To this day, many people ask me how I was able to heal my son's eczema. After numerous failed attempts with different creams, therapies and doctors, we knew we had to heal his skin from within.
Here's our eczema story. It's not pretty, but it's real. In it, I'll describe how to treat eczema naturally by sharing the methods and products that helped us most. Keep in mind that I am in no way a medical professional. If you or your little one are suffering from severe eczema, it is very important to seek medical attention.
Years ago, eczema was my life. I was consumed by it. It was all I cared about both day and night. Unfortunately, it was my 3-year-old son Tristan who had to experience the relentless itching and pain of this unforgiving condition.
When my son was 3 months old, he started to develop dry, itchy skin patches that was diagnosed as mild eczema . In fact, his skin was never really soft since birth. As a first time parent, I was expecting velvety soft baby skin, but it wasn't to be with Tristan.
At the time, his pediatrician prescribed topical hydro-cortisone for his small dry patches and it did the trick.
When Tristan was around one years old, his pediatrician agreed to test him for a variety of allergies as his skin was gradually worsening and he'd had some colic as a baby. We found that he was allergic to seasonal irritants, dogs, cats and walnuts. We didn't have any pets, he didn't eat nuts and his seasonal allergies were mild, so the allergy testing didn't change anything for him.
Fast forward to Tristan's second birthday, his skin had gotten progressively worse. Much worse. He started seeing a pediatric dermatologist who prescribed a stronger dose of topical hydro-cortisone. I asked her if food sensitives were causing his skin to flare up (as I always suspected his seasonal allergies and certain foods were causing his skin to flare), but the doctor assured me that it did not “look” like the kind of eczema related to allergies and therefore she was sure food was in no way related to his eczema. Her answer reassured me for the time being.
With the stronger cortisone, I was advised to take two week breaks to let the skin rest. But when I stopped applying the hydro-cortisone, Tristan's skin raged out of control in response. It seemed to be a complete vicious cycle in which nothing (even over-the-counter and prescription creams) helped. My intuition told me conventional medicine wasn't going to be the answer for Tristan. So I stopped it all cold turkey.
Mild to Severe Eczema
In hopes of finding relief for Tristan, I joined many support groups and parenting groups on Facebook trying to find answers. It was wonderful to learn and share with other parents going through the same thing and it totally motivated me not to give up on my son. If they could find a cure for their child, maybe I could too.
In April, just before Tristan's third birthday, his skin became covered head-to-toe in eczema, though it looked like severe burns. It pains me to even remember his skin that way now. He was in complete misery and I felt completely hopeless not being able to comfort my own child.
Soon came the sleepless nights, screaming fits, and awful scratch trances . Scratching led to bleeding, which led to infections and it just kept happening over and over again. The itching was completely out on control. I was crying day and night because I was just so incredibly frustrated and exhausted. I had to find a solution and fast.
I am still so thankful to those support groups I had joined. Getting through those darkest of days felt only possible due to the kind people I met online. I was inspired to start my own blog then, Its an Itchy Little World, as another way to reach out and connect with parents going through the impossible challenges of managing severe eczema. The blog became a form of support that I was very grateful to have. If you only take away one thing from my story, let it be the importance of finding your own support network. You aren't alone and you shouldn't have to battle eczema alone. Seek help and support from others who have been there. It can mean all the difference in the world.
Finding Natural Treatments That Worked
At this point I was running on fumes and frantically researching alternative medicine and looking for holistic practitioners in hopes of finding something that could cure my son. The idea of healing from within was intriguing and there were so many success stories that gave me hope. Through endless research, conversation and lots of trial-and-error, I decided to treat the cause of Tristan's eczema and not just the symptoms. I knew we had to heal his skin naturally. While researching where to start, I was hoping to find him some quick relief.
First I needed to control the insatiable itching. To prevent him from scratching his skin raw, I purchased a pair of scratch mitten sleeves. These mittens were absolutely life changing . My little Houdini could not remove them and they helped him get a peaceful night’s sleep because the soft silk mittens ensured he wasn't hurting his skin. When I saw how well they worked for Tristan, I immediately bought three more pairs. We had four on rotation for this time of crisis. And he he wore them as a dry wrap to bed every single night during this time. We like ScratchSleeves Scratch Mittens for this purpose. And they make adorable pajamas too.
Next, I tried to find a moisturizer that didn’t burn or sting his already inflamed skin. I tried countless creams and found that most drugstore brands contained some variety of alcohol (all of which completely burned his skin). Tristan would literally run away from me screaming when it was cream time. Poor guy. How could something that was supposed to offer relief, actually cause him so much more pain?! It was awful.
It was at this time that I started to adopt a much more natural, non-toxic lifestyle. With Tristan's sensitive skin, I felt whole foods and botanical skincare would be the best approach and the least aggravating for his overall health. Reading labels became essential. I discovered that many skincare products contain chemicals or preservatives that caused his skin to flare. My son's struggles with products containing alcohol and preservatives and fillers is why I am so careful with the products we provide at The Eczema Company. From the start, it was very important to me that the products I curate do not contain any questionable ingredients, which you can read more about in Our Mission.
