Sunday, November 22, 2015

November 2015 Update

For those inquiring, Sam has been pretty much eczema free since December 2013.  He still has the disposition toward eczema and atopy, I don't think that ever goes away! So there are times I see those symptoms begin to emerge.  But its never more than a blip on our radar. The important thing to know is that using the website solveeczema.org we have done just that- solved his eczema. In other words, I've learned how to manage it so that if it looks like a scant rash is cropping up, I can snuff it out immediately by tweaking and balancing the aspects of his environment and diet which I know are triggers. No questioning or fretting- I know what to do now. I feel confident and in control of his skin.  He never gets more than a faint spot and has not had full blown eczema, night disturbances or any significant itch in these two years.   Here are some photos I took this past Spring (about 7 months ago): 






And, below, pictures of our September beach trip (2015, just a couple of months ago).  This was significant because in 2013 Sam's daddy and two siblings went on this trip without him and me. His skin was still unpredictable and very reactive at that time, and I was too nervous to take him to an unknown environment for an entire week where I would not feel in control of his skin.  This year, when the opportunity arose to travel, there was no question that his skin was stronger, less reactive, and had been clear long enough that I needn't worry. I carried my tools with me. And he did great! A few days in when he started to rash a tiny bit, I slathered on our secret weapon that I swear by (Aquaphor mixed with ACV) and he was clear again the next morning. 






I can scarcely remember what life was like for us when I started this blog in 2012. I do remember being in such a helpless place, where Sam's skin consumed my thoughts every single second of the day. That was tough.  Today, I rarely think in terms of eczema prevention. I might have had to think about it once or twice in the past year, but on the whole, he's a normal kid and we are a normal family. Sure we use pure, organic soap products, you won't find harsh chemicals in our home, and our diet is largely organic and minimally processed. But those things no longer stress me out- they are second nature.  

For those struggling- my heart goes out to you. You see Sam's photos at the top of this blog. How severe his eczema once was. He had nearly a full body yeast infection on top of that. This road to being eczema-free and truly FREE in general, was anything but easy at the start. Sometimes I thought we'd reached the end of the tunnel only to have another unexplained flare up that lasted months. But it will BECOME easy. The changes will become second nature, a way of life. You'll get to the point where you don't even have to think about it.  And one day you'll look up and realize your kid has clear skin and you'll have to pinch yourself- and pat yourself on the back for sticking with your gut and venturing outside the medical protocols.  When it comes to your child's health, trust your intuition!




Thursday, January 2, 2014

#1 Eczema Myth: "Soap is Bad" or "Using Only Water Is Best"


There is one common and near universal myth that trips people up when they attempt to remove detergents, harsh chemicals and other toxic household and personal care products for the intent of improving eczema.

The myth is that detergents and soaps are one in the same, that both are "bad" for washing sensitive skin. This myth leads to another widely held misconception- that water is in fact the best means of cleansing skin. I often hear: "My child's eczema cannot be detergent related, because we have already removed all detergent products from our home, and he still has eczema". Almost without exception, when I ask "What are you washing your child with now?" the answer is "Just water. We don't use anything but water for washing."

I can see where the logic comes from, but unfortunately the logic is faulty. Changing these beliefs could open the door for healing your child's skin.

The truth is, water alone does not - can not - fully remove detergents and other chemical irritants from the skin. But soap - pure, true, traditional soap made from animal or plant fats - can remove detergents and other irritants very effectively.

Part of the confusion comes from changed definitions. For most of our earth's history, the word soap referred to the product of saponifying plant oils or animal fats mixed with other natural oils, or sometimes lye or ash. History confirms that humans used various forms of traditional soap for home, body, and clothing for many thousands of years without the skin problems we have today. 

What changed? 

Soap itself changed. In the 1950's, the Tide company invented detergent to circumvent the problem of soap scum forming in hard water. Detergents cleaned better than soaps in hard water. Detergents were first added to laundry product - most of us know that! What very few people realize is that those same detergents later they found their way into nearly every household cleaning and personal care product on grocery shelves, including 99% of the bars of "soap" that are sold today. Yet those bars, even though they now contain drying, irritating detergents, are still referred to as "soap". And if it contains detergent, it is chemically altered and technically should not even be called soap, because detergents and true soaps are completely different chemical classes.

So guess when eczema first exploded on the scene? Yup- the 1950's, with the advent of detergents. And guess what has increased exponentially every decade since then, as societies become more and more industrialized? Yes, eczema. (And I'm not saying humans never experienced eczema or rashes before then, just that there is a correlation to when we see that dramatic increase). 

For more information on how to make this change, please visit solveeczema.org. Take the time to read the entire website and start making changes. It will be hard work, and your child's skin will take time to heal, but with enough determination I do believe you can solve your child's eczema.

So here's the problem with getting rid of all your chemicals and not using any soaps at all including pure ones, and using only water to clean. Even if you remove every chemical product from your home, if you live in an industrial society, you or your child will still be picking up detergent dust everywhere you go. Then you bring that dust back into your home. Dust is perhaps one of the most significant sources of detergent. Think about it: most of the people walking around wash their hair, skin and clothing in detergent products. They use moisturizers and lotions that contain detergent. It's in their deodorant. Their cosmetics. Each one sheds hundreds of thousands of skin flakes and hair cells everyday. We are all covered with detergents, and it just sloughs off of us wherever we go. Every business you visit, every grocery store, doctor's office, cleans their equipment, surfaces, machinery, etc, with harsh industrial strength detergents. We clean our carpets with it. We send things to the dry cleaners ... more detergents. Even our foods are saturated with them. What do you think is used to clean the machinery our processed foods, dairy products, and meats are processed on? Detergents. Fresh produce? Even the organic stuff? Sent through multiple detergent baths before it reaches our homes.

Getting rid of your obvious detergent products is a start, but if you live, breath or go anywhere other than your own home, you and your eczematic child will still be exposed to the detergent residues our societies practically swim in, every time you leave your home. There are varying levels of sensitivity, but for some children, some with the most severe eczema, or even mild forms, a trace of detergent left on the skin can cause irritation.

It might sound like a losing battle. But it's not! The bad news is: Water IS NOT SUFFICIENT to remove detergents from clothing or skin. The good news? Soap CAN! At least true soap can. In fact, soap is the only thing that gets rid of detergent in the clothing, hair, and skin. Again, not "soap" the way it is defined today (with detergent added) but TRUE soap in the form it was used pre- 1950s.

The truth about detergents has not hit mainstream society, but there is a growing group of moms, including myself, who have seen our children literally healed head to toe of heart-breaking eczema, by removing chemical and toxic products yes, but ALSO replacing those products with true soap products. It has to be two parts: remove that bad, replace with pure and good. If you only do the first part, you don't really address the issue, because water will not wash detergent residues from the outside world away.

