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Case Study: Natural Skincare Approaches for Chronic Atopic Eczema

by Amanda Hughes(more info)

listed in case studies, originally published in issue 136 - June 2007

Atopic eczema is one of the most common skin conditions to affect the human population. It is characterized by red inflamed, incredibly itchy patches of skin. If you look closely you can sometimes see tiny bubbles of skin filled with clear liquid which when scratched breaks, leaving behind the easily identifiable grazed or burnt look of the eczema affected skin.

People with atopic eczema can suffer a wide range of symptoms, from small red itchy patches usually located in the folds of the arms at the elbows or the back of the knees, to large areas of the skin totally covered in angry skin.

No matter how long and hard the eczema affected skin is scratched, it still itches. It is this constant itching that leads to people breaking open the skin with their nails, or anything that comes to hand actually …broken skin is then of course open to infection. This affects the immune system, which in turn strains the health of the person.

Finally, the experience can be really demoralizing, because the itch is so aggravating it is impossible to ignore and the skin painful. Worse still, the itch stays there under the pain of raw skin.  This can be an extremely depressing scenario.

This is the vicious eczema cycle, one which needs to be broken as quickly as possible.

The solutions to the problem are many and varied, and it can be bewildering for anyone trying to sort through the various eczema related skincare products and prescriptive solutions on offer.

The Sensitive Skincare Company (SSC) Approach

The approach I use to help eczema-prone skin is with natural plant-based skincare products. These are the steps we suggest you follow:

Use a Moisturizing Technique that will Lock Moisture into your Skin
The oils we have chosen mimic the skin’s own natural oil sebum. They are all natural plant-derived healing and moisturizing oils. These specially chosen oils penetrate up to seven layers of the skin immediately, and soak directly into the very top layers, providing a really good barrier to protect your skin from further irritation, whilst the healing properties in the oil let your skin regain its moisture levels and at the same time ward off unwanted skin bacteria. The oil doesn’t sting; it is soothing and cooling, and you will feel very clean and moisturized after bathing.

The way use this oil is to apply it all over your body, neck and face before bathing. This is very important when you first use it. Especially if you have developed a chlorine intolerant skin.

Use this for a full four weeks, each time you bathe. Don’t use soap or any other cleanser. Try some soap free body-wash. Use this as you would a normal soap.  You will not need to moisturize your skin any further. Pat your skin gently dry and get dressed (don’t rub your skin furiously). If you need further moisturizing as the day goes on, use a little more of the pre-bath and shower oil, massaging it into the skin gently. If your hands feel dry, massage them with the oil before going to bed.

Allergy to Chlorine.
Does your skin react to the water in swimming pools? Do your eyes go very red and sore? Do you hate the smell? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, you will find it is the chlorine in our water supplies that is aggravating your skin. In the UK there are a high percentage of hard water areas. This means there is naturally occurring lime in the water, a further irritant to very sensitized skin, in addition to the chlorine.

To combat this, first look towards getting rid of the chlorine and lime you bathe in regularly. To do this you will need a chlorine filter. These are fabulous as they last over a year, and get rid of chlorine from swishing the ball through the water. You can buy replacements for them as well.

Wash your hair with a Natural Botanical Shampoo and Conditioner.
This must have no SLS in it, as well as no added perfume, thickeners, etc, that commercial brands contain, and people can be incredibly allergic to. These normally will not foam as much as other shampoos on the first wash, but will do so on the second wash. After that use a conditioner derived from a natural botanical source as well.

Clean your Face with a Natural Botanical Oil
Use a natural botanical oil to clean your face of dirt and make-up, gently massaging it into the skin. Remove any excess oil with a warm wet face cloth very gently.

Case Study

Nichola Philbey is 26 and works as a Paediatric Occupational Therapist for the NHS. She comes from a family of asthma and eczema sufferers; both she and her sister (age 29) have eczema, asthma, hay fever, and are allergic to pretty much everything!

Nichola’s eczema is the worst, and she has spent much of her life working her way through all of the lotions and potions available on prescription, and all of the alternative options, including Chinese Herbal Medicine, Homeopathic Medicine, many random lotions from the internet, as well as food intolerance tests, behavioural management, etc, to stop the itch-scratch-itch cycle.

