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.
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.