I use a pure bar of soap to wash my son's skin everyday. If I only used water, he would break out from the day's exposures. If I miss a day, he will break out. If we visit a place where a significant amount of detergent is present, sometimes I can see him break out before my eyes. If I wash soap-wash the exposed areas once we get home, his skin returns to normal within several hours. You have to use something to cleanse chemicals from the skin.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Super Hero Gloves

I've been looking for some cotton gloves or even fingerless gloves for Sam. His hands are the one area that I just can't keep healed, because I can't keep them covered and they are always touching the carpet when he plays on the floor.  Mittens are fine for nighttime, but they just don't cut it during the day.  Lots of eczema clothing lines sell mittens yet I can't seem to find anyone in the US who sells just regular cotton gloves in kid sizes.

My husband did find some fingerless gloves made by DermaSilk in the UK- but I grew very suspicious when I discovered that their clothing is sprayed with a "permanent antimicrobial shield".  Some forum friends helped me look further into this and we discovered that the antimicrobial shield actually contains quaternary ammonia, which is a very strong detergent. I'm really quite surprised at how many eczema products (usually the lotions and creams) contain detergent, which has been shown in studies to be drying and irritating across all skin types!  How could anyone think they are an okay ingredient to include in something for sensitive skin?

Anyway, sometimes my brain comes up with funny solutions.  Sam's hands, bless his heart, were looking like this:


(And notice the very distinct line on his wrists where he usually would be wearing long sleeves... his arms are perfectly clear!  I tend to think if there are ANY patterns with eczema on the body that seems to follow clothing lines, whatsoever, think detergent! At least explore it! It doesn't have to be clear skin in contrast with rashy skin, but sometimes even less severe eczema in contrast with more severe eczema on, on either clothed or exposed skin, is a huge indicator of this sensitivity.)


 It occurred to me out of the blue one day to grab a pair of kid crew socks (these were probably his big brother's) and snip holes in the toe for fingers. We were literally on our way out the door to the park, I saw Sam scratching at his lobster red hands and wrists and the idea just popped into my mind.



I was pleasantly surprised how well these worked out! They were just long enough to reach up under his short sleeves so his arms could still be covered, or I could fold them down to keep him cool at the playground. The sock material gripped the arm very nicely as well.  I persuaded Sam to keep them on by telling him they were super hero gloves. He was very proud to wear them.   This worked so well that on the way back from the park that same day I stopped and bought two  more packs of brand new crew socks from Wal-Mart, the kind with stretchy double thick soles so that his hands would have extra protection.  He's been wearing his super hero gloves now for several weeks, every day. 

                          

Each pair lasts about 4 to 5 washes. At that point the holes start to fray and stretch too much to be helpful.  But for $5 every couple of weeks to keep his hands covered, that's a worthy investment in my book. 

This photo was taken about 10 days after the "before" photo above.
Very significant improvement!:

                         

Hurray for innovation and saving money!

PS- This idea is most effective when the skin is washed with a true soap, dried well, and a thin barrier ointment such as Aquaphor applied before putting on the gloves. Otherwise you might only be trapping a layer of detergent between the glove and skin.

UPDATE June 2013:  I originally was very excited about this idea when I wrote this post about "sock gloves". However, I now understand why perhaps no one makes gloves for kids with eczema without first coating it with an antimicrobial shield (like DermaSilk does). Not that I would use them with the antimicrobial shield either... chemicals are still too harsh.  When we used these gloves, Sam's hands appeared to be getting better for a short time. However almost immediately after I wrote this post, his hand flared red again, started looking worse than ever, and eventually turned up some pus-filled boils which I have NEVER seen on my son anywhere before.  Pus-filled blisters or boils are a symptom of bacterial infection, usually staph.  I learned that cloth on the hands - since they touch so many things- harbor bacteria which then gets trapped next to the skin, increasing chance of infection. And yes, since he was wearing gloves I didn't wash his hands as often... another big problem.  So learn from my mistake. NO SUPER HERO GLOVES!  This is not the answer.  If anyone tried this idea after reading my post, with similar results (infection) I am so SO sorry!


Thursday, April 18, 2013

An Eczema Experiment: Measuring Skin Barrier Reparation

Sam's skin has been clear and soft for so long now that I feel quite confident recognizing exposure and healing patterns, as well as the distinct difference between detergent-reactive eczema and infection. He rarely has issues, but when he does, it is a relief to know just what to do to quickly eliminate his eczema.

We currently maintain Sam's clear skin by consistently doing three things:  
  1.  We avoid all obvious detergents and all products containing less obvious detergent ingredients.
  2. We use only pure, true soap products for all household and personal care needs. (Water is not sufficient, and I will explain why in a moment).
  3. We protect his skin from the environmental detergent residues outside our control by using clothing or ointment barriers to minimize exposure and maintain healing. 

Since Sam's skin is now a blank slate, I am able to experiment with products and situations and then judge the effects more easily than I could when his skin was red and broken.  This process of trying new things, and making connections from repeat observations, is fascinating to me. I am learning so much about contact eczema.


The Experiment


Several weeks ago, I purposely allowed Sam to break out in eczema.  I did this by allowing him to walk around the house without pants or socks on for an entire day. He spent twelve hours in direct contact with our ancient, detergent-saturated carpet. This is significant because last year, in the months immediately following his miraculous healing, even 30 minutes in contact with our carpet was enough to cause relapse of what looked like large red burns on his skin. I wanted to find out if, after 10 solid months of detergent-free healing, Sam's eczema would look and present differently due to a much stronger and improved skin barrier.


The Hypothesis My thinking was that steroid creams and environmental detergent residues each magnify the damaging effects of the other, playing off one another in cyclical fashion to increase skin barrier deterioration and skin permeability, thus increasing susceptibility to eczema over time. However, in the long term absence of both damaging sources (steroids and detergents), the skin barrier could begin the work of repairing itself, become stronger, less permeable, and therefore less susceptible to severe breakouts. If this was the case, then the resulting eczema from spending a day in contact with the carpet should be much less than it was with the same exposure time last summer or fall.

(*I must credit the ideas and foundation for this hypothesis to AJ Lumsdaine who said the skin barrier will strengthen over time when spared detergent exposure, and also naturally over time, with age.  I suppose I am actually putting her hypothesis to the test and applying it to a slightly different situation where steroids were a factor.)


How It All Went Down

I didn't think to take a "before" photo but I can assure you his legs were completely clear, with the exception of a faint hint of redness around the knees (the ever persistent remnants of skin candida which must run really deep because I've yet to be able to get rid of that last little bit! At least its under control).

And here is the result of twelve hours of bare-skinned exposure to a ten-year-old detergent saturated carpet:






Not bad at all! I was surprised how limited the eczema was. This eczema presentation falls more closely in line with what I remember his eczema looking like pre- steroids;  spotty, faint, with lots of clear skin in between. The worst spot, as you can see, was on his left knee where he still has a bit of yeast infection. The detergent exposure seems to have really aggravated the infection, and caused it to flare and spread far beyond what it was the day before. Interesting! So it seems that while steroids definitely play a major role in creating ideal conditions for infection to take hold, detergent exposure plays its roll in exacerbating infections as well.


