When your skin flares up, it’s your body's way of telling you - change is needed.
What generally happens:
A - If the rash or irritation is on the body, hidden under clothing and out of sight to others, there isn't such an urgency felt and often it's left, hoping it will sort itself out...
B - If the inflammation is on your face - that’s normally a different story and a visit to the pharmacy or Doctor is on the top of the list. Generally, a low dose topical steroid cream and heavy emollient for 'sensitive skin' is offered, which can give short term results but masks the underlying cause.
Results of both A & B? The body's warning has been largely ignored and covered up - the problem is still there but as the steroid/moisture-locking cream has temporarily reduced the redness we feel able to face the world and forget about the body's warning. More than likely, short-term relief subsides and the inflammation resurfaces, either in the same place or spread elsewhere.
Over-use of steroids and having itched the skin is a double edged sword that damages the already sensitive skin, leaving the epidermis weakened, brittle and susceptible for further inflammation and potential infection.
Contact dermatitis – a skin rash caused by direct contact with a substance to which the skin is sensitive. Symptoms may occur over days to years with repeated low-level exposures as occurs with cosmetics & personal care products or work related chemicals. (1)
What to do?
1 Consider where the rash is - face, body or both and what you may have USED/PUT ON/COME INTO CONTACT WITH and anything that was NEW.
Face & Eyes – cleansers, soap, moisturisers, sunscreen, shampoos, perfume/fragrance, makeup, mascara etc
Body – laundry detergent, deodorant, perfume/fragrance, new clothing
Alternatively, think WHERE you’ve been and WHAT you've touched ie; come into contact with eg; cleaning products (surfactants), perfume & fragrance (air fresheners, candles), VOCs/solvents or shopping.
2 Look closely at labels of the products you’ve been using, specifically noting the following (all are known to cause contact dermatitis and/or dry irritated skin):
- Perfume & Fragrance – often just listed as ‘fragrance’ or parfum
- Parabens & Preservatives eg, Parabens (specifically propyl-, butyl-, isopropyl-, and isobutyl- parabens, propylparaben, methylparaben, ethylparaben, sodium benzoate, hydroxybenzoate, Tricolsan & Triclocarban
- (Phenoxyethanol is often used as a ‘safer’ alternative but can still create sensitivity in some people)
- Mineral Oils eg, petroleum based
- Emollients eg, PEGS, Ceteareths
- Surfactants – Sodium Lauryl Sulphate SLS, Sodium Laureth Sulphate SLES, Cocamide DEA or MEA, Cocoamidopropyl Betaine
- Solvents – Propylene Glycol, Ethanol/ethylene glycol, Diethanolamine, Toulene and Quaternary Ammonium Compounds
- Oxybenzone & Nanoparticles
- Colourings & Dyes
3 Time for change
If it’s likely you’ve reacted to a product – stop using it. If it’s work related, AWARENESS and AVOIDANCE are key, taking precautions where you can and wear gloves if possible.
4 Safer alternatives
100% natural, plant-based, fragrance-free, paraben-free
There are many supermarket and health food shops selling ‘natural’ products – be aware that eye-catching botanical natural-looking labelling, or ‘naturally-inspired’ is misleading and potentially far from natural. Look for authentic brands that pride themselves on 100% natural and fragrance-free whilst your sensitive skin regains strength and resistance.
Once you’re looking back to a brand new you – keep the changes you made and don’t look back.
Remember chemicals are both natural and synthetic but most often the synthetic chemicals can build up over the time becoming a toxic overload that our bodies find more complex to process.
For further chemicals found in cosmetics and bodycare see CanaryBird A-Z Directory for Formaldehyde, Petrochemcials, Benzenes, Toulene, Xylene, Phthalates, Surfactants, Acrylates and Perfume.
For extensive lists of no-no’s , see the links below
(1) The Chemical Maze, Bill Statham www.thechemicalmaze.com
Skin Deep www.ewg.org skindeeptop tips for safer products
The Herb Farm 100% Natural https www.herbfarm.co.nz