So in light of my own recent brush with allergic dermatitis and from what I experience on a daily basis when I work as a pharmacist dealing with concerned parents of highly allergic children I am going to write a brief blog touching on skin allergies.
This will not be an in-depth review, mostly because skin allergies are a highly complex and diverse individual topic but I will touch on a few key points. If you suffer with skin or other allergies I suggest that you address this with an expert, if not a team of experts to best support your way back to full health without symptoms. At the very minimal I suggest that you consider all the following approaches: functional medicine, diet & nutrition, herbal remedies and plant essences, standard medical approach (for fire-fighting symptoms when needed), and perhaps complementary support from acupuncture, energy healing, stress relief and mindfulness.
Firstly I would like to highlight an important culprit that may go amiss in the quest to identify the cause of skin allergies.
My own skin allergy has me personally baffled for almost a month now. I have been frustrated and challenged by an extremely itchy and painful skin allergy on the back of my neck (how did you burn yourself was my boyfriends comment); to the point where I even sought the advice of another pharmacist although her diagnosis of suspected shingles was a bit off given my symptomology.
I cannot be certain that this ‘culprit’ was the trigger to my own skin allergy but I am more confident that this is the cause than the shingles that another pharmacist terrified me with!
So what is this chemical?
Methylisothiazolinone is an ingredient that was in a detergent product that I had to buy the replace the one that I had been using (and trusted) but was unavailable. I had a bad feeling when I purchased it; but as those with skin allergies will know there is a gazillion things to rule out when a skin allergy appears and on my list was also wool (warm winter clothes), gluten-free oats (gluten causes skin allergy in me so I had to rule out oats also), a cheaper shampoo that I purchased in a hurry (now replaced with an organic low chemical product), animals and swimming pool chlorine.
It is never a straight forward process identifying the culprit; basically anything is game 🙁 I was even starting to suspect the Castleconnell water as my skin literally burned under the shower. This process of diagnosis is called ‘diagnosis by exclusion’ in the medical field; because it is just that a diagnosis made when all else is excluded. A slow tedious process just as it sounds.
And then in a chat with my darling mum about how my skin was driving me mad; we identified this when I mentioned that I suspected my washing detergent. Sleuth mum had already read about the harmful dermatological effects created by MIT, so once the chemical was spotted in the new and not the old product it seemed more than likely this was the bad guy.
Weeks prior to this I started my treatment of the maddening painful rash on the back of my neck with essential oils of lavender, coconut oil, natural home-made moisturiser that I make with jojoba and carrot seed oil mixed with Vibrant blue Oils and Young living oils as scent/ treatment and when this wasn’t helping and I was still tearing my skin apart I had to move on to stronger anti-histamines and topical steroid and anti-histamine creams (Cetirizine tabs; Eurax, Eurax HC, Anthisan, and then Cortisone cream; I had even trialled Canesten in case I had picked up ring worm but the presentation wasn’t typical).
I did my best to not tear the skin as this is when infections can take hold and I avoided any clothing touching my skin as best I could, given I am a cold person and we are in the belly of Winter.
After a month of frustration at how I could not even solve this myself and a total clothes wash of anything that was exposed to the new woolite I finally have reprieve and the skin is slowly healing. The focus while the skin heals is to keep it moisturised with natural oils and avoid anything that will irritate it such as wool (for me).
I have to be grateful for the lesson; hopefully my experience with this allergy has improved my ability to diagnose skin allergies in others.
To read more about this chemical commonly found in skin, cleaning and cosmetic products please click the following links:
I recommend that this compound (MIT) is avoided by all atopic and allergic persons.
- Irish Skin Foundation article
- BBC Watchdog update on Methylisothiazolinone
A few more tips for those suffering skin allergies…
And how to not only treat but get to the root cause of the symptoms based on my experience.
- Identify the cause and when possible remove it with the best effort that you can
- Topical exposure (touching the skin)
- Systemic exposure (from within the body)
- Environmental exposure (from outside of the body and in your environment at home, work, or play)
- Treat the symptoms
- Medication – damage control may require the use of topical or systemic steroids or anti-histamines. This approach is only treating the SYMPTOMS and not the CAUSE.
- Herbal or natural remedies (the preferred route but you may need to do (A) first to gain control somewhat). More natural remedies are recommended when possible:
- Natural skin barrier and healing creams
- Quality aromatherapy oils for treatment (I recommend Vibrant Blue oils and Forever Living oils; contact the clinic for more info)
- Natural anti-histamines
- Other specific treatments such as addressing the immune function, inflammation, the gut-liver-bowel axis, infections, the lymphatic system etc.
- Diagnostic tests when appropriate, for example:
- Food allergy testing (IgG and IgE)
- Skin prick allergy test
- Environmental allergies (IgG and IgE)
- Gluten and/ or Coeliac test
- Comprehensive gastrointestinal testing, for example for parasites, microbial or yeast infections, or leaky and inflamed gut
- Liver function tests
- Infections (bacterial or viral)
- Omega 3 or other essential fatty acid deficiency (frequent in atopic persons)
- Vitamin D deficiency
- Blood test for anomalies or markers of systemic inflammation such as elevated CRP or ESR
- Heal the skin
- Heal the broken, damaged, or infected skin
- Rebuild the barrier function of the skin
- Maintain skin moisture levels
- Heal the body
This will involve addressing all of the following:
- The health of the skin by supporting skin regeneration and repair, barrier function, and moisture content of the skin
- Immune system function and balance to normalise a hyper-responsive immune system
- The gastrointestinal-liver system function and also balance of the gut microbiota“If you want to heal your skin you must always explore the gut…. and this includes looking right back into your gastro health history.”
