This week, we’re talking to Lula Balmond-Nightingale, who not only works here in the Balmonds office but is actually the reason it all began!
When Lula was a little baby suffering from severe eczema, her mum Natalie invented the balm that would become Skin Salvation. This launched Balmonds (then called Purepotions) into the world and brought relief in the form of effective, natural, non-steroidal emollients to thousands of other eczema-sufferers across the world.
Like all those prone to eczema, Lula is never completely free from the condition and still has to find ways to manage and look after her skin. And because the summer brings its own particular challenges to those plagued by itchy, sore skin, we talked to Lula about how hard it can be to manage a skin condition that is aggravated by the heat, at the same time as being surrounded by skimpy clothes, tanned bodies and other people enjoying the sunshine.
Balmonds: Hi Lula! Can you let us know what special difficulties you’ve had in managing your eczema in the summer?
Lula: As soon as the sun comes out, I find it stressful. My skin is always less itchy when it has a layer of clothing covering it - something about the skin coming into contact with air seems to make it itch - so I am immediately faced with a problem in hot weather! It’s Catch 22: either I cover up but get overheated and begin itch... or I expose my skin to the air, which also makes me itch. Either way it’s horrible.
How does that affect your confidence?
It’s not good! Probably the worst thing is the horrible self-conscious feeling; with everyone around me in shorts and strappy tops; I just feel so reluctant to expose my skin and this makes me very miserable. I can’t bear looking at smooth brown skin everywhere when often mine has sore red patches all over it. The chlorine in swimming pools aggravates my skin and the thought of venturing into the sea is just too much. All in all, the summer is not my favourite time of year.
What was it like for you growing up with itchy skin? Do you remember much about your childhood summers?
I remember being hot and uncomfortable and itchy. My eczema was at its worst when I was little and I have very few memories of how it felt – I think I blocked a lot of it out because I was in pain and discomfort most of the time. My family tell me that my eczema was a constant concern, all day, every day, and especially at night. They spent a lot of time in the summer desperately trying to keep me away from the sun, because sun creams flared my skin and made it worse. This meant that often when other children were running around in a park or at a paddling pool I was not able to join in and if I did, my skin was worse for days after.
That’s really hard for you, not having happy memories associated with summer!
I do have one good memory! For three weeks on a trip to Thailand I was pretty much eczema-free. My family couldn’t keep me out of the sea on this occasion and something about the humidity and the sea made it literally disappear. For those weeks I forgot that I had eczema and it was amazing to feel normal again.
Thank you so much to Lula for answering our questions.
And - in case spending the summer in Thailand is impractical for you! - here are her top tips for coping with eczema in the heat:
- Wear really thin long-sleeved tops, so that you can stay cool without being exposed.
- Fake tan to boost confidence! I managed to find a fake-tanning mousse which didn’t make my skin worse and this has helped give me confidence to wear skirts and keep cooler when the weather is so hot that I absolutely have to wear summery clothes.
- Try false acrylic nails! I wear them now and they really help me stop itching and scratching at sore skin.
- Moisturise! I have been using Skin Salvation religiously for years and this helps me manage it. I find that the Cooling Cream really helps in hot weather as well.
- Have frequent cold showers.
- Keep cool at night. I sleep with a fan on and only cover myself in a sheet so that I keep as cool as I can overnight to reduce flare ups.