Conclusion


I think I can safely say that Sam's skin barrier has improved and that there has been much reparation these past ten months.  I wanted to share my observations to encourage others going through this process that in the absence of steroids and detergents, the skin barrier can in fact bounce back from the damage. While Sam will probably always be susceptible to detergent reactive eczema because of his skin type, in the continued absence of steroid treatment and constant detergent exposure I feel confident that he will never again have to deal with the same severity of eczema that he faced in his first two years of life.


Getting It All Cleared Up:  The Miracle of Soap Washing

I also wanted to demonstrate, in practice, how we regularly eliminate eczema (sometimes before it can even manifest)  and just how swiftly healing can occur by washing the skin with simple bar of unadulterated soap.

That night of our experiment, after taking the above photos, I scoured Sam's body and legs with soap. An important principle of the SEO (SolveEczema.Org) method for healing eczema is that water alone can not remove detergent residues from skin. Whatever detergent residues Sam picks up during his day, outside the home, (and in an industrial society every space is literally coated in detergent!) those residues remain in the skin unless we wash them out with something other than water. According to AJ Lumsdaine, the best thing to remove traces of detergent residue from skin and clothing is a true, pure soap.  True or pure soap refers to the kind of soap humans used for hundreds of thousands of years to wash clothing, hair, and skin, long before the invention of detergents and without the widespread skin problems we face globally today.  

Just to reiterate (forgive me if I come across as patronizing, some people just don't get this or believe it!) if I had only rinsed Sam's skin with water, the eczema would have remained, because the detergent would have remained, deep in the tissue. I wash Sam with soap every single night and that is one of the primary reasons his skin can stay clear!


The effect of soap washing is not always immediate. Right after his bath, his skin did not look noticeably improved. However, 48 hours later  you can see the drastic improvement:


Day 2: After 2 Soap Washings




                         


The eczema spots are still visible, but  just barely. They have faded considerably! His flare on his knees is all but gone.

Day 4: After 4 Soap Washings




The eczema is pretty much gone and all the itch and discomfort has long since vanished. I've found that the itching can typically be stopped right away, actually, even before rashes are visibly healed, with the first bath.


The Importance of Barriers
One more thing, because this is very important too: After each  nightly soap bath,  I always clothe Sam from wrist to toe. The clothing acts as a barrier so that the skin remains in a perpetual state of healing. Soap-washing the skin and following up with a barrier prevents future detergent exposures and thus prevents the return of eczema. For exposed skin on hands and face, that cannot be clothed, a thick barrier ointment like Aquaphor or Vaseline can be applied to create an artificial shield and give the skin healing time throughout the day.   For outings where it is not prudent to clothe the entire body, Sam wears regular summer clothing and then if he has a break out it can still be managed quite well or at least eliminated quickly by washing the skin and re-clothing after arriving home.

----------------------------------------------------------
Note: The same children who have detergent reactive eczema may also have food allergies, and/ or infection as factors in their eczema.  Eczema caused by infection or food allergies will not respond directly to soap washing. However, if food allergies or infection are addressed and the treatment only partially improves the eczema, it is likely that detergent is a dual factor and the remaining eczema might be eliminated completely by following principles of detergent removal and soap washing.   See solveeczema.org for the complete theory and to understand why this method is so effective.

Does your child have any of the  Signs of Detergent Reactive Eczema?




Monday, April 15, 2013

The Relationship Between Topical Steroid Use and Spreading Yeast Infections

I last wrote about Sam's fully body yeast infection, which I believe was just one unfortunate side effect of long term improper topical steroid use.  After seeing heartbreaking photos of another little boy on the solve eczema user's forum who looked a lot like Sam used to look, and was also on high potency steroids, I decided to do some research to see if I could find scientific support for my suspicions.

My findings strongly support my long-standing suspicions regarding topical steroids and their propensity to create an ideal environment for and proliferate spreading of infection, especially skin candida (yeast). Symptoms of candida infection include redness, raised or swollen patches, burning sensation, intense itchiness, and indistinct (or scalloped) rash edges. Such infections of the skin are  hellish to endure, but if treated properly and aggressively, recovery can be surprisingly swift and circumvent needless suffering.



Infected eczema on Sam's legs, May 2012




The problem with out of control infections like these, is that even if a child's eczema is 100% detergent related, once that eczema becomes infected you must treat and eliminate the infection first before you will see any results from detergent removal or soap washing.  We addressed both at the same time - the infection and the underlying detergent reactive eczema, which made the recovery process very comfortable and near painless. 


Some interesting tidbits:

The normal presentation of superficial infections can be altered when topical corticosteroids are inappropriately used to treat bacterial or fungal infections. Steroids interfere with the natural course of inflammation, potentially allowing infections to spread more rapidly.
source: http://www.aafp.org/afp/2009/0115/p135.html


Alteration of Infection
Because topical steroids change the way the immune system functions, they can inhibit the skin’s ability to fight off bacterial or fungal infections. A typical example of this is seen when someone applies a topical steroid to an itchy groin rash. If this is a fungal infection, the rash gets redder, itchier, and spreads more extensively than a typical fungal infection. The resulting rash is a bizarre pattern of widespread inflammation with pustules called tinea incognito.

source: http://dermatology.about.com/cs/medications/a/steroideffects.htm


Steroids are another type of medication that can cause women to develop a vaginal infection from yeast. The higher the dose and the longer you use them, the greater the risk, but even low-strength topical steroid creams may make yeast infections more likely.
source: http://www.everydayhealth.com/womens-health/yeast-infections/living/index.aspx


But, things may go quite wrong, when used on the wrong condition, wrong location, or wrong duration.
For instance, topical steroids may appear to help fungal infections, but they actually suppress the
body’s ability to fight the infection and make it worse
. (Figure 1) Other diseases, including impetigo and rosacea, may appear temporarily to get better, as well, but these conditions are likely to become worse. Therefore, minor irritations can be well treated by topical steroids, but the wise patient understands what he or she is treating. The weakest of these agents, over-the-counter hydrocortisone in the United States is required to be labeled with a statement to the effect of: “stop use if condition worsens, symptoms persist more than 7 days or clear up and occur within a few days.” This required warning is well founded

source: http://www.iacdworld.org/skin/steroid.pdf



Use of potent topical steroids to inadvertedly treat fungal infections can result in a partial suppression of the signs and symptoms but do not treat the infection, which can then spread. This can also be seen in the presence of viral skin infections, where topical steroids should be avoided
source: http://www.topicalsteroids.co.uk/what_ar....ide_effects.htm



Steroids are best avoided in the presence of infection as these can exacerbate infections.
source: http://suite101.com/article/how-to-avoid....49#.UWSuMZPCaSo


Topical steroids may lead to superinfection, including staphylococcal folliculitis, dermatophytosis (10) and candidiasis, (3) particularly when they are applied to flexural sites or used with polyethylene occlusion. When a fungal infection is treated with topical steroids, widespread and unusual clinical patterns may develop.
source: http://www.drplace.com/Guidelines_for_us....ds.16.28969.htm


And check this out- situations where yeast infection are more likely to develop, see the bolded bullet point!:

The chance of a candidal skin infection developing is more likely in the following situations:
• Areas of skin that are moist or sweaty are ideal for candida to thrive. Therefore, the common sites affected are in the folds of skin in the groin, armpits, and under large breasts. (Another name for inflammation within a fold of skin or under a breast is 'intertrigo'. Candidal infection is a common cause of intertrigo.) Nappy rash is sometimes due to candida. Obese people may develop candidal infection between folds of skin. It can also affect skin between fingers and toes, and the corners of the mouth.
• If you have diabetes.
If you take a long course of antibiotics or steroid medication.
• If you have a poor immune system. For example, if you have AIDS, or have chemotherapy, or have certain types of serious blood disorder.


