My journey learning how to heal sensitive skin and eczema
During my years working in spa’s and skincare clinics, my area of expertise became desensitizing troubled skin. This was due to the understanding and insights I’d discovered on my own personal journey with skin sensitivity.
Having been lucky enough to have healthy, resilient skin in my teens I was unprepared for what was in store when I developed rosacea while studying at Champneys college. I’d always been a soap and water kind of girl (this was the 1990’s after all) so when my skin was suddenly bombarded with weekly facials and new complicated skincare, it started to react.
My face would flare bright red in the shape of a butterfly across my cheeks and the itchy little pimples took all my effort not to scratch to pieces. I felt suddenly very self-conscious in a way I’d never experienced before, and the more stressed or embarrassed I became, the redder and more itchy my skin would get.
I tried every cream I could get my hands on to try and improve my skin, but many seemed to only make things worse. I was given so much conflicting advice from pharmacists, doctors and skincare specialists that in the end I didn’t know who to believe or where to turn.
Finally, I decided to take things into my own hands and really get to know my own skin and what my personal triggers were. After a dedicated few years I managed to finally return my skin to a happy and balanced state by making changes to my diet, lifestyle and skincare.
But part of being able to heal my myself from rosacea was accepting that my skin will always be sensitised, and I’ve learned to respect that tell-tale warning itch on my cheeks that’s telling me something isn’t right.
Over the years I’ve learned 3 simple rules which I would recommend exploring if you suffer from skin sensitivity or eczema.
1. Always keep things simple
The reason I had so much success treating skin sensitivity in my clients was through teaching them how to maintain and manage their skin in a different way.
Rather than the selling them a bundle of ‘magical’ products, I used to get them to strip things right back and actually remove most products from their skincare routine.
We’d start by using just a cleanser and moisturiser. Then, very slowly and over time we’d introduce a few soothing, hydrating or exfoliating products one-by-one. Not only does this give skin the chance to get used to things, it also is the best way to identify triggers and allergens quickly and easily.
I always advise finding two skincare brands which you know work for you and then sticking with them. (The brands that work for me personally are REN and The Ordinary, but even within these ranges I’m restricted to certain products)
There’s a great podcast here which really delves into this subject and has loads of handy tips and practical advice from everything such as facial skincare to DIY skincare and bath salts for eczema and sensitive skin: https://thetswpodcast.podbean.com/e/the-natural-skincare-formulator-supporting-your-skin-recovery-rachael-pontillo/
2. Discover your personal allergens and triggers
With my son I could tell that food had a huge impact on his eczema, as he often flared after mealtimes, but I couldn’t tell what from.
I was advised to start a trigger diary, and slowly a pattern formed which showed that tomatoes were the culprit. Tomatoes weren’t a well-known trigger at that time abut as they contain the top three eczema triggers – salicylates, amines and natural MSG, it isn’t surprising. We desensitised him to Tomatoes and got his eczema under control. They’re back in his diet now, but in more moderation than before.
A great resource if you want to explore diet and your skin is Hanna Sillito’s book: https://www.hannasillitoe.com/products/skin-healing-expert
Hanna healed her skin from chronic psoriasis using diet and lifestyle changes and is an inspiration. I wish I’d had her book for my son as she does a great tomato-free ragu recipe.
Despite having various food allergies, my daughter however was much more topical in terms of her eczema triggers. It tended to be shower gel, bubble bath and shampoo.
This was one of the reasons we were inspired to create our Dead Sea Bath and Shower gel for eczema and sensitive skin. It’s formulated with non-allergenic fragrance and gentle SLS-free cleansers which doesn’t dry out sensitive or eczema-prone skin, while creating a luxuriously fragranced lather. Using this alongside our Dead Sea bath salts for eczema and sensitive skin mean you can enjoy a skin-nourishing bath that still feels pampering and luxurious.
3. Keep topical steroids for very short-term, emergency use only.
This is the main message I’ve learned from our amazing eczema community.
There is so much new research demonstrating the harm caused by long-term use of topical steroids, and yet they’re still being prescribed and recommended liberally, rather than when in extreme need and for a very short time.
If triggers and causes can be identified and skin desensitised at the early stages then the need for topical steroids can be hugely reduced.