What sort of skin problem do I have?
There are a few key questions to ask which can give an indication of the nature of your skin problems, however please consult a medical professional for assurance.
How long have you had skin problems?
If you have had it since birth it is a sign of a more chronic problem which is a combination of genetics, lifestyle and diet factors. If only of late there could be changes in your environment, stress, new products you are using or a contact irritation.
Where does it affect?
If it affects your entire body it is more likely a chronic problem otherwise is could be a food allergy or irritation to a chemical that is coming in contact with your entire body. For example laundry powders and detergents tend to cling and build up on clothes or it could be a soap or body wash. If it only affects your hands or face it is likely something coming in contact with those areas. If your mouth is itchy after a certain food it could be a food sensitivity.
When does it affect you?
If problems occur not long after a meal it could be a food allergy. If you are itchy at night mainly it could be from the bed sheets being too dusty or too hot causing heat rash. If it is after showering it could be from a product you are using or the towel.
Why am I always itchy?
Your skin is being irritated by something internally or externally. When your immune system is overactive, it can also overact to relatively harmless substances so they key is in balancing the immune system.
Externally, some of the top irritants include dust, grass, fragrances, nickel, personal care products, pets, detergents, deodorants, colognes and air fresheners so it is important to remove them initially. You can have a skin prick test to see what you are irritated by.
Internally problems tend to occur when the gut barrier is damaged through overly processed foods, sugar, alcohol and gluten leading to leaky gut. Once this occurs, undigested food particles can more easily enter the bloodstream causing an overreaction. See our Hypoallergenic Diet for more information. You can also get a blood test.
If you are itchy or experiencing a flare, it is best to run the affected area under cool water or take a quick luke warm shower. This will help to remove the likely contact irritant. Pat dry and apply a thin layer of moisturiser. Allow the skin to dry completely before going outside. If you are extremely itchy you can make a paste from our clay and apply it to the affected area before washing off.
Why am I itchier at night?
There are many physiological changes that occur in your body at night, including changes in thermoregulation, skin barrier function, and fluid balance. For example, your body regulates its core temperature to be lowest at night. It does this by increasing blood flow to the skin, which is what allows the heat in your body to dissipate. A rise in skin temperature can make you feel itchy especially if the room temperature or sheets are too warm.
Your body’s release of certain substances also varies by time of day. At night, you release more cytokines, which increase inflammation. Meanwhile, production of corticosteroids, hormones that reduce inflammation, slows. On top of these factors, your skin loses more water at night so it’s ability to retain moisture is also at its lowest at night. Your skin's ability to retain moisture is also lowest at night.
To stop itching make sure you are not using any irritating personal care products before sleeping. Shower in warm water. Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed as they widen the blood vessels and send more blood to the skin. Wear light breathable clothes made of cotton. Use layers of sheets rather than 1 big blanket so you can wash them more frequently and control the temperature. Allow your skin to be completely dry from moisturisers before sleeping.
Why is my skin constantly infected?
When your skin is imbalanced through scratching, over washing, skin irritants, non physiological skincare products, pore clogging ingredients, overly high humidity for extended periods and an elevated pH it is prone to bacterial imbalance and infection.
In fact there is less bacterial diversity on the skin of those with atopic dermatitis as well as an elevated pH, even on skin without lesions. The bacteria staphylococcus aureus is overly represented in skin with atopic dermatitis particularly on affected skin. It can cause skin infection, inflammation and occlude the sweat ducts with an irritating biofilm.
An overly processed diet also feeds the bad bacteria in the body. If you have a serious infection you may need to see a doctor to get a prescription for a topical antibiotic cream. If you are constantly facing skin infections its a strong indication you need to change your diet and skincare regime.
Why does most conventional advice not work?
The conventional medical approach to treating skin conditions typically involves symptom management & immune suppression through topical & oral pharmaceutical drugs & moisturisers. It focuses on symptom suppression rather than viewing the body as a whole, treating the root causes & balancing the immune response.
