When I was 20, I battled chronic urticaria, which, although endlessly irritating and often discouraging, made me create Pai Skincare to soothe my skin. So there was a silver lining. However, when my son Jack contracted eczema, my own skin struggle felt completely manageable compared to the frustration I felt for him.
My son's first episode of eczema occurred when he was two and a half years old, the second when he was just six years old. I found it really disturbing both times – it really took me back to the dark days of my own skin problems. Seeing your child in emotional and physical ailments is a killer. As a parent, you feel that it's your job to fix the problem, but anyone familiar with eczema knows that applying a cream and tidying up is not possible within three days. It is really a process.
I think it is helpful for me to share what worked for both of us. The first, possibly hard to hear, finding was that it took about six months each time to clear it from start to finish. It was different every time on different parts of the body and he always responded to other treatments. What I'm getting at is that eczema is a complex animal. My first advice is to take a deep breath, try to stay very calm and try to alleviate your child's eczema by writing everything down methodically.
As with many sensitive skin reactions, his first flare-up developed in a time that was stressful for him. You guessed it, the telltale rashes began shortly after his little brother was born. We don't think about the effects of stress on children and their skin like adults do, but I'm sure he felt displaced and upset at that point. I've tried a few things. It's a lot of guesswork – but cutting out washing powder definitely helped. Detergents leave residues that have to be washed five times with water to get out of the clothes. So I completely removed the washing powder. A few months later, it seemed to make a difference, and for some people, that may actually be all that is needed.
The second was bathing. Taking oats is sometimes problematic for certain skin problems, but can be brilliant when applied topically. I filled a pair of pantyhose with oats, tied them up and let them soak in a warm (never hot) bath so that the bath water looked like milk. This was particularly powerful because his rashes were on the hind legs and ankles to his buttocks. The redness would visibly decrease after each soak.
I think people jump too fast on exclusion diets with children – our daycare worker, who was very experienced and trustworthy at the time, warned me not to exclude whole food groups from children who are so young that they are not adequately supervised. Especially if you don't reintroduce the food quickly and properly. So I didn't go that route, but I consulted our local naturopath and looked at some supplements instead – we drank omega-3 drops (on toast so he couldn't taste it) – and that really helped him, his Legs to clear.
Episode two was when he was five and six, and in school! It got worse this time because he felt pretty confident, although I told him how normal it was and many other children experienced it too. He still felt the only one. The eczema was on his arms this time, the full length of them, and his skin was cracked and very sore. I did a lot of the same things as before – some worked, some didn't. This time I really wanted to keep him from scratching and interrupting the irritation cycle so that his skin would start to heal. Even though he tried so hard not to scratch, he actually did it in his sleep! So we found the best thing that he slept in cotton gloves every night. And it made a big difference.
I wish I had known it the first time: Even if it doesn't feel intuitive, you should really bathe your skin every day when it's really dry and sore. Sufficient time in the bathroom is important to really hydrate – between five and 10 minutes. Make sure you measure the time. An exaggeration is also not helpful. Then, when they're outside, pat the skin dry carefully, being careful not to rub. Essentially, you need to remove the moisture within 30 seconds before the air removes all of that moisture. Then we immediately applied our Petit Pai cream. As soon as he puts on his shortie pajamas – they let the skin breathe and prevent sweat from forming in the skin folds – I apply our Buriti balm to trap all this moisture. I've also done many of the same things as before – like cutting out detergents and taking supplements – but this combination of cotton gloves and oatmeal baths every single day seemed to make a big difference the second time.
Remember it's a long process. We did it in six months, but it can take a lot longer. However, try not to lose faith and continue to work diligently. We have been doing this at Pai for a long time – and have helped so many customers and their children with their skin reactions and relapses. So if you need to discuss something – you might want to help create a skin journal or just need a refresher on flare-up management – we offer a free consultation service that can be booked online. Our experts for sensitive skin will be happy to assist you.