I wish they could. But unfortunately the answer is no.
Then how helpful is a cold process bar for the condition? And if so, in what way? I am not a dermatologist nor an expert in the topic. However through my own personal experience with eczema that occurred only in adulthood and understanding of cold process soaps, I'd share what I know, and hope it can benefit any new eczema friends seeking these information.
First off, there isn't really a cure for eczema. What we can do as eczema warriors is to understand better how the condition thrive in our body and do our best to cope with it, or rather, prevent it from occurring, or worsening.
3 key ways to cope
Identify and avoid triggers of flares
Identify and avoid conditions that worsen flares
Moisturise, moisturise, moisturise
1. Understanding and avoiding triggers of flares
This is probably an obvious question yet it is one that is the most difficult to find an answer to. Cos the triggers differ from individual to individual and can come from multiple sources, ranging from physical contact to food allergy..
My own eczema started from my ring finger where out of the blue, my finger became allergic to the ring material and started itching. The mistake I made was to ignore the issue for too long and I didn't remove the ring until it was too late.
By the time I decided to take the condition seriously, the itch had become so unbearable and the infected area extended quickly from the ring joint, to the tip of the ring finger, across to the middle finger and across the palm.
While difficult to pinpoint the exact triggers, we can consider doing patch/allergy tests or simply observing how a new bout of flare starts. What did we recently come into contact with, or ate that we normally don't? This is easier said than done though, so we need to be really intentional about the process.
2. Understanding and avoiding conditions that worsen flares
The good news is that finding the conditions that worsen flares would be easier than identifying the triggers. Although it doesn't safeguard new flares from occurring, this can potentially help us recover from each flare faster and prevent the Big E from "conquering more territory".
Some of the conditions that I personally try to avoid or minimise around the eczema area whenever I have a flare:
Sanitizer with alcohol
Sadly with the pandemics, it was really hard to avoid this. And in some facilities, it was mandatory for us to sanitise our hands prior to entry.
Where possible, I'll try to wash my hands with cold process soap bars rather than use sanitiser.
Scented moisturiser or skincare
I've realised that my skin doesn't agree with skincare products strongly scented with synthetic fragrance so I've opted for unscented leave-on products wherever I can.
Yep. The basics - water. Constant contact with water prevented my skin from healing. When my flares are very bad, I go to the extent of keeping my hand totally off water even during showers, and only clean with a wet towel. This is very challenging for me since my work revolves around so much water, so I'm on a constant lookout for good gloves that I can work with and not touch water unnecessarily.
In all forms - water, steam, and on metal surfaces.
Whenever the hot or even just warm water in the showers hit my palm, I can feel the area getting raw. So whenever I have to handle hot water / containers during my soaping process, I remind myself not to let down my guard and do it with bare hands.
While any other person might be able to handle hot items without trouble, my skin is so thin I have to take extra care. It only takes a few seconds to pause, take and use a mitten but if I were lazy, it may mean taking a week or more longer than needed to heal.
Besides direct heat, staying cool overall also helps the condition to calm.
This is probably the biggest challenge for all eczema friends. That few seconds of absolute
'shiok' when the scratch fires up every single nerve in the body (who understands this?) is short lived. Cos after that few seconds of momentary bliss, regret and despair set in as we've just lost one round to the Big E. The moment we decide to give in to the urge to scratch, the eczema territory victoriously expands. And you probably already know that every territory it ever conquers are areas flares can easily occur again, anytime.
Any form of friction around the eczema patch can have devastating consequence. Which is why we do not recommend eczema friends to use our Dead Sea Celtic Salt Bar on eczema prone areas for exfoliation.
Even a rough towel rubbed onto the eczema patch can lead to the condition lengthening its stay during a flare. So make sure to choose comfortable material that is in direct contact with eczema prone skin and restrict friction.
As far as possible, I personally try to avoid any application of steroid cream unless it is really going out of control and impacting my everyday life. And even so, I will apply just enough to get the condition under control then avoid the conditions above to heal naturally over time.
3. Moisturise, moisturise, moisturise
I cannot stress this enough, and I'm talking to myself cos this is where I often go complacent and fail.
