The term ‘dermatitis’ covers a wide array of skin problems with a wide array of causes. Establishing the exact type of dermatitis you have and it’s causes may take a bit of detective work.
There are two very broad types of dermatitis, atopic dermatitis and non-atopic dermatitis. One is caused by an allergic reaction (that is an immune system response) the other is caused by a irritant substance. There is also much evidence that psychological factors especially stress can also have an effect. This factor is less well understood but should not be underestimated.
Some people will apply a topical treatment, an anti-inflammatory steroid cream, a natural remedy such as our natural anti-inflammatory emollient Lyonsleaf Calendula Cream or even just an emollient and find their dermatitis clears quite easily. For others it can be a debilitating and chronic condition seemingly with no cure.
If you are struggling to manage the condition it is really important to start investigating to possible triggers, whether it be a food allergy, environmental factor or psychological issue. There is some more information below to help you with this.
Whatever type of dermatitis you have here are some simple strategies that will always help and should be considered as an ongoing preventative:
• Repair and maintain skin barrier function
• Avoid skin contact with any known or potentially irritant substances
Using an anti-inflammatory can also help if a flare up is actually occurring. If you go to the doctor they will prescribe a steroid cream, these can be extremely effective and work very quickly, however they do have very negative side effects especially if used for long periods. Natural anti-inflammatories like our Calendula Cream can be a great alternative, some people find they can use it to completely solve or manage their dermatitis, others find it helps them dramatically reduce the use of steroids, which become necessary only for the occasional flare up.
The outer layer of your epidermis (stratum corneum ) is your first line of defense against pathogens and allergens in the outside world. If this defense is compromised all sorts of nasties can infiltrate and cause inflammation of the skin. This layer is often compared to a ‘wall’. It is comprised of dying skin cells held together with a ‘cement’ of natural oils secreted by the dying cells. Moisture is drawn form the dermis below and from humidity in the air, this moisture is held by specialist cells. The moisture plumps those cells and is essential to keep the ‘wall’ firm.
The stratum corneum doesn’t just keep nasties out, it holds moisture in. When skin dries out, microscopic cracks form in the stratum corneum, unfortunately this leads to more moisture escaping and more cracks forming, a vicious circle can quickly ensue. Dry skin and infiltration by allergens can then cause a flare up and scratching can cause even more damage taking a minor flare up into a damaging downward spiral.
Repairing skin barrier function will break the cycle, but prevention is better than cure, using a really good quality emollient regularly is an excellent preventative measure. Lyonsleaf Body Butter is a great day to day emollient for hands and body whilst Lyonsleaf Beauty Balm is design specifically for the face.
We recommend using these products as cleansers too, especially on the face and any particular problem areas of the body, as ceasing the use of soap and detergents, which strip natural oils on your skin will greatly improve skin barrier function.
Using an anti-inflammatory such as our Calendula Cream can soothe the inflamation, reduce itching and speed healing by promoting collagen production helping you get through a flare-up quickly and lessen any discomfort.
There is a bewildering array of emollients and moisturisers on the market. Almost all are emulsions of oil and water. These products will hydrate the skin temporarily but wont improve skin barrier very effectively so the moisture that has been applied water will soon evaporate and no real long term benefit is gained. These products can be easily recognised. The first ingredient will be Aqua (water) and they will likely be in a big pot as you need to apply liberally and regularly. Some emulsions will have another aqueous ingredient such as aloevera juice or a hydrosol (flower water) as the first ingredient.
Any product with a and aqueous ingredient must have an anti-microbial preservative to prevent dangerous bacteria growing in the water element. These ingredients can be parabens, formaldehyde, methylisothiazolinone (MI), phenoxyethanol, potassium-sorbate, there are many others. Many of these ingredients have been proved harmful and new alternatives are hurriedly sought. Some are seen as less harmful, but they are all designed to kill cells (bacteria) and are by their nature, harsh. There is little doubt these ingredients are responsible for most adverse skin reactions to beauty and skincare products.
Emulsions of water and oil also need and emulsifier. Build up of emulsifiers in the epidermis can wreak havock with skin barrier function.
The oil part of these emulsion moisturisers will often be emollients derived from petrochemicals, often known as mineral oils. There are also some products that are 100% petrochemical emollients such as baby oil and petroleum jelly.
Mineral oil sits on top of the skin as an ‘occlusive’ layer. It will seal in moisture, but it prevents your skin from functioning correctly. It can cause clogged pores and cause skin irritation. It is often responsible for contact allergies, folliculitis (inflammation of the hair follicles), rashes and spots. If the pores and hair follicles get blocked, dirt and bacteria build up inside causing blackheads and acne. Perioral dermatitis which is characterised by lumpy spots around the mouth is known to be associated with synthetic emollients. Synthetic emollients contain no beneficial or active compounds.
