Diagnosed by the Vet

Eczema is something new to me. I guess I even felt a bit smug that it wasn’t something that affected my family, neither myself and my siblings as children, nor either of my own children………until recently that is.

My grandson suffers from minor eczema in the usual places for young children, behind the knees and inner elbow creases, but my daughter manages it well by restricting the ‘products’ that she uses on his skin. She has become very aware of all the horrendous chemicals that are used in the manufacture of practically all personal and household products, including baby products and wet wipes.

In the past I had assumed that eczema was something that some unfortunate children suffered from but normally grew out of. But I was to get my cum-uppance in my mid-fifties when I developed an immensely itchy skin condition on the soles of my feet which persisted long enough for me to organise a visit to the doctor. It was diagnosed as dyshidrotic eczema where tiny blisters form under the skin which cause severe itching. I was prescribed steroid cream which didn’t really help and after some internet research I tried a couple of treatments including applying a cold compress of cotton wool soaked in vinegar, which certainly eased the itching but smelled pretty awful. Ridding myself of this uncomfortable condition was achieved over a very long time span of months, if not years, of plentiful moisturising and I found that Elizabeth Arden’s Eight Hour Cream was most efficient (if rather expensive). Although I feel the condition could return at any time, it has not recurred and I continue to moisturise my feet very regularly.

About six months ago I developed a similar patch of itchy skin on the palm of my right hand, with the tell-tale pin point sized blisters under the skin. It came and went for a while and I was concerned that it would cause issues when I used my walking poles which can make my hands a bit sweaty. In the event the condition pretty much cleared up when I was walking my camino, but returned when I got home.

Due to friends (women of a similar age) with ongoing skin conditions and my daughter’s heightened awareness of chemicals in the products we use I thought long and hard about what I was using. I seem to be washing my hands almost constantly, what with my frequent visits to the stable, handling fresh meat twice a day for the dog, gardening and kitchen hygiene, so my first experiment was to just use hand soap on my fingers and rinse the rest of my hands with water only. But the condition took a turn for the worse and this past week has been very uncomfortable, with thickened dry skin in an area that covers a quarter of the palm.

My ‘solution-for-everything-skin-related‘ Eight Hour Cream has ceased to help and I was fairly certain that if I went to the doctor I would just be prescribed cortisone or steroid cream which I didn’t want to use. So I turned to the internet again.

I was fairly convinced that this was another case of dyshidrotic eczema. I wracked my brain to think of any lifestyle changes I had made around six months ago and it dawned on me that it was at this time that I started to eat porridge for breakfast, just a small portion made with water, a dash of milk and a half spoon of sugar. I turned to my friend google to ask whether oats can trigger eczema and found that indeed oats, dairy and unrefined sugar are all possible triggers, so that was the end of that breakfast choice (which I didn’t eat on camino). I also found an article by a guy who wrote that he had cut all chemicals from his skin care and applied aloe vera to his affected skin at very regular intervals. His condition disappeared within two weeks.

So first thing the next day I visited our new health shop in Cómpeta and purchased a bottle of 99% pure aloe vera and applied some immediately. It cooled and soothed my skin instantly, and I knew right away that this product was going to be my new best friend and constant companion. I went to join David for a coffee and found him sitting with our lovely friend Jens, who I never normally see by chance. He is a vet, although now mostly retired, and he was waiting for a patient to arrive, all the way from Seville – a dachshund with a back problem. While we were chatting I applied another helping of aloe to my hand and Jens took one look and said that he thought it was ringworm and advised applying iodine several times a day.

Having just googled ringworm, I am sticking with my self diagnosis of eczema, which is bad enough, but the images of ringworm look disgusting and I am definitely not comfortable to think that I might have that problem. However I didn’t see any harm in applying iodine so have done that three or four times a day, and a spot of aloe vera probably every fifteen minutes. I have avoided contact with chemicals to my hand, to the extent of wearing a washing-up glove in the shower and have purchased a couple of bars of natural soap as I couldn’t find a single shower product that didn’t contain Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, even in the health shop. I suggest you google Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and find out what we are putting on our skin and in our mouths day in, day out. The more you know, the more worrying it is.

What Is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate?
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (commonly known as SLS) is a widely used and inexpensive chemical found in many mainstream personal hygiene products such as shampoos, toothpastes, mouthwashes, bodywash, soaps, detergents, along with Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) and Ammonium Laurel Sulfate (ALS).

My daughter no longer uses any products on her son, just water, and for her daughter, due to be born at the end of the year, she is abandoning the convenience of disposable nappies and store-bought wet wipes, and returning to the age-old terry towelling, albeit a rather updated model from the squares that her bottom was wrapped in as a baby. I am very proud of her for taking this route and very glad that she met a group of women at antenatal class during her first pregnancy who have inspired her to think this way.

