Guest Interview

Dr Rosina – Inspiring Eczema Kids through Building Self-Esteem, Creativity, Relationships

Dr Rosina McAlpine is a mother, CEO and creator of the Win Win Parenting Program, and holds a Masters of Higher Education and an education focused PhD from the University of New South Wales, Australia. At the time of this interview, she was also an Associate Professor at the University of Sydney.

Inspiring Eczema Kids with Dr Rosina McAlpine Inspired Children Parenting Expert

Having eczema is not only stressful for the entire family, but is also related to lower self-esteem for children with severe eczema. The constant itch and scratching, lack of good sleep may also deter children from concentrating on certain activities they like. Would these affect our kids and how can parents inspire our kids to a fulfilling life, despite the eczema? This was originally a 4-week Friday Q&A, now combined into a single informative post.

Life Skill for our Children: Self-Esteem & Resilience

MarcieMom: I’m thinking of possible scenarios such as

  1. An older child/ teen being conscious of how he/she looks because of the rashes on the skin or face.
  2. Moisturizing often or cleaning off sweat after sports may lead to the child feeling self-conscious as his/her friends don’t need to take that extra time to freshen up and moisturize.
  3. A child may feel conscious that he/she is exempted from wearing jerseys or school uniform that is made with material (usually not cotton) that trigger his/her eczema rash (my toddler in pre-school is wearing Friday sports attire every day as the uniform is made with polyester, instead of cotton).

Self-Esteem vs Self-Confidence

Marcie Mom: Dr Rosina, I’ve learnt from you that self-esteem is how one judge himself/ herself versus self-confidence which is how one thinks how good he/she is at something. The former is related to ‘being’, while the latter is related to ‘doing’. The points I’ve listed above are related to how one feels about the external world appraisal of his/ her looks and behavior. My question is

What can a parent of a toddler age child say or do to build that self-esteem in the child so that when he is older, the child is able to feel secure despite being of an age where he is aware of people staring at his skin?

Should a parent say anything about how the rashes look?

If the child’s eczema is severe, he may know that people notice his skin rashes, should the parent say anything, and if yes, what to say, about the stares his child has been getting?

Dr Rosina: I’d like to start by saying that this is not an easy question to answer and that there is no ‘one’ universal way to parent so each parent must decide what will work best for their family. With that in mind, I would like to offer some suggestions that parents may find useful when faced with this dilemma.

The key to building self-esteem – which is a child’s judgment of themselves – is to give them the opportunity to learn, slowly over time, that they are valuable in their own right. Children need to come to understand that they have the right to have good self-esteem not because of anything they can or can’t do, or how they look, but just because they are human beings. To achieve this, it is important to create opportunities for children to esteem themselves as continual external praise is more likely to result in a child who looks outside themselves for esteem rather than develop self-esteem.

Thee key to building self-esteem – which is a child’s judgment of themselves – is to give them the opportunity to learn, slowly over time, that they are valuable in their own right.

For example, help children to ponder by asking questions like: how do you feel about yourself? Are you amazed about your life? Are you inspired by your ideas? Do you ever wonder how miraculous your body is that your heart can beat on its own without you thinking about it? Isn’t it incredible that you can experience the world through your eyes, ears, finger tips and nose? In this way your children can start to esteem themselves and see how miraculous it is to be a human being.

Let Your Eczema Child Discover that Everyone is Different

Next it is helpful to explore the diversity in humanity with your child and to wonder about it. People are so varied – different height, weight, skin/hair/eye colour, social class, experiences and of course as is the case with eczema medical conditions. Ask your children to think about questions like, “is one human being less than another because they have brown hair/ eczema/ are short?” “Can each person feel good about who they are and shine their individual brilliance no matter what?” Take the time to continue discussions like this and over time children will find their answers.

“Can each person feel good about who they are and shine their individual brilliance no matter what?”

Now to talk about rashes and skin makes some sense once a child knows how amazing they are as a part of the human race and that human beings come in some many different shapes and sizes, then eczema only becomes one of the many different challenges that children all around the world might experience. Each individual’s challenge offers the opportunity to grow in understanding and to grow in heart.

Honest and open communication about how your children feel about themselves and their eczema in light of the ideas above will help them to navigate the ‘stares’ and ‘comments’ that they may get from others.

Social Interaction for Older Child with Eczema

MarcieMom: For an older child, what can a parent do to help the child not feel conscious about herself but instead be able to help her friends understand eczema (do we need to equip the child to educate her friends?) or help her to not feel inadequate or inferior to others?

Dr Rosina: The important thing to help older children understand is that they have control of how they react internally but do not have any control over how other people will react. Sure it is fine to help others understand more about eczema and explain why children with eczema need to take care of their skin in a certain way, but at the end of the day, the key thing to remember is that it is not their job to control or influence how others will react to their eczema. A child’s focus needs to remain on what she/he can control – their own thoughts, feelings and actions.

The important thing to help older children understand is that they have control of how they react internally but do not have any control over how other people will react.

MarcieMom: Dr Rosina, I may not even be asking the right questions – but you get the picture that eczema requires management and can be very apparent for those with rashes on the face or visible body parts like hands and neck.

Any advice on how the parent can lay a solid foundation for the child to have that self-esteem is appreciated!

Dr Rosina: I really appreciate what you are asking about and you make a good point about laying a foundation. The key for parents is to know that children don’t need to know everything right now and to take a long-term approach to child development.  Children have a lifetime to experience, to learn, to make mistakes, to try again and to grow. A parent’s role is to help their children on this journey supporting them to find the answers within through good questioning and exploration together. Over time they will have positive and negative experiences in relation to their eczema and over time they will understand more about the condition, how it impacts them socially, personally and psychologically and how to navigate the world in a life-giving way with the support of parents, family and good friends.

Life Skill for our Children: Creativity

Do you have any advice for parents to engage and motivate the child to be committed to a project, despite the daily battle with eczema?

The backdrop is that eczema parents and child typically have higher stress level, poorer sleep, (I hope not crankier) and moms are usually stressed about the child’s eczema and constant scratching.

In such a context, what can a parent do for himself/ herself and for the child so that mind and body are there for creativity?

Dr Rosina: I can’t imagine how hard it would be to take your mind off a body that is constantly itchy. This must be very difficult for eczema sufferers. You have raised many ideas and there are a few points to look at here.

First, resilience is a key factor in life success, and looking at eczema from a positive point of view in this regard, means that we can see eczema as providing children with the opportunity to build resilience. If children can stay committed to a project despite the obstacles that eczema presents then this will be a valuable life skill!

Second creativity might be just the thing an eczema child might need to take their mind off their body and immerse themselves in something they love. Creativity can come in so many forms including art, music and language … encouraging creativity might support eczema children to shine!

Creativity can come in so many forms including art, music and language … encouraging creativity might support eczema children to shine!

Third achieving goals is a process. Key areas to consider are helping children set realistic but inspiring and meaningful goals, helping them plan how they will achieve their goals, time management and using a diary or calendar and importantly recognizing, counting and rewarding achievements is highly motivating!

Motivating an Eczema Child to take on a project despite the Constant Itch

Is there an approach the parent can take to motivate the child to be passionate about a project/ hobby or discovering his/ her area of interest?

Dr Rosina: It is not easy to be disciplined for kids or adults! A better way to think about it is to form healthy habits. For example, most people don’t mind brushing their teeth, or showering each day or putting on sleepwear before bed… these are all good habits – we just do these things without too much fuss. Perhaps parents of children with eczema could help their children develop their skin care as part of their daily routines and until it becomes a healthy habit.

It is true that a good habit or discipline in one area of life can be repeated in other areas, but not always! Some people are tidy in the office and messy at home for example! The key is to focus on routines and habits that would have the most benefit to children. For very young children, making up a fun song or game about skin care would help the development of a habit that has a ‘good feeling’ about it. Forcing or demanding will leave a bad feeling about the skin care routine which means children are less likely to want to do it.

Parents can be creative… sing a little tune and add words like:

Wash, wash, wash the itch away

Mois-tur-ise and go out to play

I love feeling clean and fresh I say

Soft, clean skin feels great all day!

I just wrote this one quickly – in the hope this gives parents an idea and some inspiration to be creative and make this routine fun! Perhaps parents can post their ideas on your blog site so everyone can share words and tunes! After all your blog is called eczema blues!

With respect to helping parents find what their children are passionate about – it’s best to start by asking the children what they might be interested in. If they don’t know, it’s try to expose children to a wide range of activities and parents and children will easily see which activities bring a twinkle in their eye and which they have an aptitude for.

Life Skills for our Children: Building Relationships

Home Environment

What the parent can do, despite the expansive efforts needed to manage eczema, to create a less stressful home environment?

Dr Rosina: I imagine that stress is not helpful for children who suffer eczema and that it might even aggravate their skin condition. There are many things parents can do to create a less stressful home environment but the most important is to S-L-O-W down. Hurrying yourself and your kids only adds to the stress and puts kids into fight or flight response where you are not able to reason with them.

I also think it is so important to take time out to play and relax. When parents or children are stressed they are much more reactionary and easy to anger. Proactively helping children learn to relax and to play would be a great support both physically and emotionally and reduce stress and anger in the home. It doesn’t take long – 10-15 mins a day. If you can’t manage that take 5 mins!

Is there an exercise that you think is suitable for eczema families to practice so that they can manage their anger and temper better and engage in more relaxing and loving communications with each other?

Dr Rosina: There are two aspects here: 1 is being able to play and relax which we talked about previously – don’t under estimate how important that is in relation to managing anger. If parents and children are relaxed and enjoying themselves they are less likely to anger in the first place. The second is then managing the anger – because it is a normal part of life to get angry form time to time! The key is whether we manage our anger in a way that is harmful to others and ourselves or whether we manage it in a positive way.

Life Skills for our Children: Career

What is the approach parents ought to take when helping (if we can!) our children figure out what to do in life?

Do parents need to identify the child’s interest or talent? Or do parents need to inculcate skill to learn and persevere in the child? Or should parents lower or increase their expectation of what one is even supposed to achieve in life?

Dr Rosina: In an ideal world … what is life for, if not to live, breathe and share your passion? And how wonderful to make a living from what one loves to do? Imagine if everyone looked deep into their heart and shared with the world their unique brilliance and earned their income from doing just that! The world would be a happier and more productive place.

Children have many years to explore and discover their life’s passion. Parents can play a part in this by asking lots of questions and encouraging their children to share their ideas and dreams.

Here are some ideas:

Ask your children to share with you what they love to do; what they would really like to try doing; what or who inspires them and any dreams they have for their life. Ask lots of questions and get them to tell you why they love those things/ dreams. If they are having difficulty thinking of something, tell them some of your dreams and why they make you happy. Help your children understand that you really want to know about their dreams and desires so you can support them, and where possible, do some of the things they love with them. Again, the twinkle in their eye and the smile on their face will let you know if they are tapping into their true heart’s desire.

Ask lots of questions and get your children to tell you why they love those things/ dreams.

It is also helpful to consider that people can pursue their passions as a hobby and not necessarily make money from them. This takes some of the pressure off. Having a full time career in something you are happy to do and earn money from and pursing your passion in your spare time might be just the work/life balance one needs to live a happy and fulfilled life!

The relationships that parents establish with their children from the time they are born will influence how they will interact and relate throughout their lives together.

MarcieMom: Dr Rosina, this statement you just made “relationships that parents establish with their children from the time they are born will influence how they will interact and relate throughout their lives together” brought tears to me – taking care of Marcie hasn’t been easy, eczema and without live-in maid/helper that is common in Singapore. Someone told me it’d all be worth it because the bond between us would be unbreakable, I do hope it’s true, right now, every night before we read stories at bedtime, my girl would just blurt out ‘I LOVE YOU MOMMY’ and give me a big kiss or a rub.

And I love you too, Dr Rosina, you are sincere, serious about inspiring kids, your passion has already spread to Singapore!

Guest Interview

Julie Daniluk’s Healthy Recipes with Anti-Inflammatory Ingredients

Julie Daniluk Healthy Recipes with EczemaBlues

Julie Daniluk RHN, nutritionist, hosted Healthy Gourmet on the Oprah Winfrey Network and had also appeared on numerous TV and radio shows including The Dr Oz Show, CTV’s Breakfast TV and Wylde on Health (CP24). She has 3 award-winning best sellers, including Meals that Heal Inflammation that features a practical nutrition guide, menu plan and 130 easy and delicious recipes.

Children with eczema, like all other children, need healthy food to grow. Lack of sleep and the constant struggle with eczema may have affected your child’s growth and thus, it’s even more important to ensure a healthy diet. MarcieMom is privileged to be given permission to feature recipes of Julie Daniluk, and have selected nutritious recipes whose ingredients are anti-inflammatory and available in Singapore. This was originally posted as a 5-week series and consolidated into a single post featuring all 5 recipes.

Broccoli Seaweed Salad

JD Broccoli Seaweed Salad
Take care not to overcook the broccoli, so that it maintains some crispness and more of its nutritive value Picture credit:


  • 1 cup hijiki or thinly cut wakame seaweed
  • 1 cup large onion, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup filtered water
  • 1 bunch broccoli
  • 1/2 cup almonds, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp hemp or flax oil
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • ½ tsp umeboshi plum paste or ¼ tsp sea salt
  • 2 Tbsp freshly grated ginger

1) Place seaweed in a bowl and cover with water; let stand.

2) Sauté onions in olive oil, in a covered saucepan over low-medium heat, until they are translucent. Combine water with the onions and cook for 5 minutes.

3) Add broccoli, stir, and cook covered on low heat for approximately 10 minutes, until the broccoli is heated through, but still a vibrant green colour.

4) Remove the pot from the heat. Drain the soaking water from the seaweed (you can save it for a soup stock).

5) Transfer the veggies and softened seaweed to a large bowl.

6) In a mason jar mix the flax or hemp oil, lemon juice, toasted sesame oil, umeboshi plum paste, ginger. Shake well until blended and pour over veggies.

Makes 4 servings

MarcieMom: Broccoli’s Benefits include reducing inflammation and allergic reactions!

I looked up broccoli and here are some fast facts & benefits of eating broccoli!

  1. Source of  vitamin C (aids iron absorption), vitamin A/ beta-carotene (anti-inflammatory), folic acid, calcium (for bone), protein, Omega-3 and fibre
  2. Contains sulforaphene, a type of isothiocyanates/phytochemical, that reduces cancer/ tumours and helps repair skin from damage
  3. Best consumed as whole foods versus supplements (study showed supplements lacking in an enzyme that is required for better absorption by body)
  4. Best lightly cooked as cooking till soft would have destroyed most of the enzymes
  5. Contains soluble fibre that is able to reduce blood cholesterol
  6. Source of kaempferol, a phytonutrient that can reduce allergic reactions

Healthy Vanilla Sesame Milk

Sesame is one of the richest sources of plant sterols. Recent studies confirm that raw honey nourishes the nervous system and stimulates immune function.  Picture credit:
Sesame is one of the richest sources of plant sterols. Recent studies confirm that raw honey nourishes the nervous system and stimulates immune function. Picture credit:


  • 3/4 cup (185 mL) sesame seeds, soaked
  • 4 cups (750 mL) filtered water
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL raw honey)
  • pinch of sea salt (optional)

1. Soak the sesame seeds in a bowl for 4 hours or overnight in the refrigerator.

2. Blend the soaked sesame seeds with the water until smooth (approximately 2 minutes).

3.Pour the mixture through a strainer into a large bowl, pressing with the back of a spoon to extract as much liquid as possible. (Save the sesame pulp in the refrigerator or freezer for later use—it can be added to porridge or soups to increase the nutty flavor of any recipe.)

4.Pour the sesame milk back in the blender, add the vanilla, pinch of sea salt and raw honey, and blend until smooth.

This milk will last in the refrigerator for about 3 to 5 days. Shake well before using.

Makes 3 cups of Milk and 1 cup of Sesame paste

Marcie Mom: I’m excited about this recipe because a local nutritionist has also just recommended me to give my toddler (Marcie) sesame paste, particularly after she heard that Marcie doesn’t drink milk formula. So, I’m excited to read up on the benefits of sesame and beware, I’ve vested interest because I’ve already been giving Marcie sesame paste for a month!

Sesame – Benefits include anti-inflammation + rich source of calcium!

  1. Source of manganese, copper, calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorous, vitamin B1, selenium, zinc, protein, folic acid and fiber
  2. Contains sesamin and sesamolin associated with lowering cholesterol, liver damage prevention and anti-inflammation
  3. Contains magnesium associated with reduction of airway spasm in asthma patients
  4. Rich source of phytosterols, i.e. plant compounds that lowers cholesterol and regulates immune responses
  5. Source of copper which is anti-inflammatory and able to activate enzyme that builds collagen and elastin
  6. Some may be allergic to it, check for cross-reactivity and buy from trusted source that takes care not to mix with nuts during production

Holiday Pumpkin Rice Pudding

A satisfying recipe that combines the richness of pumpkin and coconut milk to be eaten all day! Picture credit:
A satisfying recipe that combines the richness of pumpkin and coconut milk to be eaten all day! Picture credit:


  • 3 cups (750 mL) water
  • 1/4 cup (75mL) coconut milk (“light” if you want to reduce calories)
  • 1 cup (250 mL) short-grain brown rice
  • Pinch of grey sea salt or pink rock salt
  • 1/3 cup (85 mL) currants or cranberries
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) cinnamon (or to taste)
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) hemp seeds
  • 1 cup (250 mL)  pumpkin puree
  • 1/4 cup (63 mL)  honey
  • 1 tsp maca powder
  1. Bring water, rice and salt to a boil in an uncovered pot over high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally for 45 minutes.
  2. Add currants and cinnamon. Cook on low for another 15 minutes or until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed.
  3. The rice should be very creamy.
  4. Remove from heat. Fold coconut milk, vanilla, hemp seeds, pumpkin puree and honey into pudding.
  5. Sprinkle with cinnamon. If desired, sweeten more with a drizzle of honey and add crunch with nuts or seeds.

Makes 8 servings

MarcieMom: Pumpkin’s Benefits include Anti-Inflammation & Low Calorie-d!

Pumpkin is one of the first solid foods that I gave my baby and I’m excited to know it can be incorporated into a rice pudding for the entire family! Some quick facts and benefits of pumpkin:

  1. Source of  Vitamin A, B-complex, C, K and E, antioxidant carotenoids (alpha and beta-carotenes), protein, essential fatty acids, minerals including magnesium, potassium, iron, zinc and fibre
  2. Source of carotenoids which help to reduce free radicals, prevent pre-mature aging and protect the eyes
  3. Good source of phytosterols that can help reduce blood cholesterol
  4. Due to low calories per weight, recommended for weight reduction
  5. The pumpkin seeds can be roasted and is a rich source of vitamins and minerals, and anti-inflammatory too! (studied in reducing arthritis)

Krispy Kale

Kale chips make a perfect replacement for potato or corn chips when you are having a craving  Picture credit:
Kale chips make a perfect replacement for potato or corn chips when you are having a craving Picture credit:


  • 2 heads (10 cups/2.5 L) green curly kale, washed, large stems removed, torn into bite size pieces
  • ‘Cheese’ Coating:
  • 1 cup (250 mL) cashews, (soaked 2 hours)
  • 1 cup (250 mL) sweet potato, grated
  • 1 medium lemon, juiced (about 4 tbsp/60 mL)
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) nutritional yeast
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) honey
  • 1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) grey sea salt or pink rock salt
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) filtered water

1. Place kale in a large mixing bowl.

2. Blend the rest of the ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth and thick. You may have to open the lid and scrape down the sides to ensure proper mixing.