Doctors will prescribe a combination of topical steroids, antibiotics, antihistamines, immune suppressants & petrochemical moisturisers & cleansers. Sometimes wet wraps & bleach baths are also recommended. Little if any attention is given to diet, lifestyle, gut health & mental health.
Specialised treatment for more severe dermatitis can involve skin prick tests & blood tests. However there is not systematic approach to removing all external contact irritants & balancing the overactive immune response internally.
How is the skin of children & babies different?
Babies & children have thinner skin & developing immune systems which makes them prone to skin problems. Combine this with toxins in the diet, environment, personal/household care as well as a disconnection from nature & we see a major problem in children with skin problems with approximately 1/4 to 1/3 of children experiencing a skin problem at some point.
Baby skin is thinner, structurally different & not fully developed compared to adults. Infant stratum corneum is 30% thinner than adults.
Their sebaceous & sweat glands are less active so the hydrolipid film (an emulsion of fats & water that covers the skin surface) & the acid mantle (the is mildly acidic water part of the hydrolipid film) are still underdeveloped.
Infant skin has a higher water content & is able to absorb & lose excess water faster. It also has significantly lower amounts of natural moisturizing factor making it more prone to dryness.
What are the top tips for children's skin health?
1. Minimise water contact - Keep baths/showers under 10 minutes, using luke warm water.
2. Clean Cleansers - Minimise cleansing & don't use those with SLS. Use pH balanced, minimal natural cleansers like our All Cleanser.
3. Natural Clothing - Only wear organic materials like cotton, bamboo & hemp. No scratchy fibers. Keep their skin cool & dry. Avoid overheating by using layers.
4. Clean Laundry - Wash above 60°C to kill dust mites using Soap Berries as laundry powders build up on the fabric & irritate skin.
5. Clean Housecare - Use toxin free floor cleaners/surface sprays to avoid contact irritation.
6. Minimise moisturising - Supplement as needed, don't completely occlude the skin & avoid petrochemicals which the skin can't metabolise.
7. Conscious Media - Pay attention to the music, images, movies they see. Play classical music to improve brain function. Don't hand them a tablet, give them play sets, time in nature, arts, books.
8. Unprocessed Diet - Eat as unprocessed as possible. Breast feed, blend your own foods.
Kevin struggled with eczema since he was a baby & learned these lessons the hard way. Aether is 100% natural, minimal & biocompatible using only the cleanest, gentlest & most effective ingredients.
Why do certain fabrics irritate me?
Certain fabrics such as wool, man-made fabrics like acrylic, polyester, rayon, acetate, nylon and wrinkle resistant fabrics tend to cause more skin irritation due to the chemicals that are used to create them. Fabrics on clothing and furniture can also collect dust and irritants so make sure to wash them regularly. It is best to stick to 100% cotton which is a breathable, natural fibre. Make sure you wash old or vintage clothes which collect a lot of dust and always wash new clothes before the first use. Make sure to use a gentle laundry liquid or Organic Soap Berries to wash your clothes.
Why is my skin constantly dry no matter how much I moisturise?
It is likely you are using a non physiological moisturiser that is not supporting the health of your skin. Every single ingredient can effect your skin. In particular the choice and ratio of lipids, type of emulsifier, humectants, preservative system and pH effect the performance of the moisturiser. Constantly feeling the need to reapply a moisturiser yet having tight dry skin shortly after is a sign that it is not a beneficial moisturiser for your skin. We struggled with the same issue and made 297 batches of cream over 6 years before creating our Biomime Cream 297.
Why is my hair & scalp so unhealthy?
If you are struggling with an overly oily, inflamed, dry or dandruff filled scalp a number of things could be causing your scalp imbalance. Your scalp produce sebum, sweat and dead skin. Sebum plays an important role in protecting your skin from infection and helping keep it moist. However, when the body produces too much sebum, it can build up on your scalp.
Occasional cleansing can help remove excess oils and dead skin. However haircare products, shampoos and conditioners can also lead to product buildup and scalp irritation. We recommend avoiding the use of sodium lauryl sulfate which can be quite irritating for the scalp and instead use a shampoo with a gentler surfactant like decyl or coco glucoside. It should be pH balanced and you should only need to shampoo once or twice a week. Avoid long term use of conditioners or hair products with dimethicone. This feels amazing on the hair and body but the skin can not metabolise it so it can cause build up and block pores with long term use.
