Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Dealing with Eczema - "Organic, All Natural, Clean" Products… is it true?

It's been almost 4 years since I was thrust into the world of eczema and learning how to deal with it. It started with Quinn around a few weeks old when he developed a "rash" on his face which proceeded to blister and weep (leak). Several doctors visits confirmed it was eczema, wrote me a prescription for hydrocortisone and sent me home. Of course I never use any medications or creams on my kids without consulting Dr. Google first. Whoa. Was that ever an eye opener! And so began the long journey of learning how to help clear my sons eczema and all about the horrible ingredients in our skin care products (especially baby products).

Now, I'm by no means a tree-hugging, earth-loving, environmentalist. Don't get me wrong, I do what I can to reduce our carbon footprint, but if someone had suggested to me (before having kids) to carefully check my skin care ingredients I would have rolled my eyes. But when all of a sudden you are holding an innocent baby in your arms, with sores all over his face and he's crying in pain, you start to re-think your pre-conceived notions about what's safe and what's not.

I wanted to write a post about this because I frequently talk to other moms who's babies also suffer from bad eczema. They come to me for help and to purchase Hazelwood Necklaces (more on that later), so I find myself in a position to be able to help. Also note that any information here also applies to adult eczema too!

The Dirty Dozen
Skin Care Ingredients to Avoid
First I want to start off by mentioning the Dirty Dozen. It's a list of 12 ingredients commonly found in skin care products (as well as soaps and shampoos) that are not only harmful on the irritant level (which makes eczema and other skin conditions worse) but are also cancer causing (I know that's a loaded statement, but click the link, have a quick read and decide for yourself).

The next thing I want to mention is all the products labeled "Organic", "Natural/All Natural", "Clean", etc. Be wary of these labels. Instead of taking them for face value, simply read the ingredients list. Check for any of the "Dirty Dozen" ingredients to truly know if you are dealing with something that is even remotely close to "Natural". Did you know that by simply adding in some aloe or cucumber extract, you can then label your product as "natural"? Doesn't mean that the rest of the ingredients are good. As for organic products, that's easy. In order for a product to legitimately claim it is 100% organic, it will have "Certified Organic" label on it's packaging. No label? Then it's probably not 100% certified organic. So save your change.

Once you've checked your current products ingredients (and tossed out the ones containing any of the dirty dozen), it's time to start an even bigger elimination process to find the cause of the eczema. Eczema is not just caused by what you put on your skin. In fact, your skin care routine is only part of what exacerbates an already underlying problem. Eczema can be caused my many factors: Stress, Diet/Allergies, Environmental Issues, etc. Here is a more in-depth list to help you determine what factors may be playing a part in your baby's (or your own) cause of eczema: Triggers of Eczema from the National Eczema Foundation. It can be a long process to find and eliminate the triggers from the list. And it's not always possible to eliminate everything (maybe due to environmental factors and/or nutritional needs). So what do you do when you've done all you can up to this point?

Here is MY OWN personal list of 3 little tips/tricks I've developed over the years that have helped us to completely eliminate eczema in our family!!!

(1) Less is Best: Before you go out and start hunting down certified organic products to replace the ones you threw out containing the Dirty Dozen ingredients, start by eliminating all products in your routine. Wash with only warm water and a soft cloth. For babies, limit baths to 1-2 times a week and only in warm water. The hotter the water, the quicker it will dry out the skin. Make baths short and sweet.

(2) Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize: The best moisturizer to start with is organic Olive, Almond or Coconut oil. All of these are readily available at most grocery stores in the organic section. My preference is Coconut Oil. It's less messy (it's actually solid, which melts in your hand as you rub it in) and it smells awesome! Make sure you moisturize right after the bath/shower, and several times a day. As often as you can, and don't be shy. Slather it on. Not only will this help clear up the eczema, it also helps keep it from coming back providing you moisturize often. Read more about the many benefits of Coconut Oil (here). We used to keep Quinn so greased up he inherited the nickname "French Fry" (which has kind of stuck). NOTE: a lot of people recommend to use Petroleum Jelly (Vaseline) or Baby Oil (Mineral Oil). Even doctors recommend these. But did you know that both of these these are simply by-products from manufacturing gasoline? And did you know it's actually cheaper for the manufacturing plants to bottle and sell the waste labeled "baby oil" or "mineral oil" rather than dispose of it? Think about that the next time you have the urge to use them.

Replace your Hazelwood Necklace
every 3 months (or when you see the
ends of the beads have turned black).
(3) Hazelwood: it's been used for centuries to help babies with teething pain. But is also a great way to help relieve the symptoms of eczema in both babies and adults! Eczema can be exacerbated by a high level of acidity in the body. Hazelwood (when worn as a necklace), helps neutralize the acidity in the body by drawing it through the skin, out of the body and into the wood! You can see it working as the Hazelwood pieces turn black on the ends over time as it absorbs the acid from the body soaking it up into the wood. By wearing a Hazelwood Necklace 24/7, dramatic improvement is noticed very quickly, and also helps keep the eczema at bay and reduces the frequency of breakouts. Remember: you must replace your Hazelwood Necklace every 3 months (or when you see  the ends have turned black). Another good indication it needs replacing is you will see a frequent re-occurance of eczema breakouts.

By following just these 3 simple suggestions, and being vigilant about them, you will be well on your way to clearing up your baby's (or your own) eczema very quickly, and keeping it away!

Earth Mama Angel Baby
Certified Organic Products
Now you ask: but I can't keep bathing/showering with no soap forever! And you are right. You will at some point want/need to re-introduce some skin care products into your routine. Start small. Start with a shampoo and/or body wash. Remember to check your ingredients for the Dirty Dozen and avoid any products that contain them in their list. There are many great Certified Organic products on the market to choose from. So you will need to do a little bit of research yourself to find ones you like. My personal favourite is the line of products from Earth Mama Angel Baby. They have the highest standards for Certified Organic products of any other company I've researched. They are well aware of the Dirty Dozen List and have helped so many babies and families suffering with skin conditions. And not only are their products safe, they smell AHHHHH-mazing!!!! You will quickly wonder what you ever found nice about other baby products, when you first smell the Angel Baby line! I dare you not to nibble on their little toes after you've washed them and lathered them up! And, they also have a line of adult products, and scent free as well! Total win-win for the whole family! Most specialty baby shops carry their line of products, as do health food stores and Well.ca also carries their whole line and ships FREE!

But remember: start slow. Reintroduce products into your routine one at a time. If any reactions occur, then stop using it immediately. Revert back to the "Less is Best" plan mentioned above, until any reaction clears up and start again with a different product until you find one that works for you and your family!

And just a final note… now that summer is coming, don't forget about your sunscreen! There are most likely some Dirty Dozen ingredients in there too! A quick search of the web will help you find some wonderful products that are Certified Organic and work just as well (if not better) than your current sunscreen. My favourite? Green Beaver! Safe for kids!

If you have any questions or any tips/tricks of your own I'd love to hear them! Please leave a comment and let's chat!

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