Finding products to use becomes a whole new game with allergies and eczema. I grew up with eczema, but it was mostly seasonal, and I never received any education on ingredients to avoid in general. I never had allergy testing for chemicals until after college, when I started experiencing hand eczema and went to the dermatologist. I tested positive for two chemicals: propylene glycol and cocamidopropyl betaine. I was given packets of papers about these chemicals, but I got no help finding products without them.
After going through the agonizing process of learning to read the tiny print with all the unpronounceable ingredients on product labels, I thought I had found some affordable products I could use. In those packets were lists of various other names the chemicals could go by. Years later, I learned I was still using products with propylene glycol, listed as dimethicone — an entirely different name. I actually learned only this year (15 years since my hand eczema started) that cocamidopropyl betaine has propylene glycol in it. No wonder I’m allergic to both!
The problem is, these products are in nearly everything (and even doctors have mistakenly prescribed me things with them). This year, I had another new eczema issue. I discovered, on my own, an allergy to hemp after consuming hemp protein powder and developing swollen eyes and rashes on my face, my ears, and the backs of my hands where I hadn’t been affected before, plus hives. This eczema also looked different.
The doctors and dermatologist told me it was “just eczema,” and eczema is only skin deep, yet they couldn’t argue once I told them I had discovered that ingesting hemp had caused this issue. (I had to test it myself, which made it worse.)
I also discovered I was using body wash and eczema cream with hemp oil — no wonder my rashes weren’t improving. (No one tests for hemp allergies, and CBD is regularly touted as good for eczema.) The other problem this time was that the steroid cream hydrocortisone can’t be used on the face, so I wasn’t given much relief.
I then had to throw out or give away the products that were irritating me. (Fortunately, I got refunds for a few newer ones.) I used Gladskin the night I ended up going to the emergency room and getting a steroid shot, so I got rid of that, too.
It’s not just these ingredients but also money and stress that make the eczema worse. In fact, I started experiencing a cycle with a bad bout of anxiety as well during this time. I would go to Whole Foods and search for products, wanting to either cry or scream when I couldn’t find anything I could use. Even the shampoo and conditioner I’d been using for years had fragrance ingredients, which were irritating my new eczema — plus, my hair wasn’t doing the best because I hadn’t changed my shampoo in years.
I finally found a new shampoo/conditioner just by reading labels at Target, and I’m using pure glycerin soap bars for body wash. I can’t use any lotions or natural products, per my functional and regular doctors: Coconut oil disrupts the skin microbiome; avocado oil, when used regularly, can cause an allergy to develop; and so on.
Right now, I’m stuck with Vaseline in lieu of lotion, which is on the “dirty” list, but there’s literally nothing else I can use. This is more frustrating when the dermatologist instructs me to shower daily and moisturize head to toe and sends me home with a list of recommended “eczema-safe” products — none of which I can use.
I’m currently working with a functional practice that specializes in eczema, where I learned that I have a lot going on in my gut that needs to be resolved but has never been tested for by my doctors. I told my allergist, who was skeptical about it, but she was never going to test me for these things in the first place. The functional clinic also let me know about foods and medications to stay away from because of my seasonal allergies — ingredients like stevia, which is related to ragweed, for example.
I now realize that it’s not so much about finding external products to soothe eczema but more about finding the right, holistic support for my specific situation. I put off working with this clinic for years and struggled on my own, reading, researching, etc. Another “green flag” about this clinic is that I don’t have to be on an elimination diet.
One tip I can share for anyone else struggling to find products is to download the Think Dirty app — it’s a great start for finding products without toxic chemicals that are banned in other countries but not the United States.
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Members’ articles don’t reflect the opinions of MyEczemaTeam staff, medical experts, partners, advertisers, or sponsors. Content on MyEczemaTeam isn’t intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.