Skin rashes are so common – we often get something cropping up and we have no idea what has caused it, it might go away quickly, it might reoccur or it might be something that never goes away. Many of us live with them for years not knowing what to do or ever focusing on them. Others have chronic conditions that require immediate attention.
I am absolutely not a doctor but I have had my own struggles with skin conditions including eczema. And have a lot of people close to me with all sorts of different skin conditions with varying degrees of severity.
So this post is my own research into finding the real cause of some of these conditions – looking at them from a holistic view and seeing what has worked for others – much of it is trial and error and what works for one may not work for others but it is definitely worth sharing the successes!
Types of common skin conditions
There are of course lots of different skin conditions and dermatologists are definitely best placed to tell you which one you have…but some of the most common in children are:
This is the most common problem that parents talk and write about – Eczema cases have tripled since the 1950s. Eczema is a group of conditions that cause the skin to become red, itchy and inflamed. The exact cause of eczema is not known but it is widely thought to be because of a combination of genes and environmental triggers. All types of eczema cause itching and redness, but some may also cause the skin to blister, “weep”, or peel.
I have suffered from Atopic dermatitis which is a type eczema that is chronic and inflammatory. It happens when the immune system goes into overdrive in response to an allergen or irritant inside or outside the body. As a child I had it on the backs of my knees, thighs and inner arms. We never got to the bottom of what it was. I grew out of it although I do suspect it has something to do with my low tolerance to salicylates – something I wrote about in this post.
Contact dermatitis is another common form of eczema – it happens when the skin touches irritating substances or allergens. These make the skin inflamed, causing it to burn, itch and become red. It can be brought on my many things including skincare products containing alcohol (but not cetyl alcohol) as well as some soaps and fragrances found in many personal care products.
Seborrheic dermatitis, also known in babies as cradle cap, is unlike many other forms of eczema since it is not an allergy. The skin on the scalp is flaky, dry skin and looks like dandruff or it can be thick, oily, yellowish or brown scaling or crusting patches.
It is thought to be linked to genes and hormones. People with weak immune systems are also more susceptible to seborrheic dermatitis.
Most of the time cradle cap will go away of it’s own accord. This is what happend with Xiao xi but her’s was not very severe. You can soften with a natural oil like coconut oil or almond oil and exfoliate and wash in diluted apple cider vinegar – 2 tbsp in 1/4 cup of filtered water.
Diaper rash can be caused by many things from urine to new foods to teething. Some babies just have more sensitive skin than others. Aside from keeping the area clean and dry there can be some other causes that are worth looking into if you are getting persistent diaper rash:
Sensitivity to chemicals – disposable diapers often contain fragrance as well as other chemicals to help increase the absorbency like Chlorine which is often contaminated with Dioxin. Dioxins are carcinogens and are linked to many health problems. Phthalates can also hide in lotions which can be used on the inner layer of the nappy – phthalates are endocrine disruptors. Also, check the laundry detergent you are using if you are using cloth diapers. It could also be that a product you’re using during diaper changes irritates your child’s skin – follow this link for more on cloth diapering and my favourite nappy creams.
New foods – Diaper rash is also common when your child tries a new food. Any new food changes the composition of the stool, but the acids in certain foods (such as strawberries and fruit juices) can be especially troublesome for some kids. If you’re breastfeeding, your child could even be having a reaction to something you ate.
Bacterial or yeast infection – we had this problem a couple of times. The diaper area is warm and moist – just the way bacteria and yeast like it. So it’s easy for a bacterial nappy yeast infection to grow and cause a rash, especially in the cracks and folds of your child’s skin.
The problem with topical steroid creams
When you go to the doctor with your babies rash the most likely thing to come away with in my experience is a steroid cream. Steroid creams can be very effective in clearing up the rash but the issue that many people are finding is that it doesn’t fix the root cause so the rash keeps reoccurring. Of course there is a time and a place for these creams but I find that doctors rarely discuss root causes and are quick to prescribe these creams.
Something I have recently learnt about which is also concerning is Topical steroid withdrawal syndrome which can occur when people stop using steroid creams after using them for a long time.
Other important factors
Many skin conditions are not directly curable by medication. Any of the conditions linked to allergies like atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis and some forms of diaper rash in my opinion should ideally be dealt with from a holistic perspective. This means looking at everything you eat, drink, use to clean your home, wash your clothes and put on your child’s skin.
