It's National Eczema Awareness Month!! First off, I had zero idea as to what eczema actually was until meeting my husband and Co-Founder, Augie. I’d grown up using name brand detergents like Cheer (which is now defunct), and Tide like everyone else. I remember the smell filling up the house full of fragrance and FEELING like that and all the bubbles in the washer, meant my clothes were clean. I did notice at times that my clothes would smell good, but stains did not always come out, or that it would take several washes to get rid of that feeling of an extra layer being on my clothing. I just went on my merry way, slightly itchy, but figured that was normal because, hey, I washed with what normal people wash with!
Fast forward about 20 years or so and I marry the man of my dreams who just so happens to have severe eczema, which is an inflammatory skin condition. I would see him use expensive medications from a compound pharmacy and wash the affected areas with Selsum Blue to get relief. We would even use Sulfur 8, hydrocortisone, Vaseline, you name it. Something, ANYTHING that would relieve the itching. I would also notice that his skin would flake and have darker patches. Thankfully, he never had skin infections. Once I started having children, that is when I admittedly paid close attention. Before that time, I had no real understanding of the condition and Augie just lived with it, as most of us with chronic conditions do. I noticed that our children would have itchy patches that I had no idea how to take care of and I had to regularly ask Augie how to combat it, whether or not it was eczema and how to keep it from flaring up. Unfortunately, there is no cure, but contrary to some popular belief, the condition is not contagious.
Eczema affects about 20 Million Americans. There are some parts of the population that are more prone to the condition than others: females, African-Americans, those diagnosed with Hay-Fever or Asthma and anyone who has family members diagnosed with Hay-Fever or Asthma. It occurred to me that our family has all of these risk factors, but it took me several years and medications later to figure out what exactly triggered the symptoms. Here are a few: Your immune system - anything that triggers an allergic reaction, including laundry detergent; stress levels - my husband worked a high stress job for over 15 years; genetics - we had a history of asthma in our family.
I remember my husband always being self conscious about having the condition, although day to day no one could see it but us. He would scratch his back on a corner wall when he’d get home from work like a kodiak bear, or scratch at his chest as if he was trying to get underneath the skin. There was one moment in particular where it seemed we finally started getting a hold on the condition with a compromise. I had my scented detergent that I liked, the babies had their detergent, and we had “free and clear” detergent for Augie. Sure, it cost more, but we didn’t even bother to look at how much we were spending because each one was so cheap and we were busy working parents. Who had time to look at that?? We were talking while he was getting ready for work, and I had just washed his work shirts. He put one one and immediately began to itch. At that point I realized it was the detergent causing the issues. I flipped over the bottle of detergent I used on his shirts and realized that I had no clue nor any indication as to what was in the bottle. At that point I knew then, I had no way of knowing which ingredient was causing the problem but I did figure out that it was the laundry detergent. I searched the internet for the ingredients and after about 15 layers of web pages on the detergent site, I found the ingredients of said detergent. I thought to myself, “it can’t be THIS hard to figure out what we are using??” That is when we decided to set out on our own to solve this problem. How could we be earth friendly and wash clothing effectively without harming the skin?? At the time, it seemed an impossible task but thankfully Dinobi has figured it out!
For National Eczema Awareness Month, we hope to spread awareness about the condition, how we have lived with it, and how we are continuing to fight the good fight. My husband and children having the condition, as well as others seemingly popping up with it, gave me a new perspective on eczema, new information and new empathy. To live with a condition on the inside is difficult enough, however, to live with one with no cure on the outside is another issue and can affect mood and even self esteem. It took us years to find the right combination to help manage it but here is a quick rundown of how to help combat the itch and give some comfort day to day:
- SWITCH YOUR DETERGENT! Stop using detergent because you like the way it smells. Period. Unfortunately it just doesn’t help the skin condition at all, and can even make it worse or cause hospital worthy situations. Fragrance that is unnatural or chemically made causes irritation to skin that already has a weakened barrier. Try Dinobi which has proven results with no irritation to eczema sufferers. If not us, try a truly natural detergent without the chemical fragrance. Give up the apothecary dream and use essential oils if you are not allergic.
- DON’T BE LAZY. SLATHER YOURSELF. Keep the skin moisturized at all costs - again, chemical fragrance can do more damage to already weakened skin and having dry skin doesn’t help. Try Eucerin or Aquaphor to enhance your skin’s barrier, especially in the Winter when the air gets very dry. In all honesty, these can be a tad expensive. A cheap hack is to mix some generic hydrocortisone with generic petroleum jelly. It may not be the same as the “good stuff” but it will get you through the flare up.
- Eat more anti-inflammatory foods - this is probably the hardest one to do simply because hey, who doesn’t like to eat what they want?? Staying away from dairy, sugar, and eating more berries, vegetables and fish like salmon and cod has helped our family to have less flare ups, if any. If you just have to have that sugar taste, use monk fruit as a substitute.
- DON’T SCRATCH! This is harder than the diet. Unfortunately, scratching can and will lead to infection because again, the inflamed skin is already weak. Doing 1-3 will help to reduce the itch and the chances of infection. If you must, try to pat the area. A quick hack if you are in a pinch and you ran out of hydrocortisone or are behind on picking up that prescription, wash the affected area with Selsum Blue while in the shower. It will help you reduce the itch and inflammation temporarily until you can do 1-3.
- Ask your doctor. Don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor, holistic specialist or your herbalist about ways to fight the itch. There are many solutions available, some traditional medicine, some natural remedies. Be open to both!
- Stand in the sun!! My husband has found benefits in being in the sun. The Sun is our natural defense against infection. Use a good sunscreen such as Black Girl Sunscreen (which is AMAZING and also has one for kids) or Neutrogena for sensitive skin. A few moments in the sun seems to always help calm the flare ups and keep them at bay.
- Last but not least - be considerate. It was difficult for me to be sensitive to my husband’s condition at first simply because I didn’t experience it. I could SEE that there was a problem, but then I saw him doing what I thought was living with it and life moved on in my head. The truth is, the condition was covered with a band-aid, and we didn’t truly address it until it got pretty bad and then we had children with it. Try to stay empathetic by noticing your friend or spouse when they are having a flare up and simply asking if they need anything. If you can see their mood is affected negatively by it, let them know you are in it with them and are willing to try new things to help calm the condition.