Summertime skin irritations; causes and cures

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Once the warm, humid weather hits, the emails start rolling in; “Jane, I have a rash on my face. What should I do about it?!” Here is the physiology of warm weather skin irritations and what to do about them.

Skin irritation occurs when the tissue is abraded, is touched with an allergen or, most commonly, when the natural pH of the skin is disturbed.  The skin is by nature slightly acidic measuring between 4.5 to 5.5 on the pH scale and it is this acidity that helps to kill or neutralize irritants.  However, with prolonged exposures or severe changes in pH, the deeper immune system functions are engaged releasing histamines that cause heat and swelling, white blood cells that create redness all resulting in bumps & rashes that damage the surface skin cells resulting in peeling, flaking and sloughing. Then when the skin is in this state of newly exposed cells after the flaking/peeling, it becomes hyper-sensitive which can cause the irritation to become chronic and repeat itself.  And thus the summertime skin irritation that does not want to go away.

Itchy-Eyelids-3Heat-Rash-2bumps2Common warm weather irritations:

  1. The crease above the eyelids and the eyelids themselves – inflamed, itchy and stingy
  2. The forehead – red, stingy rashes and bumps
  3. The center of the face – little pustules and red bumps

Common causes:

Perspiration can be a higher pH than the skin due to the sodium chloride (pH 6.7 – 7.3) it contains. Once the moisture dissipates from the sweat then the salt remains alone on the skin causing irritation which can create a rash. Additionally, perspiration can activate products used on face and in the hair to weep downward to areas not intended for them which causes irritation. Common irritating products:

  • hair styling products – the pH is not compatible with the skin, the gelling agents are clogging and the solvents they contain are an irritant. Additionally, the artificial fragrances are extreme irritants.
  • exfoliating treatment serums/cremes – these types of products are a low pH to activate the renewal sloughing process in the skin of the face but NOT the eye area.
  • Chemical sunscreens – most skins are irritated by the chemicals in sunscreens and when absorbed into the eye area, cause great irritation.
  • mineral make-up when it contains bismuth oxychloride – the common ingredient in MOST mineral make-up is a metal that can cause great irritation and stinging especially when activated by perspiration.

Prevention:

  • Rinse skin within two hours of heavy perspiring to avoid sodium irritation.
  • Avoid wearing exfoliating products when you know you will be in the heat and potentially perspiring.
  • Avoid chemical sunscreens and instead use only natural sunscreens formulated with zinc and titanium oxides like Euchlora’s SummerSilk (also check this ingredient list to make sure your product will not clog the skin).
  • Avoid wearing mineral make-ups with bismuth oxychloride in general and especially when you will be sweating.  Try Euchlora’s custom blended (B.O.-free) mineral Powders and Sheer Moisture Tints.

Cures:

  1. EYES – On clean skin, douse the entire eye area inside and out with anti-histamine eye drops.  Once soaked in, rub the area with an ice-cube for up to 15 seconds.  Using a QTip, apply a thin coat of calamine lotion to the affected area and let dry.  Splash this off with cold water then apply Euchlora’s EyesTea followed by a very, very thin dab of Stop it * avoiding application close to the lashes.  Following this treatment, avoid wearing eye make-up with lustre or sparkle, remove eye make-up only with oil or creamy cleanser (if not wearing make-up simply rinse eye area with water) and twice a day apply EyesTea followed by a very, very thin coat of Stop it.  Repeat initial treatment once a week until irritation is gone. *If irritation is pronounced hydrocortisone ointment may be needed initially.
  2. FOREHEAD – Clean skin with a pH balanced, fragrance-free foaming cleanser such as Euchlora’s Purify Frothing Cleanser.  Apply a generous coat of Calamine lotion or for greater amplified results, apply Euchlora’s Terraflora Masque.  Let these dry completely, then splash off with cold water.  Apply a coat of Stop it then at a second time each day, wash as above and reapply ointment.  Repeat daily until rash resolves.  NOTE:  This method also works for heat rash on any part of the body.
  3. CENTER OF FACE – Pustules and bumps in this area of the face can be an indication of the disorder Rosacea that is activated by heat and humidity.  These rashy bumps can also simply be caused by heat and perspiration as above.  For either, wash face with a pH balanced, fragrance-free foaming cleanser such as Euchlora’s Purify Frothing Cleanser.  Apply a clay masque such as Euchlora’s Terraflora Masque and let dry.  Rinse off with cold water and apply 2 pumps of Euchlora’s TLBC vitamin C Concentrate serum to entire face.  Repeat once a day until bumps have subsided.  Maintain results using TLBC regularly and avoiding heavy moisturizers during heat and humidity favoring light zinc oxide moisturizers like Euchlora’s Tranquility Lotion.

