Allergies and intolerances can seriously aggravate the skin; identifying your particular triggers is key to keeping skin healthy and reaction free. For those who suffer with dry skin conditions, a low functioning skin barrier can allow irritants to penetrate the skin more easily causing skin irritation, so avoiding these allergens is important. Also, people with autoimmune skin conditions can sometimes have diminished gut health, which means food intolerances can be problematic.
Anyone can be allergic or intolerant to absolutely anything, however there are some allergens that are more common than others, which we have detailed below. For help identifying your own allergies, you may want to consider being allergy tested by a health practitioner or allergy specialist, which you can read more about here
The most common food allergies to be aware of are:
• cow's milk
• tree nuts (such as cashews or walnuts)
It can be very hard to identify which foods are causing skin problems, as often there are multiple triggers. We recommend allergy testing and also keeping a food diary to help build a picture of what is making the skin flare-up. Suspected triggers should be removed from the diet one at a time to gain a clear picture of which ones make a difference.
Dust and Dust Mites
This allergy can go unnoticed for a long time. Dust mites are present in their millions in the home, they live and thrive in soft furnishings, curtains and bedding. If you have tried and failed to identify allergies then this could be what you are missing; but it’s a big job to reduce the dust mite in a normal home. It can involve replacing carpets with wooden floors, having leather sofas, changing bedding and removing any piles of soft things around the home like piles of washing, cushions etc. As this is not easy to achieve for most people, a couple of more manageable steps are to buy special protective covers for the mattress, quilts and pillows that you sleep near to keeping dust off them during the day, consider purchasing allergy friendly bedding and mattresses and invest in a good quality allergy friendly vacuum cleaner that does not redistribute dust; vacuuming every day is recommended. A good electric air purifier can also help.
The best materials to have next to sore skin are organic cotton, bamboo or hemp; try to avoid wool or synthetic fibres. If you have a baby with eczema choosing baby-grows that are organic and free from bleaches and harsh dyes can really help. As an adult, wearing organic, natural, soft fibres can help to reduce irritation on the skin. Some people have a sensitivity to the pesticides used in everyday cotton, so it is worth switching to organic clothing where possible to see if that helps.
Washing Powder and Household Cleaning Products
Do not use highly perfumed, biological washing powders. The chemicals from these products are extremely harsh and stay in the fibres of the clothes and bedding for a long time. These chemicals are a common skin irritant and can really flare-up troubled skin. Use a natural washing powder such as Ecover or even consider switching to soap nuts for a really chemical free approach. Be cautious of household cleaning products; many of which contain harsh chemicals. Use rubber gloves for cleaning and washing up; switch to natural cleaning products wherever possible.
Cosmetics and Bathroom Products
Many people are highly sensitive to artificial perfumes, preservatives and chemicals used in everyday cosmetics. We strongly advise researching the ingredients in the cosmetics you are using and replacing high chemical content products with natural ones. Be particularly careful when choosing shampoos and body washed as these usually contain Sodium Laurel Sulphate, a known skin irritant. If you are struggling with eczema on the face or around the eyes, cosmetics, shampoo and haircare products could be causing the problem.
Mould can aggravate skin. Sometimes a dehumidifier can help. Avoid damp, mouldy environments and keep all areas of the house (particularly bathrooms) clean and aired as much as possible to avoid mould growth.
Animal Fur or Dander
Sadly many people discover that they are sensitive to animal fur or dander and spending some time away from pets may be a good way to identify if this is a problem. Alternatively, allergy testing from your GP can help.
Please remember that these are just common allergies listed above. Anyone can be allergic to anything so identifying your personal allergies and intolerances is important. Please seek medical advice if you suspect you have allergies.