Eczema is characterized as red, white, or brownish-grey colored patches of inflamed skin or small, raised bumps that may seep fluid.
It may cause itching that is worse at night. Dry, thickened, cracked, raw or scaly skin as well as irritability and depression are potential symptoms.
There are many treatments available for eczema but which ones actually work?
Are there some ingredients that cause harmful side effects and others that actually help to heal the problem?
What’s the difference between these treatments and what’s the best treatment for you?
Other articles and resources
- Shop for Best Eczema Treatment Cream
- What Should be In Your Moisturizer for the Best Results and Why?
- How to Soothe Inflamed Skin
Controversial ingredient SLS
An alarming number of topical eczema creams and lotions contain one specific ingredient that is thought to be a skin and eye irritant.
This ingredient is sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) which is a type of emulsifier and foaming agent, which is why it is included in so many different products, including shampoo, body lotion and even household cleaners.
The problem is that in concentrations greater than 2% this ingredient has been shown to cause skin and eye irritation, but products may contain a much higher concentration.
In most products SLS is one of the top five ingredients, which means that it’s also one of the top five highest concentrations of the ingredients in the product.
Since this ingredient is included in many products used on a daily basis we are likely being exposed to an even higher amount than just what is in a single product.
Researchers also found that skin treated with products containing SLS was 12% thinner than skin that was not treated.
Skin treated with these products lost 20% more water through transepidermal water loss than untreated skin.
Even at 1% concentration, researchers believe that sodium lauryl sulfate is a cause of many side effects, which is a huge concern, especially for someone who is already struggling to manage eczema or other severe skin issues.
There are many other ingredients that you may want to avoid in your daily routine; especially if you have sensitive skin, or a skin condition such as eczema.
Some of these ingredients include other sulfates, parabens, sodium benzoate, PEG, colors and pigments, alcohols, urea, fragrances, and aloe vera.
Sulfates are in about 90% of foaming or lathering products as fillers.
Sulfates are often described on the labels as “comes from” or “derived from” coconut in an effort to portray them as innocuous.
But keep in mind is that animals exposed to sulfates can experience eye damage, central nervous system depression, labored breathing, diarrhea, or severe skin irritation.
On labels, keep an eye out for sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), ammonium laureth sulfate (ALS), sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and those coconut references.
Parabens are a common type of preservative and one of the chemicals most responsible for disrupting the endocrine system as well as the balance of hormones.
While it is usually a very small amount, it is thought that parabens may cause breast cancer because of their estrogenic activity.
On labels, parabens are often listed with a prefix such as ethyl-, methyl-, propyl-, isopropyl-, butyl- or isobutyl-.
Sodium benzoate is usually at the end of the ingredient list. It is used to preserve and protect acidic products from spoiling.
When mixed with vitamin C or ascorbic acid, it is a known carcinogen.
If both are absorbed into your system, you now have a carcinogen in your body.
Dyes and Fragrances
The term “fragrance” can indicate the presence of up to 1,000 substances, many of which are toxic and carcinogenic.
Synthetic fragrances can cause headaches, dizziness, rashes, skin discoloration, coughing, vomiting and skin irritation.
Clinical studies have shown synthetic fragrances can affect the endocrine system and central nervous system, causing depression, hyperactivity and irritability.
FD&C colors and pigments serve no purpose in skin care products other than to make them “look pretty” in the bottle and can cause adverse effects.
Laboratory derived colors are recognized as potential allergens and have a history of causing hyperactivity in children.
When FD&C color names are followed by the word lake, it indicates that the pigment was mixed with calcium or aluminum.
This fixates the color to the skin and it’s why lipstick doesn’t “bleed”. Aluminum has been associated with disease and cancer.
Ingredients that affect the skin barrier
Alcohols are extremely dry and irritating solvents.
They are irritating because they often strip skin of its natural acid mantle, causing dehydration of the cells which makes the body more vulnerable to bacteria and viruses.
Research shows that alcohol may cause free-radical damage which can cause brown spots, hyperpigmentation and premature aging.
Labels may show isopropyl alcohol, SD alcohol 40 and ethyl alcohol, ethanol, denatured alcohol, methanol and benzyl alcohol.
Polyethylene glycol (PEG) has many uses, including many cosmetics, but is also used in oven cleaner.
Since polyethylene glycol is a degreaser, hence the oven cleaner, it strips the skin of its natural oils which can leave the body susceptible to invaders.
PEG has been linked to leukemia, uterine, breast and brain cancer.
It also contains a high amount of heavy metals and metal contamination that is known to cause neurological, autoimmune and kidney issues.
Urea is a source of nitrogen in nature produced by plants and animals.
Urea is found on the top layer of healthy skin as an active moisture barrier.
Man made urea however moves through the natural barrier of the skin and allows other chemicals in the product into the body as well because the synthetic makeup is a near-identical compound to the natural thing.
Urea has been shown as a primary cause of contact dermatitis, especially in concentrated amounts found in skin exfoliants.
It also contains small amounts of formaldehyde, a chemical that is toxic when inhaled. Urea is labeled as diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea and DMDM hydantoin.
These should be ok, but…
Aloe vera by itself is not a damaging additive, however in most cases aloe is compromised by additives.
Usually preservatives. These preservatives are considered “secondary ingredients” and can often be left off of the label.
Aloe vera by itself is a good source of nutrients for your skin.
When grown at home, you simply break off a piece of the plant and rub it on your skin before bed.
Water is another wonderful thing for the skin. Your daily water intake should be half your bodyweight in ounces of water, every single day.
While pure water is great for the skin, additives to the water used as filler in products can cause many issues.
Epiphany Therapeutics now offers a cream specifically for people with skin issues such as dry, cracked skin, eczema or under-nourished skin.
The product delivers all of the nourishment your skin needs with none of the additives just discussed.
All of the good results with none of the bad consequences! You never want to put something on your skin that could make a skin condition worse.
Always do a little research before you buy a skin care product.
Make sure that there are no additives, colors or fragrances that may irritate the skin.
You want a cream that will make your skin smooth, soft and glowing. Eksem moisturizing body cream by Epiphany Therapeutics meets all your requirements.
About the Authors
William Goolsbee has spent his career in Life Sciences including leading roles in drug development in immunology and genetic medicine. Recent senior positions include Chairman of the Board at Sarepta Therapeutics and Founder and CEO at Metrodora Therapeutics.
Dr. Gil Price
Gil Price M.D. is the Chief Medical Officer at the Propharma Group, where he provides medical supervision for all clinical trials. He previously served as the Chief Executive Officer of Drug Safety Solutions, where he oversaw safety monitoring for drugs in clinical development. Dr. Price also served as the Director of Clinical Development at Medimmune Oncology and Director of Medical Affairs at Glaxo.