Medical herbalist Lindsey Miller from Hope’s Relief has had over 6 years of experience, both as a practitioner and within the natural products industry. Here she shares her top five ingredients which she believes can help problem skins - as well as some good lifestyle tips
One in five children and one in twelve adults have eczema in the UK, according to the National Eczema Society. That’s over 5 million people. In recent years, the incidence of eczema in the population appears to be increasing and everyone seems to know someone who has a child who can’t stop scratching.
Eczema is an intensely itchy, inflammatory skin condition that frequently occurs on the face, wrists and insides of elbows and knees. The skin is dry, thickened, red and itchy. Dermatitis sufferers are prone to skin infections because of the breaks in the skin and the skin being dry and often split. Scratching also introduces bacteria to vulnerable skin. Bacterial infection is extremely common. This is usually with staphylococcal or streptococcal bacteria. Secondary infection can greatly hinder recovery and worsen skin conditions. Topical applications should not only have an anti-inflammatory action but should have an antibacterial and antifungal approach too.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 80% of the world's population uses medicinal plants in the treatment of diseases. So are there any particular natural ingredients that can help dermatitis and skin infections, which you can look out for?
Manuka honey (leptospermum scoparium)
Honey, and Manuka honey in particular, can be a good wound healer and is now well recognised as having proven antibacterial and anti-fungal activity. Independent tests comparing Manuka and Australian Tea Tree found Manuka to be up to 33 times more effective on common gram positive skin bacteria, such as staphylococcus aureus. Manuka’s effectiveness to soothe and heal is now tried and tested and it has been used to effectively treat a variety of skin conditions including, including eczema, psoriasis, pityriasis, tinia, cuts, abrasions and burns.
Aloe vera (aloe barbadensis)
Topically known best for its abilities to soothe sunburn, aloe vera contains mucopolysaccharides which can help bind moisture into the skin, making it a great soothing moisturiser not only for burns but for dry and itchy skin. It is another great plant used effectively for atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis, lichen planus and wound healing. It can also be used as a biological vehicle and an anti-microbial and antifungal agent as well and is a great topical anti-inflammatory. A study conducted on nappy dermatitis also showed that topical aloe and calendula could serve as an effective treatment for infants with the condition.
Marigold (calendula officinalis)
Calendula is considered a potent wound healer with anti-inflammatory action. It is now commonly used for an array of skin conditions. Its ability to soothe irritated tissue is demonstrated by its effectiveness in preventing acute irradiation dermatitis. Animal studies show that calendula helps wounds heal faster: one mode of action may be helping the body make new tissue. It also has an antimicrobial effect. Experimental in vitro studies have demonstrated that extracts of calendula flower have a high degree of activity against different strains of bacteria and fungi which contribute to its wound healing action.
Licorice Root (glycyrrhiza glabra)
Licorice has been used in herbal medicine for skin eruptions, including dermatitis and eczema. Studies on atopic dermatitis show it is effective for reducing swelling, redness and itching. Licorice has been shown to be effective in the management of inflammation. Its potential skin-lightening activity may also be helpful in patients with post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
Gotu Kola (centella asiatica)
Centella asiatica may have some anti-inflammatory action and modulate collagen formation in wound healing. It has been used in inflammatory skin conditions such as lupus, eczema, atopic dermatitis and psoriasis. Asiaticoside isolated from the leaves may also help in the treatment and/or prevention of hypertrophic scars and keloid formation.
Top Eczema Tips
In my experience there is rarely one single cause for stubborn skin conditions,” says Lindsey. “Making small lifestyle changes in all areas and using the right skincare products is generally more helpful to help keep problems at bay long term.”
1. Eat good fats.
Omega 3 is anti-inflammatory and therefore good for irritable, sore skin conditions. Eat plenty of clean cold-water oily fish or take an Omega 3 fish oil supplement (with a good level of EPA). Omega 6 is generally pro-inflammatory. Omega 6 can found in vegetable oils such as sunflower oil and margarines. These are generally high in processed foods so try to avoid them. Replace sunflower oil with olive oil when cooking.
2. Get your five-a-day.
Or preferably more! Carotenoids are good for the skin and generally found in orange, yellow and red fruits and vegetables.
3. Keep hydrated
And beware of alcohol, which is a common trigger, as it can dehydrate the body, dry the skin and exacerbate itching.
4. Avoid topical irritants
These can be found in the form of detergents and surfactants - which can range from household cleaning agents to the products we use to clean our own bodies. Choose natural, unperfumed products and those that are soap-free or specifically tailored for sensitive skin or eczema, psoriasis and dermatitis.
5. Watch out for hidden irritants
Nickel found in many jewellery items, studs of jeans, zips and watch straps can cause allergic reactions in some people, as can leather dye and tannins. Watch out if going bare foot in summer sandals or where belts and straps may touch the skin!
6. Wash in moderation
Eczema generally hates water. Over washing can dry the skin. Do not have water too hot and do not soak in the bath for long periods. Short tepid showers are best and be careful to pat dry and never rub delicate areas. I often recommend showering less often and not every day if the skin is bad. If there are any particular bad patches try and keep these out of the water wherever possible.
7. Relax and de-stress
Stress is a common trigger, which also seems to make scratching worse. Seek help if you are suffering from stress. Counselling, yoga, gentle exercise, meditation and sometime a good old chat with a trusty friend can help ease some of life’s pressures.
8. Sleep well
It’s true what they say - regular, sound sleep can help many things including the repair of skin or our ability to manage it and face the day ahead.
Hope’s Relief’s Intensive Dry Skin Rescue Cream (which won silver in the 2015 FreeFrom Skincare Awards’ Problem Skin category) is Australia’s number one natural eczema cream, and has been developed from over 35 years of research by naturopaths.
Other Hope’s Relief products are: soap-free Cleansing Bar, Moisturising Lotion (for more liberal all-over-body-use), Shampoo, Conditioner, Goats Milk Body Wash and Goats Milk Soap (which took bronze in the 2015 FreeFrom Skincare Awards’ Hard Soaps category).
For further information and to buy in the UK, see the Hope’s Relief website.
buy in America, see the selection on Amazon (US).
For Lindsey’s informational videos, see the Hope’s Relief YouTube page.
September 2015. Updated February 2017.
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