Why go fragrance-free?

These days, you may have noticed that many skin care products and detergents market themselves as fragrance-free. Why is this the case?

Fragrances are among the most common causes of allergies. With the use of fragrance containing lotions, creams, cleansers, deodorants, detergents, etc., many individual have noticed rashes, redness, irritation and itching of the skin. Obviously, perfumes and colognes have fragrances in them and can cause irritation in individuals who use these products.

One way we test whether people have a skin allergy to fragrances is to expose a small part of their skin to different mixes of fragrances and see if the skin reacts. If so, it may confirm the presence of a fragrance allergy.

Crisco for the skin?

I’m seeing a lot of folks come in now with flares of their eczema. We always tout the use of nice thick moisturizers. A few of the brands that make fragrance-free thick creams include Eucerin, Aquaphor, Cetaphil, and Cerave. And you can’t go wrong with Vaseline.

Well, here’s a new recipe for vegetable shortening. If you’re looking for a really inexpensive non-irritating protectant, try vegetable shortening. Yes, like Crisco. You get a big tub of it for not a lot of money. Those other creams can really add up in cost. If you do go the Crisco route, use a clean spatula or spoon instead of your hand to apply it to your skin. And consider keeping it in the fridge.

Have you tried using Crisco for your skin? Let us know how it worked out!

Eczema skin care tips

An example of hand eczema. Courtesy of Wikipedia user Topbanana.

It’s getting cool and dry up here in New England and we’re seeing flares of eczema again. Here are some tips for good skin against eczema/atopic dermatitis.

1. Moisturize with a thick hydrating cream. Plain old vaseline works but not everyone can tolerate its greasiness during the day! Some brands that make good thick emollients include Cerave, Cetaphil, Eucerin, etc. Avoid creams with lots of fragrance and avoid watery lotions.

What’s your favorite moisturizer?

2. Minimize contact with water — especially hot water. This means taking lukewarm instead of scalding hot water and limiting the length of time you spend in the shower or bath. If you do a lot of dishwashing, washing your child, or if your job puts you in contact with water (nursing, hairdressing, bartending, etc.), wear gloves to protect your hands. And remember to moisturize your hands after water contact.

3. Try not to scratch the area. The itch-scratch cycle makes eczema tough to beat. Scratching can lead to more itching which in turn leads to more scratching, etc. Keep your nails short and try not to scratch! Your doctor can recommend medications to help with the itch.

4. See your doctor. You may need special medications to help your eczema/atopic dermatitis go away. These may entail creams of ointments. When severe, you may need pills, or even light therapy (aka phototherapy — a fancy light box that you stand in). It’s also important to see a doctor because eczema can get infected with bacteria or viruses.