufferers are cured, I realized that there are common approaches they take. These may not be THE (or even an) eczema cure but I think there’re certain situations which they may help improve eczema. I hazard a guess and this series is more about a holistic approach to controlling eczema – I suppose you can call it a cure if one approach singularly works well for you!

Many eczema sufferers are wary of chemical and steroids. I agree but am also wary of going into extremes of attributing everything bad to chemicals and steroids, especially given that eczema is a condition that comes about from many factors (so would focusing on just one aspect be over-simplification?). But I’m definitely supportive of home remedies that work – if they work without side effect!

Eczema home remedies

Home Remedy #1 – Moisturize

Moisturizing is one approach that most would agree is beneficial. It’s accepted that eczema patients (adults and children) have defective skin barrier and a moisturizer have various functions to

  • Protect skin from drying/ losing too much moisture
  • Protecting skin from irritants
  • Absorbing water into the skin
  • Filling up the ‘holes’ in the skin or restoring the skin lipids (that help keep the skin cells together and prevent infection, learn more from dermatologist Dr Cheryl Lee in this Over-Alkaline skincare interview)

See also the research on moisturizing where it had been shown to reduce steroid usage and preventive effect on babies with high risk

Watch the video on how to moisturize baby’s sensitive skin.

Home Remedy #2 – Don’t Moisturize (with Irritants)

There are also sharing by eczema sufferers that their eczema improved after STOPPING moisturizer use. My guess is that there could be ingredients in the moisturizers that they have been using that are triggering the eczema, a form of contact dermatitis. There is a test to determine which ingredient in skincare product that you could be sensitive to, known as patch test (interview with Laura Verallo Rowell, CEO of VMV Hypoallergenics).

There are indeed individuals whose skin are sensitive to many common ingredients and therefore, it would make sense for this selected group to stop moisturizer use. Not for general population with dry skin though.

To be safe, start off with a moisturizer that doesn’t contain the top irritants, compiled by dermatologist Dr Verallo Rowell with alternative names to these irritants.

Home Remedy #3 – Keep the Skin Moist

I wouldn’t really call it a ‘home remedy’ as clothing products that are able to trap moisture close to the skin and studied to improve eczema usually have invested money into the technology behind the clothing. One such technique is Wet Wrap which had been shown to help eczema and if you’d like to know more about what goes into the wrap and how to use it, read here. My national (Singapore) eczema support group also runs regular wet wrap session, do sign up at the top right box of my blog to be kept posted!

Home Remedy #4 – Ways to Kill Staph Bacteria

Staph bacteria is a common cause for eczema where increasing research showed that eczema skin is colonized by this bacteria which produces toxins that can worsen skin inflammation. There are ‘natural’ ways to kill the bacteria, for instance swimming or bleach bath or shower with a chlorhexidine-based bath wash.

If you don’t like the idea of bleach, read this interview with dermatologist Dr Cheryl Lee on vinegar spray.

Home Remedy #5 – Oils

Though no conclusive research, there are eczema patients whose skin improved after primrose and borage oil (see dermatologist Dr Cynthia Bailey’s comment in the post) and virgin coconut oil (see this very informative interview with dermatologist Dr Verallo Rowell on different types of coconut oil – make sure you get the right type!)

Home Remedy #6 – Anti-Inflammatory Natural Ingredients

There are also quite a few natural ingredients that have anti-inflammatory properties like honey, lavendar or able to protect skin like colloidal oat (interview with dermatologist Dr Claudia Aguirre).

Personally, I feel that the biggest home remedy is to avoid triggers. Logically it makes sense to identify these triggers because no treatment or remedy can be helpful if the skin is under constant ‘attack’. After which, I do believe in moisturizing and as for using natural ingredients, I’m all for it as long as it’s not something that irritate you (beware that natural does not equal no hypersensitive reaction) nor past expiry (as a home-made product may be less stable so the expiry date matters more).

Eczema ‘Cure’ Series – Diet

If you’ve been following this blog, you’d know I don’t jump into eczema (miracle) cures. I still don’t.

