As the weather turns colder, we’re entering into prime time for eczema to flare up! While some eczema-prone Radiant Rebels see a flare in the warm months (like VA Karla), most will find that as the temperature drops outside and the indoor heating cranks up, their skin dries out and introduces a perfect environment for eczema flare-ups.
Here’s the deal, eczema is like having “leaky skin”. What do I mean by that? Well, just like we can have a “leaky gut” where substances from our gut leach through its protective wall and end up in places they shouldn’t (sparking inflammation, and can even be a root cause for acne sufferers), leaky skin works in a similar manner. Instead of the skin having a strong lipid barrier that keeps hydration INSIDE the skin, it leaches outside the skin through cracks in our skin’s barrier. The more leaching occurs, the dryer our skin gets! These “gaps” in our skin’s barrier also leads to our skin becoming extra sensitive, prone to irritation, and even sore and inflamed!
So, since we’re at the start of the key season for eczema, I wanted to help you take a pro-active approach (no, not the harmful treatments; I mean an approach that sets your skin up for success before eczema flare-ups spiral out of control).
Here’s a 2-step process for setting your eczema-prone skin up for success!
1) Check your cleansing products for sulfate ingredients.
Sulfate ingredients have no business being in your skincare products. They are ingredients that strip the skin of their natural barrier and aren’t just found in the vast amount of beauty products. They are also found in dish soaps, car wash, floor cleaners, and even engine degreasers! Your skin definitely doesn’t need the “degreasing” powers that an engine needs (no matter how oily your skin is). Once sulphates strip off your skin’s protective barrier, it opens it up to being super sensitive, dry, and reactive.
Pssst… if you’re thinking that the more degreasing power the better for oily skin, check out this article.
A better approach is to pick a cleanser that doesn’t have stripping ingredients. Instead, it should have gentle cleansing properties that leave the skin’s barrier intact while removing any excess oil, dirt, debris, or makeup.
- Check the labels on all your cleansers
From facial cleansers, hand soaps, shampoos, body washes, and dish soap if you don’t wear gloves while doing the dishes for the word “sulfate” as well as variations of “Sodium Lauryl…”, “Sodium Lauroyl…”, and “Sodium Laureth…”.
- Common sulfate ingredients include Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES).
- I can’t stress enough to check all the cleansing products that your skin comes in contact with. For example, if your eczema flares usually happen on your hands, you might be tempted to just check your hand soap ingredients, but don’t stop there! Remember, your hands are exposed to your shampoo while you lather up your hair, facial cleanser while you wash your face, etc.
Did you spot sulfates in a cleanser you use on a regular basis?
This could be a major source of eczema flare-ups as sulfates can not only trigger eczema in those who are already prone to eczema, but they can also CAUSE it in people who usually aren’t usually prone! Ditch any sulfate cleansers and replace them with sulfate-free versions! All Grounded Sage products are sulfate-free. We have a range of soap bars for hands and body, as well as a full range of facial cleansers – all 100% sulfate-free.
From the Community:
What eczema sufferers are saying about our Green Tea & Pineapple Facial Cleanser (sulfate-free of course!):
“This product is gentle on my eczema and it smells amazing. One of my friends loved it so much when she tried it that she “stole” it from me! It’s one of my favourite Grounded Sage products.” – Laura U
“I have struggled with extremely dry facial skin for years. So much so that when wiping my forehead with anything black looked as though the cloth was dragged through flour. I use this Cleanser following Hydra Healing Skin Rescue Gel and Daily Detox Moisturizer. This has solved my incredibly irritating dry facial skin issue! A+ to all three of these products – using sparingly they all last about 6 months despite the bottle sizes. Never have I ever been more satisfied with a face wash regimen!” – Levi U
2) Start supporting, repairing and protecting your skin’s barrier
So now that we know we need a strong, resilient lipid barrier to keep hydration inside our skin, let’s talk about what we can do to provide our skin with a barrier while it’s own barrier heals and how to encourage that healing!
When providing your skin with a protective barrier, you’ll want to avoid barriers that work like plastic wrap. In other words, not letting anything go in or out. This seems counterintuitive because we want to keep hydration in right? Well yes, we do want to do that, but we don’t want to also stop our skin from doing some of its basic functions (like purging waste, pushing out dirt and debris, and sloughing off dead skin cells). This is where a lot of barrier “solutions” go wrong – they keep hydration in but hinder other functions of the skin.
