Eczema & Natural Soaps

Lately we have been getting a lot of questions about whether or not our soaps are good for individuals with eczema.  It got us thinking and so we did some research to find out if natural soaps themselves could benefit individuals suffering with eczema.  Before we go any further it is important to remember that we are not doctors or medical experts of any kind.  The information we will be sharing has been taken from online resources that we trust and will cite at the bottom of the post so you can do some research for yourself, which we strongly recommend.

Okay, now that we have that behind us, lets get back to the subject at hand.

What Is Eczema and Why Does It Happen?

Let’s start with a definition of eczema.  Eczema is a term for a group of medical conditions that cause the skin to become inflamed or irritated.  The most common type is atopic dermatitis.  Frequently, eczema is associated with other allergy related conditions such as asthma.  Symptoms of eczema include:

  • Red to brownish-gray colored patches
  • Itching, which may be severe, especially at night
  • Small, raised bumps, which may leak fluid and crust over when scratched
  • Thickened, cracked or scaly skin
  • Raw, sensitive skin from scratching

The exact cause of atopic dermatitis (eczema) is unknown, but is likely due to a combination of dry, irritated skin together with a malfunction in the body’s immune system. Stress and other emotional disorders can worsen atopic dermatitis, but they don’t cause it.  Flare ups can be caused or exacerbated by irritants such as rough and itchy fabrics, harsh soaps and detergents, heat & sweat, dry skin due to dehydration or excessively hot or long baths or showers.  Basically, anything that is going to damage and dry out your skin can cause or worsen an eczema flare up.

How Do I Prevent or Treat Eczema?

There is a myriad of ways to treat eczema.  Before starting any treatment you should consult your doctor.  You can use otc or prescription strength creams to relieve the itching and reduce inflammation.  You may need antibiotics if you have an infection due to itching.  Oral antihistamines may help if itching becomes severe.  For more severe cases, oral steroids such as prednisone may be prescribed by your doctor.  If none of these treatments work then your doctor may prescribe Protopic or Elidel.  Make sure you discuss the possible side effects about these drugs as they have been given the FDA’s strongest “black box” warning.  These drugs have been associated with an increased risk of non-Hodgkins lymphoma in animals.  Further, these drugs are not permitted to be used in children under the age of 2 as severe adverse events have been reported.

As with traditional medical treatment, home treatments can vary widely.  If it is determined that eczema is a result of an allergy, the best treatment is to remove the irritant.  Beyond this, basic skin health is critical for preventing and / or moderating flare ups.  This includes avoiding itchy clothing, not taking extended hot baths or showers, avoiding harsh soaps or detergents, remaining hydrated and using creams or lotions to keep your skin hydrated.

How Can All Natural Soaps Help?

If you are currently using a regular bar of soap from the grocery store there is a good chance that it is doing more harm than good.  Most of these soaps, especially the heavily scented ones, contain harsh chemicals and detergents that smell good and last a long time in the shower.  While these are admirable traits, they don’t do anything to help your skin and can do a good bit of damage.  All natural soaps are typically made using olive oil, palm oil and coconut oil.  Some soap makers use other oils but these are the most common.  These natural oils, especially olive oil, are great for helping your skin retain its natural moisture.  Further, some of these soaps contain additional ingredients such as shea butter or tea tree oil which can benefit individuals with conditions such as eczema.  Shea butter is well known to help moisturize skin and tea tree oil helps to kill bacteria and fungi which can infect cracked and irritated skin.   Many natural soapmakers, including Belle Terre, handcraft soaps that include each of these items.  We offer a Lemongrass Shea butter soap that has a wonderfully clean scent.  We also make a soap called Evening Glow which contains tea trea oil along with rosewood, sweet orange and clary sage essential oils for a relaxed citrus scent.  Finally, we are also working on a Eucalyptus Tea Tree oil soap that will be ready in a couple of months.

In short, switching to all natural soaps will not cure eczema.  However, using all natural soaps, like the ones made at Belle Terre, can be part of a healthy skin lifestyle which can moderate or reduce eczema flare ups.  We hope this post has been helpful and informative.

The medical information found in this web post was found at:

http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/eczema/default.htm

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/eczema/DS00986

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