Petrochemical emollients can contain contaminants and traces petrochemicals or metal catalyst residues
Unrefined (or cold pressed) natural plant oils are the finest emollients. They contain the very same fatty acids your skin uses to build it’s protective outer layer. Your skin will accept them and use then to naturally rebuild the stratum corneum. Skin can still function correctly and irritation is much less likely (although you should bear in mind that individuals can be allergic to specific natural substances). Natural oils are rich in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals and other beneficial compounds (active ingredients). By choosing oils with appropriate beneficial compounds and fatty acid content, potent formulations can be created to address specific issues.
Some emollients start out as pure natural plant oils but the are either refined, which means solvents are used to extract every last drop from the crop, or artificial emollients are extracted from the crop by chemical processes or extreme temperatures. The heat and chemicals used in these processes destroy nutrients and beneficial compounds and can leave toxic residue in the products. Even an organic oil (grown without the use of artificial chemicals) can be refined, so it is important to look for products containing ' unrefined' or cold pressed' ingredients.
Our approach is simple. We have created products which are made only form pure unrefined plant oils. These products effectively repair and maintain skin barrier, sealing in precious moisture and keeping pathogens out. Natural plant oils contain the very same fatty acids you skin uses to create the stratum corneum, so our products will be accepted by you skin and it will use them to maintain that barrier without compromising skin function. Our water free products are 100% undiluted active ingredients, they are packed with beneficial ingredients to sooth and nourish skin as well as.
Because they have no aqueous element they do not need harsh preservatives, harmful bacteria cannot survive without the water element found in other moisturisers. We have designed products with just the right balance of fatty acids and active ingredients, including powerful natural anti-inflammatories to hydrate, protect, and soothe all skin types including very sensitive and inflamed skin.
We recommend using Lyonsleaf Body Butter and Lyonsleaf Beauty Balm especially after a bath or shower day to day, to repair and maintain the Stratum Corneum and seal in moisture. Use the oil cleansing method, especially for the face to cease damage caused when cleansing. We also recommend Lyonsleaf Calendula Cream as a targeted treatment for any inflammation, sore or itchy skin. All these products are available in trial sizes here. We also have a range of natural soaps which most people will find gentle enough for body use.
If you are struggling to manage your dermatitis it is important that you do that detective work to find your personal triggers or causes.
Treating your skin may not be enough. We recommend keeping a diary, recording the food you eat, substances you come into contact with like cleaning products or beauty products and your emotional state, whether you feel stressed, happy or had an argument etc. It is useful for women to note their menstrual cycle too. If you record any symptoms and flare-ups too, you may soon see patterns appearing that will help you identify the cause of your dermatitis.
If you suffer with hay fever or asthma it is more likely to be an atopic (allergic reaction) if not it may be a substance, and remember just because you have had contact with a substance for a long time you should not rule it out. Prolonged exposure to a substance can result in ‘sensitisation’ which means you can suddenly become allergic to it overnight. Confusingly sensitisation can often cause reactions in other parts of the body apart from the places where contact occurs.
It is often helpful to seek help from a nutritional therapist or from a herbalist (find one who specialises in skin conditions) These sort of practitioners can offer a holistic approach, they will sit down with you for an hour or so to help you look at all the contributing factors, time which you GP will not be able to give you. Many of them can also run allergy tests.
The human body has evolved a mechanism to cope with extraordinary stressful situations. This ‘mode’ is known as ‘flight or fight’. When we are stressed, for example under attack by a predator, our body goes into flight or fight mode. We switch off non essential operations like making fertility hormones, we create extra energy by releasing adrenalin releasing sugar reserves and our immune system goes into hyper sensitive mode, ready to attack infection should we become injured.
These days we rarely have to fight or flee from predators, but emotional stress, work deadlines or financial worries still trigger flight or flight response. Even a busy schedule of day to day chores, school runs and housework can trigger it.
Running on flight or fight mode has many detrimental consequences and excessive stress can cause muscle aches, infertility and undernourishment and many other problems, it even causes you to store fat around your tummy as energy reserves for when you have to run. From a dermatitis point of view it is the heightened immune system that can cause allergies, sensitivity and chronic skin conditions to mysteriously flare up.
Your body can get into the habit of being on flight or fight, that habit is hard to break. If you think excessive stress is contributing to your skin condition, consider getting your self out of the stressful situation (obviously easier said than done), or look at ways of managing your stress. Regular relaxing or creative activities, yoga, meditation, walking, gardening whatever you love doing, maybe the only prescription that will really work for you.
Lyonsleaf Ltd • Registered address: Cheddarlea Farm, Cheddar Road, Compton Martin, Bristol. BS40 6LD • Tel: 01761 221 267
Company Number: 09749596