By Michele Wilson
Eva was 18 months old. Her skin was terrible – inflamed and raw and kept her awake overnight with itchy skin. She would wake in the morning with blood-stained sheets from scratching her skin to pieces in her sleep. Finding a moisturiser that did what it claimed proved impossible: I tried absolutely every product on the market. All had little or no effect. I’ve since learned that not all are created equally, and many are just no good at treating eczema-inflamed skin, despite what they suggest.
The market didn’t have a product that worked for us, so sheer determination and a heck of a lot of research gave me a reason to ultimately create my own product. Everyone’s triggers are different and what works for me, may not work for you. You may have a moisturiser that falls into one of the categories below; if it’s effective I say stick with it! However here’s some information I found useful when working our way towards an effective eczema treatment, that worked for us.
Chemically loaded moisturisers can cause the skin to become more irritated and worsen flare ups. Read the back of your moisturiser – if its unpronounceable or unrecognisable, I say stay clear!
Eczema is caused by an immune response to something either external (like the winter cold, synthetic chemicals or dust mites), or internal (like food intolerances or poor gut health). This immune response triggers a series of events that ultimately lead to eczema inflamed skin. They are:
- Trans epidermal water loss (TEWL) – think next level water loss from the skin’s layers. All skin dries out from time to time, but TEWL is a constant loss of huge amounts of moisture from the skin.
Once enough water is lost, the outer skin layers are lost. This exposes the inner skin layers to the environment.
- Once these inner skin layers are exposed, the pH of the skin alters. It’s this alteration in the skin’s pH which causes the skin to become itchy.
- Whenever the itchy skin is scratched, it becomes inflamed.
- This is a constant and vicious cycle because while all of these events are happening, more and more water is being lost from the skin, worsening the eczema flare.
- If these steps are not controlled by a really good quality moisturiser, then the skin is at risk of becoming infected.
When formulating a moisturiser for Eva, it became obvious to me that I needed something that was going to create a barrier over the skin and trap moisture in, ensuring the above events were not going to happen in the first place. I found that every single product on the market contained water, and lots of it! Moisturisers that contain water (which by definition are all of them) are just not strong enough to create a barrier over the skin to trap in water. Water-based moisturisers also tend to contain preservatives and stabilisers to prohibit mould growth, ensure product consistency and a longer shelf life. The problem with these ingredients for eczema-prone skin is they can also irritate sensitive skin and cause flare ups, as they have in Eva’s case.
From the research I’ve done, and a lot of trial and error, my suggestion is to stick to 100% unrefined oil-based balms. It’s important, however, to ensure your oil-based product has the support of a vitamin E. If it doesn’t, your oil will become volatile and the actives will be lost quickly. In other words, oils go off without vitamin E! This is a real risk for eczema sufferers because applying an oil-based balm without vitamin E creates the risk of applying microbes and bacteria on the skin, which is the opposite of what you want to achieve. This may also be the reason why other balms you’ve tried haven’t worked.