But as I read journeys of how eczema sufferers are cured, I realized that there are common approaches they take. These may not be THE (or even an) eczema cure but I think there’re certain situations which they may help improve eczema. I hazard a guess and this series is more about a holistic approach to controlling eczema – I suppose you can call it a cure if one approach singularly works well for you!

Now, many eczema sufferers report curing their eczema from eliminating certain foods from their diet, typically these are (i) diary, (ii) wheat and (iii) sugar. Is there a basis for this? Think along with me!

Unusual suspects for Eczema cure

Suspect #1 – Allergy to Diary and Wheat Undetected

This is the most straightforward reason why cutting certain foods from diet heal your eczema – it’s possible that you have an allergy to certain foods but you’re not aware of it. The unawareness could be due to:

  1. You have not taken an allergy test, be it either skin prick test or blood IgE test. Watch the video on allergy testing and #SkinishMom column on why sometimes doctors don’t get you tested (other than the other obvious reason which is they don’t have the facility to test and don’t want to refer you to another doctor..)
  2. Foods like diary and wheat are so prevalent in our diet that you may not notice. Generally speaking the more common something is, the less likely that you can identify it on your own as the trigger for your eczema. That is why although house dust mite is a very common trigger, parents tend to not associate their child’s eczema flare up with it. For common allergens for children of different age, see here (extracted from Professor Hugo Van Bever’s article – Prof Hugo is my co-author for Living with Eczema Mom Asks, Doc Answers!)

Suspect #2 – Food Intolerance or Hypersensitivity not Easily Tested

While allergy testing (for increased blood IgE immunoglobulin) is straight forward, detecting food intolerance or hypersensitivity is a whole different ball game. Even allergist or your nutritionist can be floored by it. For instance, reaction to a food intolerance can be gradual, not necessarily in small amount (unlike allergy) and can be intolerant only when certain foods are in certain state (eg raw versus cooked). Learn more on the differences between allergy and food intolerance.

As such, it could well be that your intolerance reaction is in the form of skin rash but because it is delayed reaction, no doctor has told you that a certain food is the culprit. However, when it is removed from your diet, your skin condition improves.

Here’s an interesting research on how children have tummy ache but didn’t get diagnosed as related to food sensitivity.

Suspect #3 – Gluten Sensitivity comes in Many Forms

Similar to the above, gluten sensitivity can come in many forms – Celiac Disease, Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity or Wheat Allergy. While there are tests for celiac disease and wheat allergy, testing for non-celiac gluten sensitivity is not straightforward. This could be why many reported their eczema improving after cutting gluten yet they are not tested to be allergic to it.

There has been some (small scale, not conclusive) research suggesting that eczema sufferers tend to have gluten sensitivity which is why cutting gluten has worked for them.

Suspect #4 – Sugar Intolerance

For other eczema patients, cutting out sugar improves their eczema – a possible reason is that they have an intolerance to fructose or sucrose. This is due to the lack of digestive enzyme frutase and sucrase. However, tests for these are more expensive and being in many of processed foods and foods we eat, you may not think of testing for it.

Also cut the soda, read its harmful effects in this Soda and Child series.

Suspect #5 – Milk Intolerance

Similar to above, one could also be intolerant to milk from a lack of digestive enzyme lactase. It’s possible that the intolerance reaction gets triggered from different amounts and therefore, you may not know it’s from milk.

Read also alternative food sources from nutritionist Natalia Stasenko if your child is intolerant to milk.

Suspect #6 – Cutting out Inflammatory Foods

I’m personally very careful about NOT eating inflammatory foods and if your child with eczema is obese too, read tips from nutritionist Rania Batayneh on an anti-inflammatory diet.

The basic concept of inflammatory foods is that these foods promote the production of substances that put stress on our body, being increasingly recognized as the cause of many health conditions which are linked to prolonged inflammation (chronic inflammation). To understand this better, see interview with nutritionist Toby Amidor.

I’m not clear how inflammatory foods directly link with eczema but the general link is that eczema is skin inflammation (rash) and the overall reduction of inflammatory foods may have a greater impact on certain individuals than others (my own guess).