Rosie has suffered more than her fair share of skin problems since she was a teenager, and until recently still suffered with spots on her face and back into her late twenties. However she has recently stopped using products on her very long, very thick and very gorgeous hair. And by products I mean everything – shampoo, conditioner, styling creams and sprays. She first attempted this earlier in the year and lasted about four weeks before giving in and going back to ‘normal’, but she did notice an improvement in her skin. And now she is about eight weeks into her second attempt and is feeling more comfortable with the process. She misses that ‘squeaky clean’ feel that a thorough shampoo gives, but her hair looks great with natural oils intact and her skin has never been better. And she is saving herself a fortune into the bargain!

Over the next few months I shall be restocking my bathroom cabinet with SLS-free products (although I’m not sure I could cope with giving up my hair products). And in the meantime I am on day five of my aloe vera treatment and my skin has improved enormously

– move over Elizabeth Arden, make room for my new best friend Vera!

As a post script….. I sent Rosie an email to check she was happy about what I had written and she responded as follows:
……Good blog post mum, glad your hand is getting better, the other nasty that is in a lot of stuff to look out for is parabens (google for details) again in most things in some form or another as a preservative. Picture below if you wanted to add it to show what 9 weeks of no hair products looks like, this is my hair completely natural no products and no heat! Definitely worth the few weeks of not very nice hair to get to this stage, it is so easy now.


About magwood

Trepidatious Traveller - camino blog is about preparing for and walking the Camino de Santiago. Many future pilgrims have found the blog useful and inspiring, and many who have no plans to walk the camino have simply enjoyed the dialogue http://www.magwood.me
This entry was posted in A view of life, Expats in andalucia and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Diagnosed by the Vet

  1. Wendy Kate says:

    I had eczema and asthma as a child. The last of the eczema left me in my twenties and the asthma as well as, not sure if the 2 are related but I am very happy they are gone!


  2. I sister is in her mid-fifties and hasn’t been able to shake her eczema. I do believe stress is her worst enemy and long bouts of not sleeping. She’s been to many doctors and changed what products she used and at to no success. 🙂


  3. martinandbethjackson says:

    Use aloes on your hair also. You can grow it very easily where you live also. The aloe that yields the most is Aloe Vera Barbadensis,that is what the manufacturers use. Shame you don´t live nearer to Portugal as i have been trying to give plants away.(i used to grow it comercially).
    By growing your own, one eliminates the additives and processes that commercial brands are subject to. I finished the Porto to Santiago caminho last week,so thanks for all the tips from your blog, only one small blister on small toe. If you need to know anything else about aloe vera,feel free to write to me. Use this adress jackson777@sapo.pt. All the best. Martin


    • magwood says:

      Brilliant info Martin, thanks. I will buy some aloe plants – can I store the natural gel in a sterilised pot, or do I need to use it fresh from the plant every time?
      Glad the caminho was kind to you. Where about in Portugal do you live?


  4. Kristina Wilkening says:

    Wow. Bummer about your skin condition. But out of all the people I know…with your avid amounts of research I bet you will find a way to lesson the itch. Good luck.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Janice Tyler says:

    Really interesting blog Maggie

    Liked by 1 person

  6. kay parkyn says:

    A really interesting blog Maggie, I will be forwarding to my daughter as our granddaughter has the most awful eczema, since she was a baby (now 6 years old) and they have tried everything from eliminating dairy, other products etc and all the doctors do is prescribe more steroid cream!!
    Can I also say that your daughter is gorgeous!! How healthy does her hair look – I am so envious, my husband John doesn’t use any products on his hair at all, never has, and it is so strong!!! I’m not sure I can go without anything though, my hair is so dry from all the sun here!!


    • magwood says:

      Thanks Kay. No, I couldn’t contemplate the no shampoo route – I’ll leave that to the young with lots of hair. I have started using natural soap in the shower and will work towards finding chemical-free products for my hair. They are out there, but probably at a premium price!


  7. Maggie Gardner says:

    I feel for you. I was diagnosed with discoid eczema last year. It started after I had been swimming in our pool. It cleared then started again this year, yes I had been in the pool. I use Aqueous cream both for showering and after, my skin is now clear.


  8. lisa says:

    I am delighted that your palms are better. I use Aloe Vera (99% and 100 %) as often as I can on little blisters, small cuts or bruises. It does really help. I will go through my humble (!) cabinet to see if I have any products with the contents you have listed.


  9. I’m so inspired by your daughter and the picture of her hair and skin looking beautiful that I also want to try the no shampoo and no heat “challenge” – I say challenge, as I think it will be for me! Do you know how many weeks it took to get past the oily looking stages?


    • magwood says:

      Hi Kat. Rosie says it took about six weeks to feel good. She didn’t go ‘cold turkey’ but took a gradual approach – going from twice weekly shampoos to once a week and then once a fortnight before stopping. She had tried it earlier in the year but gave up after four or five weeks. She is very glad she persevered this time, but does still occasionally miss that ‘squeaky clean’ just shampooed feel. She also said it is good to invest in some Alice bands and scarves to divert attention from your hair during the first weeks. Good luck!


I would love some feedback - tell me what you think.....

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.