This post is about helping to reduce mild eczema. If you spend 24/7 itching and have a serious issue, obviously talk to your doctor. A better option to ‘alternative medicine’ is ‘integrated medicine’. This means using conventional medicine when needed, but using nature to heal in milder cases, where some ‘dinosaur doctors’ or chemists would otherwise just prescribe steroid creams for you, and send you on your way.
Atopic eczema (its proper name is atopic dermatitis) is when the skin is dry with cracks, and also itchy. It’s very common in children, although it can sometimes disappear of its own accord, as children turn into adults. Mild eczema results in red patches on light skin (or brown, purple or grey patches on darker skin). It is common found on the hands, elbows, knees, and sometimes on the face and head (esp. in children). Often children with asthma or hay fever are more severely affected.
What causes eczema? It can often be allergies and food intolerance (like dairy), soaps/laundry powders, stress and weather changes. Psoriasis is similar, but less common, just 2% of people have it, mostly people under 35. This is when the dry patches turn into ‘silvery scales’ caused by skin cells rapidly replacing every few days, rather than every few weeks. This is more an immunity issue, where the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy skin cells. It is usually genetic but can be caused by injury, illness or medication. Although it may look contagious, it isn’t. UV light is sometimes used to try to control and improve it.
Rosacea is a condition that causes redness on the face and sometimes stings if you use personal care products. Harder to see on darker skin, it has in severe cases pustules on the face, and blood vessels that don’t disappear. Very severe cases is when the nose becomes thick, red and bulbous. Try to reduce alcohol, caffeine, hot drinks, cheese and spicy food. Exercise in cool weather and wear a good natural sunscreen.
Keratitis is a serious inflamed condition that some mistake for rosacea. If you have painful/blurred vision, red gritty eyes or are sensitive to light, immediately call for medical help.
Protect Skin from the Sun
As long as you’re sensible about it and use a good natural sunscreen, a bit of natural sunlight (for vitamin D) is good and can sometimes help flare-ups. Obviously be very careful with babies, to keep them safe in the sun.
NHS has tips to keep babies safe in the sun. Keep babies out of direct sunlight and use a sunshade and apply a safe baby sunscreen, and use a sunhat with a wide brim or long flap on the back, to protect heads and necks. Inside or outside, remove extra hats and clothing when going into warm places (even if it means waking babies) to help prevent risk of crib death. And use a room thermometer to check for safe temperatures.
Get Enough Vitamin D
Vitamin D is an important vitamin, but too much can cause nausea, vomiting, weakness, frequent urination, bone pain and kidney stones. Most people get enough vitamin D from sunlight in summer but not in winter. And people who cover their hands and face (like some Muslims) and people who don’t go outside also need it (the millions of people who have been shielding would need it, for instance).
NHS recommends taking a supplement in these cases and during winter months. Talk to your midwife or GP, regards pregnancy, babies and children as most need supplements. Vitamin D is only found in a few (animal) foods. So choose fortified plant milks and cereals, and use a good D2 supplement (made from algae, not sheep’s wool). Two good ones are Feel and Life Stacks (both in compostable packaging). Vegums offers fruity gums for adults and children, including plant-based omega 3 fatty acids, which are good for dry skin.
Gentle Soap, Gentle Laundry Powder
Coraleen Soap (Berkshire) was founded after the couple’s baby was born with Down Syndrome and 2 holes in her heart. Now happily better, they did find that her skin could not take any conventional soap, so they started to make their own. Their unscented soaps are the gentlest in the range, and what they used on their own child (not eczema, but very sensitive skin). All their soaps are vegan and free from palm oil, wrapped in zero waste packaging.
Use a Good Skin Cream
A good moisturiser is essential. But most conventional ones contain chemicals that are likely to make things worse. Be careful with allergies (always do a patch test (on the inside elbow or behind the ear). Some choices are:
- Vital Touch Natalia Healing Cream is a pot of baby cream in a jar, made just with shea butter (avoid for latex allergies), olive oil, vitamin E and calendula flower extract. Many say that if they apply it on ‘rash skin’ the night before, it’s gone by morning using this.
- Elena’s Nature Collection offers vegan-friendly eczema creams with over 80% success. These are available on NHS prescription, just ask your GP if they work after a few weeks. They have a GP Information Pack that you can order from them, to take with you on your visit.
- Coconut oil is a good choice. Kokosa is a good brand for babies. The lauric acid (also found in breast milk) can help some people. However some people are allergic to coconut oil, it’s classified as a tree nut.
- Lyonsleaf Calendula Cream is a waterless cream in a glass jar, made with Somerset herbs and essential oils (not for children under 3 or nut/aster allergies). Also suitable for mild rosacea, acne and psoriasis (and healing of bites, surgery or chemo/radiation therapy), it contains gamma linolenic acid (often lacking in people with eczema). This product has no preservative so won’t kill bacteria, so don’t use on broken skin nor on children.
- Frogleaf Cream has been developed by homeopathic practitioners in Sussex and London, and has been used for years on their patients, also sold online. It’s made with coconut oil and cocoa butter with various flower extracts and oils of lavender, rose and calendula flowers (avoid essential oils for pregnancy, nursing, babies or allergies).
- Bria Organics offers skin creams that are suitable for eczema, along with other creams for psoriasis and rosacea. In the midst of applying to be available on NHS prescription, note the creams are vegan-friendly but the balms are not (contain beeswax).
Tips to Help People with Eczema
- Showers are better than baths. Avoid fragranced bath oils. Also avoid bath salts, esp. on broken skin. Use natural towels, and dab skin (don’t rub yourself dry).
- Wear natural fabrics like cotton or hemp or linen. Avoid polyester or itchy fabrics like wool.
- Organic cotton eczema clothing is free from itchy seams and available as nightwear, scratch mittens and school uniforms. Recommended by a dermatologist at Great Ormond Street Hospital.
- Take up some form of relaxation. This could be yoga, meditation, taking a walk in nature, walks in nature or anything that works for you. Just think ‘what makes my blood pressure go down and relaxes me?’ Whatever that is, do it!
- Cut down on refined sugar and fried foods.
- Eczema Conquerors is a site by a woman who overcame severe eczema with nutrition changes. You can find tips, case studies and download her free e-book. It took around 2 months, but the basic premise was to eliminate processed foods, sugar and wheat and increase her intake of veggies, fruits, whole grains and superfoods. In one year her skin had healed around 90% and it took another year to heal the remaining 10%.
- Ayurveda is the world’s oldest forms of medicine that says we are a mix of three doshas: vata (mostly air), pitta (mostly fire) or kapha (earth and water). Although some eczema is caused by stress (air), itchy hot eczema is due to aggravated pitta. Ayurvedic doctors suggest following a ‘cooling lifestyle’ – early morning or evening walks, go for a swim (if the pool doesn’t aggravate your skin), eat cooling foods (cucumber over curry!) and learn to relax.