3. Pour over kale and mix thoroughly with your hands to coat the kale. You want this mixture to be really glued on to the kale.

4. Place kale onto parchment paper and dehydrate for 6 hours at 115 degrees F. You’ll need to use two trays. If you don’t own a dehydrator, set your oven to 150 °F (65 °C) and dehydrate for 2.5 to 3 hours.

5. Remove and store in a dry airtight container.

Makes about 6 cups (1.5 L)

Marcie Mom: I‘m amazed that kale can be made to chips! Kale seems to be one of those foods that I keep coming across in magazines, especially, when it’s talking about healthy foods or food that is good for the heart. So once again, I did a little ‘digging’ on its benefits!

Kale – Benefits include anti-inflammation + rich source of vitamins!

  1. Source of Vitamins A, B6, C, K, manganese, copper, calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, phosphorous, folic acid and fiber (best part – no fats!)
  2. Source of antioxidants (carotenoids, flavonoids) that is associated with protection against cancer, including kaempferol and quercetin that helps reduce oxidation and chronic inflammation
  3. Anti-inflammatory food that contains omega-3, see this post to learn more on inflammation
  4. Contains fibre that binds bile acids and helps lower blood cholesterol levels, particularly when kale is steamed
  5. Buy organic – it’s assessed by Environmental Working Group to be part of Dirty Dozen Plus, due to its insecticide content
  6. Best to be eaten at separate times from consuming calcium, as Kale contains oxalates that can impede calcium absorption

Warming Quinoa Muesli


  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 3/4 cup rolled quinoa
  • Sprinkle with your choice of:
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1-2 tsp honey
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 1/4-cup raisins
  • 10 chopped almonds

1) Boil water in a medium sauce pan. Add rolled quinoa and stir for 90 seconds. Distribute the hot cereal evenly between 2 bowls (or put one cooled portion in an airtight container for the next day).

2) Mix in the spices, nuts, honey and salt until evenly distributed.

3) Tip for on the run: This cereal is perfect for a portable meal at work or school. Simply add all the ingredients to a wide mouth thermos and enjoy when you get to your destination. Note: For extra creaminess, serve with almond milk.

Makes about 2 servings

Marcie Mom: I’ve heard so much about quinoa and really interested to find out more ways to cook it for my girl!

Quinoa – Benefits include anti-inflammation + rich calcium content!

  1. Source of Vitamin B and E, manganese, copper, calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, phosphorous, protein (containing 9 essential amino acids), folic acid, zinc and fibre
  2. Source of antioxidants, including kaempferol and quercetin, that help reduce oxidation and chronic inflammation
  3. Anti-inflammatory food – Contains anti-inflammatory phyto-nutrients, manganese, copper, omega-3 and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)
  4. Good source of calcium – for healthy bones, teeth and skin!
  5. Source of riboflavin, magnesium that helps reduce migraine by improving oxygen supply to brain
  6. Reduces cholesterol and reverses effect of high fructose diet, see study here
  7. High insoluble dietary fibre content can help prevent formation of gallstones
  8. Contains lysine that aids tissue repair
  9. Rinse before cooking quinoa and best part – cooking doesn’t significantly reduce its nutrients
  10. Gluten-free!
Guest Interview

Friday Q&A with Julie Daniluk – Foods in Spotlight – Green Beans, Mushroom, Seaweed and Bok Choy

ulie Daniluk Foods in Spotlight with EczemaBlues

Julie Daniluk RHN, nutritionist, hosted Healthy Gourmet on the Oprah Winfrey Network and had also appeared on numerous TV and radio shows including The Dr Oz Show, CTV’s Breakfast TV and Wylde on Health (CP24). She has 3 award-winning best sellers, including Meals that Heal Inflammation that features a practical nutrition guide, menu plan and 130 easy and delicious recipes.

After reading Julie’s recipes, Marcie Mom discovered that some readily available foods in Singapore are of high nutritional value but we may not have thought of giving them to our kids! Thus, I caught up with Julie to find out the nutritional benefits of these foods and knowing how nutritious they are will certainly motivate us to cook for our kids! This was originally posted on 4 Fridays, but had since been combined into one more info-packed post.

Julie Daniluk Well known nutritionist book meals that heal inflammation
Julie Daniluk – Nutritionist (picture credit –

Shiitake Mushroom

What are the nutritional benefits of Shiitake Mushroom?

Julie: Shiitake mushroom is a tasty and nutritious fungi, that has been studied and also associated with protecting our body against toxins, in particular our liver. Other benefits include:

  1. Protecting against flu – This is due to the compound known as Active Hexose Correlated Compound (AHCC) which can improve our immune response after exposure to flu virus.
  2. Protecting against adverse effects of cancer treatments – This is credited to polysaccharides which can reduce the immune-compromising effects associated with chemotherapy and radiation. Also helps improve liver function and recovery from treatment.
  3. Protecting against hypertension – The rich source of potassium in shiitake mushroom helps to regulate fluid and blood in our system.
  4. Protecting against high blood cholesterol – A compound eritadenine helps to lower blood cholesterol.
  5. Protecting against bacteria in contaminated food – This is credited to an active compound, lentinan, that has anti-bacterial properties against food-borne pathogens.
  6. Protecting against osteoporosis – This is due to its vitamin D, that reduces likelihood of osteoporosis and improves calcium absorption.
  7. Shiitake mushroom also has Vitamin B, iron, manganese, phosphorus, selenium, copper, zinc, protein and magnesium.

How Much Shiitake Mushroom can a Child take?

Julie: A child dosage of remedies is based on weight. If they weigh 40 pounds it would be a 1/3rd to what an adult would have.

Is there significant loss in nutrients if cooked?

Julie: In general, water soluble vitamins are lost in cooking but some fat soluble nutrients like pro-vitmain A is increased by cooking! Shiitake mushrooms should be cooked as they are easier to digest.

Is Shiitake Mushrooms Anti-Inflammatory Food?

Julie: Shiitake mushrooms are certainly an anti-inflammatory food!

Marcie Mom: Thanks Julie, I have been cooking shiitake mushroom in chicken broth with celery for my toddler to scoop the chewy mushroom onto her wrap. She’s been having fun eating mushroom and kept thanking me for it! I’ve also found other mushroom recipes online:

Nori Seaweed

What are the nutritional benefits of Nori Seaweed?

Julie: Sushi is a popular food and while there’re many nutritional benefits of the nori seaweed, do note not to over-consume the white rice as it is high in sugar content. Brown rice, or non-rice options, wrapped with nori seaweed will be a healthier option! Nori Seaweed contains about one-third protein and 1/3 dietary fibre, with a good content of Vitamins A, Bs, C, E, K, calcium, iodine, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium and zinc. Benefits of these nutrients include:

  1. Reducing risk of Type 2 Diabetes – Nori contains iodine that can reduce insulin resistance and allow glucose into cells to be used for energy. This manages the blood sugar level and reduces the work load for our pancreas.
  2. Reduces risk of tissue degeneration – Nori contains Vitamin A, that has been associated with the prevention of tissue degeneration, in particular in our eyes and our lungs.
  3. Reduces time for skin healing – Nori contains Vitamin C that is an antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties, able to improve wound healing and reduce inflammation in our body and on our skin.
  4. Reduces blood cholesterol – Nori is high in niacin, which can reduce LDL cholesterol, particularly in Type 2 Diabetes sufferers. Through its increased metabolism of triglycerides (fats), fats can be reduced on the arterial walls and blood stream.
  5. Relieves headaches and muscle cramps – Nori is high in magnesium, which can reduce muscle cramping and relaxes small arterial and skeletal muscles in the head and neck.

Nori Seaweed Reduces Time for Skin Healing

(ii) A study published in the 2009 issue of the “Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health” indicates that seaweed presented a relatively low quantity of mercury in the Korean diet, where seaweed is eaten frequently — 0.02 mg per person per day compared with the 1.8 mg per person per day from seafood, considered to be the greatest mercury risk. The small risk might be mitigated by the health benefits of seaweed, however. Evidence available in the February 2004 “Veterinary and Human Toxicology” journal correlates the consumption of seaweed with antioxidant protections that can ward off neurological damage caused by mercury.

Read more:

How much Nori Seaweed can a Child Eat?

Julie: I think ½ sheet of nori per day would be healthy for school age children as long as it is from a clean source. Eden foods tests their seaweed for contaminants.

Here is an excellent study on Thyroid Research Journal

MarcieMom: Thanks Julie, I’ve started giving my toddler Nori seaweed, within her shiitake mushroom wrap but sometimes, she stuff the seaweed strips in her mouth and laughs about it! (and half of it fell off!). Will continue looking into ways to incorporate Nori in her diet! Some recipes I’ve found –

Homemade Seaweed Snacks – by Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen

Bok Choy

What are the nutritional benefits of Bok Choy?

Julie: Brassica chinensis, better known as Bok Choy, is a member of the Chinese cabbage and its chinese name ‘白菜’ meant ‘white vegetables’. Bok Choy is a good source of sulforaphane, calcium, beta-carotene, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, potassium, Vitamins A, B-complex, C, K and fibre. Benefits of some of these nutrients are:

  1. Prevents cancer – due to a compound, sulforaphane, that can prevent cancer cells from multiplying
  2. Reduces risk of osteoprorosis and hypertension – credited to its high calcium content, sufficiently high to be an alternative to diary and it’s more easily absorbed into the body
  3. Aids eyesight development – pregnant women and infants especially, can benefit from its high Vitamin A content
  4.  Reduces blood cholesterol – through its soluble and insoluble fibre that can bind bile to fats, thus preventing fats from entering into our blood stream
  5. Protects against hypertension – its high potassium content can help to reduce blood pressure level
  6. Protects against & reduces inflammation – through its rich source of anti-oxidants content, namely of Vitamin C and manganese

How much Bok Choy can a child take?

Julie: Bokchoy is self-limiting, which means a child will not eat more then they need. Have you ever met a kid say- I want another head of cabbage please!

2 TB is the standard serving a child will eat. The only contra-indication for Bok Choy is if someone has thyroid issues, they should not eat it raw!

MarcieMom: Thanks Julie, I’ll be sure to ask my parents to cook for themselves too! As obviously, they can benefit from Bok Choy as aged parents are at risk of osteoprorosis and high blood pressure. Will also be cooking for my toddler, just wondering how to make it cute! Some recipes that I’ve found online, mostly a quick stir fry will do!

Baby Bok Choy with Cashews – by Simply Recipes

Green Beans

What are the nutritional benefits of Green Beans?

Julie: Green beans are also known as french beans, string beans, snap beans and squeaky beans. It is a rich source of Vitamins A, B complex, C, K, protein, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium and fibre. Green bean can also benefit us in the following ways:

  1. Reduces inflammation on the skin due to sun burn – Green beans have high carotenoids; in particular, beta-carotene and lutein can stop erythema, which is skin redness and inflammation after a sunburn.
  2. Reduces benzopyrene toxicity due to charred food – Green beans have high chlorphyll, which can stop the multiplicaiton of tumor cells due to benzopyrene.
  3. Reduces inflammation – Having the highest antioxidant in the bean family, Green beans contain quercetin and kaemferol that have been researched to stop death of dopamine-creating cells, thus aiding the treatment of Parkinsons disease.
  4. Improves connective tissue – Through the mineral silicon, Green beans can improve the health of our connective tissue, including cartilage, bones, ligaments and skin.
  5. Reduces likelihood of bone fractures – Being high in Vitamin K, Green beans strengthen our bone matrix, preventing bone fractures and osteopenia. Vitamin K also moderates blood clotting.

How much Green Beans can a Child take?

Julie: A child serving would be 2 tbsp.

Will Nutrients be lost when Cooked?

Julie: Vitamin B and C is lost in boiling so steaming green beans is a perferred cooking method.

MarcieMom: Wow, I’ve to bear in mind the ‘power’ of green beans, in particular, to encourage my mom to take more of it. It’s strange though, at one time Marcie loves green beans (when we eat out) but once I got my mom to cook for her, she hates it! Time for me to look into recipes to entice her back to Green beans!

Fresh Green Beans, One Way – by The Pioneer Woman

Green Beans with Almonds and Thyme – by Simply Recipes

Guest Interview

Scalp Eczema Series with Kristan Serafino: What Is & Triggers Scalp Eczema?

Explore with celebrity hairstylist Kristan Serafino on hair solutions that are appropriate and attractive for those suffering from scalp eczema. Kristan received formal training at Toni & Guy and has styled many Hollywood A-List male celebrities.

Scalp Eczema Series with Kristan Serafino on EczemaBlues

This was originally a 3-week series, combined into one post. The information written by Marcie Mom on scalp eczema has been vetted by Dr Vermén Verallo-Rowell, the founder of VMV Hypoallergenics.

What is Scalp Eczema?

Eczema is a term for any skin change characterized by edema: at the dermis, then upwards to the epidermis, forming vesicles, and bullae, becoming thus at the clinical – a wet oozing and then crusting mess. Seborrheic dermatitis is one of the causes of eczema on the scalp (others are allergic or irritant contact or photocontact dermatitis, or secondary to trauma or presence of lice).

Dandruff, Symptoms and Yeast

In its mild form, scalp eczema may result in dandruff which is loose skin flakes; in more serious cases, scalp eczema may lead to red, inflamed, itchy, scaly or weepy scalp with yellowish greasy flakes. Scalp eczema is often associated with allergic reaction to malassezia furfur, a form of yeast that is commonly found on areas with more sebaceous glands as it requires fats to grow. It is estimated that about 1 in 4 adults carry the yeast on their skin or hair, mostly without a problem. However, individuals with seborrhoeic dermatitis have somehow become ‘sensitive’ to this yeast.

In seborrheic dermatitis, the yeast proliferate more from many reasons – decreased immunity, presence of too much sweat.

Seborrhoeic dermatitis can also extend to other areas with more sebaceous glands such as the face, ear canal, armpits and flexural areas.

What Triggers Scalp Eczema

Like eczema, scalp dermatitis can be triggered by sweat, weather, stress or irritants found in shampoo, hair dyes and other hair products. A common substance in hair dyes, namely paraphenylenediamine (PPD) used for permanent coloring, can cause severe allergic reactions for those who are hypersensitive to it. A patch test (in small amount) ought to be performed before using the hair dye. PPD used in black henna tattoo has also been cited to cause allergic reaction and has been banned in some countries for direct skin application. For someone with sensitive skin/scalp, it is prudent to also avoid the top allergens such as fragrance, preservatives, parabens, propylene glycol, lanolin and colorant (ranked by Dr Vermén Verallo-Rowell in this post).

Paraphenylenediamine (PPD) used for permanent coloring, can cause severe allergic reactions for those who are hypersensitive to it

Hairstylist Challenge – For people with eczema or moms with eczema child (like me!) who can’t or choose not to color our hair, what can be done to our hair so that it won’t look too one (color) – dimensional?

Serafino Says

A conversation on how to achieve dimension in your hair does not always begin and end with hair color or dyes. This should be welcome news to women predisposed to certain scalp disorders, therefore unable to use hair dyes. A common substance in most permanent dyes is para-phenylenediamine (PPD), which is known to trigger eczema outbreaks. It can take only small traces of PPD absorbed through your scalp to cause inflammation. Therefore, women who have sensitive skin or eczema should refrain from using hair dyes or coloring.

So how do you achieve dimension when using dye is not an option?

Let’s start by examining how hair color achieves dimension. A head of hair with a single color is considered flat or lacking dimension. Dimension is a function of the range of tones in the hair commonly referred to as highlights and lowlights. This range of tones creates the appearance of movement throughout the hair.

So what is the substitute for color tones?

The answer; LAYERS! Visually, layers create movement, dimension and even volume. It also creates real texture to otherwise plain and flat style. The placement of layers should not be something entered into blindly. Don’t simply proclaim to your stylist, “I want layers!” Layers should be placed strategically to flatter and enhance you best facial features. The pre-cutting consultation with your stylist needs to include a candid discussion on your features, which will better define your options. Eyes, forehead, cheekbones, jaw line, neck are all facial aspects to consider. Of course the length of your hair is also a factor. A rule-of-thumb is the shorter the hair the less layers, and avoid too much layering in the back of longer hair or risk bringing back the mullet. Remember, a great layered haircut is almost invisible until you move… then it comes to life.

Layers should be placed strategically to flatter and enhance you best facial features.

Here is an example of the proper match between features and hair length; women with a long neck, but short thin hair look stunning with a short bob where the bottom of the hair at the back is layered to reveal an elegant neck line, and women with a full face and thick medium length hair find layers starting in the front of the head and textured to curve in toward the face flattering since it gives the illusion of a thinner face.

Short hair style layering for those with scalp eczema and cannot dye hair
Cameron Diaz picture credit:

Mena Suvari bob hairstyle without hair dye PPD for those with scalp eczema but use layering
Mena Suvari picture credit:

Most important, when trying to achieve dimension in your hair you need to avoid blunt cut styles because they leave too much weight on the hair causing it to lie flat and lifeless.

Who gets Scalp Eczema?

Scalp Eczema in Children and Men

Sebum secretion is controlled by the hormone, androgen, which can be higher in (i) infant and (ii) adult males. Androgen increases at puberty and causes sebum production to increase, peaking at about 20 year old.

For children, scalp eczema is also known as cradle cap, which is greasy, yellow and crusty. It is difficult to scrape off and emollient or coconut oil can be applied to soften the crust prior to combing it off before bath. Cradle cap can also develop above eyebrows and inside the ears, for more information read this post.

While children won’t know that they are having a bad hair day, scalp eczema can be an issue for teenagers. During the teenage years, there is higher sebum production coupled with sweating through sports, thus providing an environment for the yeast to grow. It is even trickier if sweat is also a trigger for the eczema; while the amount of sweat produced for long or short hair is the same, short hair could at least reduce the amount of sweat trapped. Heat may also be a trigger.

Hairstylist Challenge – We’ll ask Kristan for some short hair cuts and styles!

Serafino Says

I recommend any number of beautiful short hairstyles for women with scalp eczema because of the ease of maintenance, cooling effect, and reduced itching. I truly believe a short hairstyle is the most provocative style a woman can wear, but it takes a woman with confidence to rock it. But if you embrace a short hairstyle it can boost your confidence, make you look younger, and reduce the amount of time you spend on hair care.

I truly believe a short hairstyle is the most provocative style a woman can wear, but it takes a woman with confidence to rock it.

Before you rush off to the salon you may want to consider the condition of the scalp. On those days when the scalp eczema flares up resulting in weepy patches or irritated scabs, you want to be particularly cautious of infection. While beauty salons are governed by strict heath codes, you have to consider that brushes, combs and scissors may not have been thoroughly sterilized between uses. Just to be on the safe side; you do not want to expose an irritated scalp condition to a possible infectious environment.

On those days when the scalp eczema flares up resulting in weepy patches or irritated scabs, you want to be particularly cautious of infection.

If you have not tried short hairstyles in the past then I don’t want you to think for a moment that your choice is a life sentence of boredom. A good short hair cut has all the right proportions and includes all the basic elements of balance, line and movement…just like longer hairstyles. A short hair cut is manageable and the hair will look great in its natural form even before styling.

Halle Berry short hairstyle for those with scalp eczema
Halle Berry
picture credit:
short hairstyle for those whose sweat and long hair trigger scalp eczema
Michelle Williams picture credit
short hairstyle for those whose sweat and long hair trigger scalp eczema
Emma Watson
picture credit:

I am a big proponent of change and encourage my clients to experiment and have fun as their basic cut grows out. Even if you have short hair! Twist, pull, pin, tie and add accessories to tweak your hairstyle regularly to achieve a feminine look one day, sassy the next, then sexy for those special nights. You will be surprised what a subtle difference can make in the way you look, and even your attitude.

