July 18, 2008

Easy Does It

By James, Kat

Discover how effective an all-natural rescue plan for sensitive, impossibleto-please skin can be Q: I tried to use natural skin care but discovered I'm allergic to certain botanicals and get terrible eczema after a few days of use. Geranium, lavender, and aloe vera, for example, particularly bother me. What can I use instead? -Diane A., New York

A: The first rule in selecting natural skin products is to avoid substances to which you know you are sensitive-take cues from any food and/or environmental sensitivities you may have. Avoid complex formulations and high concentrations of essential oils. Instead, stick to products with only a few ingredients and consider doing an "elimination diet" for your skin to rule out problem ingredients. For example, if you are sensitive to nuts, iodine, or soy, avoid products with those ingredients. If you're allergic to plant families, such as ragweed, avoid chamomile (which is anti- inflammatory for most people). Specifie essential oils, which are therapeutic and smell wonderful to most, can be highly irritating to a few. Try a patch test near the inside of your elbow before slathering on these products. You mention sensitivity to aloe. Be sure to test a pure aloe product (such as from Aloe Life), or the gel from the leaf, before judging your response. I wouldn't want you to miss out on aloe's amazing skin calming and healing benefits because the product you had a reaction to might have been tainted with other irritants.

Choose Gentle, Calming Products

Here are some products to try that may be more likely to agree with rash-prone, sensitive skin:

For cleansing the face: Avoid scrubs and foaming products. For most people with sensitive skin, natural baby wipes (such as Tushies) or an unscented, detergent-free cleansing cream or milk (such as Vegecol by Aubrey Organics) are best. If you are truly allergic to aloe, use green tea bags or a microfiber cleansing cloth with water or extra virgin olive oil-each will cleanse the skin without stripping or irritating it.

Minimizing contact with chlorinated water can make a huge difference, so consider a chlorine filter for your showerhead and/ or tap, and using only that water for your face.

For cleansing the body: Use a pure, unscented olive oil soap (Kiss My Face makes one) or an oatmeal-based soap (such as the Honey Oat Soap from A Wild Soap Bar) to cleanse the body instead of deodorant soaps. Oatmeal bath sachets by Erbaviva are also unlikely to irritate your skin.

For cleansing the hair: Consider using clay-based washes, which come in pastes or powders (Logons and Terressentials both make great ones), instead of shampoo. This will help you avoid the "trickle- down effect" that solvent-laden, foaming shampoos can have on the skin and scalp.

For moisturizing the face: Oatmeal (especially colloidal) or soybased, unscented products may be better tolerated by the skin if calming botanicals, such as calendula, comfrey, and aloe, are still irritating. Look for coldpressed oils in the ingredients list-these are free of solvent residues. New botanical-based skin products, such as the Plante System line by Arkopharma, may work for you because they are free of solvent residues and plant proteins, which can trigger skin reactivity. Try olive oil- or honey-based waterless moisturizers, such as Apitherapy Honey Propolis Balm, featuring olive oil and raw honey, which is antimicrobial and a natural skinprotector. Redness-reducing Serum from Derma E contains arnica and Pycnogenol (a capillary stabilizer), and reduces skin reactivity. Creams made with the herb Oregon graperoot (such as by Vital Botanicals) have been proved to reduce symptoms of eczema, and are among the best rash fighters. Neem is also at the top of the list for inflammatory skin problems. Neem Aura's 100% Pure Neem oil is the most concentrated neem product I've found.

For moisturizing the body: Hemp Plus Hand and Body Lotion from Jason is full of essential fatty acids without fragrance synthetic preservatives. For the supersensitive, California Baby Massage oil is made with cold-pressed oils (no solvent residues), with no nut, soy, wheat, dairy, or fragrance ingredients. Virgin coconut oil (such as Nutiva) also makes a wonderful, more protective and antifungai emollient for dry, troubled skin. Neem Aura's body cream contains an extensive "kitchen sink" of antiinflammatory and antimicrobial superstars, without synthetic preservatives.

In addition to your trial-and-error pursuit of nonirritating products, discontinue the use of "top sensitizers," which include synthetic fragrance (even in perfumed laundry products), nail polish, and acrylic nails (which can cause horrible rashes), hair sprays, and permanent hair dyes (visit informedbeauty.com to leam about new, nontoxic alternatives for hair color). Sensitivities to these often increase with age, in part because of the accumulation of certain chemicals in the body, such as formaldehyde. These chemicals can reach a point of saturation where even minute amounts can trigger an uncomfortable response. Be sure to read ingredients lists and not just the front of the package!

Don't Forget the Inside

In the meantime, understand that your sensitivities-even if they are contact allergies-may stem from deeper issues that can often be corrected, or at least dramatically reduced, with an anti- inflammatory diet, a highly purified fish oil supplement (such as Nordic Naturals), or-if you're vegetarian-a superfresh flax oil supplement (such as Barlean's).

Certain skin supplements work by balancing liver, digestion, and anti-inflammatory processes, such as DermaCare from Himalaya Herbs, and Herpanacine Total Skin Support System from Diamond Herpanacine. A good probiotic supplement (such as larro-Dophilus + Eps or Dr. Ohhira's Probiotics 12 Plus) is important to recovery if you have yeast or digestive issues. If you have taken antibiotics in the past, an imbalance of gut flora, which can lead to skin problems, is almost a given. Avoidance of toxic chemical exposure and stress reduction are also key.

Finally, of equal importance is what you don't do. Be aware that treating eczema with steroid creams or ointments gradually thins the skin and destroys Hs immunity. Florasone and Psoriaflora creams by Boericke & Tafel Homeopathies are alternatives that have been clinically shown to reduce the itching and flaking of rashes, allergies, and psoriasis. As you wean off of steroids or other harsh regimens, you may experience a rebound effect while your skin regains its immunity. But it will be well worth it.

Be aware that treating eczema with steroid creams or ointments gradually thins the skin and destroys its immunity

Do You Have a Question for Kat James?

KAT JAMES IS the guthor of The Truth About Beauty, recently rareleased and completely updated. James transformed her own body and skin after a 12-year eating disorder and liver disorder nearly took her life. A powerful motivator with a passion for creative strategies that deliver tangible and sustainable results. James has been featured on the Today Show, MSNBC. PBS, and in numerous national magazines.

E-mail your health, nutrition, and beauty questions to Kat at her Web site, informedbeauty.com.

Join James for her Summer 2008 Total Transformation program at Mountain Chalet in Asheville.N.C.. July 25-30. For details, visit in1ormedbeauty.com or call 877-548-6825.

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