Okay, so here's some information on treatment. Looking at this I am actually thinking that an anti-fungal cream might help clear the infection faster than ACV baths, which was the primary route I used to eliminate Sam's widespread infection.  But it couldn't hurt to do both at the same time! We never even tried anti-fungals because I didn't have a doctor at the time that I felt I could trust. Keep in mind many anti-fungals contain detergents.  The solve eczema mom, AJ, recommends Perrigo brand Nystatin in ointment as one of the safer anti-fungal creams for kids with underlying eczema.  If you are looking to treat infection while using the solve eczema website, you might want to ask your doctor about prescribing this particular anti-fungal. 

What is the treatment for candidal skin infection?
• An antifungal cream usually clears the infection within a week or so.
• Sometimes a mild steroid cream is added to reduce inflammation whilst the antifungal cream is working. (However, a steroid cream alone will make the condition worse as soon as the steroid is stopped.)
• Occasionally, if the rash is widespread, antifungal tablets are prescribed
.

source: http://www.patient.co.uk/health/Candidal-Skin-Infection.htm


And, here I found some symptoms of candida skin growth which confirms to me that what I saw with Sam was most likely yeast infection. This list describes his rash perfectly... it explains the intense itching and potentially even the 'pimply' appearance we saw for a time on his torso and back:

Symptoms
• Itching (may be intense)
• Skin lesion or rash
o Growing red, inflammed area
o Infection of hair follicles (folliculitis) may look like pimples
o Located on the skin folds, genitals, trunk, buttocks, under the breasts, or on other skin areas
o Macule or papule
o May have satellite lesions (smaller lesions next to bigger ones)
o Skin redness or inflammation
http://health.nytimes.com/health/guides/disease/cutaneous-candidiasis/


Most websites listed moist places on the body and skin folds as the most likely places for infection, and I think this is the medical mainstream understanding of how and where yeast occurs.  However the quote above that states that "widespread and unusual clinical patterns may develop" with the infection caused by steroids seems to describe what I saw with Sam and what others might be seeing as well.

Be cautioned that if you go to a doctor to have something like this diagnosed, my experience with two pediatricians, a pediatric dermatologist, allergist, and specialist I drove two hours to see, is that they knew nothing of widespread skin candida nor how to go about diagnosing it.  However the fact that this phenomenon is showing up on multiple medical websites across the world confirms the knowledge is out there- perhaps it is not publicized because of the concern over steroid fears.  Many parents on our forum have had similar experiences with doctors not having anything to say about widespread skin infections, though a  lucky few have found supportive doctors willing to work with them so its always best to try to get your doctor on board before treating.   It would be irresponsible of me to encourage anyone to go about self-diagnosing or treating without their doctor's guidance, however, as was our case, sometimes when doctors will not be of help you need to go with your intuition and look outside the box for a more effective cure.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Yeast Skin Infection and Eczema

Sam's initial 'healing' took place in August.  Then in mid October, we started seeing slightly raised, red areas growing and spreading around his knees and ankles. For awhile I thought it was his eczema getting out of control, and that I must be doing something wrong. However, no amount of soap washing was putting a dent in this rash. Then I remembered back to the initial detergent removal process, and how it took a  good 10 weeks to see clear skin, and how during that time we also had been doing Apple Cider Vinegar baths at AJ's recommendation since she and I had both suspected possible fungal infection.  (Eczema caused by infection or food allergy will not clear up via soap washing, and these must be treated in other ways before the remaining detergent-reactive eczema can be eliminated.)    

The most recent October yeast rash:

It occurred to me, this was probably yeast infection as we'd suspected before. So I started up again with daily ACV baths-  1 cup ACV to 1/2  or 3/4 full tub, soak for a full 20 minutes every night.  We would precede and follow each bath with a soap rinse as well.   This time around, after one week we saw remarkable progress:



 Such a difference!!


And below, more photos of yeast infected eczema, for comparison.  This first photo was taken in March of 2012. I had not found solveeczema.org, and I was noticing at this time Sam's eczema beginning to look and behave a bit differently. Rather than a scant, lacy rash with shifting, changing spots that I'd observed previously with his eczema,  I was now seeing these large, clearly defined red spots with distinct edges, that did not ever budge but seemed to grow outward and rapidly multiply. (By multiply I mean it started with one or two large, raised red areas, then those grew and other seemed to pop up and follow the same spreading pattern,with more and more skin surface covered each week.)



So above was March, below is May, just two months later, notice how the yeast has now entirely engulfed the backs of his knees and has "crawled" and spread to the upper thigh as well.



And here is the front of his legs, entirely covered in yeast, during the same time period early May 2012 (just before we'd discovered solveeczema.org.)  This yeasty rash started several months earlier with visible satellite spots with lots of clear skin in between, but as it grew you can see that after a period of time there was almost no clear skin in between patches and it almost looks like one big red rash.


Sam's yeast infection (which I did not know was yeast or fungal  at the time) covered all of his arms and legs at its worst, and there was also a band of it around his middle. It took us 6 to 8 weeks worth of regular baths to start seeing improvement.  With fungal related eczema you have to be consistent, persistent, and I'd recommend continuing the baths or other treatments until well after you think you've eliminated the entire infection. We stopped too soon, when there was still a remnant of redness and I'm pretty sure that's why we saw it come back with a vengeance in October. 

For anyone trying the SEO (solveeczema.org) methods, who is not seeing results within a couple of weeks of diligent effort, I'd recommend some level of control treatment for potential infection. From all the families I've seen in the Solve Eczema User's Forum, and friends with children who have eczema, infection seems to be more common than any of us had presumed before. And, as we'e collectively discovered, you almost just have to experiment because this is something a a doctor or dermatologist can not very easily diagnose either.

 Some things you can do to treat for yeast while working on detergent removal:

-ACV baths: we did the daily baths where possible but if you can only manage 4 or 5 days that will still do a great amount of good. 

-Daily, regular probiotics (yes they really work! I've noticed a huge difference this time around treating yeast with the addition of probiotics added daily to Sam's yogurt) We use this probiotic brand but there are many good ones, I actually do not recommend ordering online, you should buy at a local health food store from a refrigerated section and refrigerate as soon as you get home to keep the probiotics live.