Styling Hair

Change can include introducing styling products into your routine such as gel, spray or mousse, but always test a product on a small area of the scalp before using. The ingredients and formulization of hair care products vary and you want to be certain all products agree with your skin condition. Most hair care companies will provide free samples for testing. Just as with your shampoo and conditioner, choosing the correct styling product is a process of elimination and experimenting with different hair products.

Now go out there and make the world sit up and take notice of your new short hair cut!

Scalp Eczema Treatment

Medicated Shampoo, Topical Treatment and Antibiotics

Scalp eczema, like eczema on other parts of our skin, requires treatment. Treatment varies, depending on the severity of the seborrheic dermatitis. In mild case where there’s only dandruff, medicated anti-dandruff shampoo can be used. These shampoos typically contain one of these ingredients, such as zinc pyrithione, selenium sulfide, salicylic acid, ketoconazole or piroctone olamine.

Shampoo for Scalp Eczema

For shampoo containing coal tar, light-colored hair may be discolored and the scalp be sensitive to strong sunlight, thus more vulnerable to sunburn. These ingredients generally have anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory or sebum-suppressive properties but it’s still best to consult a doctor before using as the type and frequency of shampoo may differ for each individual. One point to note when shampooing is that the water should not be hot, as that will strip moisture from the skin. For babies, shampoo can be what is already used on the body or virgin coconut oil which has anti-viral properties.

Treatment for Scalp Eczema

For more severe cases of scalp eczema, steroid cream or ointment may need to be prescribed. For the scalp, it may be easier to have it in lotion form for ease of application and it is also common for very mild steroid lotion to be prescribed for babies. Should the scalp be weepy or oozing fluids, it would usually warrant an antibiotics to control the inflammation and prevent infection.

Hairstylist Challenge – What are the ways to blow dry hair without hot air that may strip away moisture? Or, hairstyles easy to maintain, shampoo and apply topical lotions without having to blow dry?

Serafino Says

When styling your hair it is important to avoid disturbing topical treatments such as medicated shampoos and lotions. The biggest culprits can be the excessive heat from blow dryers or styling products, which can partially or completely counteract the active ingredients in medicated topicals.

So what’s a woman to do? Simple… find a hairstyle that:

1) Does not disturb the topical during preparation and maintenance

2) Allows for easy, quick styling in the morning

3) Looks stylish and chic

I don’t mean to be flippant but I also don’t want anyone to think there is no solution. Before we discuss haircuts and hairstyles, let’s begin at the beginning. Regardless of the cut & style we need to dry the hair without disturbing the topical. Unfortunately I don’t have any special tips or tricks-of-trade for drying hair so let me describe what may be the obvious:

1) After showering blot your hair by squeezing and holding small sections into a microfiber towel

2) Comb out damp hair using a wide-tooth comb

3) Repeat step #1

4) Give the air access to more surface of your hair by flipping your head upside-down every few minutes

5) Run your fingers through your hair and shake your hair every few minutes.

Unless you are among the very, very few with unlimited time to prepare in the morning, then at this point you have damp hair. While damp hair may not be the optimum situation, you have done a good job preserving the integrity of the medicated topical on your hair and scalp. This is a good time to share a Red Carpet tip – to achieve a considerable volume boost, first make a deep side part then flip your hair to the opposite side. When the hair has air dried comb it back and voila…instant volume!

Below are a few of my favorite air-dry hairstyles that begin with damp hair:

picture credit:

Sexy Waves – Achieve sexy waves by braiding sections of damp hair and allowing it to air dry completely. When you release the braids you have breezy, been-to-the-beach waves.

Tight Bun – While the hair is damp, gather and coil it into a bun by twisting it around itself. You can place the bun high, at the nape of the neck, or to the side for a change.

Undone Bun – This cool, windswept chignon can be worn on all occasions!

angelina jolie scalp eczema alternatives
picture credit:
Guest Interview

Oliva Forte – Could its patented HIDROX, extracted from olives, help your child’s eczema through its anti-inflammatory property? (Cont’d)

Outstanding Application in Health Management in the Nutraceutical Business Technology Award ceremony in May 2011, Geneva

This is a continuation of the interview with Mr ManHon Shiew, CEO, CreAgri International on OLIVA Forte. You can read the 1st & 2nd parts of the interview here, here and on Mr ManHon here.

MarcieMom: What are the ingredients of Oliva Forte? I’ve read that allergy to olive is uncommon but are there additives used in Oliva Forte that parents ought to be aware of?

ManHon: There are several different products under the OLIVA Forte umbrella – ESSENCE, EASEFLEX and ENCHANT.  ESSENCE contains pure HIDROX®, whilst EASEFLEX is made up of HIDROX® and Glucosamine for joint health and ENCHANT is formulated with HIDROX® and Alpha Lipoic Acid for skin health and whitening effect. There are no other additives that should worry anyone. If a person is not allergic to olives, glucosamine or alpha lipoic acid, he can safely consume OLIVA forte. For parents who are thinking of giving OLIVA forte to their children, they should consider ESSENCE, since it is the purest form with no additives.

MarcieMom: Can you share with us if CreAgri controls the manufacturing process of Oliva Forte or is this part of the value chain handled by another party that purchases HIDROX® from CreAgri?

ManHon: As you know by now, CreAgri controls the manufacturing process and parameters of HIDROX®. Product formulations using HIDROX® are also developed by CreAgri. The actual production of finished products is contracted to external factories. These factories execute production based on parameters set by CreAgri.

Marcie Mom: Specifically on HIDROX®, it is made of the polyphenol known as hydroxytyrosol which has strong anti-inflammatory properties. It works by inhibiting nitric oxide and and prostaglandin which are pro-inflammatory compounds, protect against the damaging effects of free radicals and also aids reduction of ‘bad cholesterol’. Versus directly eating olives, it contains higher antioxidant effects as antioxidants are lost in the processing of olives for sale (see here for more FAQ).

I noted in your website that clinical trials for skin orders that include eczema have been conducted but the sample size is 10 patients. Are there other trials of a larger sample size?

ManHon:  You must be referring to the small trial conducted by Prof Fujio Numano from the Tokyo Vascular Institute. In addition to that, I like to draw your attention to a larger trial with more than 100 patients conducted by Arizona State University. More significantly is that this larger study was a double blinded placebo control trial. The results from this study confirm the anti-inflammatory properties of HIDROX®.

Marcie Mom: There are various product ranges in Oliva Forte – which one is recommended for children with eczema? What is the dosage recommended for children? And given that it is a very potent antioxidant, is there a need to take precautions when taking Oliva Forte? Is there certain food to take with Oliva Forte to ensure it can be better absorbed into the body? What is the difference between taking Oliva Forte and taking HIDROX®? Can Oliva Forte be used as olive oil, e.g. in bath, removal of cradle cap?

ManHon: Let me first get the easy part of your question out the way. OLIVA Forte is formulated for consumption (ingestion) as capsule or in its natural liquid form. It is not suitable to be use topically as a bath additive or to remove cradle cap.

Now that we have clarified that, we recommend OLIVA Forte ESSENCE liquid for children with eczema. This allows parents to conveniently feed even young children who are not able to swallow capsules.  The liquid can be dropped into their favorite juices or just plain water. The natural olive flavour will remind children of their pizza with olive toppings!  The dosage for children below 6 years is 0.5mL TWICE a day whilst those above 6 (including adults) are recommended to take 1ml TWICE daily.  If the child is able to swallow capsules without problem, the equivalent is for them to take OLIVA Forte ESSENCE capsules. One capsule is the bio equivalent of 1mL of liquid.

HIDROX® is an ambiphilic molecule which means it is soluble in water as well as fat. This means you can consume OLIVA Forte either with or without food. CreAgri has conducted bioavailability studies (absorption) to show that HIDROX® is absorbed within minutes into the blood stream. This makes OLIVA Forte a highly versatile product with proven efficacy for eczema and other inflammatory conditions.

You can find out more about HIDROX® and see the organic farm in California including the Integrale Process in this video on CreAgri’s YouTube channel.

Marcie Mom: Thanks ManHon for being patient with me and answering all my questions on Olive Forte, it’s always a pleasure to meet a company that is open about its products. p.s. to readers of, I didn’t receive any money from Steward Cross, CreAgri or Oliva Forte for this interview.

Guest Interview

Oliva Forte – Could its patented HIDROX, extracted from olives, help your child’s eczema through its anti-inflammatory property? (Cont’d)

CreAgri process olives in a more eco sustainable way and successfully eliminate toxic substances from the waste stream.

This is a continuation of the interview with Mr ManHon Shiew, CEO, CreAgri International on OLIVA Forte. You can read the first part of the interview here and on Mr ManHon here.

MarcieMom: Can you share with us what differentiates Integrale Process from other competitors that also extract polyphenol from olives (who also state the extraction process is solvent-free and chemical-free)?

ManHon:  The patented Integrale Process is different from other methods in several ways. CreAgri is always interested to preserve the integrity of the environment has always made this goal paramount to the company’s philosophy. CreAgri process olives in a more eco sustainable way and successfully eliminate toxic substances from the waste stream. It starts off with organic olives that are grown without use of any chemicals and pesticides.

Integrale focuses on retaining olive polyphenols in their original matrix instead of selectively extracting hydroxytyrosol the most potent molecule of all olive polyphenols.  Unlike other methods, Integrale does not actually “extract” polyphenols.  Any molecular extraction is only possible with the use of solvent. Instead, Integrale relies on the natural process of hydrolysis and incubation (between 6-8 months) to produce a unique olive polyphenol blend that is rich in hydroxytyrosol along with its naturally occurring sibling molecules such as tyrosol and oleuropein. If you care to read the patents of other competitors selling hydroxytyrosol and who claim “solvent-free” extraction process, you will invariably discover that those methods DO employ the use of alcohol solvents such as ethanol and methanol. We have even seen methods that employ industrial chemicals such as sulphuric acid (H2SO4) being promoted as “chemical free”.

This explanation is not complete without also explaining the importance and significance of retaining hydroxytyrosol and other olive polyphenols together in its natural state and balance. CreAgri holds the view that the benefits of natural molecules are most optimal when consumed as close to its natural state. Several studies have been published to show that hydroxytyrosol are more easily absorbed when consumed in a form that includes other polyphenols (Gonzales-Santiago 2010)  and more critically, that hydroxytyrosol if consumed as a single molecule (pure form) could in fact be harmful (Acin 2006). Both studies advocate the consumption of olive polyphenols in their natural form without extraction. The olive oil is a natural state of fatty acids recovered from the olive, whilst HIDROX® is the natural state of water fraction from the olive fruit.  This is the major difference between Integrale and other methods.

Coincidentally, CreAgri’s leadership in thought and polyphenol research was recognized recently by the International Society of Antioxidants in Nutrition and Health which accorded the company with the prestigious Paris Polyphenol 2012 award.

Marcie Mom: Also, I noted that formulation of HIDROX® is done at your R&D facility in California. What is unique about HIDROX® formulation (also why is formulation required after the polyphenol is extracted)?

ManHon: Hopefully by now, my explanation about the uniqueness of HIDROX® will help shed some light to this question. Since HIDROX® is a proprietary blend of olive polyphenols and not a standardized molecule, there is a need to ensure that the product meets the specification of formulation previously tested to be clinically efficacious. HIDROX® formulation is the core intellectual property of CreAgri and is kept in house as a matter of policy.  In this way, HIDROX® is always differentiated from other competing products.

MarcieMom: Thanks, it is very good to see a CEO taking the time to explain to its users on the process, instead of giving ‘marketing’ terms. The next post will talk more about the ingredients and consumption for kids.

Guest Interview

Oliva Forte – Could its patented HIDROX, extracted from olives, help your child’s eczema through its anti-inflammatory property?

Hidrox – Awarded the Outstanding Application in Health Management in the Nutraceutical Business Technology Award ceremony in May 2011

MarcieMom was contacted by a pharmaceutical sales and marketing company, on their charity sales of the product Oliva Forte where 20 per cent of the proceeds would go to the Singapore eczema fund (a fund that is initiated by my donation and administered by the Asthma Association).

Oliva Forte is a health supplement containing HIDROX®, a standardised freeze dried blend of organic olive juice patented by CreAgri Inc, a US company that specializes in the development of olive and antioxidant polyphenols. As you know, MarcieMom doesn’t do product review but is open to understanding more of products that are targeted for eczema patients, so that you can have your questions answered before deciding on a purchase.

For this interview, MarcieMom asked ManHon Shiew, CEO, CreAgri International to explain more about OLIVA Forte. CreAgri International is the international arm of CreAgri’s venture responsible to advance the application of HIDROX® in the field of human dietary supplement. In his role, ManHon leads his team to launch and promote their brands OLIVA Forte, OLIVENOL and OLIVENOL Plus in different international markets. You can read more on ManHon’s background in featured guest.

Marcie Mom: Thank you ManHon for taking time for this interview. Before we go into the product, let’s first understand the company behind it, CreAgri Inc. CreAgri is a California company founded by Dr Roberto Crea who has been granted over 25 patents in his career, and is one of the scientific co-founders of Genentech, Inc. Could you let us know more about CreAgri, specifically when CreAgri is started, the number of employees and scientists it employs and its research facility?

ManHon:  CreAgri was founded following a serendipitous sequence of events triggered by the curiosity of a scientist. Back in the late 90s, fresh off a successful disposal of one of his US biotech company to a major pharma, Dr Crea was holidaying in Italy, his home country. It was then that he was introduced to a new method of producing olive oil developed by scientists in the University of Rome. There was a lot of interest in the scientific and medical community at that time in the health benefits of olive oils and olive derivatives.  The olive oil industry was focusing on improving the quality olive oil. The method developed by the University of Rome produced very high quality oil. It was Dr Crea’s curiosity that led him to question if it was possible to recover equally beneficial molecules from the discarded portions of the olive oil industry. This led him to look into wastewater that was disposed after oil is separated.  In summary, it was through this early endeavour that Dr Crea discovered that olive polyphenols responsible for health benefit from olive oil are available in abundance in the wastewater. CreAgri was founded to develop and exploit the discovery made by Dr Crea.

From its inception in 2001, CreAgri’s R&D team of 5 research scientists was kept in house in California where Dr Crea resides. Clinical studies on products and formulation produced by CreAgri were conducted in collaboration with external institutions such Tokyo Vascular Institute and Arizona State University. A total of 20 other staff makes up the rest of CreAgri Inc.

MarcieMom: On the product, Oliva Forte – It contains HIDROX® and CreAgri HIDROX® has been awarded the Outstanding Application in Health Management in the Nutraceutical Business Technology Award ceremony in May 2011, Geneva. Olive Forte is an improved formulation of Olivenol TM and is derived from the juice of organic olives. Olive is a rich source of polyphenols, a family of natural compounds found in plant foods, which have been associated with anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-microbial and anti-tumour properties. However, in the production of olive oil, active polyphenols in the form of olive juice is disposed as wastewater. What CreAgri does is grow its own certified organic olive farm in California, harvest the olives early (for higher level of polyphenol) and then use a proprietary process (“Integrale Process”) to extract the polyphenol. HIDROX® is certified GRAS, Generally Regarded as Safe, meaning it has passed safety tests recognized by FDA.

In the next post, ManHon answers MarcieMom’s questions on the Integrale Process.

Guest Interview

Oliva Forte’s Facebook Charity Sales Drive for Singapore Eczema Fund

OLIVA forte essence (30 capsules) – Exclusive pack size for this charity drive!

Oliva Forte is running a charity sales drive for Singapore Eczema Fund where 20% of the total sales proceeds of their exclusive pack size of OLIVA forte Essence (30 capsules) will be donated to the eczema fund!

The charity drive is through their facebook page, from 16 July to 16 Sep 2012 at a price of $25 per pack of 30 capsules. 20% of $25 will be donated to the eczema fund.

Coinciding with the charity drive, there will be an interview with CEO of CreAgri International, Mr ManHon Shiew, where you can learn more about Oliva forte. As ManHon has shared in-depth about the product, its process and company, the interview will be posted over 3 posts from today to Wednesday.

So, do read, understand and you can head out to you can have the details of the charity drive and contact for its Singapore’s distributor, StewardCross.

note: MarcieMom did not receive any money for this post or for Olivaforte’s charity sales drive. Also, Oliva Forte or any other company running a charity sales drive for eczema fund does not mean it has been endorsed by me or Allergy Association.

Guest Interview

MooGoo… Learning about a Natural Skin Care brand

Interview with founder of Moogoo Skincare Craig Jones on EczemaBlues

I heard from a mom in Malaysia of how well received MooGoo is among moms with eczema children. MooGoo is an Australian company that makes a range of skincare products, founded by adapting the ‘diary’ version of udder cream for a family member. This is an interview with Craig Jones, founder of

This was originally a 2-part series, combined into a single post. This is not a sponsored post; I reached out to Craig as I wanted to find out more about the company and its eczema skincare products, and ask the questions which other parents with eczema children may be interested in finding out.

What Natural Skincare Mean

Marcie Mom: Thank you Craig for taking time for this interview. I haven’t used MooGoo but like to ask questions that another ‘self-educated!’ mom with eczema child would likely ask reading your website. I’m very pleased to see that you do highlight on your website that natural doesn’t mean not allergenic and you encourage testing on a small skin patch before using. Now, we know there is no certification for natural and ingredients extracted from nature will need to be processed to fit into the packaging and be of a form that can be used. For instance, olive oil needs to be preserved and the preservatives can irritate.

Is there a certification for organic in Australia and if there is, do you think it’d be more objective to brand MooGoo as such? And if not, how do you think you can help explain to your customers how to assess the extent of ‘natural-ness’ of MooGoo or another brand?

Craig Jones: Very good question. In fact, a pure oil like Olive Oil doesn’t need a preservative. When we buy Olive Oil, or Sweet Almond Oil or any other natural ingredient, it is already pure. A preservative is only needed when an oil is mixed with water as bacteria and mould need water. (That is why, if you ever see on a website an ingredient list that contains water, but they don’t show a preservative, you know there is something missing from the preservative list.) If an ingredient came blended with a preservative, this should be put on the finished label of the product.

Certified ORGANIC Skincare

There are lots of organic certification system in Australia. For food, organic certification can be important for many people. For skin care, because the ingredients we buy are already pure and cosmetic grade, I know it doesn’t really make any difference. They do not come contaminated with pesticides or preservative.

It would certainly help from a marketing perspective to have “organic” splashed across the label. It would also be a simple process for us to become “Organic” certified. I think all of our products would already qualify. All we have to do is to pay the license fee to whichever certification body we choose and a bit more record keeping concerning ingredient supply chain. But I personally feel “organic” in skin care is more of a marketing tool than anything else and I would feel insincere using it. That is why we choose not to. Perhaps we should.

Mineral Oil or Paraffin Oil

Marcie Mom: Your website gives a very homely and cosy feel and I noticed that a message that seems to be emphasized is to not use products containing mineral oil or paraffin oil. From what I know, though these oils do get mention as being potential irritants, they are not the top allergens and not cancer causing when applied to the skin as moisturizer.

Why have MooGoo chosen to emphasize on paraffin and mineral oil?