The best approach is a barrier solution that…
- lets your skin continue to perform its normal functions
- provides your skin with the raw materials to rebuild and repair its barrier
- keeps hydration from leaching out of your skin
- continues ingredients that your skin recognizes and knows how to put to work
Barrier solutions like that WILL NOT be found with traditional approaches that use products with petroleum (like Vaseline, but also common in many moisturizers, lotions, and creams), or propylene glycol (found in a vast number of products from skincare to hair care to deodorant to steroid creams – something that’s commonly prescribed for eczema sufferers).
Both petroleum and propylene glycol don’t meet our “best approach” standards as they don’t let your skin continue to perform its normal functions, don’t provide your skin with any repairing ingredients, and aren’t ingredients that your skin can readily put to work (as they don’t have any raw materials that your skin can use for repair or support). Instead, approaches that include ingredients like petroleum and propylene glycol create a “plastic-wrap” like barrier that does nothing to move your skin closer to clearing up (or preventing) an eczema flare. Essentially they are like band-aids. Band-aids that also expose your skin to ingredients connected to clogged pores, carcinogens, estrogen dominance (hello wacky hormones!). Read more about these here.
So what ingredients DO provide our skin with repairing and protective ingredients?
Plant-based oils and butters! Our skin’s natural barrier is made up of lipids. Plant-based oils are made of lipids, which means when you use the right plant-based oils, in the right concentration, you’re giving your skin the raw ingredients it needs to repair its own barrier! Plant-based oils can also act as a temporary, protective, and breathable barrier for your skin so it can continue to perform it’s regular functions while being protected from hydration loss. So where do plant-based butters come into play? Plant-based butters don’t just provide your skin with lipids and a layer of protection. They absorb more readily into the skin, providing longer acting and deeper results.
While you can just apply straight oils and butters to your skin, you run the risk of hindering some skin functions if the oil or butter isn’t chosen carefully and isn’t applied too thick or too often. A better approach is to go with a product that’s made with lipid barrier repair and protection in mind. Even better, the product has also been formulated with mild, anti-bacterial ingredients (as many plant-based oils contain anti-bacterial ingredients naturally), you’ll be able to ensure that any eczema flare-ups don’t escalate into an even bigger problem by becoming infected.
- Check the creams, lotions, balms, and salves: Make sure they DO NOT contain ingredients like petroleum, propylene glycol, or any other similar “plastic-wrap like” ingredients.
- Look for ingredients on the labels such as petroleum, white petrolatum, petrolatum, mineral grease, mineral oil, mineral jelly, paraffin wax, phenoxyethanol, propylene glycol (or anything with PEG which is propylene glycol), etc.
Found some ingredients that won’t repair your skin (and will only cover up the problem)?
Now would be the time to switch to a plant-based oil and/or butter containing products.
- Look for products with plant oils like jojoba, almond, or avocado, plant butters like cocoa, shea, or mango, and supporting ingredients (that are either reparative or anti-bacterial) like vitamin e, grapefruit seed oil, beeswax, or honey. Calming ingredients that can also help include oatmeal or oat protein, marshmallow root, and chamomile.
From the Community:
What eczema sufferers are saying about our Lip Balm+ (superior barrier protection):
“This works wonders in healing eczema. My kids get it behind their knees in the winter and this really helps. I use it on their faces before going out into the cold Canadian winter temps to prevent sore chapped chins and behind their knees before putting hockey equipment on. Really works wonders, I am stocking up before the cold weather hits this year.” – Natalie
“Just wanted to let you know that the balm worked wonderfully for my little eczema plagued granddaughter. It has pretty much cleared it up and her mommy loved how HER hands felt after applying it.” – Brenda
“This product is amazing, I always have dry skin under my nose due to allergies and this has made it go away, it’s small enough that I can always have it on me and pull it out when needed, doesn’t leave me looking greasy and soothes my poor little face” – Megan L
What eczema sufferers are saying about our Patchouli Facial Moisturizer (superior repair and support):
“The Patchouli has done absolute wonders for clearing up some large dry eczema spots on the back of my neck and some psoriasis spots on my scalp. For eczema, I used it in combination with the Hydra Healing Gel day and night. Within two months the large inflamed spots are barely discernible. So impressed! It has greatly helped my psoriasis as well, the spots are much smaller and less of them. I’m so glad I tried this on my very sensitive, mild rosacea, dry/flaky/combo skin. I find it a little heavy and a little goes a long way so I use it at night and it has really helped calmed the flakiness down.” – Shannon
So there you have it, a 2 step process to not only minimizing common ingredient triggers, but also supplying your skin with the support it needs to keep flares from springing up!