Please feel free to contact me in the studio with any further questions.  If you are in California check in with Jane-Ann Lowes at BlushLA.

Jane Balshaw jbalshaw@comcast.net  603-491-7305

 

Product knowledge; Stop it! salve

DSC06019Stop it! is a creamy salve that stops skin irritation, prevents scarring and halts the formation of skin plaques associated with psoriasis & eczema.  This simple formula includes the natural anti-oxidant, anti-stress and moisture benefits from refined organic shea butter and shea oil.  Additionally included is cyclo-dimethicone, a non-toxic silicone that is used in the medical field as a barrier for the skin post surgery allowing it to heal from the inside out disallowing oxidation of the tissue which causes scabbing and scarring.  A dab of blue german chamomile balances the formula to add anti-inflamatory treatment.

I have custom-blended this salve for many of my psoriasis clients for some time now.  They have found that it cures their plaques all together and with continued use prevents them from reforming.  I am prone to rashes and find that this completely stops them.  An additional benefit I found recently it to use this as a preventative coating when I know I will be exposed to elements that can cause my rashes—when around paint fumes and when out-of-doors in brutal weather.  Andrea has found this works for her as well in this manner and has prevented her normal winter skin irritations.

This is a product that we all should have in our medicine cabinets for when ever we might have a skin emergency; a little goes a long way.

Weather alert; put on your layers (of skincare)!

DSC06182Just like we don vests, scarves and silk undergarments when the weather temps drop and the wind chill sets in, we need to add additional layers to the skin on our face for IT’S protection!  Cold temperatures coagulate our skin’s oil before it can get to the surface and wind plus dry interior environments causes the water in our skin to evaporate.  The loss of these which comprise the skin’s Hydro-Lipid Film that is part of our immune system, leaves the skin vulnerable to irritation, wind burns, rosacea break-outs and an uneven complexion.  SO, put on some extra layers to avoid this.

Here is how (see my personal routine at the end):

  1. Avoid foaming cleansers that might strip too much oil away.  Instead use creamy or oil cleansers this time of year face AND neck.
  2. When skin is still wet from cleaning apply a thin layer of a watery serum that’s purpose is to hydrate the skin over the whole face/neck.  Let soak in.
  3. Apply a thick lotion or cream over this to the entire face/neck.
  4. In many cases the skin may need even more so spot apply a few drops of a good skin oil to the cheeks and forehead.  Rosehip, sweet almond, argan…

My routine:

Your skin may need a different routine so if you need help please contact me!

Natural bug repellents that cause sunburning

sun sensitivity plant oils For those of us in New England who love the outdoors, the biting insects that show up at this time of year can be annoying! And if we have concerns about using chemical bug repellents on our bodies, using plant fragrance oils give us natural protection and peace of mind. But beware; many of the common oils used in natural bug repellents can increase your risk of sunburn and allergic reaction!

natural-vs-chemical-ingredientsPlant fragrance oils (called essential oils) are the volatile essences of various plant materials. Extracted from the plant in a concentrated form, these oils contain the assorted organic components of the plant.  As a visual, think of the viles in a chemistry lab; like these, essential oils are intensely active and flammable combinations of chemicals.