Craig Jones: Although everyone has different preferences and some people may choose paraffin oil, I think mostly it sneaks into products because it is poorly understood exactly what it is. I personally think Paraffin Oil is a very poor quality oil to be used in skin care and would not use a product with Paraffin on my skin. Nor would I put it in a product that we make. Labelled as “soft white paraffin oil/mineral oil/baby oil/paraffin liquidatum” it doesn’t sound particularly offensive. But people probably don’t comprehend that this is a flammable petroleum oil that in its raw form, they probably wouldn’t put on their skin.  Properly refined petroleum oil for skin care does have the carcinogenic hydrocarbons removed, that is true. However, in the need to keep the price down (paraffin oil is usually used in cheaper products) I wonder sometimes if there might be a temptation for companies to use cheaper grades of paraffin.

But people probably don’t comprehend that this is a flammable petroleum oil that in its raw form, they probably wouldn’t put on their skin. 

Also, the study below here has always concerned me. It has shown tumour growth in UV treated mice that have first had paraffin based moisturisers applied, as compared to no tumour growth in the control cream which was non-paraffin based. It doesn’t prove that paraffin oil can cause tumour growth in humans exposed to UV, but it would concern me. (Study here:

Here is story about a study done on paraffin oils and childhood eczema using a paraffin based cream where is generally made eczema worse for kids. (

So we didn’t make any claims that paraffin is a cancer risk as is claimed by a few other websites. All we wanted to do was show people exactly what it was. Paraffin is the base oil for so many pharmacy products because it is so cheap. We get a feedback all the time comparing the price of our products to something like Sorbolene. So we need to explain that although both may look the same, they aren’t the same.

Diaper Cream & Baby Safety

Marcie Mom: I also see that you have a MooGoo Nappy Balm and that they are first tried and tested on your own babies, and friends, staff and even facebook customers! Good to know but I’d like to ask if you send or intend to send your product for clinical trials for independent reporting.

I also noted that there are quite a number of oils that you use, can you share a little more about which oil needs to be preserved and processed to the form of a balm and how MooGoo has ensured that you keep the end product safe for use in babies? Do you manufacture all your products in-house?

Craig Jones: All the products we make for ourselves first. The Nappy Balm will soon be registered as a medical device in Australia which includes the evidence for ingredient efficacy.

For the oils we simply chose a list of soothing edible oils. Although people with nut allergies are generally not allergic to nut oils (because the allergy causing protein is removed) we chose to not use Nut Oils in this case so that new mothers weren’t concerned.

This is not a miracle product either. The main thing is that we use edible oils so that the product can be ingested. Most commercial nappy balms are paraffin based. Paraffin Oil can be fatal for children if ingested. It simply works as an edible barrier balm that is also anti-bacterial. A very simple product.

Product Testing

Marcie Mom: I noted also on your website that ‘MooGoo creams have been independently tested to ensure they remain pure and uncontaminated for at least two years, when stored below 30 Degrees Celsius. This is a called a “Challenge Test. It is not a compulsory test in Australia.’ 

Could you give further details as to who conducted this test, how the test is conducted and what is your definition of ‘pure’ and ‘uncontaminated’?

Craig Jones: Preservatives is one area of our formulation that we are very proud. A product that is often used on broken skin, or babies, needs to be properly preserved so it is sterile. Everyone would be aware of ingredients like Parabens, Benzoates, Formaldehyde Donors and other ingredients often used to keep skin care products sterile. It doesn’t take too much research to see that if we had the choice, we probably wouldn’t put these chemicals on our skin. (It is also interesting to see how often they aren’t on the list of ingredients published on websites, but are on the label of products). These ingredients are used as they are inexpensive ways of preserving a cream.

Obviously most natural companies want to avoid being seen in the company of these type of ingredients. The temptation can be to try and cut corners in preserving a cream and use fairly ineffective preservatives like Grapefruit Seed Extract. Not all companies do this at all, but it can be a temptation, especially as nobody checks for preservative efficacy in Australia.

Preservatives Test

We accidentally discovered a new way of preserving our creams based on Hops. I stumbled across i when talking to a food ingredient supplier who used it for Apple Juice. We tried it in the creams and after a bit of tinkering (at first some people found it changed the smell of the cream so we had to cut the percentage down) we now use that as a total edible preservative.

We have our creams tested by Conmac labs. The BP Preservative Efficacy Test is a program of deliberately contaminating the cream sample with a range of bacteria and mould, and then tracking the growth of the bacteria and mould over a 30 day period. To pass, the preservation system must kill all the bacteria and mould. I have included a sample report so you can see.

Because we have so many infants using our products, and because we are using a novel edible preservation system, we make sure our products pass this test.

Selection of Ingredients

Marcie Mom: You have some products suited for eczema and one of them is the ‘Eczema and Psoriasis Balm’. It is AUD18.50 for 120g which translates to about SGD24. I would say the price is about mid-range. Aloe vera, matricaria chamomilla extract, centella asiatica and sage oil are listed as active ingredients (and very good that you list amount of mg of ingredient per gram, which in aggregate is 30.5mg/g). 

Why did you choose these ingredients and what research can you point us to that concludes these ingredients applied on skin are beneficial for eczema? Also, are these ingredients listed as allergens by any national dermatitis group, e.g. NACDG?

Craig Jones: This is a complicated question. Before we created the Eczema Balm, a lot of people were already using our Udder Cream for skin problems. In fact, the Udder Cream was first made for my mother who had psoriasis. At that time I had no intention of starting a skin care company, and if that cream hadn’t worked as well as it did, I am sure I would still be enjoying my previous profession of being a pilot and MooGoo would have gone no further than our kitchen and my mother’s skin.

The original Udder Cream we made  probably worked quite well due to the oils such as Sweet Almond Oil that we used, combined with the Aloe and Allantoin. I am the first to admit it is not a “miracle” formula. I think the reason it helped so many people is that they had been using poorer quality creams (often sorbolene type creams) for years and so when they switched to a repair moisturiser of better quality, some found a huge improvement. But it was probably the choice of oils, the fact it didn’t contain some certain preservatives that helped the most.

However, to register a product for Eczema with the Therapeutic Goods Administration, we needed to add some approved “Actives”. So we looked for those with the best evidence we could find as natural anti-inflammatories and wound healing, and added those. But I don’t think it is just the actives that help. I personally think the natural oils and Allantoin also assist.

Incidentally, over the last 4 years i have kept researching lots of different natural actives. In a few months we are releasing a second Eczema Balm. On paper it should work even better. We are keeping the original as it is so popular and still a very good product. However it doesn’t work for everybody, and so this is another option. It was also the result of my personal belief that the combination of ingredients should result in the best possible natural anti-inflammatory cream it is possible to make. So we will see how it goes.

Sensitivity to Skincare Ingredients

As for allergies, even the best ingredients can have people that are allergic to them. As you know, we compare it to food. People can be allergic to nuts or dairy or shellfish. However, for the vast majority of the population, these foods are very healthy. Nobody is allergic to Cola. This doesn’t make Cola a superior food to shellfish.

It is the same in skin care. Typical examples of allergies can be to Aloe Vera and Vitamin E. For most people however, these are excellent ingredients for the skin. It would be detrimental to most people if they were taken out because a very small number of people have allergies.

We do however avoid Essential Oils as much as possible due to allergies. We used to use them in a lot of our products, including the Milk Shampoo, Wash and Conditioner. People would sometimes react to these. So we instead worked with a company that specialized in phthalate free fragrant oils that didn’t cause allergic reactions and now use these. The number of people with reactions in the products without essential oils is almost nil.

Anti-ageing products though do have more potential for allergies with some people if they are genuinely effective. This is because genuine anti-ageing actives need to penetrate and work with the skin metabolism, so they need to be reasonably concentrated and fairly bio-active. So they are more powerful. An inert ingredient or an ingredient that was in the product at a tiny concentration would not be an allergy risk for anyone, but nor would it do what people hoped.

Patch Testing – Encouraged

So what we do it put the best ingredients in the product we can at the concentration we think we need, and then encourage everyone to patch test all natural products before use.  This is much better for most people we think than not using any ingredient that may end up causing an allergy. Paraffin and Water (Sorbolene) may not cause many allergies, but it won’t do a lot of good either.

Marcie Mom: Thanks Craig for being open and sharing insights to your products and the decisions behind them. p.s. to readers of, I didn’t receive any money from MooGoo for this interview.

Eczema Tips Guest Interview

Reducing Stress for Children

Reducing Stress for Eczema Children

Eczema families face higher stress due to the constant attention required to manage our child’s skin, including the itch and the scratching. Marcie Mom interviews Lori Lite, founder of Stress Free Kids®, who has a line of books and CDs to help children reduce stress, anxiety and anger.

Lori started her business when trying to settle her young son to sleep and reduce night terrors of her daughter. Her Indigo Dreams® audio book/CD series has been awarded the CNE Award of Excellence. Lori has been interviewed and/or featured in NY Times, MSNBC, ABC Radio, CBS News, USA Today, Web MD and Prevention Magazine. She is a certified children’s meditation facilitator and parenting stress expert and gained national attention when she appeared on Shark Tank.

What is Stress?

Stress is a reaction that affects our mind and/or body when we are confronted by a ‘stressor’ – something that angers, scares or worries us. For the child, stress can trigger or worsen the eczema – Dr Christopher Bridgett and Dr Claudia Aguirre shared about stress brain and skin connection.

Apart from impact on skin, stress can affect a child’s learning, sleep, emotions and ability to handle stressful situations. Not all stress is bad, as some normal stress encountered prior to a test may help the child to prepare for it. Unfortunately, with eczema, the stress can be chronic (just like eczema) as persistent eczema flares, scratching, lack of sleep and self-esteem can build up in a child.

How to Know if Your Child is Stressed?

MarcieMom: Lori, can you share with parents how we can identify that our child is stressed, in particular, for an infant or toddler? Can a new-born be stressed? (I’m thinking of all the writhing and fidgeting of my baby when her eczema already affected her at two weeks old!)

Lori:  Recognizing stress in new-borns and toddlers is difficult. As you noted, you felt your baby’s body language was telling you something was out of balance at only two weeks old. Babies that stiffen their bodies, arch their backs, grimace, and cry frequently can be exhibiting signs of stress. I always tell parents to trust their instincts. Parents, especially moms, know when something is wrong with their children. Keep an eye out for a change in your child’s behavior.  For example: clingy behavior is a sign of stress in toddlers. However, some toddlers are clingy. So if your child is usually not the clingy type and they are suddenly attached to your leg, then that would be a change in behavior.

Babies that stiffen their bodies, arch their backs, grimace, and cry frequently can be exhibiting signs of stress.

Some of the signs in children also include: no longer wanting to go to school, an increase in nightmares or night terrors, difficulty falling and staying asleep. Physical symptoms can present themselves as unexplained stomachaches, headaches, or other ailments. Sometimes the child will withdraw from friends and family members, or have frequent meltdowns, which is a common sign of stress for toddlers. It is important for moms or parents dealing with the additional challenges of eczema to be aware of and manage their own stress. Babies, children, and teens pick up on our stress. It is contagious and we must find healthy ways to manage stress and anxiety. We can set a great example to our family and send  a ripple of calm throughout the house.

Causes and How to Cope with Stress

In a survey of 1,206 young people, 44% are stressed over performance in school and 30% are stressed over family’s finances. In an article on, it is mentioned by David Code, author of “Kids Pick Up on Everything” that “Parental stress can weaken the development of a child’s brain or immune system, increasing the risk of allergies, obesity, or mental disorders.”

In other words, “Stress is highly contagious between parent and child, even if the parent is unaware of his or her own anxiety.”

Children cope with the stress they face, usually by doing activities that relax them, such as exercise, music, TV or talking to a friend. As a parent, we can try to help our child cope in a healthy manner, ways that help their mind and body and won’t cause harm such as hitting themselves or others.

Reduce Stress Techniques for Kids

MarcieMom: Lori, your books and CDs focus on a few techniques, namely breathing, muscle relaxation, affirmative statements and visualization. For breathing, you mentioned

(i)         Have your child lie on their back and put their hand on their belly.

(ii)        Take a slow deep breath in through their nose and let it out through their mouth with a gentle ah-h-h-h-h-h-h sound. (They should feel their belly rise and fall).

(iii)       Breathe in slowly through their nose and out through their mouth like they are trying to move a feather up in the air.

(iv)       Breathe in slowly to the count 2, 3, 4 and out 2, 3, 4.

(v)        In 2, 3, 4 and out 2, 3, 4.

For breathing and muscle relaxation exercises, which age is appropriate to start?

Lori: It is never too soon for a child to reap the benefits of relaxation and meditation. There are reports that state that stress levels during pregnancy can affect an unborn child. I used deep breathing throughout my last pregnancy and I believe that because of this my newborn was easier to soothe when I focused on my breathing. In general the age of 4 is when a child can start to participate in relaxation exercises, but I have seen children as young as 18 months copy breathing and positive statements. Self-care, relaxation and stress management can begin at any age and should be part of daily living. When you feel stressed, tell your children that you are takeing a minute to focus on your breathing. Add visualizing breathing in happy, calm air…Throw an affirmation in like, “I am calm.” Children will copy what they see. Don’t be surprised if they climb up on you lap and breathe with you.

MarcieMom: You also recommended using affirmative statements, and also asking ‘What-If’ positive scenario questions. What age is suitable for this, and can you recommend a few ‘what-if’ questions and affirmative statements that parents with eczema children can use? (I was thinking ‘What if you don’t feel itchy?’ but then I’m WORRIED that will get the child to think about the itch!)

Lori: As soon as children start asking “what-if” and inserting their own fear-filled or negative outcomes, this is the time to implement repeating their “what-if” question and finishing with a positive outcome. For example, the child says, “What if my eczema gets worse?” and the parent says, “What if your eczema gets better?” Another example would be if the child asks, “What if the kids laugh at me?” In turn, the parent should suggest, “What if you find friends that accept you?”  Many children with eczema have food based allergies and might say, “What if I can’t eat anything yummy ever again?” We can empower children by answering, “What if we find new foods together that we can have a picnic with?”

The important aspect in affirmative statements is helping the child see a positive side, and have them focus on a positive outcome that rather than negative. You intuitively knew not to use the word itch in an effort to avoid bringing attention to it. We also want to avoid saying “not.”

MarcieMom: Thank you Lori so much for giving us a few techniques to relieve the daily stress. p.s. to readers of, I did not receive any money from Lori or StressFreeKids for this interview

Guest Interview

Bamboo Bubby – Sleeping Bag for a Good Night for Sensitive Skin

Bamboo Bubby interview with EczemaBlues Eczema children sleeping bag and clothing

Kelly Northey, owner of Australian company Bamboo Bubby, came to know of and introduced MarcieMom to its Bamboo Bubby Bag – a sleeping bag that is made from a blend of cotton and bamboo with an Adjust-a-Sleeve design. It is created to reduce damage from scratching at night, so that the whole family can have a good night’s sleep.

Marcie Mom: Thank you Kelly for taking time for this interview. I’m happy to know you, a mom who has built a business from finding a solution to your son’s eczema. I read from your site that you have designed Bamboo Bubby Bag at a time when your son has outgrown sleepsuits with handcovers. This, I’m sure many parents, myself included, can relate. It’s indeed the toughest period because the child can’t be swaddled safely but can roll and scratch. Can you share a little about your background? For instance, did your healthcare industry background help or do you like sewing and why have you decided to make your own sleeping bag?

How Bamboo Bubby Started

Kelly: I think both of these things have helped in the conception of the Bamboo Bubby Bag. I work in the healthcare industry but with a focus on research and information technology roles, so when I noticed a real gap in the market here for a product to solve my baby’s problems, I definitely utilised my research skills when trying to find a solution to our problem and while I do have some sewing skills, I haven’t actually practiced them properly for a long time, so I am grateful for the assistance of my sister-in-law for her expertise when it came to sewing the first lot of prototype Bamboo Bubby Bags.

Bamboo Bubby for eczema kids

However deciding to launch my business as a predominantly online one has definitely been the best use of my previous skills in information technology systems and website design and I love everything about the world of online marketing and social media as a means of sharing information and helping each other and when I realised there was no other product quite like it on the market, I knew I had to get Bamboo Bubby Bags out there in the world to help as many others who are struggling with sleeplessness caused by eczema.

Bamboo for Anti-Bacterial

Marcie Mom: Your Bamboo Bubby Bag is made from 70% bamboo and 30% organic cotton interlock fabric. From your site, I understand the bamboo has anti-bacterial properties, not likely to irritate baby’s skin and able to expand when warm (for baby to be kept cool) and contract when cold (for additional warmth).

Do all bamboo have the same anti-bacterial properties and texture and which type of bamboo is used in your Bamboo Bubby Bag?

Kelly: Bamboo naturally contains anti-bacterial and bacteriostatic bio-agent called “Bamboo Kun”, which allows it to naturally flourish and grow in the wild without the use of pesticides or fertilizers. There have been some studies undertaken in whether or not this anti-bacterial benefit remains when bamboo is manufactured into fabric. The Japan Textile Inspection Association (JTIA) completed a study that claims that even after 50 industrial washes, bamboo sheets showed a 70% effectiveness of antibacterial properties.

The China Industrial Testing Center completed a similar study, where bamboo fabric was tested over a 24 hour incubation period with the bacterial strain Staphylococcus aureous. Their results showed after a 24 hour period, the 100% bamboo fabric showed a 99.8% kill rate. These reports suggest bamboo may be an ideal fabric to use on eczema skin which is often inflamed and even infected.

The bamboo fabric used by Bamboo Bubby has passed Oeko-Tex 100 Class 1 testing which means that it is free from harmful substances, manufactured to cause the least possible harm to the environment and safe to use for baby products.

Bamboo For Wicking Effect

MarcieMom: It is mentioned on your site that bamboo has the property to remove excessive moisture. Can you explain to us how this works? Also, why is the decision to have it 70% bamboo, in other words, is 70% proven to give the optimal properties – thermal regulating, anti-bacterial, softness, durability?

Kelly: The scientific term for the ability to remove excessive moisture is the capillary effect or wicking effect and research shows that of the five leading fabrics available on the market, bamboo has the highest capillary effect, absorbing more moisture and drawing it away from the body than other fabrics and also decreasing the level of abrasion and damage to sensitive skin.

When skin becomes sweaty, fabric used to cover it causes the level of abrasion to increase, which then worsens skin conditions like eczema and is especially harsh on the delicate skin of babies with eczema. This is why synthetic fabrics which do not let the skin ‘breathe’ are notoriously bad for eczema skin.

It is a fact that if a baby sweats under their clothing then the level of abrasion caused to the skin is almost doubled.

So therefore, Bamboo fabric is the softest and least abrasive fabric to delicate skin, due to its ability to pull moisture away from the body. When compared to other ‘breathable’ fabrics such as cotton and viscose rayon, bamboo is superior due to the spaces between the individual fabric fibres, allowing greater moisture absorption while at the same time allowing more air ventilation through the fabric.

Deciding upon the best type of bamboo fabric to manufacture the Bamboo Bubby Bags from was difficult. 100% bamboo fabrics are beautifully soft and silky, but this softness also seemed to wear quicker and for a sleeping bag that will last throughout a baby’s entire first 2 or more years we needed an element of durability to the fabric. So a 70% bamboo/30% organic cotton mix interlock fabric was the best option. Still plenty of softness, but with added strength of organic cotton to help maintain its shape and be able to outlast a baby’s first couple of years.

Adjust Sleeve Design

Marcie Mom: Your Bamboo Bubby Bag has unique design features, such as Adjust-a-Sleeve design and double-ended zipper. Apart from allowing the baby to use up till 2 year-old, it can also help to make night changes easier. Given that the design is meant for the sleeping bag to ‘grow’ with the baby, how many machine washes can it withstand? Can it be washed in 600C cycle to remove dust mites?