What is the connection between the gut, brain & skin problems?
The brain, gut and skin are interconnected. When stressed your body releases hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol. Adrenaline increases your heart rate, elevates your blood pressure and boosts energy supplies. Cortisol, the primary stress hormone, increases blood glucose, enhances your brain's glucose use and increases the availability of substances that repair tissues.
Cortisol impairs functions that are deemed nonessential in a fight-or-flight situation. It alters immune responses, suppresses the digestive system, the reproductive system and growth processes. It also impacts the brain regions that control mood, motivation and fear.
The body's stress-response system is usually self-limiting. Hormone levels balance once a perceived threat has passed. However, chronic activation of the stress-response system and the overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones that follows can disrupt almost all your body's processes. Recent studies have shown that stress also has a negative effect on skin barrier function, resulting in water loss and reduced healing capacity. It also puts you at increased risk of many health problems, including mental health issues, digestive problems, headaches, heart disease, sleep problems, weight gain and memory and concentration loss.
The 100 trillion microbes in the gastrointestinal tract are critical to health. Gut bacteria regulate digestion and metabolism, extract and make vitamins and nutrients from food and program the immune system. They maintain the gut wall, which protects the body from outside invaders. Gut bacteria also produce hundreds of neurochemicals that the brain uses to regulate basic physiological processes as well as mental processes such as learning, memory and mood. Gut bacteria manufacture about 95% of the body's serotonin, which influences both mood and GI activity.
Having a skin problem is highly stressful but how we view it, our lifestyle, diet and our relationship with ourselves determines our health. We recommend addressing the root cause of your skin problems by removing external contact irritants, healing the gut lining and encouraging greater gut diversity. Adding energising and relaxing health modalities that combat stress such as meditation, sound therapy and time in nature is also beneficial. Eat a diversity of unprocessed, nutrient dense, microbiome supporting foods to support your gut. We also recommend taking the time to get to know your true self, question your own assumptions and think about what makes life meaningful to you.
Why do I get itchy when exercising?
When you exercise your skin heats up & sweats which can aggravate inflammation, especially if you have a lot of broken/exposed skin. The flexors of your skin including your elbows & under your knees should remain well ventilated & dry as the skin there is thinner & there is skin on skin contact.
Your moisturisers could impede sweating causing irritation.
1. Always wash off all moisturiser before exercising & wear loose, breathable clothing.
2. Be careful with surface sprays on equipment, wipe it down with plain water before using it and layer with a towel to avoid contact.
3. Use your own towel on your body instead of the gym towels which often have a build-up of detergents. Use the gym towels for your hair.
4. Take a cool shower immediately after to remove any excess sweat & irritants. If you don’t have a shower available at least wash your face, hands & the crevices of your body (inner arm, armpits & behind the knees) immediately after exercise & pat dry with paper towel.
5. Be careful at chlorinated pools as they can be irritating & drying. Apply a thicker layer of moisturiser as a barrier if you must swim in chlorine or preferably swim in sea water. Use the steam room or sauna after to sweat out any absorbed chlorine & shower.
How does mindset & mental health affect my skin problems?
Facing health & skin problems is as much a mental, emotional & spiritual challenge as it is a physical one.
Recent studies have shown that stress has a negative effect on skin barrier function, resulting in water loss & reduced healing capacity. It alters the immune responses, suppresses the digestive & reproductive system & growth processes. It also impacts the brain regions that control mood, motivation & fear impacting mental health.
We often face judgement, shame, ridicule & harassment by others who don't truly understand what it is like to have a chronic skin problem. They might suggest we try coconut oil or a celery juice cleanse with good intention or ask if we have seen a dermatologist. We must develop a strong sense of conviction & a warrior like inner strength.
We must also not allow ourselves to be defined by our skin problems for we are so much more than our skin & bodies. Let the highest vision of yourself guide you. As great as many support communities are they can keep us sick so that we don't lose access to the community.