The chemical constituent coumarin occurs in many common plants and is responsible for lending a particular sweet smell.  However, when coumarin is applied directly to the skin it absorbs UV light then releases it into the dermis creating photosensitivity (reactivity to UV light).  Wearing any of the following plant oils that contain coumarin while in the sun greatly increases your risk of sun burning, sun spotting or developing an allergic rash.

WHILE IN THE SUN, AVOID WEARING BUG REPELLENTS (or body lotions & perfumes) THAT CONTAIN:

  • lavender
  • common orange
  • mandarin orange
  • bergamot
  • lemon
  • cassia “cinnamon”
  • Calendula
  • angelica

And if you happen to be experimenting with rare and unusual essential oils or bathing in herbs ( 🙂 ), parsley, tarragon and celery also contain coumarins!

It is further interesting to note that coumarins have been synthesized in the laboratory for use in making perfumes adding that particular sweet smell.  This could explain why many/most synthetic fragrances create photosensitivity!  The ramifications are endless; fragranced soaps, shampoos, sunscreens, body lotions… this is one of the reason why I am an advocate for avoiding synthetic fragrance.

The most effective essential oil I have found to repel bugs is Eucalyptus Citriodoro.  The Nation Center for Disease Control has classified this as a suitable replacement for DEET.  You may have noticed the postings at some of the trail heads in New Hampshire mentioning this.  My client Stacia, who is a farrier, uses this on her horses to repeal flies.

You might enjoy my latest concoction, Outdoor Body Mousse, a skin conditioning & soothing mousse-creme that provides natural, chemical-free sunblocking while additionally repelling bugs. Sweat resistant, non-greasy, mineral-tinted glow with a silky dry finish. Along with zinc oxide, plant extract Eucalyptus Citriodoro creates an anti-inflammatory effect on the skin while providing an uplifting citrus/eucalyptus scent. SPF around 25; apply liberally for best protection. Sitting in the yard side by side with David, black flies are all over him while not a one is touching me when wearing this. The smell reminds me of summer!

I also sell the oil alone by the 1/2 oz.

603-491-7305   jbalshaw@comcast.net

The Art of the Bath

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Oozing into warmth, the quiver of contrast giving way to the rush of blissful release…ahhhh, the comfort of The Bath!  But more times than not when I am invited in to see someone’s newly remodeled bathroom, there sits center stage – framed in artisan tile work, punctuated with gleaming metal apparatus, flanked by artwork –  a gorgeous bath tub that the owner admits to having never used!  And through my own gifting of bath salts that sat unwrapped, I have come to realize that many people do not understand the benefits of The Bath.

My sister and I in our youth playing in the bath.

My sister and I in our youth playing in the bath.

Unlike the shower, the artful bath is not specifically about efficient cleaning; any kid will tell you that!  The bath soak is about renewing ones whole self, through detoxification, by limbering up arthritic joints or aching muscles, clearing sinuses, calming the mind and conditioning the skin.  Ten minutes in the tub can have the same effect as two Tylenol & a massage or an hour-long therapy session!  My daily ritual of a bath soak keeps my troublesome joints pain-free, warms me up to last all day long, keeps my sensitive body-skin free of rashes and helps keep my overly active mind peaceful.

DSC04155DSC04157I take a bath each morning to separate my very early morning ritual of reading, research and writing from my active work day.  That 10 minutes sets the mood of calm and balance for my day and is a treat that I look forward to; a reward, if you will, for the mind exercises.  For someone else it could be the reward for body exercises; that long run or time at the gym.  In the winter I will also take a bath at the end of the day using the warmth and the aromatherapy to induce a deep sleep.  The bath provides that mysterious “margin” in the day that helps us separate duty from the living life fully, that helps us release the compulsive to-do lists and helps percolate thoughts of creativity (I design some of my best stuff while in the tub).

aromatherapy2Any bath tub will do even if it is not luxurious but you want to make sure you can get your shoulders down in it.  Using blow-up vinyl bath pillows can help adjust your neck in a tub that is too straight in the back and in most tubs you should use a suction-cup plastic water-escape cover for the upper drain to allow the tub to fill up deeply (both available at any bed and bath store). I take a bath when I travel and have used some of the most pitiful tubs by rolling up extra towels under my neck and draping wash cloths over the escape drain.

