I want to feel pretty but not itchy
April 13, 2010 5:26 PM   Subscribe

Longtime eczema sufferer looking for bath and body product recommendations, especially shampoos and facial moisturizers.

I've had eczema since I was a toddler, and apart from some unbearable periods, I've mostly been able to keep it under control. I have a couple of low steroid creams for my body, but lately I've been thinking of switching out some of the products I use on my hair and face.

Here's my typical routine:
Wash hair with typical fragrance-y, foamy drugstore shampoo. Use a soapy body wash. Leave shower, immediately moisturize face with Cetaphil cream and follow up with body. Notice that the nape of my neck, temples, and forehead are unusually itchy and red. Always have to re-moisturize face about 5 minutes later. I don't use conditioner, and I don't use any other products in my hair.

I really think the itchy face and neck have something to do with my shampoo, and I'd love to find any hair or facial products fellow sensitive-skin or eczema-plagued people have found to be helpful!

p.s. Yes, I have a dermatologist- I will visit with him again if I continue to have these issues after giving new products a try.
posted by rachaelfaith to Health & Fitness (20 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I get eczema on my scalp and it took years of suffering before I realized what was causing it. It was the shampoo all along. Sulfates, which are really common in shampoos, make my skin really, really angry. So my suggestion to you is to switch to products that do not contain sulfates. Whole Foods sells many brands that are sulfate free, you might want to visit the body products aisle and read labels.
posted by crankylex at 5:45 PM on April 13, 2010

I love Aveeno's Advanced Care Moisturizing Cream. It has colloidal oatmeal, which is supposed to be very beneficial in treating eczema, and is designed for skin as sensitive as a baby's. For all I know, their "patented Triple Oat formula" may be nothing but a marketing scheme, but to me it works;-)

The NY Times also has a a very lengthy section on eczema that I've found to be helpful.
posted by invisible ink at 5:46 PM on April 13, 2010

I have psoriasis. My experience has been that Cetaphil lotion works well as a moisturizer and doesn't irritate my skin. I've also been happy with Dove shampoo and deodorant.

I suspect that someone is going to advise you to go without shampoo. I'm mixed about this approach, but it seems like something that would make sense for you to try.
posted by sciencegeek at 5:56 PM on April 13, 2010

Any time you have sensitive skin, you want to minimize the irritants that you are exposed to. I really like Aveeno body wash - nice and frothy, but non-irritating.

Since the areas adjacent to your scalp are irritated, you might want to look into a medicated shampoo. I have an oily/itchy/flaky scalp (not quite dandruff, not quite eczema) and I have success with a couple different "dandruff" shampoos. In particular I like Head and Shoulders Refresh, and Neutrogena Tsal, and Nizoral.
posted by radioamy at 6:11 PM on April 13, 2010

One of my favorite products for my face.
posted by quodlibet at 6:47 PM on April 13, 2010

I suspect that someone is going to advise you to go without shampoo.

That would be me! I don't have eczema, but I used to have an itchy scalp. I gave up shampoo a couple of months ago and my skin has never felt better.

Try an 8:1 water:baking soda mixture on your scalp and temples. It won't foam at all but will feel sort of slippery. If you'd like a conditioner, equal parts water and vinegar work well. My hair honestly doesn't look much different from when I used shampoo, maybe a little wavier and voluminous.

Also, I would nix the body wash. You probably don't need it. Use a gentle soap to wash the bits you'd like fresh and clean.
posted by pintapicasso at 7:19 PM on April 13, 2010

I get eczema on my hands, and I've switched to products (shampoo, conditioner, lotion, body wash) from my local organic-y grocery store. Slightly more expensive, but it has made a *tremendous* difference to my skin.

The main things I would suggest would be to try to go fragrance-free, and to go paraben-free.
posted by purlgurly at 7:19 PM on April 13, 2010

Eeep! Sorry for the double answer. These are the types of products that I use.
posted by purlgurly at 7:21 PM on April 13, 2010

This is a little weird, but I'm going to recommend that you use vaseline as a moisturizer on the eczema-y spots when you go to bed at night. I had really, really bad eczema on my hands for years and years, then I started slathering my hands in vaseline at night and wearing socks on them to keep it from rubbing off. And the eczema went away entirely after a month or two of doing that (and I don't do it any more). This is after steroid creams and lotions like Aquafor and Aveeno only helped minimally.

I have no idea if this would be a reasonable thing to do to your face--I don't know if I could put vaseline on my face, anyway--but it might be worth a try.
posted by hought20 at 7:32 PM on April 13, 2010

Cetaphil, Cetaphil, Cetaphil. I use the Antibacterial Gentle Cleansing Bar for my face and body and follow with their Moisturizing Lotion everywhere, including my face. My hands are still quite prone to breakouts and I still have to use steroid cream on them every so often, particularly since I'm often at the mercy of whatever is in the soap dispensers at work/school. But the enormous dry, scaly, itchy patches that took over my elbows and knees are gone.

That said, I learned that I have to use the moisturizing lotion and not the cream. The cream makes me break out something awful. YMMV.

For my hair, I use Neutrogena "Clean" shampoos and conditioners when I'm particularly breakout-prone, but they're pretty spendy so I often just use scented, foamy drugstore stuff. I can usually get away with it, but I have to pay attention to when I need to go back to the Clean stuff.