Eventually I found some great natural skincare, but my go-tos ended up being salves and balms that contained oils without any form of alcohol. One of the creams I used then and still use now is the Organic Manuka Skin Soothing Cream. This cream is 100% natural, soothing and doesn't sting or burn inflamed skin. Every member of my family loves this stuff.
Although the mittens and the moisturizers worked, Tristan's eczema was so severe that he needed more advanced therapy. Eventually, I tried wet wrapping and the results were AMAZING. I started off doing it two hours at a time, three times per day for one week and his skin was practically close to perfect . Eventually, the water from the therapy started to dry his skin out, so I stopped and only used it again occasionally. But wow, wet wrapping works great for quick, temporary relief when you just need a break.
Tristan's hand eczema turned out to be very stubborn. He had to use simple, fatty, very moisturizing soaps at home and at school. If he washed his hands once with a nasty commercial quality soap, his hands would be in ruins. Tallow soap is my favorite for hand eczema. Dry wrapping the hands overnight with eczema mittens or gloves and a good natural eczema cream turned out to be a game changer for my little guys hands.
Another discovery for me was that laundry detergent was super irritating for Tristan's skin. It didn't cause eczema to flare up initially, but it definitely made it more angry looking. I thought it was just the chemicals in normal detergents, but I even tried natural detergent and it was still too hard on him. Turns out all detergent is very alkaline, and not at all skin friendly. I transitioned to soap nuts and ultimately the Smart Klean laundry ball and Smart Klean natural stain remover and his skin was much happier.
Healing From Within
Everything I was doing certainly helped my son, but it wasn't a cure. We were getting by, but just barely. Tristan's itching was getting worse and I knew I had to find something to provide long-term relief and quickly. A naturopath recommended my son try some supplements and he experienced great results with Moducare Immune System Support and some homeopathy made specifically for eczema: Dr. Reckweg's R23 and Homeodel's 43 for dry eczema. For weeping eczema, this Homeodel 48 would work better.
With a good natural eczema routine in place, and my son's skin stable, but not healed, I read about food elimination diets and felt it was time to try it out. I read the book, Dealing with Food Allergies in Babies and Children by Janice Vickerstaff Joneja PhD RD and followed her methods and recommendations for eczema. Through this method, I found a LONG list of food items that made Tristan itch immediately after consuming them (soy, corn, tomatoes, red peppers, etc), as well as many foods that took a day or two to show symptoms (cantaloupe, pineapple, etc). I also discovered that he had a severe dairy sensitivity (that later turned into a full blown allergy) and that gluten exacerbated his flare ups. Once I removed gluten and dairy, his skin was 90% better. I also removed almonds from his diet and that seemed to stop the itching completely.
Did I Find a Cure for My Son's Eczema?
Today, Tristan is 98% better. His food allergies and sensitivities are mostly gone. He’s rarely itchy, but he still has the occasional small eczema flare-up from time to time and he does flare up each spring due to his allergy to birch pollen. Since spring is outdoor soccer season, he has to wear eczema sleeves to cover the backs of his knees and prevent exposure to the pollen. This works great for him!
Did I cure his eczema? I'd like to think so, but as you might already know - there is no official cure to this possibly debilitating skin condition.
The journey to get here wasn’t easy. I hit my own personal rock bottom and there were even times when my husband and I would argue (quite intensely) about the right course of treatment for our son. However, with persistence and hope (and a little bit of stubbornness!), I was able to truly heal his skin from within.
If you’re experiencing eczema or you’re not sure where to turn for your little one’s skin, I want you to know that things will get better. Eczema is an extremely personal skin condition. Products or therapies that work for one person might not help someone else. I definitely encourage you to seek out resources, do your research and stop looking only at the symptoms and start thinking about the root cause. In our case food was the primary trigger and root cause, but there are so many other possibilities ranging from stress, organ imbalances, leaky gut, and more. By identifying what was causing Tristan’s skin to flare-up, I was able to heal his eczema by 98% and keep it at bay.
Going through this journey and knowing what worked for my son and what didn’t encouraged me to start my own business. I wanted to create a store that carried the best selection of the most natural products for eczema relief and so, in 2011, I created The Eczema Company. I personally curate all the products - everything is 100% natural and has been tested on eczema prone skin with great results. We know there are no miracle products out there, don't we wish there were?! But at The Eczema Company I provide you with the best natural options so you can find the right product for your specific case of eczema.
Wishing you skin health and happiness!
Jennifer Roberge, Founder of The Eczema Company
Bio: Laura is a contributor and content developer for The Eczema Company. She is in no way a medical professional. Her comments, suggestions, and reflections are not intended to replace any medical advice. Always seek the help of a medical professional before undertaking any diet or lifestyle changes.