- It's also recently been suggested to me by a member of the forum that yeast may be helped to clear up by swabbing the area with hydrogen peroxide. I have not tried this personally though and I imagine you would not want to apply this over a larger area, but perhaps just to help with small stubborn patches once you've tackled the majority of infection by other methods. If the skin is broken at all, do not use the peroxide as it will burn! Only over top of small, healed over patches with unbroken skin. 

This is the apple cider vinegar we use, it is raw and supposedly has "the mother", a healing enzyme left out of regular grocery ACV but I don't know if that 100% accurate, it just made me feel better about using it. If anyone knows if regular table ACV works just as well let me know. :)

Now that we have the yeast under control and minimized again, the little eczema patches that Sam gets with detergent exposure are easily washed away within a day or two, and sometimes as little as a few hours.  

Oh, I also want to mention that yeast and other fungal infection on the skin seem to be largely opportunistic.  The borders of infection followed exactly where Sam's eczema was the worst previously, in other words, he only had yeast where he'd already had eczema and also where we had used the most topical steroid. I have absolutely no scholarship in this area but my guess is that the steroid contributes to favorable conditions for yeast growth and other microbes to take hold. 

*Please do not take any of this as medical advice (!), these are strictly my speculative observations and most educated explanation as to what has occurred with my son's skin. Please feel free to leave additional questions in the comments section.

For more information on the possible influence of steroid medication on spreading  yeast skin infections, see my follow up post.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Still Doing Great

I have to admit that I never was able to stick to the rigorous cleaning routine that I outlined for myself and committed to in the previous post. I tried for a couple of weeks, but eventually gave up for two reasons: 

1) I realized that being so vigilant wasn't a very realistic goal for my already quite busy life that includes three children and the many daily obligations that come with raising them, including homeschooling in my case.  I was having to give up things that I consider precious priorities to make the crazy cleaning happen (like quality time with my children in the evening) and I wasn't happy with the trade-off.

2) When I was running myself ragged hyper-cleaning, it just wasn't making enough of a difference in Sam's areas of exposed skin to make the time and effort worth it.  Vacuuming every other day and having the kids change clothing every time we come in from an outing just wasn't yielding dramatic enough results to justify the trouble. (Did I just say the same thing twice? Yes I think I did.)  

What I have settled on is to vacuum once or twice a week, and wipe down surfaces every other week. I no longer have everyone change clothing when we come and go. Depending on where we've been and how blotchy red Sam's hands and face look  after an outing, I sometimes will change only his clothing.  If I don't change his clothing then at the very least I always wash his face and hands with soap. 

Over the past 6 months that we've been detergent free and using all traditional pure soap products, our results have been pretty consistent. Sam's new normal is largely eczema free skin the majority  time. This picture was taken a couple of weeks ago before a nap:



I disrobed him briefly for the above photo. But his skin actually only stays clear like that because in addition to eliminating all detergents in our home, we keep him covered 24 hours a day in all cotton clothing from neck to wrist to foot. This would not be necessary if we had alternative flooring, but despite all of the other changes the carpet remains too large of an influence to overcome with any amount of cleaning. The detergents of 10 years are just too embedded. They constantly irritate.

Sam's clothing:







Clothing pictured comes from Cotton Comfort eczema clothing in Europe (very quality but very expensive) and the footed pants and opening mitten shirts in solid colors are the  Kumfy Cotton brand which I think might be made in Canada but they do ship out of the US via The Eczema Company (linked above.)  We love the Kumfy Cotton brand and have about 8 each of tops and bottoms that Sam lives in. 

You definitely don't have to have specialty clothing in all cases, I know that not everyone can afford them (we couldn't on our own but were blessed to have generous family willing to chip in)!  I know some children who are able to get by with just long cotton pajamas with socks on the feet and hands. I tried that route for awhile but it did not work for us because Sam would immediately pull the socks off hands and feet, leaving them exposed. He would then push up his sleeves and pant legs, exposing them to the carpet and we would have eczema everywhere!  We needed clothing that was secure at all the joints.

What I really like about the specially made clothing and what makes them worth the expense in my mind is the double thickness in the hands and feet where it is needed, the absence of irritating seams or tags, and the fact that Sam cannot undo the mittens on his own at night to scratch. I also prefer the footed pants because while he will take socks off if he is wearing them, he can't remove the footed part from the pant!

Just one more thing regarding clothing. Sam only wears mittens at night. During the day, he needs his hands for development. For a while he was pushing his sleeves up and having his arms exposed to the carpet and having eczema on his arms every day. We solved that problem by placing velcro straps or clear tape around his sleeves at the wrist so he would not be able to push them up, but can still use his hands:




You may have noticed I said that Sam is majority eczema free most of the time. Since we can't keep his hands or faced completely protected, we do see daily dustings of eczema in those places.  His face is the easier of the two to manage. He is at the age where he doesn't lay on others so much or roll around on the floor. He walks upright and plays upright and only contacts the carpet if he is being wrestled by a sibling. Still, if he rubs or touches his face too much with hands or mittens that are contacting the carpet more frequently, we get some blotchy redness. I am able to manage this by washing Sam's face with soap twice a day. We do this in the early afternoon just before his nap and again at night before bed.  (Basically any time they are going to be down and out is a good time to wash and barrier so that sleeping time can double as healing time.) 

I want to clarify here that carpet is not the only thing that causes Sam's eczema. It's just the only remaining and most prominent influence in our home. That's why I'm always bringing it up and griping about it. (Sorry!) But when we go out there are countless sources that can cause outbreaks. An interesting example is when I took the kids shopping at Kroger the day before Thanksgiving.  Sam always gets a little red when we go to any store because the detergent levels are so high. But on this day, I was shocked by how blotchy and red his face got as I pushed him through the store in the cart, and how quickly too! I realized that on this day there were so many people doing last minute Thanksgiving grocery shopping, so many bodies bustling around and pushing past each other through small spaces, that the detergents and dusts coming off all those bodies from clothing, hair and skin just created one big invisible detergent dust flurry in the air all around us. That is how sensitive Sam is, and how sensitive a lot of these kids are.  

Sam's hands suffer the most from daily exposure. More often than not, Sam's face is clear even without midday washing.  In contrast, his hands are nearly always a shade of red. See the very distinct line where his sleeves begin? And yet this is still better than what they were before we found solveeczema.org! They are basically very red and dry, but they don't seem to be very itchy (at least I don't see him scratching very often) and as long as I am washing them several times a day this little bit of remaining eczema never gets out of control.  I am so happy that we can manage this without drugs.  And  I am currently experimenting with washing frequency to see if that will make a difference in these hands.




Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Are we crazy?

Several months ago, on the Solve Eczema User's Forum, a mother in desperation asked, "Are we crazy?!" She was referring to the experience so familiar to all of us on the forum; that is, trying to explain to spouses, extended family, other parents, and even doctors (especially doctors!), this off-the-books approach we have taken to healing our children's eczema. She was also referring to the tendency of those same people to respond as if we were crazy.