I also second the recommendation to try some of Whole Foods' body products. They make a scent-free, dye-free shampoo and conditioner that are fairly reasonably priced and very helpful when I'm breaking out. In general, avoiding dyes and scents is the way to go.

You don't mention makeup, but I have to be very careful about which brands I use (when I wear it, which is practically never). Neutrogena is usually pretty safe.
posted by athenasbanquet at 7:55 PM on April 13, 2010

I have to agree with the Cetaphil recommendation. I scrub lightly with an alcohol-based astringent (the blue Sea Breeze stuff) and then apply Cetaphil Daily Advance Ultra-Hydrating Lotion. This works better than the prescription stuff ever did.

The reason I strongly recommend that particular Cetaphil is that, beyond just me, my wife has had terribly dry hands and cracked knuckles for months now, and no lotion seemed to help. She used the Cetaphil for the last 3 days and all of the cracking is almost completely gone.

Note: I have roseacea, not eczema, so YMMV.
posted by circular at 8:04 PM on April 13, 2010

Response by poster: Yeah, I've heard that parabens and sulfates are bad news. I'll have to be more aware of checking labels... reason I never have before is that my face and scalp were never really an issue with regards to eczema.
posted by rachaelfaith at 8:19 PM on April 13, 2010

Best answer: Both my children have severe eczema including scalp. It is under control but with a tight regimen.

1) get paraben and sulfate free soaps and shampoos;
2) switch to perfume and dye free laundry detergent;
3) use vaseline as a moisturizer. Aquaphor was my go to but it sometimes has lanolin which can be a trigger;
4) my children for their severe scalp and general body eczema use dermasmoothe which is applied while the skin/scalp is moist from a bath. If dermasmoothe is not working is when we go to heavier steroid creams like protopic.

If you are wondering how bad is the eczema, the dermatologist paused when seeing my youngest in her office. He is now taking bleach baths to control staph since people with eczema can be more vulnerable to skin infections and of course, he is on the tight regimen.

Good luck, eczema is uncomfortable but manageable.
posted by jadepearl at 8:27 PM on April 13, 2010

Seconding Aveeno. Their oatmeal products do wonders for my eczema. Oatmeal itself is actually very helpful for eczema - I have a bath with oatmeal when my skin really flares up - but I don't imagine it would as practical to use on your face.
posted by vanitas at 9:12 PM on April 13, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for all the input. I'll definitely look into oatmeal-type soaps and stuff by Aveeno, and I think my first try for shampoo is going to be from Whole Foods. No more parabens or sulfates for me...
posted by rachaelfaith at 10:11 PM on April 13, 2010

I just had tests to find out what, exactly, I'm allergic to. For me, that turned out to be propylene glycol, cortisone (who knew?), and two surfactants: oleamidopropyl dimethylamine and dimethylaminopropylamine. The propylene glycol in particular is in a lot of stuff, including baby wipes, toothpaste, hair conditioner, and a prescription face cream I was using.

My news for you is that these tests exist, they're a pain (three different trips to a very special dermatologist - people come from all over the Southeast, but you should be able to find someone closer to you in New Jersey), but they could be extremely helpful.

If it turns out you are allergic to one or more obscure substances, avoiding those substances could be very helpful. My dermatologist printed a 38-page document for me listing shampoos, soaps, etc. that I _can_ use safely. Imagine that!
posted by amtho at 10:13 PM on April 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Take fish oil capsules every day. I have friends who swear by this.
posted by MexicanYenta at 7:11 AM on April 14, 2010

Obviously you can tell form this that different things work for different people, but if you want to try the paraben and sulfate free route you might try these soaps and lotions (which can be used as shampoo bars too). My friend has pretty bad eczema uses the plain jane soap for shampoo and soap and the unscented body butter and lotions. It's made a huge difference for him.
posted by blue_bicycle at 7:40 AM on April 14, 2010

I've suffered from eczema and psoriasis for years, though it has abated since moving into a hard-water area. I've never had problems with shampoo but styling products really tend to set it off, as well as stress, cold and certain types of water, for some reason.

I find not using any styling products on the scalp helps - I usually have to wash my hair after going to the hairdressers as they tend to drive it bonkers. For hands, I tend to use body butter (The Body Shop or Palmer's) but when I had eczema so severe it prevented me from moving my fingers, the only thing that helped was Helping Hands from Lush.

I also saw a specialist after getting flare-ups on, um, an unexpected area, and he told me to avoid perfumed bath products and use Johnson and Johnson 24hr Moisture showergel. It's been better recently, but I'll go back to this if there are issues.
posted by mippy at 8:37 AM on April 14, 2010

Response by poster: Okay, so I ended up buying this shampoo and conditioner set which leaves my hair clean and shiny, and I noticed a definite difference in the skin around my hairline.

As it turned out, my skin did get worse and I saw my derm, who gave me Mimyx cream and another low steroid cream, which in tandem worked like a dream. I also found out I'm terribly allergic to trees, and have dermatographia and heat urticaria, which I'm sure is not helping my eczema and skin in general.

Thanks for all the tips, everyone. I'd like to eventually try some more of the stuff listed on this page!
posted by rachaelfaith at 8:27 PM on May 28, 2010

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