Food is crucial – there is no question that what you eat affects your skin. In my experience it is direct and very quick – if I eat too many salycilates I immediately get a skin rash. I was lucky to get this diagnosed so I know what causes it, but many people with skin conditions are not clear what makes it flare up.
There are so many resources to delve deeper into this but food definitely affects our health. Some common issues are of course allergies but also the health of our guts and how we detoxify chemicals in our liver can play a very important role. According to one survey more than 52% of eczema sufferers get eczema when they consume salicylate rich foods, and low salicylate recipes are vital to speeding up the recovery.
To really work out what the problem is most nutritionists will put you on an elimination diet. This means paring things back and eating very simply. As the skin recovers you can slowly add foods back in whilst monitoring any relapses. Everyone is different and that is why it is so important to start very simply and slowly reintroduce foods one at a time.
Personal & Household care products
Many mainstream personal care products contain all sorts of chemicals that can irritate the skin. Often friends whose babies develop a rash are told to change their bath products but are not given a lot of direction on exactly what to avoid.
Fragrance both natural and synthetically derived fragrances can irritate skin.
Preservatives can cause problems too – phenoxyethanol, chlorphenesin, benzoic acid, and formaldehyde-containing ingredients such as imadozolidinyl urea, benzyl alcohol and methylparaben and butylparaben.
Sodium lauryl sulfate is a big one to avoid. It can trigger or worsen skin rashes. In fact, this chemical is used in scientific studies to induce dermatitis to test healing products.
Alcohol, retinoids, and alpha hydroxyl acids (AHAs) such as glycolic acid can all promote drying of the skin and can worsen eczema
Artificial dyes look for “D&C” along with a color and a number. Red 17 and Blue 106
Don’t forget the products you use to clean – dish soap as well as your clothes!
Natural products to help alleviate skin conditions
Natural treatment for skin rashes in babies could be as simple as changing their diet and cleaning up the products you use on them. It has worked for many of us. For detailed info on dietary changes I would recommend working with a specialised nutritionist – some suggestions below.
For products these are some products that I would recommend if your baby has a rash. You want to use the gentlest option with the least possible irritants. To make things a little more complicated, just because it is natural doesn’t mean it won’t cause irritations. In fact, many natural ingredients especially essential oils can cause skin rashes – coconut oil is a good example of this – for some people coconut oil offers great relief but for others like me who have a salycilate sensitivity it will cause it to flare up.
One product that gets a lot of rave reviews for eczema sufferers is Manuka honey skin cream available from the eczema company. They have other products that may suit different types of skin irritations and ship internationally.
Shampoo and body wash
We use this one – it is fragrance free and if you are dealing with a recent flare up of a skin condition then I would absolutely recommend going fragrance free. It does contain coconut derived ingredients which may not work for some sensitivities:
Babo Botanicals Moisturizing Baby Shampoo & Wash: this is another option that has a mild, natural scent and is a soothing formulation with less coconut heavy ingredients. The scent is mild with oatmeal and calendula, both of which are known for their soothing properties. While it is free from synthetic fragrance it does have a few potential irritants so if you are really trying to strip it back go for the fragrance free one above.
Babo Botanicals fragrance free is the only diaper cream we use. It uses zinc oxide to protect the skin and so far has worked very well on Xiao xi’s very sensitive little bottom!
Resources for further reading
This a brief overview from my personal observations, research and friends’ experiences with their kids. Skin rashes are very common amongst children and adults. For many rashes there is no definitive medical cure. Looking at things holistically from food to toxin exposure is very important and there are scores of successful ‘miracle’ stories from very severe conditions clearing up with the right approach. Natural treatment for skin rashes is important to get to the root cause and hopefully clear up the condition for good.
But don’t take my word for it….
It is there are several amazing resources that even parents with children who have extreme cases of eczema swear by – one that stands out is Karen Fischer, a nutritionist in Australia who runs the Eczema Life Clinic in Sydney; she has written many books including The Eczema detox and the Eczema diet. And Emily Bartlett from the holistic squid – she is a holistic health practitioner who has written a book called the Eczema Cure.
Nihao New York a great blog also in the natural lifestyle and beauty space had a battle with severe eczema with her son and she has a couple of very interesting articles on her site – her own son’s journey and her sister in law’s journey with her son