I wanted to record here, part of my response to that question:
  I think this method is just so full of 'new concepts' that are foreign and run completely counter to what most people already understand (or think they understand) about what causes eczema, what causes dry skin, what 'fixes' those things, and even what a detergent is or what soaps are. I can say detergent is the problem, and then even go on to explain everything that contains detergent and detail exactly the process we've had to go through to remove it, and at the end they will still say "Oh, we changed our laundry detergent and only wash our kid with plain water and it didn't help our child, so that's not our problem." (What?! Did you not just hear anything I said??

...I just honestly think that when you come out and challenge so many pre-conceived ideas and definitions all at once, that's a huge mental leap for people to make!! Also many of these parents have not arrived at the point where they can bring themselves to believe an entire global medical community could be wrong or so far off the mark about something so common as eczema. Many people WANT to trust the "experts", the ones who went to school for 12 years and studied these things. There is security when they feel they can trust their doctors. They might even feel a bit threatened when 'just another mom' comes out and suggest that the experts who are treating their children might be actually making things worse.




      Yes, the trouble with  AJ Lumsdaine's theory- while brilliant! - is that understanding it requires reframing one's entire paradigm and adopting entirely new definitions for things like detergent, soap, and dryness.  So many people will get rid of SLS products and think they've done enough to check off detergent as a potential cause for eczema or skin problems. But they won't realize that detergent goes by a thousand other names (SLS is only the most recognizable) on ingredient labels! They won't realize it is added as an emulsifier or a stabilizer in so many products they would never suspect contain detergents at all. They won't stop to think how detergents are involved in every manufacturing process from clothing to food, that their food is bathed in detergent baths before arriving on the store shelf, and how detergent residues on dishes and utensils on which food is prepared may be as likely a cause for mealtime eczema as food proteins. (Both exist, but my little guy for example, his face would break out red and blotchy at meals, and we could never trace to one food because it was so random. We finally got to the bottom of it when we learned it might be what we were washing the dishes with. It was! No more dish detergent, no more mealtime reactions.)

People will not readily understand that AFTER getting rid of detergent in their products, they will only have barely begun to address the issue. There will be detergent in their dust, their carpets, their furniture. Indeed, detergents coat every surface in an industrial society, and our skin is constantly in contact with them.

They won't understand that detergent residues are stubborn and that water alone will not remove them. So that by removing SLS products and then only washing with water, they are actually forgetting to address all the detergents picked up by the skin from other sources outside the home (or inside the home, but in non-obvious sources like furniture or drapes)  and aren't truly removing them from the skin.

They'll have to make another leap to understand why only true soap will remove the detergent residues so ubiquitous in society.  Then, in order to get over their fear of using soap, they will have to make the leap to understand that true soap does not cause dry skin as we've all believed. In truth  soap making has changed over the past 60 years or so to include detergents, changing the chemical composition of soap so it no longer even qualifies as true soap, chemically! The traditional definition of soap has changed- that is perhaps the biggest problem of all!  So they have to learn how to tell if a "soap" at the store is actually soap- and 99% of them aren't.  And if its detergent disguised as soap, it will lead to drying (across all skin types!), and for some it will cause eczema.  It is the detergent in our soaps today that make us believe "soap is drying, and not good for sensitive skin".  They have to understand what constitutes PURE, true soap.... the kind that humans used for thousands of years, without the crazy rates of eczema we exhibit today.

They might then be surprised to learn that the Tide company invented detergent in 1943 and then as it became the preferred laundry product, replacing soap flakes in the 1950's, eczema immediately increased in rate and severity.  (I would argue that steroids were introduced at this time as an answer to the demand for a solution to this new predicament- babies weren't handling detergent very well. We never had that problem with soap flakes!) There has to be a reason infantile eczema increased so sharply in the 50's and 60's, causing so many steroid prescriptions to be handed out in the first place. And many researches agree the cases have risen at far too quickly a rate to be explained by ordinary gene mutation (ie, the genetic theory).  Many will say it is environmental, as rates are much higher in cities, and industrialized countries over those that are less so. But so far, science has not been pinpoint what it is about the industrialized environment that makes eczema more common.  I don't think detergent is the only factor, but I think the factors are fewer than we realize, that whatever the others are they likely all tie in together, and detergent is clearly one of the primary factors.



Thursday, September 13, 2012

Update on Sammy's Skin: The Learning Curve

In the past 6 weeks or so since I last posted about Sam's miracle healing, I've been riding the learning curve. After our initial success it was tempting to feel as though we'd 'made it' and that the hard part was over. I'd imagined that things would be so easy moving forward. I have since learned you never really 'make it' when it comes to this kind of eczema.  In some ways, maintenance has been easier than the initial work required to get his skin clear, and I'm told it will definitely get easier in the future as Sam gets older and his skin becomes naturally less permeable.  But I did make the mistake initially of slacking off once we got rid of the eczema, thinking that I could let vacuuming and house keeping slide just a little since he  did not seem to be reacting as readily to detergents.   

The problem with slacking off is that detergent levels rise very quickly when left unchecked.  No matter how much I reduce the detergent levels in our home, the levels are always going to be so much higher everywhere else we go or visit.  Whether it is the grocery store, a clothing or toy store, Grandma's house, the library, a friend's house, a homeschool science class at the nature center, or the park playground, all of us are coming home tracking in that detergent dust on our clothing, skin, and hair and then leaving trails behind on everything we touch at home.  Technically, to keep on top of things I really need to continue vacuuming every other day (if not daily!) and regularly wiping down surfaces to get rid of those dusts we track in to prevent them from accumulating and becoming problematic for Sam. We should all be changing our clothing as soon as we come inside, putting on 'safe house clothes' and washing our hands and arms to minimize what is tracked in. 

As you can see this is definitely a huge lifestyle change requiring a great deal of vigilance. I discovered that I was not staying on top of detergent levels well enough the hard way when, a few weeks ago, Sam's arms began to breakout more readily at home when he would push his sleeves up during the day. It got to the point where they would turn red even before they had significantly contacted any surface, just from being exposed to the air,  which told me there was too much detergent dust present and flying around. The rest of his body remained (and still remains) entirely clear so this arm eczema is a minor issue comparatively, but still bothersome because I know I can do better.

Once I realized I was slacking and needed to drastically reduce our detergent levels again, I went on another crazed vacuuming and washing spree like I'd done the first time around, only this time including many areas I had actually neglected the first time.  In June I focused mostly on exterior surfaces Sam could touch. This time I went further, including higher and interior surfaces as well. This extended to taking every item out of kitchen cupboards and washing down the insides and outsides with  a soap/water spray (followed by a vinegar/baking soda spray to prevent scum) inside and outside of the fridge, sucking the dust off every individual knick-knack, vacuuming and washing windows, doors, door frames, baseboards, I even 'vacuumed' every inch of wall ceiling to floor with a flat attachment (certainly walls collect a layer of dust too?),  removed hundreds of books from our bookshelf and vacuumed each one to suck off the dust, washed down all the bathrooms again... etc. Pretty much ANYTHING that might have detergent dust or residues that could be spread around I tried to wash or vacuum. 

