Let’s take care of our hands

Dry, cracked, bleeding hands was something that I used to suffer with, particularly over the winter months.

Over-washing, not drying hands properly, washing with petrochemical-laiden handwash, trying to moisturise with petrochemical-laiden handcream, all contributed to the condition.

Once I started to train as a reflexologist, I knew something had to change. I had to solve this problem as my hands were going to be the tools of my trade!

Cracked skin on hands, knuckles
Cracked skin on hands, knuckles

The first thing to do is change your hand wash. Most hand washes available on the shelves on the highstreet will contain petro-chemicals: synthetic chemicals derived from petroleum. One main culprit is SLS or SLES (Sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate). This man-made detergent will strip the skin of its natural oils and it leave it bare and unprotected, flakey and inflammed. You only have to do a quick google search to discover the known evils of this petro-chemical: a known irritant used in skin-testing trials; a penetration enhancer, a corrosive.

Dry, cracked skin on hands
Dry, cracked skin on hands

Next, ensure you moisturise. This doesn’t mean using a product contain petrolatum, paraffinum liquidum, parfum, propylene glycol or parabens. You will not be moisturising or nourishing your hands if the product contains any of these ingredients. Your skin might feel smooth and soft on the surface but these ingredients will not be nourishing your skin to help it heal. In fact they will be doing the complete opposite: blocking the skin’s pores and upsetting its natural equilibrium. In a nutshell, it will be making the problem worse. You might also experience a stinging sensation.

Switch to a brand that you can trust to give you a high quality product containing ethically sourced natural ingredients free from anything derived from petroleum: Neal’s Yard Remedies. My top recommendation would be the Bee Lovely Hand Wash. This is infused with moisturising organic honey and fragrant, uplifting organic orange and mandarin essential oils, to gently cleanse and subtly scent the grubbiest of hands. It is gentle enough for the whole hive, including children aged 3 years and over. It also comes in a large 295ml bottle made from recycled plastic which means it is safer for children to use (rather than glass).

Bee Lovely Hand Wash

There is also a hand cream to accompany the hand wash. If this doesn’t appeal, there are many other products that will look after your hands, nourishing, moisturising and protecting your skin, hands and nails with organic, natural ingredients.

If your hands are like those in the pictures above, you may need a product that is going to “kick-start” the healing process.

preservative-free cream, made with soothing organic Roman chamomile in a base of nourishing organic sunflower oil and antiseptic zinc oxide, helps prevent nappy rash.
Preservative-free cream, made with soothing organic Roman chamomile in a base of nourishing organic sunflower oil and antiseptic zinc oxide, helps prevent nappy rash.

The baby barrier cream is an excellent healing and nourishing cream. Although it is marketed at baby’s bottoms(!) this cream is excellent for working hands such as gardeners or mechanics, and eczema or dermatitis sufferers, and skin thinned by aging and long-term steroid use.

Take care of your hands while outside. Always apply handcream and wear gloves in cold weather. Make sure you dry them thoroughly after washing, and always moisturise afterwards. While at home have a bottle of wash and lotion next to each other at the basin to encourage good habits.

 

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Jackie Marsden MAR is a qualified reflexologist and independent consultant (Team Leader) for Neal’s Yard Remedies Organic. Jackie leads and mentors a growing team of consultants (many of whom are therapists integrating organic products into their existing businesses) via the NYRO social selling channel, holding regular team meetings, one-to-one coaching via phone and facetime, and a closed facebook group. All views are my own.

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What can we do for Eczema?

Eczema is dry, itchy, flaky, red and inflamed skin (and sometimes worse). It is largely a chronic condition meaning that it is long-lasting and can be controlled but not cured.

Those suffering with eczema usually suffer also with other conditions such as asthma and hayfever. This is because they are all types of allergies; the body has an inapproprate allergic reaction to antigens that are usually harmless (e.g. animal hair, pollen, dust). When the body reacts in this way it releases huge amounts of histamine which then causes inflammation, itching, sneezing, wheezing etc. It is usually the immune response that causes the damage to the body, not the allergen itself. (1)

So what can we do for eczema, and why do people suffer with eczema? I believe it has a lot to do with the gut. If we don’t have good gut health then the toxic overload is too much for our bodies and the skin will try to help by excreting those toxins. Remember that the skin is an outlet as well as a protective barrier and receptor. So cleaning up diets, eliminating processed foods, sugar, caffeine etc. and increasing the intake of vegetables and water is going to have a profound effect in the long term. I think we all have room for improvement with our diets!

But in the shorter term something is needed to apply to the skin to reduce the symptoms and give relief. This is particularly true for children whom are a large group of atopic (hereditary) eczema suffers.  Any petroleum-based products are not going to do this. The skin might feel soft and moisturised initially but after continued use the product will block the skin’s pores, causing imbalances in the skin’s natural equilibrium and resulting in even more problems.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and its replacement, Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) are both known irritants. Beware of products labelled “sensitive”. Many products on the market are full of chemicals that have no place on the skin. However, most people can tolerate them. For those who can’t, the manufacturer removes the problem chemicals, and replaces them with some that are actually worse, on the basis that the customer is unlikely to react to both. (2)

The following products are those which myself and colleagues have seen to be helpful with treating eczema:

NYRO baby balm. This balm protects and calms the skin with a combination of gentle, moisturising ingredients, including olive oil, coconut oil and shea nut butter. Apply as required to affected areas. One mother kindly shared these amazing photographs of her daughter’s eczema, before and after using the NYRO baby balm for 6 weeks.

eczema before

eczema after

For small patches of eczema or dermatitis, consider the NYRO Stellaria Cream  which is fabulous at reducing itching. Chickweed, a traditional herb renowned for cooling and soothing itching or red skin, is the active ingredient in this formula.

Another fantastic product to try is the anti-inflammatory and deeply soothing Calendula and Oat Lotion, which is suitable for extreme dryness and sensitive skin.

calendula_oatOne particular customer has experienced great success with seemingly uncontrollable eczema by the daily application of organic virgin coconut oil. The Neal’s Yard Remedies coconut oil is raw, unrefined, unbleached, and processed without heat to retain its unique balance of nutrients. Applied directly to the skin, coconut oil makes an extremely effective conditioning treatment, gently soothing dry, sensitive skin or scalps.

As a reflexologist, I am very much aware of the power of stress and what it can do to the body. If you are suffering with eczema it could be exacerbated by stress, or vica versa. A course of reflexology might help the situation, calming the sympathetic nervous system and in turn stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system and allowing the body to regain a state of relaxation and homeostasis. During the reflexology sessions particular emphasis would be paid to specific reflex points, particularly those of the digestive system, endocrine system, lymphatics and immune systems.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) the lungs are linked to the colon; they share the same meridian. This ties in with the commonalities between eczema, asthma and hayfever, and highlights another reason to look to improve digestive health. They are both organs of elimination.

Along with a cleaned-up diet, a cleansing and healing supplement such as aloe vera juice and/or beauty oil might also be used to help with the healing and replenishing process.  Aloe vera juice is an excellent digestive tonic. Beauty oil is a blend of avocado, hemp, flax and evening primrose oils.

(1) Ross & Wilson Anatomy & Physiology  in Health and Illness. p371

(2) Closed discussion thread

Jackie Marsden MAR is a qualified reflexologist and independent consultant (Team Leader) for Neal’s Yard Remedies Organic. Jackie leads and mentors a growing team of consultants (many of whom are therapists integrating organic products into their existing businesses) via the NYRO social selling channel, holding regular team meetings, one-to-one coaching via phone and facetime, and a closed facebook group. All views are my own.

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