First, if you are reading this, I’m sorry. Problematic skin is nothing short of horrendous as there is simply no escaping it. As I’ve said probably a thousand times, at Scout’s worse, she looked as though her skin was melting off with cracks that were more like crevices. Not only did this leave her in constant pain, but it took an enormous toll on her mentally, eating away at her self confidence and negatively impacting every aspect of her life.
That’s why I knew I had to do something about it when every cream on the market (and prescribed!) failed to deliver on its promises. Our Rescue Balm delivers everything your skin needs and wants to calm, soothe, and heal itself.
But (and it's a big but), as much as I’d like to tell you to just slather it on once a day and enjoy perfect skin, if you suffer from chronic skin conditions, you know it just isn’t that simple. So we’ve gathered what we’ve learned over the past 20 years of managing Scout’s eczema on this page to hopefully help speed your journey to healthy skin and being able to enjoy your life.
1. Ditch the topical steroids and learn about Topical Steroid Withdrawal Syndrome. If you are relying on steroid creams to manage your symptoms, they're not working. Their own manufacturers' instructions state that they should never be used for more than a 2 week period.
Does your skin become worse every time you try a new product? From ITSAN, "Topical Steroid Withdrawal Syndrome is characterized by red, itchy, burning skin that can appear after ceasing topical steroid treatments, or even between treatments. Topical steroids are effective for a period of time to treat the skin condition. As time passes, however, applying topical steroids results in less and less clearing. The original problem escalates as it spreads to other areas of the body. This “progression” is often mistaken for worsening eczema, contact dermatitis, an infection, or an allergic reaction."
Topical steroids have a definite role to play in controlling severe skin conditions, but they are overprescribed by physicians who don't know what else to do and this is creating a pandemic for people with chronic skin conditions.
2. Give your skin time and patience. Your skin takes 28 days to fully regenerate itself. As we age, this process takes longer. Give your changes time to work. Just because a new treatment hasn't performed a biblical miracle on your skin overnight doesn't mean it isn't working. The longer you have suffered your condition, the deeper the damage is likely to be. Be patient (seriously, give it at least 4 weeks) and give your skin the time it needs to heal itself.
3. Accept that it may look worse before it gets better. Due to the way our skin renews from several layers below what you can see, the dead, damaged cells will need to erupt and shed before the healthy cells can become visible. This can lead to scabbing and an appearance of dry, scaly skin. This is a normal part of the process as the dead cells are purged. Don't panic. Keep going and see #2 above.
4. Do not skimp on the moisturiser. Once you’ve found what works for your skin, use it as often as needed as your skin requires not only a barrier to keep moisture in but a barrier to keep irritants out. Intially, this can mean applying 6 or more times a day (don't worry, it gets better as your barrier repairs itself). Scout moisturises head to toe morning and night. She also carries a Rescue Balm everywhere she goes to top up as necessary.
5. Stop confusing your skincare with perfume. Trust us, your skin will only thank you. Fragrance, even natural essential oils, are one of the most common irritants in skincare and cosmetics. It takes a lot of fragrance to keep your hands smelling like that summer meadow you like so much. Not only is this essentially wasted space in the formulation that could be filled with a useful ingredient, but its quite possibly making your skin worse.
6. Stop using basic store bought or prescribed soaps and cleansers. Even from so called clean companies until you learn to read the ingredients list. These are often filled with harsh ingredients that will not only strip your skin of its much needed moisture and many are known irritants that will only worsen your skin. Fragrance, colour and texture get prioritised to the detriment of your skin. Remember, arsenic is a natural ingredient but would you want to bathe in it?
And whilst water can be a very useful addition to create a light cream, most high street moisturisers on the market use it at 90%+ of the total formula leaving you paying for only 10% (and often far less) active ingredients. Its cheap for a reason.
Search out high quality waterless formulations that use natural butters and oils and ditch the petroleum filled emollients (and definitely the overuse of steroids) your GP is prescribing.
Ditch anything with:-
- Ethanolamine (DEA, MEA, TEA anything) -carcinogens, bioaccumulation can cause organ toxicity, reproductive issues, risk of birth defects. Can combine with other chemicals to form nitrosamines.
- PEG anything -Polyethylene glycol, aka liquid plastic.
- DMDM hydantoin -a formaldehyde preservative.
- Urea (Imidazolidinyl) -another formaldehyde preservative.
- Mineral oil - a petroleum derivative, a cheap ingredient that makes it look like the moisturiser is doing something but it simply coats and clogs the skin.
- Paraffins -petroleum derived wax. Flammable, a cheap way to soften your skin without actually hydrating or encouraging healing. Harmful if ingested.
- Propylene glycol (PG) & butylene glycol -skin irritant, causes dermatitis, yet found in most skincare.
- Methylisothiazolinone and Methylchloroisothiazolinone -winner of Contact Allergen of the Year 2013 by the American Contact Dermatitis Society and it has been clinically attributed as responsible for an "epidemic" of contact allergies.