Kelly: Bamboo fabrics will maintain their special qualities when washed in cold to warm water (up to 60 degrees Celsius) on a gentle-normal cycle with a gentle detergent, free of bleach. Line dying is best, however when necessary they can also be dried in clothes dryer on the cool setting. I have Bamboo Bubby Bags here that have been washed regularly like this for more than 18 months now!

Bamboo Bubby Sleeve Eczema Kids

Selecting Bamboo Fabric

Marcie Mom: One last question – for parents who want to try out bamboo clothing or sleeping bags, what would you recommend them to look out for before making the purchase? For instance, the source of bamboo or any certification?

Kelly:  Yes, definitely check that any bamboo fabric products you purchase meet the Oeko-Tex 100 Class 1 testing standard which means that it is free from harmful substances, manufactured to cause the least possible harm to the environment and safe to use for baby products.

And we always to recommend following the SIDS & Kids Safe Sleeping Guidelines to ensure your baby sleeps safely. Recommendations from these are that baby sleeping bags have a fitted neckline, armholes and sleeves and no hoods. Baby sleeping bags also help to encourage babies to sleep on their backs. And when sleeping babies with their feet to the foot of the cot (as recommended in the guidelines), you can also tuck excess fabric from one size sleeping bags into the end of the cot mattress just like you would a sheet or blanket.

Eczema Kid, Family, Business

MarcieMom: On a personal note, how did you juggle your business, family and childcare?

Kelly: We had to change a lot of things about our working life to make it more flexible and to suit our particular family needs. We have both in the past year changed jobs and I’m now more easily able to also juggle the Bamboo Bubby business I have built steadily over this time as well alongside everything else.

I am now quite proud of the fact that I started the entire Bamboo Bubby business as a way to give my mind something positive to focus on in the few hours every evening when we would anxiously await the next midnight wake up, knowing that our baby just never really slept until after this time. I hope it can now help others and give them also a place of support during a really distressing time.

On hindsight now too, I’m also very glad that my now toddler has had such great experiences at childcare. It has been great for him in every possible way and he’s made some wonderful little friends. Much as I have struggled with the ‘return to work juggle’, I would say to anyone who is contemplating childcare that just because your child may have some special needs, if you feel in your gut that the place is right and that they can look after your child according to management plans then the benefits for your child overall do outweigh any of the mummy-guilt that we naturally place on ourselves!

Marcie Mom: Thank you Kelly so much for answering my questions. It’s great to see your business flourishing and being awarded to be part of the Young Australian Entrepreneur scheme. p.s. to readers of, I didn’t receive any money from Bamboo Bubby or Kelly for this interview.

Guest Interview

Friday Q&A with Sue Atkins – Discipline for Eczema Children

Parenting and Discipline for Eczema Children with expert Sue Atkins

Sue Atkins is The Parenting Expert , author of the best-selling book ‘Parenting Made Easy – How to Raise Happy Children’ and also regularly appears on ITV’s This Morning, Sky news & The BBC.

This was originally a Friday Q&A for 5 weeks which is now combined into one informative post. As parenting children with eczema brings unique challenges, such as scratching (till bloody) when being disciplined, MarcieMom invited Sue to help with some thorny parenting issues that parents may face with their eczema kids.

Do you still carry on with discipline if your eczema child starts to scratch?

When it comes to discipline, many moms feedback that once they try to do so, their toddlers will start scratching (I’ve even drawn a cartoon on tantrum scratching!). Then, we are faced with the decision – do we continue to follow through our intended discipline method or do we stop and persuade our child to stop scratching. What would be your advice on this and is there a particular discipline method that you’ve seen worked better for children with eczema?

Also, when children with eczema throw tantrums, they tend to scratch too! Given how fast blood can easily come from the already defective skin barrier, it’s difficult to leave our child alone to ‘finish’ throwing tantrum. How do you recommend parents to deal with this?

Sue Atkins: I do think that children with eczema have a tough time.  Of course having an itchy skin makes your little one irritable  However I am not sure which comes first the irritability, where they are crying and getting themselves hot and bothered which makes the eczema worse, or the eczema being extra itchy and making them irritable.

I always say that the toddler years are a bit like taming jelly – all wobbles and no rules, for all parents as all toddlers are striving for independence, which can lead to frustration and tantrums and tears but add in guilt from the parent, and you have a difficult mixture. But I think  knowing WHY you are being firm, fair and consistent also helps as your child will feel more secure, relaxed and safe which will also have a bearing on their eczema as they will be more at ease. 

Toddler years are a bit like taming jelly

I work with many parents who feel a tremendous sense of guilt around their child’s eczema and over compensate by giving in to their children’s tantrums and demands but really you are setting yourself up for a short term gain but a long term nightmare. Children, of all ages benefit from firm, fair, consistent boundaries. I also teach the parents I work with to “tap” out their feelings of guilt using the latest cutting edge Emotional Freedom Technique.

MarcieMom: Thank you Sue for sharing your advice; I’ve to check myself that I’m not over-compensating but some days, parenting an eczema child can be stressful!

Parenting Made Easy

MarcieMom: I read your interview with Reading Kingdom with interest – your 5 tips to raise happy children are (i) play with them, (ii) teach them to be organized, (iii) don’t shout, (iv) keep your patience and (v) respect each other’s privacy, possessions and personal space. My guess is in eczema families, not shouting and keeping patience would be more difficult. We sometimes end up shouting ‘Not Scratching!’ (which isn’t the best way to stop the scratching!) or lose patience with each other as both of us are tired and having to keep an eye (and an arm) out for scratching is really energy consuming!

Do you have any tips for stressed out parents to (miraculously) relax while parenting our child with eczema?

Sue Atkins: My Pause Button Technique is a really simple way to empower all parents no matter what situation they find themselves in, as it allows you to press your imaginary pause button, freeze time and consider the consequences of the actions you are about to take, before making a more informed, better choice.

My Pause Button Technique

MarcieMom: Thanks Sue, I’ve visited your article and the idea is to pause and ask ourselves questions such as:

  1. Now ask yourself: What do I want to happen next?
  2. Is what I am going to say bring me closer to or further away from my child in the long run?
  3. What do I need to say or do to bring this situation under my control?

This Pause Button Technique is in your Parenting Made Easy CDs.

Punishing Fingers

Sucking fingers or putting items into the mouth is obviously not hygienic. In particular, hand food mouth disease (HFMD) which Marcie has got twice, is at epidemic level in Singapore. Most parents urge me to STOP this bad habit, by either slapping my toddler’s hand, slapping her mouth, implementing naughty corner or even putting chilli on her fingers! I haven’t implemented any of these and frankly, sometimes I’m glad she’s doing something with her fingers instead of scratching!

How would you recommend a parent to get the toddler to stop this unhygienic habit? And is this something you think warrant ‘punishment’ or ‘discipline’?

Sue Atkins: We are our children’s first role model and of course we all love our children so my views on smacking are well known on British Television as I ask parents to ponder what sort of message they are sending to their children if they hit them I wonder…..?   ……that’s OK to get physical when you feel annoyed, frustrated or angry? And because you are a role model in everything that you do…. guess what your kids will do when they get annoyed, frustrated or angry……. lash out too.

I know lots of parents feel a little “tap” never hurt them …… but times change, we evolve and a little smack can escalate……. I think a mum who came on one of my workshops put it really well when she said, “I didn’t smack my 13 year old son, but I did smack my 10 year old daughter because she was so strong willed. One day when I smacked her, she said, “That didn’t hurt!” I knew then that I mustn’t smack her again because of what might happen.” Read more at ‘Is it Ok to smack your child?

Clearly it’s very important to prevent the spread of the virus so

  1. Wash your hands frequently and properly with soap and running water, especially after changing nappies/diapers and after using the toilet.
  2. Teach your child good hygiene and to wash their hands frequently using soap substitutes after having their nappy changed or after using the toilet or playing outside or sharing eating and drinking utensils.

I encourage all the parents that have toddlers to use my Easy Button Technique where your toddler gets rewarded for the positive behaviour you do want to see more of by running over and pressing their Easy Button – as this using positive psychology instead of negative association which lots of fun and brilliant for your child’s self esteem.

Co-Sleeping & How to Wean your Child off it

Many moms who have children with eczema do co-sleep part of the night with their baby or toddler. I co-sleep with Marcie but aware that there’re pros and cons; related to eczema, co-sleeping may help the parent to check on the child’s scratching at night but also possible to increase dead skin cells and overheat (both dust mites and heat can trigger eczema flares). What I commonly hear from other moms (without eczema children) is that babies should be taught independence from young and sleep in their own cots. There is of course little couple time with a toddler in our bed and we’ve tried to wean her off co-sleeping so many times, but once we’re on holiday and sleep together, or if she had chickenpox/ HFMD and her skin was really affected, we would switch back to co-sleeping.

Is there any technique to get a child to sleep on her own?

Sue Atkins: It helps to think about the message you are sending to you child if you co sleep indefinitely – so this issue is usually around the clarity and confidence of the parent when they decide to change the co sleeping habit. Here is an article I wrote when I was coaching a mum on my ITV Parenting Power slot on “This Morning

The simple secret is routine and consistency and not giving in too soon! Think long term and keep the bigger picture of success in your mind at all time and don’t send out mixed messages.

TV for Scratching Distraction?

We know the American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend TV before the age of two. I’ve tried my best to limit TV to Barney, Signing Time (which distracted her from scratching when she was a baby!) and 2 to 3 other kids’ DVDs series. I wouldn’t let her watch TV or iPad if I can help it, but it really gives me some breathing time when she’s entertained by TV and forgets about her itchiness.

The strange thing is that my friends who let their toddler watch cable TV such as BabyTV, Disney or Nick Junior, actually swear by these cable programs improving their toddler’s language skills. The even stranger observation is that their children indeed can talk much better than mine!

What age to let baby/toddler watch TV, what kind of programs are preferred and whether cable TV with lots of programs are indeed better than selected DVD series or no TV at all?

Sue Atkins: I am not a fan of tooooo much –  TV The “electric babysitter!

  • What is a reasonable, balanced amount of time for you?
  • What programmes and games are suitable for your children?
  • What boundaries do you set for your kids and are they flexible as they get older?
  • What’s your gut reaction and instinct to this whole topic?
  • What do you do if you and your partner disagree?
  • Are you able to stand firm and say “no” to your kids…. if not why not?

Just spend a few minutes making up your mind, setting your limits that feel right for you and doing your kids a great service by standing by your limits, consistently – no matter what!

MarcieMom: Thanks Sue for the post above; I’ve also read the Daily Mail article mentioned in your post and it’s mentioned that ‘Researchers in France found that watching television impacted on the development of children under three‘, leading to delayed language learning, encouraged passivity, reduced concentration, increased agitation and caused sleep disorders. TV channel in France has been banned from promoting educational benefits on shows aimed at under 3 year old and largely seen as a move against foreign baby channels such as BabyFirstTV and BabyTV.

Thanks again Sue, for joining with me for July’s Friday Q&A.

Guest Interview

Eczema Kids’ Nutrition

Eczema Kids Nutrition with Toby Amidor

Toby is the founder of Toby Amidor Nutrition where she provides food and nutrition consulting services. She has served as the Nutrition Expert for and Nutrition Advisor for Sear’s, adjunct professor at Teachers College, Columbia University and at Hunter College in New York City.

This 5-part Eczema Kids’ Nutrition series was in collaboration with Toby Amidor, whereby MarcieMom would share different topics on kids’ nutrition and Toby provide her insights. It has since been combined into one longer informative post.

Inflammatory Foods

What’s Inflammation?

Inflammation is a protective response of our body to remove injured cells or irritants and helps heal our body. The problem, however, is chronic inflammation where there is an excess of pro-inflammatory immune cells in our body and damages healthy parts of our body. Chronic inflammation is associated with, among others, arthritis, diabetes, eczema, high blood pressure, inflammatory bowel disease and obesity.

Which are the Inflammatory Foods?

Food that increases the production of inflammatory substances include:

  1. Sugar – Sugar is the most common inflammatory food, and comes in soft drinks, pastries, candies, bread and is also listed as corn syrup, frutose, sucrose and maltose. Sugar increases insulin level and increases pro-inflammatory hormones eicosanoids.
  2. Vegetable oils – Oils from safflower, soy, sunflower, corn, peanut are polyunsaturated fats that are high in omega 6, linoleicacid. The body convert these to arachidonic acid, which is pro-inflammatory.
  3. Trans Fat – Trans fat is present in fried food, fast food, commercially baked food and also listed as hydrogenated oil and vegetable shortening. Trans fat increases free radicals that damage health cells and trigger inflammation.
  4. Dairy products and feed-lot raised meat that comes from animals fed with soy and corn (that is mentioned above to promote inflammation) or injected with hormones and antibiotics is also an inflammatory food.

A worth mentioning research related to infant is that milk formula has been studied to contain Advanced Glycation End Products which can increase the risk of diabetes in young children. This can be transferred by mom to fetus and also in milk formula.

Toby’s Thoughts

MarcieMom: Can you share with us how can parents manage the amount of sugar in our kids’ diet? Do we have to monitor the glycemic index?

Toby: Absolutely not! There is no need to monitor the glycemic index of food unless it is for a diabetic.

Parents can manage the amount of sugar in their kids’ diet by being conscious of the foods they buy. Sugary beverages like soda and juice drinks are typically the number 1 source of sugar. In addition, the guidelines for 100% juice is 4-fluid ounces per day for a younger child— which makes it tough to follow if you buy the individual juice boxes which usually 6.75-ounces. Get your kids used to good old water—there is nothing more refreshing!

A note on Trans Fat – Zero Trans Fat is not NONE

MarcieMom: I’ve read that zero trans fat could still contain trans fat if less than 0.5g. Is that right? Should parents go by food label or should the ingredient list be scrutinized?

Toby: Yes, that is correct. According to the food labelling guidelines, anything that has less than 0.5 grams of trans fat can be labelled as ‘trans fat free’. That is why it is important to read the ingredient list carefully—look for words like partially hydrogenated or hydrogenated to indicate if trans fat is in the product.

MarcieMom: I’ve also read that fruits like apples, oranges, strawberries, kiwi, grapes are also inflammatory. Is that right?

Toby: Fruits contain antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytonutrients, plant chemicals that help prevent disease and promote health. They provide so many beneficial nutrients that I never suggest avoiding them (unless a child was allergic).

Antioxidants and Skin

What’s Antioxidant?

Before I go on, I have to give a spoiler that I don’t have the answer to whether it’s proven without a doubt that antioxidants can benefit the skin of our children with eczema. However, after researching this topic, I believe it’s beneficial to eat antioxidant-rich food, so let’s start by looking at what’s antioxidant!

Antioxidants are vitamins and nutrients, including Vitamin  A, C, E and selenium, that helps to protect our cells from the damaging effects of free radicals. Through our exposure to sun and digestion, free radicals (which are unstable molecules) form and they promote inflammation and damage skin cells. Antioxidants are able to inhibit oxidation and damage to the skin cells and speed up repair of the damaged cells.

Limited Resource on Impact on Skin

While there are many products that want us to eat antioxidant in the form of supplements or apply them onto our skin, I couldn’t find many studies in this area. There’s one research published in European Journal of Clinical Nutrition that linked increased intake of antioxidant (namely, beta-cartoene and Vitamin E) to reduced risk of atopic dermatitis in children. However, there’s another research that linked increased risk of skin cancer in women who took antioxidant capsules.

What are the Antioxidant Rich Foods?

Whole foods are recommended and foods rich in antioxidants are berries, beans, dark and orange vegetables. There’s an interesting WebMD article I’ve found that rank vegetables in terms of their antioxidant levels and most of them are higher in antioxidants after cooking! Some of these vegetables include spinach, potatoes and eggplants. Foods that are rich in Vitamin C, E and selenium include citrus fruits, red pepper, broccoli, whole grains, brazil nuts and turkey.

Another WebMD article stated that in terms of antioxidant creams, the concentration may be too low to be useful and potent creams ought to have 15-20% Vitamin C, 2-5% Vitamin E and 0.2-0.5% Selenium. Do note that Vitamin E is on the list of allergen, so do always test on a small patch of your child’s skin before using a cream with Vitamin E.

Toby’s Thoughts

MarcieMom: I’ve read that whole foods are preferred to supplements because the former contain enzymes that cannot be manufactured into a supplement. Is that true and can you share with us how enzymes help in the anti-oxidative process?

Toby: Whole foods are preferred over supplements because they contain phytonutrients, which are plant chemicals that have health benefits and can help protect against disease. Many of these phytonutrients have not been isolated into supplements, plus there is not enough research to know if they work well alone or in conjunction with other nutrients in the foods they are found in. For example, a phytonutrient called anthocyanin is powerful anti-inflammatory antioxidant found in berries. Studies show they may help lower the risk of some forms of cancer.

Is it harmful to take an excess of antioxidants? 

Toby: Taking in too many antioxidants can be harmful.  More is definitely not better and many of the antioxidants can potentially be toxic when taken in excess, especially through supplementation. Children should eat a well-balanced diet of whole foods including plenty of fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean proteins, nuts and seeds in order to get their daily dose of antioxidants.

Fluid Intake and Skin

Water and Our Body

We know that water is critical to the proper functioning of our body, which includes ensuring proper digestion, brain function, blood and oxygen circulation and regulating the body temperature. We hear we’ve to drink more water for glowing skin, but that is not exactly correct because water that we drink goes to the intestines, blood streams, filtered by kidneys instead of directly to the skin.

Water we Drink does not go directly to our Skin

review has been conducted by the British Nutrition Foundation that concludes drinking water does not impact skin’s appearance. So, while we know that taking fluids is not the way to rehydrate our child’s skin, using sunscreen, balanced diet are essential for our child’s skin, and moisturizing is a must for those with eczema.

How Much Fluid Should Your Child Drink?

Ensuring sufficient fluid intake is important for your child and my recommendation (based on what I’ve read) is not to count glasses of water but to encourage our children to drink water throughout the day and more, if they are exercising or outdoors. Children, being smaller in size and not sweating as much,  have a higher risk of dehydration and harder for them to cool off. To know how much fluid our child has lost after exercise, we can weigh him/her before and after exercise and normally, note the color of our child’s urine and whether their lips are dry.

What Fluids to Take and Which to Avoid for Your Child

Water serves its purpose by being water, so it’s always best to get your child to get used to drinking it once they start on solids. Eating fruits and vegetables also count towards their water intake, as are drinking milk and fuit juice. For children above 2 year old, low or non-fat milk can be taken and for kids below 6 year old, 4-6 ounces of juice per day can be given.

What NOT to drink is obviously artificially colored or sweetened empty calories, like soda and drinks containing hugh frutose corn syrup, no matter how kids’ appealing the packaging looks! Moreover, sugar is inflammatory and not good for our child. Vitamin water is also not recommended as vitamins added to water and consumed individually may not reap any benefit.

Will Drinking Softened Water Help Your Child’s Eczema?

Many parents have feedback that softened water helps but unfortunately, based on the softened water eczema trial conducted by Prof Hywel Williams and Dr Kim Thomas of the Centre of Evidence Based Dermatology at the University of Nottingham, there was no difference noticed in the trial that involved 336 children whose homes were fitted with water softener.

Toby’s Thoughts

MarcieMom: We know that ensuring sufficient fluid intake is important, what guidelines would you give to parents who want to ensure that their children consume sufficient fluid?

Toby: Have children sip water throughout the day and learn to recognize when they are thirsty before they start becoming dehydrated, especially on a hot day or after intense exercise. Also, be sure they are using the restroom to urinate on a regular basis—this is also a good sign of proper hydration. Eating plenty of fruits and veggies can also help contribute to hydration.