Nichola’s very understanding Dermatologist has supported her through all of the trials, but admits that conventional medicine has failed her. For more than four years she took immune suppressants as an attempt to gain control of her sore, inflamed, infected and bandaged skin. The immune suppressants were a dream come true for a while, but they stopped working eventually and she made the tough decision to stop them and risk flaring up even more.

She was later referred to a Consultant Dermatologist at Guys and St Thomas Hospital in London and naively thought that he would have the answer. However, after two appointments and a skin biopsies, which only confirmed that she had eczema, he explained that he had no further ideas, as she had tried all of the possible options. She was distraught.

Nichola and her sister won tickets to the Allergy Show. She read an article by Janey Lee Grace in Allergy Magazine which mentioned an oil product made by the SSC that helped both her sons’ eczema symptoms.

Nichola emailed Amanda Hughes, explaining her history, asking for more information about her products. Amanda replied the next day with a detailed email and generous offer of many products to try. She also indicated there was a high chance that she would be allergic to chlorine and, therefore, she should try a chlorine filter, as well as switch her washing liquid to Ecover.

Nichola followed all of the recommendations and has never turned back! As a result she is managing her eczema much better.

Nichola has always been conscious about the eczema on her scalp and has tried every prescription option possible but never managed to get it under control. Until now! Finally, she has a comfortable scalp, plus the added bonus of hair that smells nice too!

Her eczema will never be cured, but she is able to keep it under control. She is affected by so many external and internal factors that she still has the odd bad day, but generally her skin is much improved, and when it does flare up I can control it with the SSC products and hydrocortisone cream which are a far cry from the extensive amount of strong topical steroids she has used in the past.

Nichola started using the SSC products for Eczema prone skin last June and is still on it.

Further Information

Sensitive Skincare Co is based in Monmouth in Wales, and is the creation of Amanda Hughes. The company is featured in Radio 2 DJ Janey Lee Grace’s book The Imperfectly Natural Woman, as well as in a second book Imperfectly Natural Parent out this April. www.sensitiveskincareco.com

Effective Active Ingredients in Pre-bath and Shower Oil Treatment Products

Prebath and Shower Oil
Protective, soothing, deep nourishing moisturiser for extra sensitive skin. Blend of natural oils chosen for their particularly fine texture, protect and nourish even the most delicate and sensitive of skin keeping it soft and hydrated with soothing plant oils.
Ingredients
•    Sweet Almond oil (Prunus amygdalus)
Sweet almond oil is well known for its soothing, healing and anti inflammatory properties; it helps relieve dryness, itching and soreness. It is absorbed very easily into the top layers of the skin and nourishes it with essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals;
•    Borage oil (Borago officinalis)
Borage oil contains gamma linolenic acid, vitamins and minerals. It is very good for regenerating and stimulating the skin’s healthy re-growth;
•    Evening Primrose Oil (Oenothera biennis)
Primrose oil is rich in fatty acids and is very effective in reducing inflammation of the skin;
•    Jojoba oil (Simmondsia chinesis)
Jojoba, unique because the oil is not composed of fat but liquid wax. Waxes are esters of long-chain fatty acids with long chain monohydroxyl alcohols, whereas fats are esters of long chain fatty acids with glycerine. It is suitable for all skin types whether dry, oily or sensitive, and is beneficial for skin complaints such as eczema or psoriasis.
•    Tea Tree essential oil (Melaleuca alternifolia cheel)
This oil is active against all three categories of infectious organisms: bacteria, viruses and fungi. It is a very effective immune system stimulant. Perfect for people with eczema or any other skin complaint that may lead to open sores upon the skin.
•    Niaouli essentil oil (Malaleuca viridiflora gaertner)
Niaouli is considered an excellent antiseptic for treating infected wounds. It also aids in healing.

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About Amanda Hughes

Amanda Hughes is a trained make-up artist who worked in films and television for over 20 years, who would often make up special formulas for actors and artists with sensitive skin. Also, having sensitive skin prone to Atopic eczema herself, Amanda was disappointed with the products available to her and others, so decided to research a special range that would offer all the benefits of a traditional premium skin and hair product range that would not irritate the skin and was reasonably priced. Working with Cosmetologists and using only natural plant ingredients that had been analyzed to ensure the highest quality, Amanda created the new range and chose the design and packaging to reflect the natural and organic status of her company Sensitive Skincare. Amanda may be contacted via amanda@sensitiveskincareco.com; www.sensitiveskincareco.com

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