Eczema often runs in families – frequently along with asthma and other hyper-reactive illnesses. These ties to family traits identify the genetic link that can play a part in the development of hypersensitive and reactive skin. The role of your environment plays a large part, and can be what sets off a dormant trait. If you have eczema, a tendency towards sensitive skin, or family members who suffer from skin irritations, you may want to reduce the environmental factors that contribute, in an attempt to reduce flare-ups. This is where natural cleaning choices can make a big difference.
Home is where we spend so much of our time and is often one of the most toxic largely due to big brand cleaners. Subtle changes to the chemical burden in our homes can significantly reduce our overall exposure. This is even more true for children who use the home environment differently to adults; they are often on the floor or closer to the ground where dust and toxins settle and so often have everything in site in their mouth. Add this to a babe with a tendency towards eczema and the whole problem is compounded!
An easy starting place is in the laundry. At Figgy & Co we believe that for a relatively minor change in routine you can reap massive rewards. Just think, the clothes we wear, the towels we dry ourselves with, the sheets we sleep in, are all washed in laundry powder that is potentially chemically laden. Our skin has close to 24/7 contact with the chemical residues of laundering. So choose your products carefully. When you or your little one is suffering from red, itchy and broken skin it is vitally important that what you launder with is not aggravating the situation.
Unlike food, cleaners in New Zealand are not required to list their ingredients. This makes it extremely difficult for the consumer to make an informed decision. When ingredients are not explicitly stated it becomes impossible to work out:
What ingredients are necessary for the cleaning of clothes;
- What ingredients are triggering eczema;
- What ingredients are there to make the product store, smell and feel nice (i.e. the unnecessary chemicals).Our advice- transparency is gold! A company with nothing to hide will have ingredients listed clearly. There are so many “nasties” in regular laundry products it can become overwhelming. This is a really great starting place to see how many of them are skin irritants or harmful to our bodies http://www.motherearthliving.com/laundry-chemicals- to-avoid-zmez12mazsie.aspx .You will absolutely want to avoid the products from this list. But in addition, be suspicious of anything labelled “fragrance”. This could be up to several hundred chemicals, including hazardous chemicals to get just the right synthetic scent. (Side note, recently I stumbled across a big brand laundry powder fragranced as “sunshine fresh”….. what is that?!). An alternative is naturally scented laundry powders. For example Figgy & Co’s lemon laundry powder is scented with essential oil- from actual lemons! Not only is the scent natural- it is one ingredient- that also has degreasing properties; perfect for laundry!Optical Brighteners – Marketed as ‘wonder cleaners’ but this couldn’t be further from the truth. By design optical brighteners remain in the fibres of clothing and emit a blue light that we interpret as white and therefore clean. These chemicals embedded in our
clothing are skin irritants and this reeks havoc on broken and sensitive skin. Instead use a natural based soaker to rid stubborn stains. Sure it will take longer (i.e. the soak time) but no chemical residues will be hiding in your clothes, and your clothes will actually be clean as opposed to looking clean.
Fabric softeners are designed to remain in your clothing to feel soft to touch. Once again all this equates to is chemicals contacting and aggravating your skin. instead, use naturally brewed white vinegar as a fabric softener – your towels will still be fluffy we promise!
Line dry your sheets! When in the dryer, the chemicals emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs), some that are even considered hazardous air pollutants.
Drying clothes in the living space should be avoided. As clothes dry, the moisture is released into your environment. Damp homes are prone to the growth of mould, and the spores they release are known triggers for many suffering from eczema and other hypersensitive illnesses.
Dust and dust mites are a well-known trigger for people with hypersensitive reactions. Rolling and crawling around on the floor, playing under beds and behind sofas, and
spending more time sleeping in bed on mattresses – all make babies and children more vulnerable. Vacuum often enough to keep the carpets and floors free from dust – when you do your vacuum you shouldn’t be getting bagfulls of dust! When it is time to dust your home, it is worth using a wet dust method – simply wipe down surfaces with a damp cloth trapping the dust onto you cloth and then rinse out in the basin. Be mindful of dusting not only the easily accessible areas – you’ll also want to maintain under beds, sofas and sofa cushions etc.
Fresh air is underrated! All materials let off gas, releasing tiny but active particles into the air. Often you can smell this process, fresh paints, glues and carpets. Open windows and let new air into your living space when you can.
Although eczema is recognised by the symptoms of the skin, inhaling ingesting and absorbing chemicals all play a part in the regulation of an eczema flare up. Choose cleaners for your whole house that are pared back in their formulations with ingredients that are known to be safe – there is no place for unnecessary or untested chemicals. As a rule mineral and plant based cleaners have a safer profile, and are less likely to add to the burden of a hyper-reactive state.
Rest assured that you are able to clean your home effectively with natural and non-toxic cleaners, as many generations before have done. Check out the Figgy & Co website- we have cleaning products and recipes for every room that are ONLY made from natural and nontoxic ingredients, and all with a known safety profile. Our recipes are published online so you can see exactly what is in them (or more importantly what is not) and you can even choose to DIY the cleaners yourself.
Action plan for home cleaning in an Eczema family:
- Leave shoes at the door as not to walk allergens and toxic particulate into your home;
- Open doors and windows often to exchange stale air with fresh air. Couple this with kitchen and bathroom fans to help draw out the old air;
- Vacuum often enough to keep dust levels down. Include mattress & under beds, behind sofas & under sofa cushions in your regular cleaning;
- Put a clean matt or blanket on the floor for non-crawling children to play on;
- Be realistic about whether your eczema home is better off without shedding pets;
- Wipe surfaces with a damp cloth to effectively collect settled dust;
- Choose home cleaners carefully – read the labels, if a company won’t disclose the chemicals they include in their formulations it’s impossible to make an informed choice;
- Consider making your own cleaners, this way you are in charge of what is in your home cleaners and allows for paired back formulations;
- Many basic homemade cleaners will do double duty, choose a handful of recipes and use them all over your home;
- Be very mindful of strong smelling and perfumed cleaners;
- Harsh and caustic cleaners have an irritating effect on even the most robust skin, its best to keep these formulations out of your home completely;
- In the laundry, use simple formulations that are clean rinsing to avoid chemical build up on clothes and linen;
- Avoid additives such as enzymes, optical brighteners and synthetic fragrance – all these things can add to the burden of reactive skin.