I'm not the most hardworking in the department of skincare, and rarely will you find me moisturising my skin, even though I should. But with eczema skin, it is really critical not to ever let it dry out, cos that's when flares have the perfect conditions to attack and other skin conditions can set in.
Beauty of Cold Process bars for eczema skin
A fundamental role that a well formulated cold process soap bars play for all users (not just eczema warriors) is not letting our skin's natural oil dry out during showers.
During the crafting of cold process bars, glycerin is naturally produced as a byproduct and locked inside the bar. Unlike commercial manufacturing, crafting soaps using this age old method doesn't allow for glycerin to be extracted from the bar for sale. Glycerin being a humectant, draws moisture from the environment to the soap and our skin. This explains why a cold process bar becomes sticky on a humid day or 'melt' when left to sit in a pool of water, and our skin feels extra smooth and soft on rainy days.
Versus mass commercial soap bars where natural glycerin might have been extracted or liquid shower gels where the surfactants used can be overly effective in cleansing, cold process soaps is the better choice to preserve the moisture in our skin. On top of that, the bar can be formulated with a good balance of oils to further nourish the dry skin. As a final touch, additives helpful to sooth eczema conditions such as Oatmeal, Turmeric, Marshmallow root / Calendula infusion can be added to the soaps.
I'm often being asked the question, "so which bar is the best for eczema?" Well, there isn't really a good answer to this question. Everybody's skin is unique and what works well for someone may not be the best option for another. Especially for sensitive skin, more care needs to be taken in the choice of any cleansing or leave on skin care products.
Oatmeal has been used since the ancient times for skin conditions. It is said to help soothe the dryness, itch and irritation brought about by eczema and is an emollient that holds moisture for the skin. Which explains why Lavender Oatmeal is consistently our number one top selling bar throughout the years. Having said that, I've also encountered users who cannot tolerate oatmeal, which is why it's really difficult to claim that any one bar is the best.
Hence for users with very sensitive skin, I will recommend for them to start off with unscented bars like Unscented Oatmeal, Vanilla Cocoa Swirl, Calendula Maple Oats or Calendula Heart to minimise the risk of essential oil intolerance. If the unscented bars work well for them, then they can start testing out whether their skin can accept essential oils by trying our scented range which includes Lavender Oatmeal, Turmeric Sunrise and Marshmallow Bubblegum. For our Eczema friendly collection, we've selected essential oils that generally work for sensitive skin, but it's always a good idea to test for individual usage.
Eczema users who know they are OK with essential oil may choose to take up our 6-months 'Surprise Me' Eczema Friendly bar subscription. 2 different bars from our Eczema Friendly collection will be sent every 2 months so you have a little surprise each time and get to try out different bars to see which you like most or work best for your skin. If you already have a favourite, you can also choose to just receive that same favourite bar throughout the 6 months.
And in case you wonder, Eczema friendly bars are not exclusive to eczema warriors. Every one, young and old can benefit from these extra nourishing bars which by keeping our skin moisturised can help to prevent skin conditions from setting in.
Cold Process Soaps DO NOT replace Moisturisers
I wish they do, but they don't.
While cold process bars do not strip our skin of their natural oils during showers, our skin requires additional moisturising agent on top of it to protect our skin vs the environment and elements. And this is even more critical for people with sensitive skin as the Big E is always lurking, waiting for a chance to attack when the conditions are 'ripe'.
Hence to extend the duration between flares or to prevent them from occurring at all, we need to use cold process bars as a base during cleansing and top it up with a good moisturiser. In fact when my flare is really bad and the skin is parched like the desert, at risk of opening up into an open wound, I slap on a thick layer of moisturiser on the affected area instead of applying thinly, to accelerate the healing process.
And, (talking to myself again), even when the skin has miraculously and almost unbelievably healed back into soft and smooth skin with no telltale sign of an earlier eczema attack, we cannot let up on the moisturising routine. As I had often done that, and to my utmost despair, the dreaded tiny bubbles start surfacing again.
Well, I'm not sure if anybody made it till this far and I can really go on and on. If you are still here, would love to hear what other suggestions you have to keep the big E at bay!
Hope this helps. Let's fight the Big E together!!