Notes About the Information:
Eczema Has Many Causes
Eczema has many causes. This site details my family's experience with only one of those causes, and the process by which we discovered it. In addition, the site includes a brief section on other types of eczema which I believe also have solutions.
The Parent’s Perspective
I have written this information to parents of children with eczema because they made the majority of inquiries. Many adults with eczema have asked for instructions for themselves and may find this information useful as well. For the sake of simplicity, I have written all descriptions and instructions as if to the parents of a child with eczema, but all the information translates to adults with eczema who wish to try this.
Potential Pitfalls/Complete Answers
This solution will not help everyone with eczema. The path to this solution is fraught with pitfalls, and at the very least will involve a lot of work. But if the detergent sensitivity described here is the cause of your child's eczema, this solution could allow you to eliminate the eczema completely.
I Am Still Learning About This
I have written this web site to share what we learned in the course of our experience in hopes that it may help others. I can promise that I am a meticulous and thorough detective, but I do not pretend to have all the answers. I am not a doctor or a health care professional, I am just another parent wishing to help other parents. I offer this site purely for informational purposes; it is not intended to take the place of medical advice. Please read my disclaimer, use your judgment and make decisions about your child's care with your doctor.
Make Changes Carefully
Always remember that anyone can be
allergic to anything, and that any change you make can impact your
child's eczema, for better or for worse. I provide a lot of information
to help avoid potential pitfalls, but I cannot anticipate every
potential problem for every person. Even if detergents prove to be the
only cause of your child's eczema, they are so ubiquitous in home
environments today and are not eliminated by rinsing with water, so
implementing this solution will require ongoing thought and care. I
promised this site now to a few hundred people, many of whom read my
letter in the Eczema Association of Australasia newsletter or the
National Eczema Association for Science and Education newsletter. Most
of the people who wrote to me asked where they could find soap
Some of the same people described products they were using, mistakenly
believing some of their "hypoallergenic" or fragrance-free products
soap-based; virtually all of them were detergents.
I could not in good conscience simply share a list of products. In my limited experience of helping other people whose children potentially suffered from this allergy, I have found the switch from detergents to soaps to be fraught with many not-so-obvious pitfalls. I could not simply provide a list of soap products we use and hope to help as many people as possible, because some of the pitfalls make it seem that the eczema is not caused by detergents even when detergents are the only cause. Some of the pitfalls can make things worse - people need to be aware of how to avoid those pitfalls, even as they are aware that my experience almost certainly doesn't encompass everything that can go wrong. The solution I have discovered and am sharing should be approached with great caution and care. Eczema caused by this detergent sensitivity can easily seem like food allergies and dust-mite allergies, even when detergents are the only cause.
I have provided a list of products for informational purposes. The most common question asked was where to find products, so I have done my best to list as many as I could. I have not used all of the products listed, nor am I endorsing any of the products listed.
Please Read Everything First Before Making Up Your Mind
I think it is important to read through all the information I have provided to see how well this situation fits your own, to understand whether making this switch is worth the effort, and to be aware of any possible pitfalls before you begin. I spent months trying to compose the information for this site — to some extent, years — yet it is not in as complete a form as I would like. I wanted to get the information to people as soon as I reasonably could. I appreciate knowledgeable feedback on the content, especially if you are a specialist in surfactant or lipid chemistry! This web site is a work in progress - if it is helpful to you, please check back every few months for changes and new additions.
Nothing Against Detergents Per Se
Although I clearly believe that a major fraction of eczema is
caused by a sensitivity to trace detergents of all types and that these
people would benefit from using soaps instead, I want to be very clear
that I have no axe to grind when it comes to detergents. I do not want
this information to be misinterpreted as saying all detergent products
are “bad” or that all soap products are “good.” Surfactant chemistry
has advanced to the point of blurring the lines between traditional
plant- and animal-based soaps and petroleum-based detergents anyway.
The relevant concerns in this case are the properties of the chemical
end-products, not the starting ingredients.
Detergents are useful chemicals that do a lot of good beyond household cleaning. Like most chemicals which are new on the landscape of humankind, we always have to consider how they impact the health of the planet and its inhabitants and make intelligent adjustments if they do. I believe it is eminently possible that detergents or detergent products can be developed or modified to solve this problem. Since surfactants are so important and widely used on earth, taking stock of their impact and making adjustments should come with the territory.
Your Child is Not Defective
The global problem of eczema has not been understood or solved by a
long shot. In my opinion, taking the common perspective that eczema is
the result of a defect inherent in the child is destructive,
unwarranted, unscientific, and premature. This defect-perspective has
led to virtually every treatment and approach: adding lotion to make up
for the defect of dryness, suppressing the immune system to address a
supposed malfunction, recommending random experimentation with
different personal care products with the underlying assumption that
the child's system has gone haywire and can't handle "normal" products.
None of these approaches has resulted in a lasting, global solution.
Perhaps the perspective is right; I personally don't see it that way. I
think the perspective that the problem is a defect in the children
leads naturally to these less-than-satisfactory approaches. At the
least, until there are more definitive answers, we owe it to the
children to keep an open mind.
My son would not have had eczema had we lived 80 years ago, because detergents didn't exist on the planet. When his skin is not exposed to detergents, it is normal and not unusually dry. For whatever reason, his system chooses to tell me that exposure to detergents is a problem, the same way my body chooses to tell me that banging my knee against the corner of the desk is a problem. From that perspective, the response is a normal warning mechanism, a smart way for the immune system to communicate with the conscious brain, the way the nervous system communicates through pain. I don't see that as a defect.
I have seen at least one major research study describing my son's type of eczema in fine detail, yet the researchers have no solutions — it is clear they interpret what they observe as only something ABOUT the skin rather than from something they do not realize is ON the skin of these patients.
I solved my son's eczema because I believed - for good and logical
reasons - that his system was trying to tell me something very
important. I could not have solved his eczema had I taken the
I think it makes a difference to children to know they are not frail or defective or fundamentally at fault for this sometimes frightening condition. As with many medical problems, even when biological differences are illuminated, judging problems to result from "defects" is usually subjective. Is the problem of eczema from a complicated defect in our children, or is it a problem that comes from outside them which grown-ups may have caused and failed to understand properly to solve? Until we know that answer with absolute certainty, we owe it to the children to see them as strong and whole, and not overlay their suffering with any more guilt or pain than they may already feel.
I will be writing more about this topic in the last section of this site, still under construction. It will explain my perspective on allergy, and why I believed my child's eczema was not the result of an inherent defect, as I believe all eczema, even from foods, is not caused by inherent defects.
Lastly, I could not have begun to share this without the help of the wonderful people at the EAA (Eczema Association of Australasia) and NEASE (National Eczema Association for Science and Education). The EAA and NEASE are fantastic organizations dedicated to helping people who suffer from eczema and related problems. If this solution helps you to clear your child's eczema, please do not forget to let me know and to separately thank the EAA or the NEASE for letting me share this experience through their newsletters. I have been in contact with other wonderful eczema associations in the UK and Canada, and if you reached this information through them and it benefits you, please thank them as well. I am equally interested to know if the perspective or detective work described in these pages helps you find the cause of your child's eczema even if it is from a different cause.Best Wishes for finding a solution that works for you.