After all of this, his arms are significantly better. He is still getting eczema on them but that's okay. They really only bother me because the rest of him is very clear and eczema-free. Luckily the washing every night with soap and applying the ointment prevents it from ever getting out of control.  So overall, I feel satisfied that we've retained our progress. I suspect that our carpet is such an overwhelming influence that no matter how much I clean everything else, we'll always have the issue of the carpet puffing up some amount of dust from under the pad and causing the eczema to exposed skin. SolveEczema.Org  actually recommends removing carpets if possible for full implementation of the detergent-removal methods.  If we had wood or linoleum floors instead of this awful old carpet I can't get rid of,  I'm sure the cleaning I've done would be that much more effective and we could let him wear regular shorts and t-shirts and not have to worry so much. 

Sam lives in the footed pants and opening-mitten shirts from this website and also some awesome outfits from here.  These create a safe barrier between his skin and the carpet, allowing him to stay clear where he is clothed. You might wonder why I even bother cleaning anything else if I have to worry so much about our carpet, but I do think reducing our detergent levels as much as possible makes a huge difference. I've noticed when he is at someone else's house his clothing becomes more easily saturated with dusts.  I know this because later he will have developed a  light spotty eczema under his clothes that he doesn't get at home.  He also tends to break out on his face, neck and gets puffy around the eyes which does not happen at home either.   Pulling his pants down to change his diaper at any other house might mean itchy leg eczema from just that brief exposure, but he is not effected by numerous diaper changes on our carpet at home. The overall levels make such a difference.  (See the Bucket Analogy for Allergy)

It has become very tricky to make extended visits with friends or family because of these type of exposures. I do not intend to be anti-social but I do find myself turning down more invitations that require Sam to be in another person's home for any significant amount of time. Hopefully as he gets older and is less prone to break outs I will not have to worry about this so much. It's just that when we make house calls and he comes home with eczema, it can take a few days for him to heal.  Prescription medication isn't really any option anymore either.  I am committed to never using steroids again if I can absolutely help it!   I have learned that many steroid creams contain detergents as an inert ingredient and overall make the skin more permeable and susceptible to the irritant with every application. In the short term they might suppress symptoms but in the long run they can only make things worse. 

I am hoping to avoid having to do any future massive cleaning overhauls like I did last week by getting into a regular schedule of vacuuming and wiping down surfaces. My goal is to vacuum every other day at least and also wipe down exterior surfaces with soap or a vinegar wash, switching between upstairs and downstairs surfaces every other day. I hope this will make this maintenance phase easier... of course that means I have to somehow muster the discipline to stick with it... hmmm. 

Lest I give the impression that this transition to a detergent-free home and an eczema-free Sam has been all tedious work and worry, I want to copy an excerpt from a letter I sent recently to a friend, highlighting the most wonderful part of this whole journey. This letter contains some rather sensitive personal content, but I've decided to post it here largely unedited in hopes of presenting a more honest portrayal of our experience, and hopefully encouraging others who might feel similarly that  better days are within reach :

Regarding Sam- yes I think you are right, and I hadn't really thought about it, but when you mentioned his skin looking even healthier than when on steroids (and that it looked kind of flat and pale before) I had to go back and look at photos and there is clearly a difference. That steroid skin that I always thought was so beautiful (because it was the only 'clear' I knew) was nothing, nothing compared to this truly healthy skin. I see children all over the internet everyday, some clear into their teens and STILL with terrible eczema, and I nearly want to cry at times thinking that we've managed to find ourselves numbered among the  "lucky few" who have found a working solution, and so early on.  My heart literally aches when I think of all those others.  
 I love seeing Sam this way, without eczema, with healthy skin. I feel like this is my REAL boy! I  always was so determined to find a solution for him, but I really thought it would be tweaking his diet just right, I never ever in a million years would have suspected what it turned out to be.  
It wasn't just Sam's skin that healed as a result of following [solveeczema.org]. I feel like our whole family life is healing now.  I was so depressed for so long when I realized around Sam's first birthday that he'd been on steroids for 8 months and his skin was just getting worse and worse. I felt so helpless. I spent every ounce of energy looking into finding a solution for him. It was all I could think about -despite many other priorities that needed attending to- and I tried so many things. I blew our budget nearly every month on this diet and that, purchasing special allergy-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, etc health foods and just obsessed over my youngest son, even to the neglect of my two older children.  I simply could not give them as much of myself, I was so drained, they were both acting out in ways that were out of character I think because they must have felt that I wasn't really 'present' with them. We were all miserable. Even my marriage was beginning to suffer because of the amount of time I was giving to this endeavor. Honestly I think my husband preferred me to keep applying the topical steroids to Sam if it meant we could pretend the eczema didn't exist. 
I think back on that mess, it was such a dark, difficult time... while I am a person of deep faith, and I prayed so long and hard, I am not the type who is very good at "putting on a happy face" or maintaining my serenity in times of trial, I take things too personally... and I take too much responsibility on myself to ensure those around me are happy and well and taken care of, so I was simply not functioning.  
For the past few weeks, our life has felt a lot more... "normal".   Finding a solution to Sam's eczema freed up so much time for me, no longer having to search for answers.   I'm doing more with my kids now...  I am getting more rest, and I don't feel so helpless regarding Sam's skin. Last Saturday we spent the day together as a  family, we all went to the pet store to see the animals, to north UGA campus to walk around (my husband works for University of GA) and  then out to eat. I realized, it was the first time I was out enjoying my family where I wasn't completely preoccupied with Sam's skin.  I looked around and saw everyone, including Sam, smiling and laughing, and realized that for that moment at least I was carefree. Though I was curious how his skin would react to the animals (he'd never been to a pet store before!) I didn't obsess, because I knew if he broke out a lot or even a little, we could take care of it quickly and effectively.  
Now that Sam's skin is clear, we've been able to add every food back into his diet, except for tree nuts and peanuts. For the longest time, that kid did not have a bite of any fun foods such as cookie, or ice cream, or pizza (not that he needs any of those things!) but that also meant his siblings didn't get those things either. We had to be fair. And my daughter, who is 6, would often ask "Why does Sam have to have eczema? Is he always going to have it? Because its not fun! We never get to do anything fun or even get treats because of Sam."  And now when we go to the grocery store, they get to eat kid cookies from the bakery, and that is the best thing in the world to them.  Sam is still getting used to this business of getting treats. You should see his face when I hand him a cookie! His mouth and eyes gape open in amazement and his little face nearly shakes with excitement! It is one of my favorite things. What a terrific discovery to find out he was not allergic to all the foods we thought he was after all. 
One starfish on the sand... no... an entire family! ... Every person in my family has been blessed.
It's true- despite the hard work involved and the hyper-paranoia over long visits away from home, I feel incredibly blessed to have been literally handed the knowledge to know how to heal my son's skin, how to predict and prevent break-outs, and remedy them when they occur.  I wish this kind of power and change in perspective for every parent who has a child with eczema.  I know how very helpless it feels to be on the other side of this.   If you are needing help and not sure where to start with using Solve Eczema .Org,  please visit a brand new Solve Eczema User's Forum at http://solveeczemaforum.proboards.com/.  I am sincerely hoping that within 6 months time we can see the category for Success Stories completely full of testimonials and photos of babies and children with healthy, eczema free skin.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Detergent-free products I use at home

