October 27, 2008 at 4:21PM
by Alexandra Zissu
It's finally cold here in New York. Most heating systems aren't yet turned on so we've been traipsing around in sweaters and hats. Today, after a wind gust almost picked her up and blew her down the street, my daughter laughed and screamed, "I'm freezing!"
Season change is fun. It's also itchy. I have battled dry skin and eczema for years, especially on my hands. I used steroid creams to treat them before I knew better, and read enough to entice me to give them up just before I got pregnant. Phew. I even gave up peanuts while pregnant because some research (largely British) said it would reduce the likelihood a baby of a mom with eczema would (also) have allergies. I'd do anything not to pass this along to her. Well so far so good on food and seasonal allergies. But she currently has several patches of her very own eczema. Argh!
Since giving up the steroids, I have spent a lot of time testing and coming up with a list of products that work to quell the rash when it flares. The list isn't short, as they seem to work for a bit, then stop working. So I switch to something that also works, then stops. And I switch back, or move on. Eczema is strange stuff. Actually, even the steroid creams used to only work for a while. Then they'd thin my skin to the point where I'd start getting small cuts very easily, and it would somehow flare up all over again. Pretty much the only holistic/organic/natural/biodynamic/whatever you want to call it thing I haven't tried to cure the stuff is cutting food out of our diets. Apparently diary and acidic foods like tomatoes can trigger the condition. I love both too much to give them up. And friends with other itchy conditions who have managed to hold off on favorite foods only report minimal itch reduction, or often none at all.
Here's my general itch-combat routine, for me and the offspring:
*warm (never hot) short (never long) showers and/or baths
*if in the bath, we pour soothing/anti-itch colloidal oatmeal under the running water
*we use very mild soaps like Dr. Bronner's baby bar, Weleda's calendula bar, and I was recently sent some Illumina Organics products to test out and have been pleased with their soaps that contain oatmeal
*post bath, I slather head to toe with oil, usually from Weleda or Dr. Hauschka (I have been enjoying the St. John's Wort of late; on my daughter I use Weleda's calendula oil
Directly treating the actual dry spots is a bit trickier. Sometimes, I find, they "want" moisture and sometimes they want to be dried out and moisturized at the same time. Here are things that work for both of us, which we rotate:
*Weleda's diaper care cream, their calendula cream, and their calendula ointment (it has a higher concentration of itch-soothing calendula)
*Motherlove nipple cream (it's not just for nursing-chapped nipples)
*Illumina Organics baby bottom balm
*Suki's velvet moisturizing cream
*Dr. Hauschka's toned day cream
When my hands are at their absolute worst (they look like raw hamburger meat mid-February - lovely) and I'm about to give in and use a steroid cream, I first try plain old Vaseline gobbed on under thin cotton gloves. I wear it overnight. It often works miracles. And while petrolatum is certainly not an organic ingredient, it's clearly better than steroids and at least it doesn't contain the preservatives and harsh synthetic fragrances and dyes most drug store products do. It's also cheap.
I'm not much of a product junkie and I don't tend to recommend brand names very often. But when it comes to itching, we all need help! I realize that some of my above cure-alls are pretty expensive. Rest assured they can all be used quite sparingly. The Weleda line in general is very inexpensive, especially considering how pure it is. It and Dr. Hauschka are BDIH-certified, while Dr. Bronner and Motherlove carry the USDA organic stamp. Still, nothing I am suggesting costs more than the latest steroid cream my doctor prescribed. I usually have a prescription I carry around and never use. In a fit of itchy desperation, I went to have it filled two weeks ago. The price tag? $85!? (That's a $35 co-pay and a $50 deductible.) I took it as a sign from the organic gods, left the pharmacy without it, and went home and pulled on those thin cotton gloves. The next day all was (relatively) better.
If anyone has holistic/organic/natural/biodynamic/whatever you want to call it anti-itch suggestions, please post in comments!