- Food allergies – identify not only common food allergens but also the cause of your food allergies (e.g. digestive function; hyper-permeable gut, poor food choices)
- The liver
- The lymphatic system
- Nutrition – please contact the clinic for more specific advice but as a start improve your intake of the following compounds from food: healthy and essential fats notably Omega 3; antioxidants; fat soluble vitamins such as Vitamins A, D, E and K; minerals such as zinc; vitamins such as methyltetrahydrofolate (specific form of folic acid), Vitamin C, Biotin, and the Bs; protein (with a preference for fish and vegetarian proteins); prebiotic and probiotic foods; food with anti-microbial, anti-parasitic and yeast balancing effects; anti-inflammatory compound containing foods.
Some products that I recommend:
- Pure and chemical free skin-care products.
Absolutely avoid petroleum (paraffin containing) products and this includes most pharmacy and medical products marketed for the treatment of skin conditions.
My preference is for healing oils as oil products do not require the addition of preservatives. Coconut oil, jojoba oil, argan oil, marula oil, tamanu oil, rosehip seed oil, pomegranate seed oil, carrot seed oil, sea buckthorn oil, pure vitamin E oil, hemp oil, shea butter, and so on are all excellent choices.When choosing creams choose organic and preservative free products.
Some brands that I like include Barefoot SOS product range and Zambesia botanica which are specific to skin allergies. MooGoo, Frogleaf, and Trilogy balms are also highly recommended.
It is worth ordering these online if not available in the stores as they far exceed what is available in most stores and pharmacies.
Aloe vera is also cooling and healing; keep it in the fridge for an extra cooling effect to remove hot burning itching.
- Aromatherapy oils; my personal favourite brand is Vibrant Blue oils, followed by Young Living oils, I have yet to find better quality oils. Here is a nice article on using aromatherapy oils for eczema and another practical article here with aromatherapy oil recommendations as well as treatment suggestions.
- Epsom salts healing baths with chamolile or lavender flowers / essential oils. Please click the link here to learn more about making a healing Bath using aromatherapy oils.
- Other treatments that I have not personally tried but are given good mention on the internet include clay, raw apple cider vinegar and raw honey, oatmeal bath, and raw garlic for infections.
A brief list of what you should consider when you have a skin allergy:
- Food allergies.
- Gluten intolerance expressing as dermatitis herpetiformis.
- Drug/ medication/ vaccine side effects or allergy to ingredients or preservatives within medications or vaccines.
- Washing detergents and clothes softeners.
- Allergy to certain clothing e.g. wool and feathers or formaldehyde or dry cleaning chemicals.
- Jewellery (metal allergy).
- Ingredients in perfumes and body sprays.
- Preservatives in certain topical medication, sun creams, skin creams and lotions and cosmetics.
- Health and herbal supplement side-effects.
- Functional and pathological liver and gastrointestinal issues.
- Anything that touches your skin from toiletries, cosmetics, and shampoos to make-up.
- Household cleaning product exposure.
- Exposure outdoors; for example products sprayed or used in the garden or park to control grass, weeds, and pests.
- Hobby exposure to chemicals (e.g. glues and adhesives).
- Work and environmental exposure to chemicals.
- Change in climate and especially to hot weather when an allergy to sweat may happen (heat rash)
- Infection such as parasites, yeast, fungi or bacteria (internal or external).
- Systemic skin infections such cellulitis or topical skin infections such as impetigo
- Viral infections such as Measles (morbilli), German measles (rubella), Chickenpox (varicella), Erythema infectiosum and papular purpuric gloves and socks syndrome (parvovirus), Roseola (erythema subitum, due to herpes virus 6 and 7), Infectious mononucleosis or glandular fever (Ebstein Barr virus), Enterovirus infections, Herpes, and Molluscum contagiosum for example. There are many other potential viral causes.
If you are running a fever, or the rash is suspected infected please seek medical advice and if meningitis is suspected do not delay; there is no embarrassment in a false alarm when it means potentially saving a life.
- Insect bites, midges, fleas and ticks.
- Histamine intolerance (normally a gut issue).
- Chlorine skin allergy (made worse by dry skin and not washing with a swim wash to neutralise chlorine. I use Vosene or DGJ Organics swim wash after swimming.
- Sun (photosensitivity) as a result of medication, herbs, or an illness such as photosensitive arthritis.
- Plants and even grass.
- Nutritional deficiencies including the following may exacerbate skin allergy conditions especially in atopic or psoriatic patients: healthy fats (especially omega 3), zinc, Vitamin A, Vitamin D and deficiency of the beneficial microbes in the gut (probiotics)
- Dry skin can develop into problematic rashes should you not adequately protect the barrier of the skin topically and nutritionally.
To read more here is a list of more specific ingredients as listed as the top 10 causes of skin allergy on WebMD.com
I hope that this blog, a mere touch on what we need to investigate when it comes to skin allergies, proves helpful.
Please contact the clinic for advice and guidance should you suffer skin or other allergies and we will point you in the right direction for a healing diet. The detox diet that I have written will provide you with a very good healing start.
If you even do one thing drink bone broth and eat more organic salmon…
The mind-body link
I have barely touched on the mind-body and emotions link.
I firmly believe that skin allergy flares have a strong connection with the emotions and our ability to handle stress.
In fact it is most often the strong people who get caught out; you are busy holding it all in and on the surface the strong one. I am guilty of this also.
It is good to let our emotions out (on occasion, and when we feel safe to do so) as they will find a way out and often this is through the skin.
For this reason talking, movement and exercise, mindfulness, and aromatherapy oils in the emotion balance range by Vibrant Blue oils are first line hit in combination with PEMF in the clinic.
Clients also have good experiences with the Tree and Plant energy essences that are available in the clinic to clients.