I am frequently asked by other parents of children with eczema which detergent-free products we are using for everything, so here's the breakdown. You might be surprised to discover that all of these products you use in your home normally contain sodium laurel sulfate - a major skin and tissue irritant- or another form of detergent in them when purchased off the shelf from a regular store. I had no idea detergent went beyond my laundry and dish products before I started this journey, but we've really had to search beyond our local stores for detergent-free alternatives for all of these common household products.  It is important for us to be fully detergent-free, because even retaining one favorite product such as commercial hair gel would result in a continual source of 'detergent dust' created by flaking hair and scalp cells, which then causes the eczema.  (Kids with this "allergy" really are that sensitive!)

By the way, I am not affiliated with and of the manufacturers or companies that sell these products, and I don't get anything from 'advertising' for them. These are just my personal favorite products - the ones I actually use at home for maintaining Sam's skin.  My entire family uses these products, because Sam's skin is that sensitive and its not worth the risk to have even trace detergents if we can help it. I am providing the links through which I usually buy for your ease. But feel free to shop around for the best prices. You might even find some of these locally if you have a Whole Foods or other health food store in your town. 

Laundry  - Cal Ben Seafoam

Hand Dish Washing -   Dr. Bronner's Baby Mild Liquid Castile Soap  in a dish wand  or just vinegar/water or water/baking soda.


Automatic Dishwasher  -  I have used and recommend Cal Ben Destain if you like pre-made. However, after running out I now use this homemade borax-free dish soap recipe just because its simple and inexpensive and I don't need to order online. The recipe calls for a liquid soap and I use Dr. Bronner's for that.


Shampoo  - Cal Ben Five Star Shampoo.   I hate to say, nothing quite compares to detergent-based shampoo and conditioner. This is something I did bc I knew the detergent dust from my hair was inflaming my baby's face. I was never 100% happy with the results of soap-based hair products but I made this switch for my child.   There will be a time you may be able to go back to a very mild detergent shampoo, when your child is older and the eczema is healed, usually with age they become less susceptible.


For Hands and Body  -  Sappo Hill Natural Unscented bars   (also search on Amazon)
( I looooove this soap so much! I just purchased 25 additional bars after going through the first 10 my sister-in-law bought me and I was as giddy as a kid at Christmas when they arrived. We use them on hands, body, face, they are amazing.)  (Note added 2016: STILL using this soap. For 3 years I used it on Sam almost daily.  Its my favorite.)


Conditioner
Apple cider vinegar diluted with water in a spray bottle, spray on after shampoo, leaves hair silky soft when dry!


Lotion 
Aquaphor Ointment has worked the best for Sam while he's been healing.  We've tried so many other lotions and moisturizers, and this truly works best as a barrier cream  (applying creamy or oily lotions everyday to dry skinwill backfire and just cause more dryness).  If you suspect your little one's eczema may be infected, adding a small amount (start w/ just 1/2 tsp)  of Bragg's Apple Cider Vinegar to a small container of Aquaphor and mix. Apply this on your child after each bath.  (My local grocery store carries this)

I honestly don't use any lotions right now. My skin used to be so, so, so severely dry that I would never have believed I could go even two days without moisturizer. I always hated how dry my skin felt coming out of a bath.   After ditching detergent products and switching to true soap, I find my skin is so 'normal' feeling I don't need any moisturizer at all. I know this is contrary to what you've always heard- that soap is drying. Usually a soap is dry because it either contains detergents (and therefore is not really and truly soap) or has been over-saponified. Traditional soap has chemical properties that are so very similar to that of our human skin barrier, unlike synthetic detergent molecules which are a different shape and protrude from the barrier causing permeability and moisture loss.  Just keep in mind that humans used true soaps for thousands of years without the widespread skin problems and eczema we see today. Detergents were only introduced in the 1950's- and that same decade is also where history records the first significant jump in cases of eczema. 

For Cleaning
I keep two spray bottles handy. One has a TBS of  Dr. Bronner's Baby Mild Liquid Castile Soap mixed with a full spray bottle of water,  the other one has water with a little bit of vinegar.  I probably don't need both but after I clean a surface with soap I like to follow with the vinegar to prevent and slick soap scum build-up.  For tough stains and soils, try baking soda and water on a spot, let it sit, then scrub. The amazon link is an expensive price, I have found this at my local grocery much cheaper. 


Deodorant
Crystal or Salt Stone Deodorant is as natural as it gets and is good if you are not going to be very active. I'll be the first to admit though, it isn't the most effective if you're moving around and breaking a sweat.   I haven't found my favorite yet but if you go to Skin Deep Cosmetic Database and search "deodorants", any of those with a 0 to 1 rating should be safe options to try. 

Hair Gel
Right now Adam uses 98% pure Aloe Vera Gel. Really anything natural and gel like will work. You can also search 'hair gel alternatives' on the web and turn up some fun recipes. You could also search the Skin Deep Cosmetic Database for hair gel and again, look for a 0 to 1 product rating.


Dr. Bronner's Baby Mild Liquid Soap
When we first started I was using a bottle of Dr. Bronner's Baby Mild Liquid Castile Soap for almost everything, but since Sam really didn't make much visual improvements in the beginning, I wasn't sure if it was the right product for us and quickly moved onto other products. However now that his skin is clear I've tried the Dr. B's again with no reaction so I am sure this is a good product to use for many aspects of going detergent-free. It's also probably one of the most readily available and economical options, they carry it at most of the stores here locally. I've even heard of people brushing their teeth with it!  I recently read a review from a solveeczema.org users   who used it as a laundry soap, just a little squirt with a 1/4 cup washing soda.  It can also be used for cleaning, as shampoo, body wash, hand soap, floors, and probably a lot of other things I'm not thinking of. 

Save Money: Make Your Own Detergent-Free Products
I love all the products listed above that we've used, but most of them I've had to order online and pay for shipping, and now that I'm starting to run out of some things I may try to make my own detergent free products. I've found quite a few recipes online that look easy and would probably save a lot of money. If you need to pinch pennies and are feeling ambitious, try an online search for "all natural personal products" or  "all natural cleaning products".  


*The last product remaining in our home that I haven't switched out yet is my make-up. Cosmetics do contain detergents as well (which is likely one reasons many older women get facial and eyelid dermatitis... I'm just guessing).  Luckily I wear so very little so I've compromised to wear it just when going out and keep my face washed in the house.  Detergent-free cosmetics are out there but the ones I have seen are ex-pen-sive!