More Fluid Intake for Dry Skin?

MarcieMom: For parents whose child’s skin is inherently dry, should they give their child more water than a child with normal skin?

Toby: No, studies do not show that more water means moister skin. Just keep them hydrated like everyone else. No more, no less.

MarcieMom: At what age would you recommend starting on fresh milk or UHT milk, instead of milk formula? Do you think that today’s milk formula with added probiotics and DHA is essential as part of our toddler’s diet or should children be getting what they need from eating a balanced diet?

Toby: The American Academy of Paediatrics recommends whole milk at 1 year of age, going to 2% (reduced fat milk) at 2 years and whole milk by 3 years of age.

Formula should be used until about 18 months— at that time, the child should be eating a varied diet of fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean meats, healthy fat, and dairy which will provide sufficient nutritional value.

Water or Juice for Young Children?

MarcieMom: Finally, for children who already dislikes water, what tips do you have for their parents to get the child interested in water? (I dilute all of Marcie’s juice and let her drink ice water from the adult cup in restaurant, just like we do!)

Toby: Don’t give up when it comes to water. As any food or beverage, it takes time to enjoy it. If you want to increase the flavor, add lemon, lime, or orange slices. Children should not taste juice until at least 2 years of age—the more water is a part of their regular diet, the more they will accept it. Parents should also lead by example and serve water to the entire family.

Starting Fish from Young (or not)

Fish – A Common Food Allergen to Introduce Early?

There are six common foods that make up majority of the allergic foods, and fish is one of them (the other five foods are milk, egg, soy, peanuts and wheat). Yet, there were a few studies conducted in Sweden and Norway that indicated a lower rate of eczema for children who started fish in their diets early. In a 2008 study, introduction of fish to babies before 9 month-old showed 24% less likelihood of getting eczema by one year old. In another study, one to two year old who ate fish once a week had 38% less likelihood of eczema. In the journal by American Academy of Pediatrics, late introduction of fish was strongly related to inhalant sensitization. Research had not measured notable reduction in eczema with intake of supplements nor were there differences between eating fish vis-à-vis omega-3 rich fish. It is also observed in countries that typically introduce fish in children’s diet early that there is a lower rate of fish allergy.

What’s in a Fish and What’s Omega-3?

Fish is a source of protein that contains taurine, zinc, selenium, iodine, Vitamin D and Vitamin B12. Of interest for the past decade, is the Omega-3 that is contained in fish. Omega-3 is one of the fatty acids that cannot be manufactured by the body. The long chains of the fatty acids, namely EPA and DHA, have been reported to have health benefits, including brain development of babies. Fish that are rich in Omega-3 include salmon, sardines and mackerel but for a child, intake must not be overdone as fish are also rich in mercury, especially shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tile fish.

How does Fish affect Eczema?

This has no conclusive answer. From what I’ve looked up, the body is able to convert DHA to RvD2 which is a Resolvin that can regulate inflammatory responses. I’ve also read that fish oil may help to reduce leukotriene B4, which is an inflammatory substance. However, eating more fish alone may not be enough as there’s increasing suggestion that it’s the balance of Omega 3 and Omega 6 (from vegetable oils) that regulates inflammation.

Toby’s Thoughts

What’s the recommended intake of fish for an infant below 1 year old?

Toby: Since there is a higher chance of an allergic reaction to fish, it should not be introduced until the child is 1 year into the diet. If there is a family history of allergies, then even longer.

You also need to remember that many of the fish high in omega-3 fats like tuna and salmon have a very strong flavor. Kids have more taste buds than adults, so even if you do introduce them at 1-year, the kids may not accept them very easily. I suggest introducing more mild tasting fish like mahi-mahi and red snapper as a first step.

Would you recommend taking fish supplements?

Toby: If a parent is worried about their child getting enough omega-3 fats, then they should seek professional guidance from a registered dietitian before giving their child fish supplements. This is especially important if a child (usually under the age of 1) is taking in formula or is still breastfeeding since they are probably getting enough. You don’t want to give too much either—there are always side effects.

How can a parent help a child who has eczema balance his/her intake of Omega 3 and Omega 6?

Toby: Giving a child a well-balanced diet should do the trick. Also, if a child is breastfeeding or on formula, they should be getting enough of both nutrients. Once they get off the formula and/or breast milk then introducing every food group to the child to help create a healthful diet is important.

Genetically Modified GM Foods

What’s Genetically Modified Food?

Genetically modified (GM) food or genetically engineered (GE) food are foods which genome has been modified by having another gene selected and transferred to it, encoded for a specific protein. GM food came into the supermarket around 1994, starting with tomatoes being approved for consumption and since, the majority of soy, corn, cottonseed and canola are genetically modified. 

Foods are genetically engineered mainly (i) to be tolerant to herbicides and (ii) to be able to produce its own pesticides that kill the pests feeding on them. To be tolerant of herbicides meant that farmers could say, spray Roundup herbicide (produced by Monsanto) and kill the weeds but not kill the vegetables, known as Roundup Ready soybeans, cotton etc. which seeds are also sold by Monsanto.

How did GM or GE Food Come About?

Crops can be genetically modified to be easier and faster to grow, and more resistant to drought, pests and diseases, thereby increasing food supply in our increasingly populated world. As mentioned above, the vegetables can also be engineered to be tolerant to herbicides. Some foods are genetically modified to improve its nutritional value by say, introducing antioxidants to vegetables that are lower in it.

So What’s the Problem?

The problem seems to be that we know little of the extent of the problem. There is a growing opposition against genetically modified food and some articles on the web have summarized it:

Dr Mercola’s comments in ‘Monsanto’s Roundup Residues in GM Food Causes Cell Damage

Jennifer Grayson’s article in Huffington Post on ‘Is Genetically Modified Food Linked to Kids’ Food Allergies?’

The main worries are:

Risk of increased allergy – for instance, there’s a soy allergen, trypsin inhibitor, which normally would reduce if the soy has been cooked. However, if the soy has been genetically modified, cooking didn’t reduce the amount of the allergic protein.

Risk of antibiotic resistance markers in human – if the markers are added to the GM food, there’s a risk of horizontal gene transfer whereby the antibiotic resistant gene will be transferred to bacteria in human intestine.

Risk of increased herbicide or pesticide – Although GM food would need less herbicide, farmers may end up using more of it since the crops are tolerant to it!

Risk of SuperPests – The pests turn ‘super’ because they have also adjusted to the GM food and thus stronger pest-resistant crops need to be engineered which may set off harmful effect on the food chain.

Risk of harm to organs – Some studies showed that rats had higher mortality rates and damages to their body organs and mouse had reduced enzyme production after consuming GM food.

Should it be Avoided for a Child with Allergy or Eczema?

There is no straight answer to this, though pregnant woman and young children may want to be more aware of this since the brain and immune system of foetus and young children are not well developed. There is no study directly linking children with allergy or eczema to GM food, and parents who are worried about GM food can opt for organic, which means not genetically modified, no synthetic pesticides, no irradiation or bio-solids added as fertilizer.

The Dirt Dozen Foods (Updated 2019)

Below are the ‘Dirty Dozen’ foods that contain the most pesticides, in a study done by non-profit organization Environmental Working Group.

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Kale
  4. Nectarines
  5. Apples
  6. Grapes
  7. Peaches
  8. Cherries
  9. Pears
  10. Tomatoes
  11. Celery
  12. Potatoes

Most of the foods above are so rich in vitamins which I give lots to my girl! Buying organic for the top pesticide food and top GM food would target the most risky ones and be less costly than switching all food to organic.

Toby’s Thoughts

MarcieMom: Would you recommend a parent to always buy organic if they can afford it? And if they can’t, what food would you say ‘It’s better to eat the non-organic ones than not eat it’ and for what food would you say ‘Forget about feeding your child this if you can’t find an organic version’?

Toby: I would suggest going by the Environmental Working Groups Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 lists. The dirty dozen contains the highest levels of contaminants and includes apples, celery, strawberries, peaches, spinach, imported nectarines, imported grapes, sweet bell peppers, potatoes, domestic blueberries, lettuce and kale/collard greens. I suggest to spend your organic dollar on those 12 foods. Another option is local—visit your local farmer’s market and speak to your local farmer about what they grow and the techniques they use. They are typically very happy to discuss this information!

MarcieMom: The foods that are genetically modified such as soy, cottonseed, corn and canola are used in many processed foods, including soy lecithin used in chocolates, corn syrup in many sugary snacks and canola in oil. Would you recommend parents to read the label for all the food items and not buy if they contain soy, corn, cotton or canola? Or would your advice be to avoid certain category of food, say snacks and cookies, which aren’t healthy anyway?

Toby: These ingredients are found in such high amounts in our society, but we need to balance the good with the not-so-good. In general, all these oils are unsaturated and better for heart health. Using them within your repertoire of oils in moderation is healthy. And if you choose more whole foods over highly processed ones, you could pretty much avoid many of those other ingredients and higher calorie foods that should really be limited in your child’s diet. 

MarcieMom: Will feeding our children supplements for the nutrients or vitamins we want them to consume get around this problem of pesticide and GM food?

TobyNO! Whole foods provide so much more than can be isolated in a pill. The nutrients found in food work with one another to provide your child with maximum health benefits. Furthermore, eating food helps maintain the integrity of your gut. You also want to get your child to get used to eating well-balanced meals together with the family—they will learn about healthy eating and spend more time with the family too.

Guest Interview

Silver Sense – Gorgeous Clothing That’s Kind to Skin

Silver Sense Clothing

MarcieMom saw on twitter that Silver Sense is active in eczema community and events and connected with Sarah Davies, co-founder of Silver Sense. Silver Sense is a company based in Nottinghamshire, UK, that creates children clothing made from a blend of natural cotton and silver fibres. Silver Sense’s clothing comes in a family of animals, and MarcieMom interviews Sarah to find out more about Albert the Whale, Gilbert the Gecko, Jeffrey the Monkey, Sidney the Spider, Jude the Crocodile, Olivia the Duckling and Erica the Elephant!

Marcie Mom: Thank you Sarah for taking time for this interview. I’d have to commend you that indeed the clothing looks gorgeous! I read from your site that Silver Sense is set up by your brother, Richard Lamb and you. While his work experience is in medical textiles, yours is in fashion design and product development. Both of you started Silver Sense because you were looking for a solution for your son Jonathan’s eczema. Could you share a little about your journey? For instance, how severe was Jonathan’s eczema? And for how long did you try other treatments before you decided to create Silver Sense? And what other skincare regimen and treatment (if any) do you use even after Jonathan is wearing Silver Sense?

Sarah: Jonathan’s eczema started at approximately 4 months old, to begin with it was quite mild so we tried to treat it solely with emollients which had been suggested by other Mums however we didn’t find anything that offered much improvement. We made changes to our daily routine such as stopping using fabric softeners and just bathing him in water. We found that some of the creams we tried actually made things worse as he had allergic reactions to some of the ingredients. His eczema wasn’t clearing and was in fact spreading to other areas so we made the first of our trips to the doctor.

Our doctor was very understanding and assured us it was ‘just’ baby eczema so armed with more creams and washes we tried again to treat it. Again, the washing cream made it worse and the prescription lotions did nothing, including the very mild steroid cream. By now the patches were infected and would bleed, Jonathan would also try to scratch them whenever he could. He had eczema on his tummy, tops of his arms, shoulders, back of his neck, cheeks and the backs of his knees, these patches were crusty and bleeding. It was very distressing for all of us. We went back to the Doctor and were given a stronger steroid cream which we could only use very sparingly and not on his face, it was horrible to see him scratch his cheek until it was bleeding and I couldn’t find anything to help improve this. The stronger steroid cream did offer some improvement but I hated using it on him and found that when I stopped the eczema just returned to how it was. It was at this stage when I learnt more about the healing properties of Silver and was desperate to find a long term solution that Silver Sense was born.

Jonathan now sleeps on Silver Sense bedding which has cleared up the patches on his cheek and neck. He also sleeps in our jammies and wears a vest every day. In conjunction with his Silver Sense clothing we moisturise him with Doublebase gel, use Oilatum bath additive and on any particularly dry patches we use Lucas Papaw Ointment. We find that we have no further patches on his torso, arms or face, everywhere that is in contact with the silver. He still gets eczema starting to appear on the backs of his knees towards the end of the day as they are not in contact with Silver in his other clothes however his sleepwear prevents scratching in the night and has dramatically improved his skin again by the morning.I do wonder how bad this would be without his Silver Sense clothing? Since using Silver Sense we have had no infected eczema patches.

Marcie Mom: Your range of clothing is very colourful and stylish, featuring babygrows, tops, bottoms, hats, bibs and blankets, all carefully designed to have the seams and labels on the outside. Do all these products have the same amount of silver fibres in the fabric? And of what percentage of the (end) fabric has the 99.9% pure silver sourced from medical textile company X-Static? Is there a minimum % of silver required in the fabric before its anti-microbial properties can be useful?

Sarah: All of our products are manufactured using fabrics that contain a minimum of 4% Pure Silver yarn; this percentage is a requirement to ensure that the products perform. All products are certified by X-Staticto ensure that they contain the correct amount of Pure Silver.

MarcieMom: It is mentioned in your site that silver has been ‘clinically proven to prevent inflammation by naturally calming itchiness..’. How does silver do that?

Sarah: Pure silver kills bugs by breaking down the DNA of bacteria, it is this bacteria that causes the inflammation, itchiness and infection in skin conditions. Bacteria cannot become resistant to the silver ions in our products so continual treatment is provided. The clinical studies that we refer to have been commissioned by X-Static and as such we use the amount of Silver as required by them, to meet their infection kill rates. Continued use will soothe, heal and protect delicate skin.

Marcie Mom: I did a quick search over the internet and saw a few companies that sell silver clothing– what advice would you give to parents who want to assess which clothing brand to choose? For instance, is there a certain type/ grade of silver or certain size of silver fibre to look out for? Or should parents look out for where the silver textile comes from and where the clothing is made? Or is there a certification body that can give product quality and safety assurance to parents?

Sarah: Firstly we would recommend that parents make sure that the clothing is using pure metal silver fibre instead of Nano silver which is a coating that can wash off and leech (leech is the transfer of particles from the material to the surrounding environment). We would recommend X-Static as it is accepted as being the market leader; it is not the cheapest yarn however it is the best in terms of performance and durability. We choose to make our products in the UK as it is where we are based and ensures we have complete control and visibility at all times of our production. Unfortunately there is no certification body however this is something we would welcome and actively be involved in.

MarcieMom: I read on your site that Silver Sense wants to be a truly British brand; you design the clothing, source the silver textile from X-Static (US?) and the fabric is then made in UK and clothing knitted locally in Nottinghamshire. I note with interest that as opposed to certain manufacturers who spray silver on the fabric, you knit it into the fabric. This translates into a more durable product where the silver won’t be washed away. Tell us, what is the product life of Silver Sense clothing and is there any trial conducted as to how many machine washes it can withstand? Also, if the silver can be washed away, is there a chance that over long-term use (say, a mom only uses Silver Sense for her newborn all the way till 5 year old) the child’s skin will be exposed to excessive silver that has leeched onto the skin? Is there any research done in this area? And what is the side effect (if any) on having silver on the skin all the time?

Sarah: We are the only childrenswear brand to knit pure metal silver fibre into our fabrics, when developing Silver Sense we researched many techniques of production and feel very strongly that this is the best and most effective way of adding silver to garments. X-Static have provided us with study data showing fabrics knitted with X-Static are capable of withstanding over 200 commercial laundry cycles without any performance reduction, it is accepted that industrial laundering is far more aggressive than domestic washing however we stress that customers must follow our product care guidelines which include no use of fabric softener and chlorine based bleaches. Without a doubt the pure silver in Silver Sense products will last the life of the garment and will not be washed away.Silver Sense garments will not leech. There are in excess of 300,000 US military personnel that wear X-Static base layer garments on a daily basis and there have been no known adverse side effects, in fact it is quite the opposite, soldiers report that skin conditions are improved in field conditions.

Marcie Mom: Thank you Sarah so much for your time and understanding where I come from when I asked these questions. My readers would know that while I don’t do any product review (nor subject Marcie to product testing), I am always open to knowing more products and asking questions that I think will help parents to assess better their options for their child with eczema. p.s. to readers of, I didn’t receive any money from Silver Sense or Sarah for this interview.

Guest Interview

Eucerin – Medical Skin Science that Shows

Picture taken from

Eucerin Singapore contacted me on running a charity sale on its 13,000 fans’ Facebook page to donate 20 per cent. of the sales proceeds to Singapore’s first eczema fund for low income patients (a fund that is initiated by my donation and administered by the Asthma Association). I wanted to find out more about Eucerin, especially when I read that it has a product that’s inspired by a Nobel-prize discovery. In this interview, Marcie Mom catches up with Royston Ho, Brand Manager of Eucerin Singapore to find out more about its products, particularly its benefits to children with eczema.

First: A Company with a Long History

I’ve seldom seen a skincare company that has such a long history and it is a pleasant surprise to see a product that’s started by a doctor (Dr. Lifschutz) in 1900 with the same properties that we’d want in a good skincare product today – stable, smooth, not irritate but to protect and care. Eucerin is a brand under Beiersdorf AG, an international company based in Hamburg, Germany, that has 21,000 employees worldwide and has other brands such as Nivea and Hansaplast.

MarcieMom: Royston, do you think that having more than 100 years of history help Beiersdorf produce a better product? Does Beiersdorf continually reformulate its product based on clients’ feedback, clinical trials and the latest list of allergens?

Royston: Yes, in fact Eucerin owns the largest skin research centre in Hamburg, Germany and we employ 650 international scientists at our research facilities to ensure that the products work on human skin before they are being introduced commercially worldwide. Certain products are also reformulated and improved from time to time using after numerous clinical testings and using quality pharmaceutical grade ingredients. Our long history of 111 years and counting is testimony to the efficacy of the products that has benefitted generations with varied skin concerns.

Medical Skin Science that Shows

MarcieMom: I read the message by K. Hannig, Corporate Vice President of Beiersdorf, that Eucerin is ‘Medical Skin Science that Shows’. Some terms used in her message include ‘highest dermatological standards’, ‘active ingredients’ and ‘clinical proof’. Can you explain the above terms, in particular, the activities or initiatives Beiersdorf take to ensure that its product lives up to these terms.

Royston: Eucerin products are able to claim highest dermatological standards as the products are formulated by dermatologists for dermatologists to recommend to patients. We undergo numerous clinical trials at our labs to ensure that the safety and efficacy of our products. Active ingredients are components in our skincare products which provide some pharmaceutical value, these ingredients are literally “active,” performing a specific function upon application. We will choose the right active ingredients and are trying thousands of different combinations to establish which set of ingredients would be the best in terms of efficacy and tolerability. All skincare products undergo clinical testing and we will do it before we launch any new product.

Database of Ingredients

One feature that I love about Eucerin’s website is its Ingredients Database. Ingredients are listed from A to Z, and you can click to see which of Eucerin’s product contains and which does not contain a particular ingredient. For this to be useful, a parent or consumer would have to be able to read the product label and understand what are the ingredients that can help eczema or which should be avoided. Also, if a patch test has been taken (suitable for older children and adults), then it would be easy to avoid a product that contains ingredients tested allergic to.

MarcieMom: Royston, one of the ingredients that I read with interest is gluco-glycerol, an active ingredient used in your product that can stimulate the formation of aquaporin channel, that helps to transport water and increase moisture in the skin. Which of your products contains gluco-glycerol and is this clinically tested to be suitable for children with eczema, i.e. moisturizing their skin with reduced likelihood of allergen?