Suspect #7 – Eating Clean

This term ‘clean eating’ is quite ambiguous but generally taken to mean that we don’t eat processed foods, fried foods nor trans fat. There are also people that said once they cut out processed foods, cook and eat healthy, their eczema improved. I’m a big supporter of that, not so much for improving eczema but more for general health. In terms of research that supports doing so, there is a large scale association study that showed children who ate fast food more than 3 times/week are 30% more likely to have more severe allergic conditions. (side point – Prof Hywel Williams who led the study also wrote the foreword for my Living with Eczema book!)

Suspect #8 – Going Vegan

Some eczema sufferers choose to go vegan or cut down on meat. There is a basis for this as explained by dermatologist Dr Cheryl Lee in this post on Diet and Environment on Skin. Animal proteins and sugar are pro-inflammatory and give rise to excess free radicals that damage our body and our skin. My own guess is that some people get affected by animal protein more than others which is why going vegan works wonders for their skin!

Suspect #9 – Being Able to Take Action reduces Stress

This is my own guess – it is known that stress triggers eczema flare-ups (see dermatologist Dr Claudia Aguirre’s interview on Stressed Skin is Skin Deep) and most patients also feel helpless especially when there is no clear trigger or solution offered by their doctor. Being able to take proactive steps to eat healthy, cut sugar or figure out gluten-free recipes may reduce stress and inspire new interest in cooking. So the reduced stress possibly helps the eczema and for more on stress affecting acne, see dermatologist Dr Verallo-Rowell’s interview on Diet and Lifestyle.

Above is my thoughts on why eczema sufferers or parents of eczema children feel that changing diet ‘cured’ their eczema. Did diet change work for you? Share in the comments!

One reader, from Odylique Essential Care shared this post that they compiled from research papers and their infographic (Credit:www.odylique.com)

eczema-diet

Ask #SkinishMom – Why Can’t the Doc Just Give Me the Allergy Test?

#SkinishMom Parenting Skin Expert

Ask #SkinishMom any question – parenting, skin, eczema or plain venting!

My kid has eczema and we haven’t figured out what is the trigger. I’ve been asking the doc about taking an allergy test but the doctor either say that my kid’s eczema is only at a certain area, so no testing is needed or say that it’s those common allergens that affect almost every child, so again no testing is needed. But there’s no CONCRETE EVIDENCE of WHAT’S TRIGGERING MY CHILD’S ECZEMA – why can’t the doc just give me the test?

Frustrated Mom

I totally understand, many moms feedback the same and many docs replied the same. The short reply is if taking an allergy test is on your mind 24/7, just demand it. If the dermatologist that you’re seeing refuses to prescribe one, go to another doctor. After all, eczema is a long-term situation that requires much working and communication with your doc; if you can’t even agree on something as basic as whether or not to allergy test, it’s unlikely that this is a doctor that you can work with.

Allergy test for eczema child

On presenting both sides of the story:

From the parents’ view:

  1. You’re tearing your hair out figuring out the triggers, you need an allergy test to get some answers.
  2. You’re growing day by day fearful of applying corticosteroid cream on your child, figuring out the trigger means less flare-ups and less need for the steroid.
  3. You’re breastfeeding still and you seriously are going nuts on what you can or cannot eat.

From the doctors’ view:

  1. Your child’s eczema is localized, say on the face, thus likely due to saliva or food residue irritating the child’s skin. 
  2. Allergy testing is unlikely to be accurate for a baby (less than 6 months) and therefore, testing and working on the inaccurate results may turn out to be even more confusing for the parents.
  3. It is true that most of the children are affected by the common allergens of cow’s milk, egg, soy, wheat, seafood, dust mite, pet dander and pollen. Younger children are more affected by food while older children are commonly affected by dust mite. It is therefore a waste of money to be testing for something when you’d already know the test results.

SkinishMom’s view:

  1. Go for allergy testing, even if it’s going to turn out results you’d expect (so you know for sure).
  2. Go for allergy testing at the clinic/hospital where you’d want to see the doctor, because the results have to be interpreted and collaborated, with future action plan for eczema care
  3. Don’t go for allergy testing online or some ‘innovative’ allergy tests – skin prick, blood IgE and skin patch are the standard tests

Do what you (as a mom/dad) think it’d give you peace,

SkinishMom

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