- anything ending in "-siloxane" or "-methicone."
- Sodium laurel sulfate (SLS) & sodium laureth sulfate(SLES) -despite being a known eye, skin, and lung irritants, these are found in most products that foam.
- Toluene -benzene, toluol, phenylmethane, methylbenzene
- Hydroquinone -probably in that hugely popular anti-ageing serum you’re hearing about. Not only does this sensitise your skin and can cause contact dermatitis, but it can cause liver, nerve, and foetal damage.
- Silicones -you are just cling filming your problems! A cheap ingredient to make the formula and your skin feel silky. It's fine in makeup, but not something to look for in a serum or moisturiser!
- Synthetic colours -the letters c, d, or f followed by a colour or number. Usually petroleum or coal tar derived.
- Fragrance/parfum -almost always a synthetic chemical and there is no legal requirement to disclose what they’re made of.
- Phthalates -usually listed as parfum or fragrance, see above.
7. Your skin doesn’t require harsh foaming chemicals or hot water to be clean. Scout has been cleaning her skin with natural casile soap and our AHA+BHA Mask & Polish for a years now with excellent results. Our waterless Enzymatic Cleansing Balm has been developed to gently cleanse your skin whilst also moisturising and is suitable for daily use. Unlike traditional foaming cleansers, it doesn't strip your barrier with every use. My mid-40s and Scout's hypersensitive skin love it!
Also, remember that anything you wash your hair with will end up on your skin. Most shampoos are filled with harsh chemicals and the surfactants used in cheap sulfate free shampoos are often worse for your skin than sulfates. We do not use anything on our hair that we wouldn’t wash our skin with.
8. Be aware of what’s in the water you wash in. In our area of The Cotswolds, the water is extremely hard and highly fluoridated. Installing a water softener and filter has been one of the best things we could do for everyone’s hair and skin but Scout benefited the most. You do not need to go as far as a whole house filter. There are numerous filters on the market that can be installed beneath your shower head and which do an excellent job.
9. While we’re on the subject of cleaning, do not skip your skin’s regimen! If you get dirty or sweaty, shower and moisturise as soon as possible. Its more complicated than this, but your skin is overreacting to every particle that touches it. The more you can remove those particles, the less reaction there will be.
Having said that, do not apply moisturiser to dirty skin. I don't care that you shower every morning or night or whatever, your skin is subjected to a barrage of environmental irritants at all times. Give it a cool rinse before applying your moisturiser of choice or you risk sealing irritants against your skin and working against yourself. That burning sensation you get any time you put a cream on? Could be the fact that you didn't clean your skin first.
10. You spend almost every hour of every day in clothing of one sort or another. Do not fill those clothes with chemicals! Find the most natural detergent you can (we make our own) and ditch the softener (see 4 above). Plain white vinegar works brilliantly in the rinse to soften fabric and neutralise any detergent left behind in the rinse while also leaving your clothes wonderfully soft.
11. Be conscious of the fabrics you wear. In this case, sadly, natural is not always better. Silk, bamboo, and cotton are all brilliant fabrics that do not scratch or dry out the skin. There are also some smooth microfibres that do the same job. Unfortunately, wool is a no-no not only due to its inherent scratchiness, but lanolin also causes a reaction for most eczema sufferers (and yet is present in oh so many "natural" balms).
12. Speaking of fabrics, bamboo or silk bed sheets can be a godsend. If the cost of those are out of reach, at least invest in a high thread count cotton as this will be smoother than cheaper sheets. But the benefit of silk and bamboo isn’t just their softness. They do not strip your skin of its much needed moisture and therefore are also an excellent pyjama choice!
13. As I mentioned earlier, your skin is overreacting to everything in your environment. So try to give it as little to react to as possible! This means clinical cleanliness in your home ensuring there is no build up of dust, pet dander, pollen, etc. A minimalist bedroom (think Scandi) can be a real saviour for sufferers and we found an air filter was another worthwhile investment.
14. Invest in an allergen test. These can be as little as £40 or simply start an elimination diet. Common food irritants are dairy, gluten, and nightshades (potatoes, tomatoes, chillies, etc). In Scout’s case, her love of chillies was her downfall but as we can see her skin breakdown from the first bite, she’s found giving them up to be worth it.
However, don't buy into today's "leaky gut" hype. Dietary changes can eliminate dermatitis, but eczema and psoriasis are genetic and no amount of dietary change can edit your DNA.
15. Get some sun! Natural vitamin D is amazing for eczema. While I would never advise sunbathing or going to the beach without a good SPF, going for a daily walk and getting natural light on your skin can do a world of good.
We have built our entire line of products to be suitable for all skin types with formulas that calm troubled skin and speed healing. While we believe our Rescue Balm will be the miracle in a pot you’re searching for, we cannot stress the need for a multi-pronged approach in managing eczema in order to achieve long term recovery. The more areas of possible irritation you can address and shut down, the better your chances of a return to healthy, elastic skin.
I hope these tips will be as invaluable to you as they have been to us.
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