“Eeny, meeny, miny, moe…” or how to spot eczema. October 15 2014, 0 Comments


 “Eeny, meeny, miny, moe,
   Catch a tiger by the toe.
   If he hollers, let him go,
   Eeny, meeny, miny, moe.”

Hmm…the current politically correct version of the counting rhyme game played in childhood, to select the “it” person for exclusion somehow has lost the flow it had in my youth. I find it somewhat confronting that even children’s books are being edited to remove any of the unacceptable stigmas associated with our chequered history as a developing society…to arrive at destination point Z, but remove the travel diary seems somewhat of a pointless account of the journey. Perhaps the reference to a tiger and its stripes holds more relevance to the topic of eczema though.

I caught the passing conversation of two young women at the markets on Sunday: “I can’t use pump body washes anymore…they’ve given me eczema.” The conversation was obviously stimulated by our soap stall…yet they continued walking by, much to my frustration.

I’ve touched on the cheap, chemical cocktails that represent the ingredients of most commercial body washes many times on our Facebook page over the years. Body washes flooded the market in recent years as a cheaper option to manufacturers- accompanied by marketing campaigns to convince the consumer that they were a better option than soap. They are however just a more profitable production option for manufacturers, and the consumer the gullible target.

I cannot repeat enough the importance of learning to read ingredient labels to grasp the product on offer…beyond the enticing marketing words. That commercial product brandishing words of ‘natural’ etc need only contain one drop of that ‘natural’ ingredient to allow them to trade off those claims. Product ingredients in Australia are required to be listed in descending order of content percentages- so if you read the ingredients list and find that natural ingredient towards the end, it will offer very little benefit to the product or you.

Know what you are buying, and don’t be mislead by marketing. Those body washes are largely just petrochemical detergents with synthetic fragrance and appealing colouring agents added. No wonder people are experiencing eczema.

‘Eczema’ is a term applied to a large list of largely unqualified skin irritations…from the mild to the extreme- when the term changes to ‘dermatitis’. It is usually identified by collective symptoms of redness, bumps, swelling, itching, dryness, crusting, flaking, blistering, cracking, oozing or bleeding of the skin. That’s a broad range of symptoms to acquire the applied label.

There are generally no cures…just management strategies offered. The skin irritations are commonly termed as being either ‘atopic eczema’ or ‘allergic eczema’, and the causes can range from food allergies through to product exposure and material contact exposure. Most sources remain undiagnosed.

It is now common amongst our youth, with 1 in 5 children under the age of 2 experiencing ‘eczema’- the term usually applied to those having a weakened skin barrier of unknown reasons…making them more prone to the effects of chemical exposure. I’ve touched on our basic skin structure in the past- refer blog “Where’s my suit of armour?”, 09/07/14.

I think it’s very easy to explain away a problem by labelling someone’s weakened skin barrier as the cause, and then offering various ‘barrier creams’ to prevent further irritation, rather than stating that there are so many untested chemicals in products that there is no way to even begin testing for reactions to them. Hmm…there’s obviously something wrong with your skin or immune system, rather than there’s something obviously wrong with our chemically saturated world!

Perhaps those chemicals are stripping our children’s immune systems from developing properly these days. My daughter reacted to every commercial personal care product. She was tested for common food allergens- one of which was yellow colouring…which is used in just about every commercial product on the market to improve visual appeal- from shampoo to butter. In desperation, I began making our organic soap products to ensure as pure a product as possible for her safe use. Use of school soap or public toilet hand washes brought on instant red, itching and painful irritation to her hands that took up to a week to settle down again. My daughter, now 21, continues to have these responses to commercial products. As a mother, it has always been equally distressing for me to watch her suffer…she has the whitest, finest skin- exaggerating her skin reactions to the visually alarming!

However, she has never reacted to any of our organic soaps. My recommendation to anyone suffering ‘eczema’ would be to have a competent doctor specialising in bio and environmental medicine investigate the possible cause. Any treatment offered will only manage the condition until the cause is identified and removed from the equation. Medical intervention is required, but I believe the use of chemical free personal care products, without fragrance and colouring, will help to support the skin by not stripping the skin of its natural barrier.

The mildest soap that can be produced is an olive oil soap. It’s a good starting point to provide gentle care for the skin. I unfortunately purchased a handmade olive oil soap for my daughter many years ago- assuming I was buying a chemical free product…but she reacted badly. The makers failed to list the colouring agents added to the ingredients. It took my own experiences of making organic olive oil soap to identify that factor. After using oils with various depths of colour, it became obvious that every soap resulted in an ever so slight variation of off-white or cream as an outcome. There were definitely no shades of green ever evident…like the colour exuded by the handmade soap I’d purchased. Even using the dark green organic hemp oil that goes into our ‘hemi’ soap results only in the slightest hint of green to that general cream colour outcome. To not list colouring agents is in fact in breach of consumer labelling laws. Ignorant people put others health at risk, and should be reported. I have had some customers whose lives have been put on the line by labelling oversights of products.

Identifying the cause of eczema- it’s a bit like playing the rhyme game for identification…allergic contact, atopic, discoid, irritant contact, nummular, seborrhoeic, stasis, venous or xerotic- eczema, dermatitis, psoriasis or rosacea- it’s all a game of ingredient elimination at the end of the day…even for doctors. “Eeny, meeny, miny, moe…”