Before I close the book on the 2 step process, I want to mention a 3rd piece of the puzzle that for some eczema sufferers, will be the piece that’s been missing from their eczema action plan. This is especially the case for those who were already avoiding “plastic wrap” like ingredients and supplying their skin with plant oils and/or butters.
3) Adding cooling, calming, hydration!
When the itch of eczema (or dry skin in general) has you wanting to scratch, scratch, scratch, hydrating the area before applying protective topical products (like body butter, patchouli moisturizer, or unscented body butter), can bring quick relief!
You see, moisturizing (which provides protection as well as raw materials for rebuilding, supporting, and repairing our skin’s natural barrier), isn’t the same thing as hydrating. Hydrating infuses water or water-based ingredients (like aloe) into our skin. Since we need a balance of oil (lipids) and water to have healthy, balanced skin, hydrating is a crucial step for facial routines, but it can also be the missing piece of eczema solutions.
- Look for hydrating products that include ingredients like aloe, hyaluronic acid, and/or floral waters/hydrosols.
- Beware of products that claim to be hydrating but don’t have any of Mother Nature’s superior hydrating ingredients (aloe, hyaluronic acid, and/or floral waters/hydrosols). Many moisturizers claim to be hydrators but they aren’t the same thing.
If you’re currently using a hydrating product, check the ingredient list (and AVOID) the following common ingredients found in hydrating products:
- Silicones create a build-up on the skin that beneficial ingredients can’t penetrate. Look for ingredients such as “cyclopentasiloxane”, “cyclohexasiloxane”, “dimethicone” and “phenyl trimethicone”. Most silicones will have “-cone” or “meth” in the name.
- Propylene glycol (for the reasons we talked about above).
Once you find a safe hydrating product (like our Hydra Healing Skin Rescue Gel), apply it before any protective or moisturizing products (like our Lip Balm+, Patchouli Facial Moisturizer or Body Butter).
From the Community:
What eczema / dry skin sufferers are saying about our Hydra Healing Skin Rescue Gel:
“I get really dry skin, especially around my mouth. When I use this gel with the primer moisturizer, my skin is much more supple and doesn’t flake as easily. I mix a bit with the primer moisturizer in my hand before using, rather than applying the gel first. I think it’s going to be my new must-have skin care item.” – Laura U
“My dry, sensitive skin loves this hydrator. I use it twice a day to keep my skin healthy and calm. I have rosacea as well as dry skin, and this is a life-saver.” – Jennifer B
“With severe dry skin, this has become a basic necessity for me. While detoxing, I couldn’t really tell if this was helping because the product sat on top of my skin. It wasn’t until a couple of months that I began noticing how my skin absorbs this stuff! It helps keep my skin supple after I lock it in with a moisturizer. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t feel an instant change, especially while detoxing. I had to learn to be patient with this one and now I know I can’t go without it. 5 stars!” – Aileen
Taking it a step further (Extra Credit!)
If you’re super prone to eczema flare-ups, you might want to go the extra mile! In that case, you might want to start providing internal support for your skin as well! You can do that by…
- Reducing the number of inflammatory foods in your diet (5 of the most common inflammatory foods include: white / processed sugar, white flour, trans fats, artificial food additives, and dairy).
- Support your gut floral by including probiotic-rich foods and drinks in your diet, increasing the fibre in your diet, etc.
- Supplying your body with inflammatory reducing and skin supporting substances like omega 3 essential fatty acids, antioxidants, a variety of nutrient/vitamin rich foods.
You can also take extra measures to support your skin by:
- Always wearing rubber gloves when washing the dishes
- Always protect your skin from the autumn and winter elements. For example, wearing mitts outside and applying a protective barrier to lips, cheeks, and face. Our body balm works great for all 3 and our Lip Rescue Jelly is great for lips, under the nose, and other smaller areas like behind the ears.
- Avoid contact with rough, scratchy, or allergy-prone fabrics (for example wool isn’t well tolerated by many eczema sufferers)
So there you have it, a few of our tips and tricks for avoiding eczema flares and winter-induced dry skin.
With love & radiance,
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