Royston: Aquaporin is an amazing moisturizer, for hydration, but it does not contain ingredients like Omega 6 acids and Licochalcone that alleviate the symptoms of eczema such as itching, scaling etc. Aquaporin will help as a very good emollient and help in terms of moisturizing but for a more holistic care of Eczema, the product will have to do more than just hydration. The effects of this moisturising cream is amazing as it helps in facilitating moisture ions between different layers of skin cells through the stimulation and opening up of more water channels in your skin.

Suitable for Eczema Children

MarcieMom: I noted that Eucerin has a product, Eucerin Soothing Lotion 12% Omega, that specifically states for Eczema and is suitable for babies above 3 months old. What are the key ingredients in this product that makes it suitable for children with eczema?

Royston: The main reason for dry and Eczema skin is a defect of skin’s barrier function which results from a deficit of natural moisturising factors and a lack of lipids, essential for a stable barrier function, which also protects from moisture loss. Impaired barrier function leads to dryness, redness, itch and sometimes even inflammation.

Eucerin Soothing Lotion 12% Omega, specially developed for the needs of dry, reddened, itching and inflamed skin, contains highly concentrated Omega-6 fatty acids from natural Evening Primose Oil and Grape Seed Oil, and Licochalcone, an anti-inflammatory agent extracted from the licorice root.

Omega-6 fatty acids replenish the skin with lipids. The damaged skin barrier is strengthened and the trans-epidermal water loss normalised; Licochalcone reduces the synthesis of pro-inflammatory agents responsible for the skin’s inflammation and redness.

You can expect intense hydration, reduced itchiness, redness and tightness long lastingly. This product is suitable for adults and children above 3 months old and is fragrance, colourant and lanolin free. It can also be used on both face and body.

MarcieMom: Thanks so much Royston for helping us understand Beiersdorf and Eucerin, and as always, an insightful interview helps parents with eczema children learn how to evaluate products their children use.

Note: I didn’t receive any money from the above for this interview, and any monies raised from the charity drive goes directly to the eczema fund through Asthma Association.

Eczema Tips Guest Interview

Sensitive Skin Product Series – How many ingredients?

I ‘met’ Laura Verallo Rowell Bertotto, the CEO of VMVGroup, on twitter and learnt that her company is the only hypoallergenic brand that validates its hypoallergenicity.

VMV Hypoallergenics is founded in 1979 by Dr. Vermén Verallo-Rowell who is a world renowned dermatologist, dermatopathologist and dermatology/laser surgeon, also an author, esteemed researcher and speaker. 

Sensitive Skin Skincare Product Interview series with Dr Vermen Verallo Rowell VMV Hypoallergenics
  1. Sensitive Skin Product Series – What is Hypoallergenic?
  2. What does Natural Skincare Product mean?
  3. What is considered Organic and Non-Comedogenic?
  4. What does Suitable for Eczema Children mean?
  5. What is Patch Testing (for skincare product ingredients?)
  6. How do you read ingredients on skincare product label?
  7. What does Irritant-Free mean?
  8. What ingredients in skincare product to avoid?
  9. How is Coconut Oil used in skincare?
  10. What is product cross-reactivity?
  11. How many ingredients in a skincare product?
  12. How to use skincare products on Sensitive Skin?
  13. How to manage the diaper area?
Skincare Product Ingredients Number
When More is not Merrier!

Marcie Mom: Given that a child with very sensitive skin/eczema can be allergic to many ingredients, it makes sense that the fewer ingredients, the less likelihood of triggering an allergic reaction.

Is there an average number of ingredients a moisturizer is likely to have?

Laura: There is no one average to give because different formulations necessitate different quantities of various things like emulsifiers, stabilizers and so on. For example, a shampoo might normally need to have a longer ingredients list than, say, a lipstick, because the shampoo contains so much water and needs more preservation, whereas a lipstick or concealer is mostly wax and therefore needs less preservation. A good bet is to compare similar products, e.g. two toothpastes. If toothpaste A has 10 ingredients and toothpaste B has 25, then A is probably the safer bet. Of course, toothpaste A could have allergens and toothpaste B could have no allergens…

In a nutshell: hypoallergenicity is a highly complex concept with many, many moving parts and it would be unreasonable to expect any mother or any consumer to master (or even familiarize herself with) all of these myriad issues. As we are mostly “lay” moms who want to care for children with very sensitive skin, it’s not a matter of mastering this complexity or of finding one magic bullet. It’s a matter of choosing products with as many of the good-practices as possible. If I were to summarize the safest best practices into a simple checklist, this would be it:

1)             Look for zero or as few allergens as possible. Your best bets for this are a) a patch test when your child is old enough and b) a VH-Rating.

2)              Avoid the most consistent top allergens: paraben, fragrance, masking fragrance, dyes, “coca”-surfactants

3)            Choose shorter ingredient lists (but check them against #2 above).

4)             Try to opt for brands with real clinical legitimacy. Published studies in well-known medical journals and presented studies in the large medical conventions are a good bet. At least you’ll know that their claims are backed by research that has objectively been considered scientifically valid enough for presentation and publication…so you might at least feel more comfortable trusting their claims.

Marcie Mom: Great checklist! I’m so happy that we’ve understood lots and understand so much better when we read the product label.

Guest Interview

Honestly…on Baby Diapers

MarcieMom received an email from The Honest Company, a company founded by Jessica Alba and Christopher Gavigan, and learned that it’s a company created ‘to help moms and to give all children a better, safer start’. Their products are natural and non-toxic which interests MarcieMom and she contacted Janelle Sorensen, Communications Manager from The Honest Company to find out more on what’s going on inside their baby diapers.

Marcie Mom: Thank you Janelle for taking time to help answer my questions, which other parents who have children with eczema or sensitive skin may likewise also have. I’ve checked out your lovely website and noted that ‘100% Natural’, ‘all-natural’ are used for your products. From an interview that I’ve done, I learnt that the term Natural is not regulated for skincare products. Does the same go for diapers?

Is ‘Natural’ regulated for Baby Diapers?

Janelle Sorensen: Currently, there aren’t any standards or certification for “natural” or “organic” as they may apply to disposable diapers. And, just to clarify, while some of our products are 100% natural, our diapers are not (but, they’re very, very close!) We use a chlorine-free, wood-pulp fluff (from certified sustainably managed forests), a wheat and corn starch BIO-core (which significantly reduces the need for SAP), and a plant-based PLA for the outer layer, inner layer, and moisture barrier layer. You can learn about all the details and ingredients on our website. Unlike most other diaper companies, we are completely transparent about what’s inside our products.

Note (by Marcie Mom): SAP/ Super Absorbent Polymer such as sodium polyacrylate is a polymer that can absorb 200-300 times its mass in water.

PLA/ Polylactic acid is derived from renewable resources, such as corn starch.

What’s Non-Toxic for Diapers?

Marcie Mom: Relating non-toxic, it’s really great to know that your products are chlorine-free, no petrochemical, no PVC, no phthalates and fragrance-free. Moms like me who are always on the lookout for hypoallergenic products truly appreciate this. Do you actively track how many of the allergens that are currently on the list compiled by American Contact Dermatitis Society are in your products? Also, is your product registered with The Contact Allergen Replacement Database (CARD) (a database for patients in USA to find out which skincare products are safe for them based on their allergy/patch test results)?

Janelle Sorensen: Just to clarify again, most of our products are 100% petrochemical-free, but the diapers are not – just very, very close. We’re making changes to the website that will better describe everything, so we don’t unintentionally mislead anyone. (We’re committed to constantly improving every facet of our work!) In regards to your questions, we’ve just started tracking allergens because we’ve heard from so many families living with allergies. So, it’s a growing priority for us in regards to future products, reformulations, and even website updates. If we are using common allergens, we want it to be easy for consumers to know – it’s a part of our company ethos to make life a little easier for parents! We are not registered with CARD, but I’ll put it on our internal to-do list. Thanks for the recommendation!

Why the Manufacturing process of Diapers is Important

Marcie Mom: When choosing products, moms have to take note that not only the ingredients but also the manufacturing process can introduce allergens. For instance, the case against the use of polypropylene was because acrylic acid was used in the process.

Do you manufacture your diapers in USA? Also, how do you monitor your production sites (cradle to cradle certified)?

Janelle Sorensen: Currently, all of our products are manufactured in the USA, but the diapers are made just across the border in Mexico (it was the nearest facility we could find with the technology to make our innovative diapers). We’re hoping to see development of similar facilities in the USA soon. Still, we are very scrutinizing about the manufacturers we work with and our Co-Founder and Chief Products Officer, Christopher Gavigan, is very hands-on with the facilities to ensure the highest quality end products. We aren’t Cradle-to-Cradle certified yet, but it’s a goal we look forward to reaching.

Sustainability for Baby Diapers

Marcie Mom: I’ve also read from your website that you’re in process of getting sustainability certified. That’s a complex systems involving minimizing waste and maximizing reuse in your office, your products, including making your products flushable and biodegradable! Personally, I can’t imagine flushing diapers or wipes down the toilet because my toilet choked just on the amount of toilet paper I used!

Tell us more about how flushable your products are and how long it takes to biodegrade.

Janelle Sorensen: The wipes are flushable, but the diapers are not. And, it’s hard to know how long it would take anything to biodegrade – it totally depends on the environment and landfill conditions. Still, given the right conditions, (which it’s true – most landfills can’t guarantee) our diapers will indeed biodegrade faster than others on the marketplace today. As with everything else, we’ll do everything we can to constantly improve – to be as safe, affordable, and eco-friendly as possible.

Marcie Mom: Coming to our environment – I read with delight that chlorine is not used in your diapers. I understand that chlorine is used in the process of the woodpulp that is in diapers and it’s not so much the chlorine itself but the chlorinated toxins that are released into the environment during processing. The dioxin created when the wood pulp is bleached has been linked to cancer but has also been studied to be in such small amounts that it’s safe. Can you explain to us why you do not use chlorine?

Janelle Sorensen: Dioxins are the most potent cancer-causing chemicals known to man. Even if there’s little left lingering on the final product, we’d rather not be a part of releasing any of it into the environment. Our children and the generations to come deserve a cleaner, healthier environment.

Marcie Mom: Thanks Janelle for helping parents to understand more of what’s going on inside baby’s diapers; this will surely add comfort to those with children with sensitive skin. p.s. to readers of, I didn’t receive any money from The Honest Company for this interview.

Guest Interview

Sensitive Skin Product Series – Understanding Cross-Reactivity

I ‘met’ Laura Verallo Rowell Bertotto, the CEO of VMVGroup, on twitter and learnt that her company is the only hypoallergenic brand that validates its hypoallergenicity.

VMV Hypoallergenics is founded in 1979 by Dr. Vermén Verallo-Rowell who is a world renowned dermatologist, dermatopathologist and dermatology/laser surgeon, also an author, esteemed researcher and speaker. 

Sensitive Skin Skincare Product Interview series with Dr Vermen Verallo Rowell VMV Hypoallergenics
  1. Sensitive Skin Product Series – What is Hypoallergenic?
  2. What does Natural Skincare Product mean?
  3. What is considered Organic and Non-Comedogenic?
  4. What does Suitable for Eczema Children mean?
  5. What is Patch Testing (for skincare product ingredients?)
  6. How do you read ingredients on skincare product label?
  7. What does Irritant-Free mean?
  8. What ingredients in skincare product to avoid?
  9. How is Coconut Oil used in skincare?
  10. What is product cross-reactivity?
  11. How many ingredients in a skincare product?
  12. How to use skincare products on Sensitive Skin?
  13. How to manage the diaper area?
Keeping to a company that you can trust can help minimize cross-reactivity (picture from
Keeping to a company that you can trust can help minimize cross-reactivity (picture from

Cross-Reaction of Skincare Ingredients

Marcie Mom: I read that there is a possibility of cross reaction between different companies’ products. My baby uses two brands and so far, all seems well.

Is there a way for a parent to compare the ingredients and assess if there’s a high likelihood of cross reaction?

Laura: I think our previous interviews would lead to this answer being “yes it’s possible but only if you really want a chemistry degree and a specialization in contact dermatitis” 🙂 Comparing ingredients may not be enough…it would be impossible, for example, to be sure that the product of company A was mixed in a container used only for fragrance-free products; company B’s formula may be mixed in containers shared with other formulations that DO contain fragrance.

Cross reactants also require some knowledge of chemistry. You’d need to know that beeswax and propolis are related. Cocamide-DEA and Coca-betaine are coconut-derived allergens but are allergens not because of the coconut but because of the chemicals used in the processing.

Let’s tackle the logic first. When a reaction occurs, a contact dermatologist will ask you for a history that will include “what are you using”?

The more products you list, the harder it is to determine what the culprit is that is actually causing the reaction.

We’ve heard dermatologists share stories of patients being convinced their reaction was due to a new product they just tried, because they’d been using all their other products for years without a problem…but after getting a patch test, discovering that the patient was actually allergic to ingredients in all the OLD products, with the NEW product being the safest for the patient! More products means more factors to consider when trying to identify the culprit/s responsible for the reaction.

The other concern is a corporate one. If a customer came to VMV and asked if they could use one of our products with one from another company, it would be irresponsible for us to guess at an answer. We do not outsource any of our R&D, research, clinical studies or manufacturing, so we can answer for our products and processes. We know where we source our ingredients and their quality. Many raw materials are actually combinations of ingredients and we are highly specific about the breakdown of our raw materials (a kojic acid can have traces of parabens, for example, so we won’t use it). We know how our plant is cleaned and which raw materials are stored near each other. We know which products we can mix in shared containers. We know what tests we do. But we simply have no way of knowing any of the above for any other company. It would be unfair of us to guess and we truly would have no way of knowing if any of our products might cross react with theirs.

On the other hand, if you email us regarding a concern, our team is trained to help you based on their knowledge of skin, allergens and our products. It would be unreasonable to expect them to have the same training for other companies’ products (and if one of our employees came from another company, they might even be legally constrained against sharing or utilizing any of that knowledge when they work for us).

One Brand vs Many

Sticking to one brand (ours or someone else’s) at least gives you the advantage of having a customer support option that is familiar with all the products you are using. Also, if the brand does not outsource its manufacturing, it should have a better knowledge of all its ingredients and practices, and could possibly help you better. Sticking to one brand increases the likelihood that ingredients are sourced from similar suppliers with similar quality, etc. And, again, in the case of a reaction, sticking to fewer products lessens the factors to filter out when trying to determine the cause.

Marcie Mom: Thank you again for providing valuable insight into cross-reactivity, thus helping parents make a decision if we choose to buy from more than one company.

Guest Interview

Dr SEARS L.E.A.N. Series: Raising Healthy Kids

This original 9-part series published every fortnight has been condensed to one longer informative post. This series examine the DrSearsLEAN (Lifestyle-Exercise-Attitude-Nutrition) tips and privileged to have DrSears’ team to help with the tips for parents with eczema children.

Healthy Kid’s Diet

Tip #1: Pick Your Salad

It is a fun way to learn about fruits and vegetables in a farm, by picking them and making your own salad. Most of the farms listed on are in the US, but you can also find vegetable farms in Singapore! Parents of eczema children may think that their child is allergic or hypersensitive to certain foods, particularly when there’s an eczema flare after consumption of a new food. But is the food really a trigger?

How do Parents know if it’s the Food that’s Triggering an Itch?

There are certain foods that are more common in triggering an allergic reaction, but food in itself is not a common eczema trigger. The nature of eczema is that it comes and goes and it’s best to have the suspected food be confirmed in a skin prick test or if need to, an oral food challenge before excluding it. Should food be a trigger, usually it’s a few food rather than many foods. Even food that shows up positive in a skin prick test may not trigger itch and thus need not be excluded from your child’s diet.

You may start suspecting a food allergy when:

1.             Your child shows immediate rashes or swelling around the mouth (oral allergy syndrome). This is less common in young children but some foods such as banana, kiwi, avocado, and potato have triggered such reactions. Other reactions could be itchy bumps or abdominal pain, vomiting, itchy eyes, sneezing or wheezing.

2.             Your child shows delayed reactions, more than 24 hours, after consuming the food. However, such foods are harder to detect through skin prick test or by observation as abdominal pain, itchiness or diarrhea could also be due to other reasons.

For a start, you can keep a food diary for your child, logging everything he/she eats for 4 to 6 weeks. I actually recorded from my baby’s first bite all the way to 9 month old but there’s no discernible pattern because my baby turned out to be not allergic to anything! I was a paranoid mom for so long until the negative results from the skin prick test, which is why I recommend it to every parent to save themselves the agony of second-guessing.

DrSearsLEAN’s recommendation

Eczema is a condition caused by two factors: first, a genetic tendency toward dry, irritated skin; and second, skin allergies to a variety of irritants and foods. The cause is mainly genetic – an inborn tendency toward dry skin and allergies. There is no way to change this genetics. The important issue is not what causes eczema in the first place, but what allergies and skin irritants is your child exposed to that is triggering the flare-ups.

If your child has any food allergies, then they will play a major role in causing eczema. The problem is, you may not know if your child has any food allergies, and if he does, which foods is he allergic to? Thankfully, there are six common foods that make up nearly 90% of possible allergic foods. These are milk, egg, soy, peanuts, fish and wheat.

What Foods for Eczema Child?

Before we discuss the common food allergens that may trigger your child’s eczema, let’s have some fun looking at DrSearsLEAN  – Traffic Light Eating for healthy diet:

GREEN Light foods are “Go” foods. They are all high in nutrients and are all fruits & vegetables.

Yellow Light foods are “Slowdown” foods. These are foods that are ok to eat every day, but you need to use portion control. Examples of yellow light foods include whole grain bread, pasta, eggs, lean meat, fish, and olive oil.

Red Light foods are “Stop and Think!” about making a better choice. These are foods that are highly processed and contain high amounts of sugar and trans-fat. Red Light foods are foods such as cookies, candies, fast food, doughnuts, etc.

What are the Common Food Allergens?

Food is not a common eczema trigger, but certain foods that children are more commonly allergic to include cow’s milk, eggs, soya, wheat, fish, nuts and gluten (this is different from celiac disease). Cow’s milk should not be excluded unless it’s proven intolerant or to trigger a reaction. Salicylates, usually present in concentrated juice/sauce, unripe fruits and areas around the skin, can also trigger itchiness and redness. Salicylates increase the release of histamine but cooking the food can reduce the chance of allergy.

Should Elimination Diets be carried out?

Food should not be excluded until proven allergic to. A dietian should always be consulted and advice followed. Parents need to be educated in nutrition and be able to read food labels. A restricted diet, usually consisting of meat, vegetables, fruits, water and rice milk, should not be continued if there is no improvement after 6 weeks. There are cases when food removed from a diet added back later in childhood causes a more severe allergic reaction than before.

AskDrSears also has an article on eczema, which shares allergic triggers such as milk, egg, soy, peanuts, fish and wheat. The advice was to eliminate all six foods for 2 to 3 weeks, then re-introduce each food one at a time to determine which is causing the allergy.

DrSearsLEAN’s recommendation

As mentioned last week, there are six common foods (milk, egg, soy, peanuts, fish and wheat) that make up nearly 90% of possible allergic foods. Eliminate all 6 foods for 2 to 3 weeks. If you see dramatic improvement, then re-introduce each food one at a time to determine which is causing the allergy. It is important to note that fruits and vegetables are not common allergens and are very important in boosting your child’s immune system and the phytonutrients and antioxidants they contain are powerful anti-inflammatories. Try incorporating fruits and vegetables into every meal – even breakfast!

