Eczema and Detergents
I’ve had diagnosed Eczema since I was less than a year old. It’s had phases through my life but has been on my wrists and the backs of my knees for as long as I can remember. I’ve tried all the creams and ointments over the years. The strongest ones “work” well enough to clear up my skin, but you can’t use them long term (they cause “skin thinning” and “steroid bounce” and I absolutely won’t take a drug for long enough that it won’t work the next time I need it) and unfortunately, the milder “step-down” creams have never worked. It’s nuke or nothin’.
In the last six years the condition has gotten worse. More places, more complications.
I recently discovered SolveEczema and Sammy’s Skin and though my Ecz was never as bad as these poor babies, it definitely strikes a chord.
I’m an adult now (it’s true) and so I don’t have permeable baby skin, but still I get irritated by contact with almost anything. Clothes, desks, sweat, definitely harsh chemicals. I’ve known to avoid SLS (Sodium Laureth Sulfate) for a few years now but I didn’t realise the enormity of the detergent problem…
To summarise the websites above:
- Before the 50s/60s, we used Soap. Natural soap, from plant and animal oils.
- Since the 60s, we’ve used chemical detergents (and this goes hand-in-hand with a meteoric rise in Ecz cases in developed countries)
- It’s common that people think you can just switch laundry detergent but there is detergent on everything because it is in all of our cleaning products, and our dust, and our air…
- Detergents can’t be washed off by water alone. They have to be washed off with soap!
- A regimen of zero tolerance against detergents in the home, coupled with fastidious cleaning, can create better results than Eczema medication
Our Old Cleaning Situation
Honestly, we’re millenials, and we don’t clean as much as my Mum does. This is probably one reason my eczema has become worse. But here’s what we clean with:
- Clothes - Normal non-bio powder, like Persil or an Aldi one. “15% nonionic surfactants, 15% anionic surfactants…” - Very bad.
- Dishes - After going on a plastic free bender for a while and using powder, we’re back to normal washing up liquid. Full of detergents. I do wear gloves (but the gloves make me itch).
- Dishwasher - Smol dishwasher tablets. They may come in a small, convenient (ethical?) posted parcel, but they contain all the same surfactant-detergents as the other guys
- Hands - Simple bar soap. This is actually real soap - woo hoo! It is slightly drying because it’s alkaline though…
- Shower - For a while now we’ve ditched shower gels and use the same Simple Bar Soap as above
- Hair - I use Johnson’s Baby Shampoo (yep) because it’s gentle - there’s a long story here about Helen testing shampoos on her eyes. It contains a lot of suspicious names like Cocamidopropyl Betaine and Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate… the latter of which is really just a fancy surfactant for people avoiding SLS??
- Sprays - We mostly use eCover spray which I was cheesed off to discover is just a regular surfactant-detergent spray like all the others!!
We have vacuum cleaners but they’re not that well sealed and we don’t vacuum as much as we should.
The New Plan
- We bought a cordless Dyson! Call it a New Year present. We’re going to clean every room and vacuum more regularly (more convenient when you don’t have to plug in, and it’s half the weight) - this will be a double win because I’m allergic to dust mites.
- I ordered a load of natural soaps to cover off the above cleaning tasks (list in next section)
- We will put all of our detergent-containing solutions in a box somewhere and start using detergent free
- We’ll wash all the linens, starting with bedclothes, (hoovering the bed inbetween)
- We’ll clean the “big wins” - places I spend more time. Desk. Sofa.
- When we’re sure that we’ve cleared the easiest 80% of detergents and their residues from the house, I’ll start a strong course of steroid ointment to get my skin under control
- Hopefully we can maintain environmental factors and the Eczema will “stay down”??
The Shopping List
Consider these un-reviewed. I hope to come back and review them…
- Clothes - DriPak Liquid Soap (one cap) and some Soda Crystal (reduce soap scum)
- Dishes - Washing Up Bar from Cosy Cottage Soap (with DriPak Liquid Soap as a backup)
- Dishwasher - Don’t know yet!!
- Hands - Carry on with Simple bar soap, we also bought some from Cosy to try
- Shower - Same
- Hair - Shampoo Bar from Cosy Cottage Soap
- Sprays - We are gonna make our own sprays with liquid soap and white vinegar - need to use new bottles sadly as the old ones are tainted with detergents!
It’s worth mentioning that we are going to have a baby and will be doing the reusable nappies thing. Fortunately, you absolutely can use natural soap on cloth nappies, if you make a few extra considerations to account for disinfecting your machine and removing soap scum.
It messes with my mind that we poison ourselves so enthusiastically with harsh artifical chemicals, to the extent that they now coat the surfaces around us and fill the air we breathe. I’m excited to get back to traditional soaps and hoping that we’ll see an improvement in my skin.
I intend to come back with a Part 2 and some product reviews. See you then!