Healthy Kid’s Lifestyle

Tip #2: Make a Rule – Less TV, More Exercise!

Make a rule’ – which is no TV or video games on weekdays or before 30 minutes of play outside. Ideally, instead of watching TV, children can spend time exercising and do a range of activities from inviting their friends over to play to playing sports as a family. TV (and IPad) is becoming a ‘baby-sitter’, offering some relief for parents to finish up the chores or tidy the house (my own favorite phrase is ‘Order Has Been Restored!’). I have to confess that I let my baby watch TV since 3 month old, but only baby sign language dvd which has distracted her from scratching. As parents of eczema child would appreciate, it’s immensely stressful and difficult to keep the child from scratching and if TV can help, is that ok?

TV and Eczema and ADHD

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no TV for children below two years old. A study by Dr. Dimitri Christakis, Director of Child Health Institute at Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center (Seattle, Washington) showed that for every hour of TV watched, the toddler has a 10% higher chance of developing attention problems by age 7. The study is not without its limitations, which include data collected based on parents’ recollection, no data on content of TV programs and attention problems do not necessarily equal ADHD (‘Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder’). Another study done by Carl Landhuis of University of Otago in Dunedin similarly concluded that children aged 5 to 7 who watched more than two hours of TV are more likely to develop symptoms of ADHD. Common reasons why TV is not good for children are that the fast-paced screens are not natural and replaces other activities like reading that require attention development. The noise of the TV also interferes with the brain’s ‘inner speech’, especially if TV is left on all the time when no one’s watching.

The bad news for parents with eczema children is that study has suggested an association between eczema and ADHD in children. 5.2% of 1,436 children with eczema also have ADHD versus 3.4% of children without eczema. Also the younger the child has eczema, the increased likelihood of ADHD. Thus, it would appear that even though TV may help distract a child from scratching, it is even more critical not to let eczema children watch TV given the higher correlation with ADHD.

DrSearsLEAN’s recommendation

Television plays a big role in childhood obesity because watching TV is a non-active activity that often leads to boredom (believe it or not!) and a tendency to over consume junky foods. Be a role model for your children and don’t eat while watching TV. Encourage them to participate in another activity such as reading or imaginative play. Your children will imitate your actions so always remember that how much time you spend watching TV and what other behaviors you practice while watching TV is a choice. Taking the time to invest in your child by playing with them is always a worthwhile investment for both your and their health!

Tip #3: ‘Set an Example’ – It’s easier to Exercise as a family

Exercise as a family such as ‘develop a routine’, ‘play sports together as a family’ and ‘have each person pick a different family exercise or activity to learn together’. It’s even more important to encourage each family member to keep fit because obesity is contagious! As written in the ‘The New England Journal of Medicine recently published a study that showed that if one spouse is obese, the other is 37 percent more likely to become obese, too’. For families with children with eczema, it is even more important because there appears to be a link between obesity and eczema.

Obesity is Contagious

Obesity and Eczema

In a study conducted by Dr. Jonathan Silverberg, dermatologist at St Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital (New York), there’s increased risk of developing severe eczema for children who are obese. Particularly, for children who became obese between age 2 to 5, the risk is three times higher than non-obese children. A later study focusing on adults gave similar results but the good thing is in both studies, eczema symptoms improved when weight is reduced.

Another study in Sweden also showed that hand eczema co-relates with individuals who are obese, have higher stress and smokes. The reason for obesity affecting eczema could be due to obesity resulting in inflammation in fat tissue, which overtime, can affect the skin.

DrSearsLEAN’s recommendation

Moving around and being active is one habit kids can learn easily, especially if their parents set a good example. Rather than thinking of movement as “exercise”, think of it as “play”! Running, hopping, skipping, jumping, riding a bike, etc, – These are all things kids (and parent) naturally enjoy. Movement does far more than just help control obesity. Moving more improves mood, helps you to feel better, improves sleep, helps digestion, encourages self-confidence, and more! Take some time to play with your child everyday. It will benefit both of you immensely!

Tip #4: ‘Reduce Stress in Your Life’ – Laugh More and Be Grateful

Leading a healthier and happier life comes from having the right attitude to life, and that includes taking steps to reduce stress, increase laughter and be grateful. There are many practical tips to follow but as parents of eczema children, it may be hard to do so; for instance, it’s hard to think positively when the eczema flares yet again for no reason. Or it can be difficult to enjoy a dvd when your child keeps scratching during the movie. Worse, repeated failed attempts to keep the eczema under control could demoralize the parent so much that it’s hard to appreciate the good even in our spouse, not to mention someone we don’t like.  The stress that families with eczema faces is considerable and a study has shown that stress levels in mothers caring for young children with eczema are equivalent to those mothers of children with severe disabilities.

Stress Triggers Eczema

While it may be more difficult to keep the stress level low in families with eczema children, it is important to do so should stress be one of the triggers of the eczema. As stated in Adnan Nasir’s book Eczema Free for Life, stress is the number three trigger and can worsen eczema by:

(i)         Stimulating hormones to be released which result in an increase in inflammatory substances the skin is allergic to

(ii)        Suppressing the immune system which results in a decrease in defense proteins to protect the skin

(iii)       Weakening the lipid skin barrier which results in dry skin that is vulnerable to irritants

Museums, Factory Tours, Animal Farms but Swimming?

Swimming is a fun activity such as having fun with balls and slides in water parks or leisure pools.  But many parents are worried about bringing their child with eczema to the pool, fearing that the chlorine in the swimming pool water may worsen the eczema. On the contrary, my baby’s doctor actually advised swimming three times a week but not more than 10 minutes each time. Be sure to shower them immediately and apply generous amount of moisturizer.

According to a factsheet from the National Eczema Society, chlorine is generally the least likely to cause skin irritation. In another of their fact sheet, it is suggested that re-creating chlorinated swimming pool with a bleach bath can have positive anti-septic effects on the skin. In particular, eczema skin is susceptible to colonization of staphylococcus aureus bacteria that can cause infection if it penetrates the skin. More than 90% of the people with eczema have staph versus less than 10% of people without eczema. Swimming is therefore a fun way to reduce this bacteria and applying steroid will then be more effective.

DrSearsLEAN’s recommendation

Chlorine and other chemicals in water can sometimes be the cause of skin irritation and contribute to eczema in a small percentage of kids. Always bathe your child in clean fresh water after swimming and avoid using regular soap. Most regular soap, whether liquid or bar soap can cause dryness. A natural soap mixed with moisturizing lotion and free of perfumes will enhance skin moisture. These can be found in any drugstore or supermarket. Also avoid scented lotions and use PABA-free suntan lotion to protect their skin. Be sure to use a generous amount of moisturizer after bathing your child.The lotion helps seal in all the moisture gained from the bath to help control your child’s eczema.

Overall, swimming is a fun way to get your kids moving more! Plus, they are learning a life-long tool. It’s much easier to learn to swim when your child is young. Getting them used to the water helps them overcome fears and could be a life-saving tool  someday!

Indoors Fun versus Sweating it Outdoors

There are many fun activities to do indoors and some are ‘put together a PLAY basket’ and ‘get a pedometer’. One of the tips is ‘plan your family vacation around an outdoor activity’, such as camping which is an opportunity to get away from technology and instead, do some biking and hiking. However, outdoor exercise inadvertently comes with sun and sweat. Heat and perspiration is the number one trigger for eczema and is also the only trigger I’ve identified for my baby. The combination of heat and perspiration may set off a ‘heat rash’ as an eczema child’s skin is more vulnerable to chemicals in sweat which may irritate the skin.

Sunlight – To Block or Not?

According to a factsheet from the National Eczema Society, sun exposure is drying to the skin and may aggravate eczema for some people. Ron Sweren, M.D., a dermatologist and director of the photo-medicine unit at Johns Hopkins also said that sunlight can serve as a trigger that worsens eczema. To prevent sunburn, sunscreen lotion is a must but again, you can read here that some of the ingredients may also irritate your child’s skin. Moreover, according to Sewon Kang, M.D., director of department of dermatology at John Hopkins, increased sweating will lead to more showers taken, which again could worsen the eczema. In less common cases, there may be sunlight allergy or photosensitive eczema which further restricts exposure to sun.

However, there are also cases of eczema that improve with sunlight exposure and there’s a treatment known as phototherapy that exposes the skin to UVA1 rays that can soothe the skin without causing sunburn. Moreover, vitamin D that comes from sunlight has been shown to increase the production of skin proteins (cathelicidin) which protects against skin infection.

Dr Sears L.E.A.N.’s recommendation

Eczema results from the combination of a genetic tendency toward dry, sensitive skin and a susceptibility to allergies. Although most children aren’t bothered by the day-to-day wear and tear of soaps, dirt, sweat, heat, clothing, and everything else we come into contact with, the skin of a child with eczema is hypersensitive to everyday life. It is important for you to monitor your child and identify the main trigger for developing eczema flare-ups. For some it could be heat and sweat, others are triggered by what they eat (or what mom eats if they are breastfeeding), grass, dirt, or chemicals in the environment around them. Although there is nothing you can do to change your child’s genetic susceptibility to dry, sensitive skin, there are many steps you can take to improve skin health, reduce exposure to irritants, track own allergic triggers, and minimize the impact the eczema has on your child’s day-to-day life

Healthy Kid’s Nutrition

Boosting our immune system is important, particularly for both parents and children with eczema because the lack of sleep can lower our immunity. As recommended on, we should choose healthy food that contain the following eight immune system boosters, namely vitamin C, vitamin E, carotenoids, bioflavonoids, zinc, garlic, selenium and omega-3 fatty acids. Out of these eight immunity boosters, parents may find that zinc and essential fatty acids are often recommended for children with eczema.

Tip #5: Get Healthy Eating Food, not Supplement

There’s some research that points to zinc and omega-3 fatty acids can help to reduce skin rashes in adults and also that eczema children appear to be deficient in essential fatty acids which results in a lower production of anti-inflammatory prostaglandins that can help fight skin infection. However, research is not conclusive as clinical trials have also been conducted with no significant impact on eczema. Parents should incorporate the immune system booster food into the child’s diet rather than in supplement as excessive intake of say, zinc can inhibit immune function. The RNI (reference nutrient intake) for zinc is 4mg per day for a six month-old and 5mg for a toddler. Zinc-rich foods include beans, chickpeas, beef, turkey and spinach while omega-3 rich foods are salmon, tuna and sardines.

DrSearsLEAN’s recommendation

To improve your child’s skin from the inside out, add these nutrients to his or her diet:

  • Fruits and vegetables can help improve allergic and inflammatory diseases like eczema. If you have a picky eater who avoids fruits and veggies, you may consider giving them a whole food supplement to help boost their immune system.
  • An omega-3 supplement provides beneficial fats to help the skin stay healthy. Good sources of Omega-3s are avocados, salmon, tuna, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds.
  • Probiotics taken in liquid, powder, or pill form can help decrease food allergies.

Choosing A Healthy Drink for Kids

Parents beware that not all drinks packaged for children and have ‘vitamins’ listed on the packaging are healthy. As stated on, drinks with the main ingredient ‘high fructose corn syrup’ may result in overeating because it does not trigger a hormone, leptin, that creates fullness. Moreover, children who drink more than 12 ounces per day of concentrated juice are more likely to be overweight. For eczema children, it’s also best to avoid sugary drinks which contain caffeine (may trigger eczema), increase tooth decay while artificially flavored drinks have been linked to ADHD. For a healthy choice, plain water with lots of fruits and vegetables is best

Does Softening Water Help?

Water makes up 60% of our body and is useful for flushing out waste and toxins. There are some observations that eczema is more prevalent in areas where water is hard as the higher calcium and magnesium content may be a skin irritant. However, from a clinical trial conducted by Professor Hywel Williams and Dr Kim Thomas of the Centre of Evidence Based Dermatology at University of Nottingham, there is no impact of using softened water on eczema. However for parents who have found water softeners to improve their children’s eczema, they certainly can continue to do so. Skincare routine like moisturizing, showering without using harsh soap and appropriate treatment is still required.

DrSearsLEAN’s recommendation

Water is an essential nutrient. Water is to our body what oil is to a car; we can’t function without it. Like growing plants, growing kids need lots of water. Our bodies are 50 to 70 percent water, and much of that water has to be replaced every day. Water helps prevent constipation, eliminate toxins from the body, hydrate the brain, and keeps breathing passages moist and clear of mucus. As a general rule, children need around one ounce of fluid per pound of body weight per day. The majority of your fluids should be from plain water, but a small amount of fluids can also be from milk or 100% fruit juice. Drinking soda should be discouraged. Many juice drinks and all sodas are high in calories, provide no nutrients, and are usually sweetened with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which you should always avoid.

MarcieMom: Thank you Dr. Sears for being with us throughout the whole series. I’ve been so glad and delighted to hear your advice which definitely gives me the confidence to raise a healthy child, despite her eczema.

Guest Interview

Sensitive Skin Product Series – Understanding Irritant-Free

I ‘met’ Laura Verallo Rowell Bertotto, the CEO of VMVGroup, on twitter and learnt that her company is the only hypoallergenic brand that validates its hypoallergenicity.

VMV Hypoallergenics is founded in 1979 by Dr. Vermén Verallo-Rowell who is a world renowned dermatologist, dermatopathologist and dermatology/laser surgeon, also an author, esteemed researcher and speaker. 

Sensitive Skin Skincare Product Interview series with Dr Vermen Verallo Rowell VMV Hypoallergenics
  1. Sensitive Skin Product Series – What is Hypoallergenic?
  2. What does Natural Skincare Product mean?
  3. What is considered Organic and Non-Comedogenic?
  4. What does Suitable for Eczema Children mean?
  5. What is Patch Testing (for skincare product ingredients?)
  6. How do you read ingredients on skincare product label?
  7. What does Irritant-Free mean?
  8. What ingredients in skincare product to avoid?
  9. How is Coconut Oil used in skincare?
  10. What is product cross-reactivity?
  11. How many ingredients in a skincare product?
  12. How to use skincare products on Sensitive Skin?
  13. How to manage the diaper area?
Contact allergens irritants in skincare products
Allergens to Avoid

‘Perfume Free’, ‘Propylene Glycol Free’, ‘Paraben Free’, ‘Lanolin Free’, ‘Preservatives Free’, ‘Colorant Free’ – So Many ‘Frees’! Is this too much or too little?

In this post, I’ve consolidated a list of irritants to avoid which include the above and also sodium lauryl sulphate, mineral oils, conventional emulsifiers and paraffin. I’ve also realized that it’s difficult to find a product that excludes all potential irritants so for this interview, we catch up with Laura to understand which are the more allergenic ingredients and how to assess what our child can use.

Marcie Mom: I understand that VMV recommends its customers to perform a patch test, i.e. applying on a small area and observe for few hours to up to 72 hours before gradually increasing usage. Can a child also take a patch test?

Laura: Wow you do your research 🙂 Ok, for ANY cosmetic, doing a provisional patch test before purchasing and/or sampling is always a good idea prior to making a purchase.

Patch Testing

The best tool is really a proper patch test done by your dermatologist, but this cannot be done on children. If you have a child with very sensitive skin, allergies and/or eczema, etc., however, as soon as he is old enough to get a full patch test, he should. This is really the best way to determine what, in particular he needs to avoid. And if you’re sensitive, as allergies are often hereditary, your own patch test results may give you a possible idea of what your child might be allergic to as well (this is not a sure thing, however; your child would still benefit from his/her own patch test at the appropriate age).

Making Sense of Irritant-Free

Marcie Mom: Should parents use a product that markets ‘XXX-Free’?

Laura: Yes, a good guide is to look out for what irritant the product is free of. The big problem, however, is that a lot of marketing-speak says “free this” and “free that”, and, unless you’ve really done your homework and have a deep understanding of ingredients and allergens, you may not be able to accurately judge if the ingredient that is absent is even harmful. What I’m trying to say is that “XXX-FREE!” is a powerful marketing phrase on its own, whether or not it has objective merit (e.g. whether or not a product is better for not having a particular ingredient in it).


Lots of shampoos now, for example, are touting “SLS-free” heavily. The thing is there are two ingredients with these initials: Sodium LauRYL Sulfate and Sodium LaurETH Sulfate. While the former is a well-known irritant, the latter is actually rather harmless, particularly in lower concentrations. So if a product says SLS-Free, you’d need to check which of the two is absent. And, neither is on the allergen lists (again, these lists are compiled from patch tests done on over 20,000 people). Much of the hooplah surrounding SLS/SLES has to do with their environmental impact — which is a valid concern but may not be as relevant as for skin safety.


One more thing to consider. When you read a lot of the posts about “causes cancer”, it’s natural to worry. These claims are serious and you don’t want to take them lightly. However, it is important to remember that many (but not all) of these reports are skewed to be sensational — they may not be balanced. For example, much of the evidence of the carcinogenicity of certain ingredients is determined in laboratory experiments with animals fed the ingredient in very high doses (sometimes the equivalent of the animal’s body weight and the equivalent of a lifetime of consumption at these doses). Many of the same ingredients used in cosmetics are used in minuscule amounts and in molecular sizes that are too large to penetrate to the dermis, much less get to the bloodstream. An example would be parabens: we stopped using them because they are allergens, not because of the cancer panic, because there simply is not enough to go on.

Mineral Oil

Mineral oil is another great example: NOT an allergen. Ask any dermatologist and they’ll tell you mineral oil is a go-to, reliable hydrator even for extremely sensitive skin (there are some reports of comedogenicity but it is otherwise a go-to moisturizer) and for extremely sensitive areas (even the genitalia). Again, most of the concern with this (as well as petroleum jelly, another big dermatologist favorite) is environmental. And again this is a valid argument for the planet, but strictly speaking for skin safety, these ingredients are not allergens and are relied upon regularly by dermatologists for very dry, sensitive skin conditions.


“Hypoallergenic” is not regulated. Many ingredients touted for sensitive skin are actually highly allergenic. Some natural and/or organic ingredients are allergens, too. Yes, definitely, “fragrance-free” is key…but then again, are you confident that you know all the chemical names of all products that are fragrances and masking fragrances or that cross react with/are related to them (e.g. cinnamic alcohol)?

The best guide is really allergen-free. But you have to make sure that the “allergens” to which the brand is referring are those that are proven allergens. The NACDG and ESSCA patch test on over 20,000 people in multiple countries to compile their lists of allergens, and crucially, they update these lists every few years. These lists are, therefore, statistically relevant, consistently updated, and put together by two of the most respected groups of doctors in the world who concentrate on allergens and contact dermatitis — and they are regularly published in peer-reviewed medical journals. This allergen list is what the VH-Rating System uses and, considering we’ve had less than 0.1% reported reactions in 30 years, it’s quite reliable.

Marcie Mom: Thanks! It’s great to understand a little more about some of the ingredients, so that parents can assess if they truly need a product that excludes them. For the next interview, we’ll continue to learn more about choosing products for sensitive skin.

2015 update: Selection of moisturizer – try to see how to put a few basic principles of moisturizer selection in practice

2016 update: Surfactant skincare series that covers ingredients that have been studied to irritate eczema skin, such as CAPB

2018 update: The current list of prohibited ingredients by FDA are 1,4-dioxane, and 10 other ingredients: Bithionol, Chlorofluorocarbon propellants, Chloroform, Halogenated salicylanilides (di-, tri-, metabromsalan and tetrachlorosalicylanilide), Hexachlorophene (HCP concentration in a cosmetic may not exceed 0.1 percent, and it may not be used in cosmetics that are applied to mucous membranes, such as the lips), mercury compounds, methylene chloride, prohibited cattle materials, Vinyl chloride and Zirconium-containing complexes.