The first step to taking a bath is to allow time for it.  Just like flossing your teeth or scheduling a hair cut, you need to put time aside for your whole body health.

How to take a bath:

  1. Start the water running at your desired temperature.   “Warm” is best.  Too hot will dissolve away too many of your skin’s natural protective oils and too cold will defeat the therapeutic purpose of the bath.
  2. Add salts: Under the running water add in any powders or salts.
  3. Add essential oils: Close the bath room door to trap in the heat/steam and the healthful positive ions produced by running water, and just before the tub is full, add in any aromatherapy plant essential “oils” under the running water.  The fragrance from these oils will release into the room providing a pleasurable and therapeutic fragrance to enhance your bath.  The oils in the water will also treat the skin and penetrate into your body for a therapeutic effect.
  4. Add bubbles: If you desire cleansing bubbles then add several pumps of a foaming wash that does NOT contain any sulfates, dyes or artificial fragrance all of which are bad for the skin and delicate body areas.  Dispense directly under the running water for the best effect.  Euchlora’s Purify Frothing Cleanser is perfect for this.
  5. Turn off water and swirl the tub around with a foot or hand to make sure all “oils” are dispersed.  Climb in and relax.  Wash where you need to but also catch up on your magazine reading, drink water, sip a cup of tea or simply just ponder.
  6. Get out and towel off briskly to remove dead skin cells and salt.  While still semi-damp apply a body lotion suited for your skin type avoiding artificial fragrance and dyes which are not good for the skin.  Euchlora’s customized Hand and Body Lotion is perfect.  Drink a glass of water to rehydrated after especially if you have detoxed.

RECIPES FOR THE PERFECT BATH:

The De-Stress bath:  Add 1/2 to 2 cups* cup epsom salt and 1 to 2 ml* of the following essential oil blend; a combination of grapefruit, geranium, a dab of clary sage or vetivert.

epsom-salt-grey-large

Grey epsom salt

The science: When you have been under a lot of stress your body produces free radical positive ions. The neutral ionic charge of the salt will help neutralize some of the stress ions and the high content of magnesium in epsom helps sooth muscle tension.  The oils react with the nervous system to calm it and induce euphoria.

The Detoxify bath:  Add 1/4 to 1 cup baking soda plus 1/4 to 1 cup* mineral laden salts such as Himilayan Pink Salt or Dead Sea Salt and 1 to 2 ml* of the following essential oil blend; a combination of juniper, lemon, sage, rosemary, pine or fir.

The science:  When you have over indulged in celebratory foods and beverages (sugars), the body becomes more acidic.  The higher pH of the baking soda helps to counter balance this while the extra salt content in the water draws the impurities out of your body through osmosis.  The oils work with the lymphatic system to draw toxins and kill bacteria in the body through their natural phenols.

Purply blue dead sea salts

Purply-blue dead sea salts

The Soothing bath: Add 1/4 to 1 cup* mineral laden salts such as Himilayan Pink Salt or Dead Sea Salt plus 1/2 to 1 cup* dried milk or dried yogurt solids and 1 to 2 ml* of the following essential oil blend; a combination of chamomile, neroli, petigrain, orange, lavender.

The science: The high mineral content on these kinds of salts treat skin irritations and the lactic acid in the dairy softens tissue.  Additionally, the probiotics in yogurt help balance the bacteria in the skin helping to treat fungal or yeast irritations.  Salt helps to tighten the skin as well.  The oils calm redness in the skin and react with the immune system to halt reactions.

Peachy pink himalayan salt

Peachy-pink himalayan salt

Next time you are in, let me gift you with a pre-blended yogurt bath-salt powder that I keep in stock during the winter months or let me create a blend of essential oils specifically for your skin type.   603-491-7305  jbalshaw@comcast.netbath-feet_2206587b

SOURCES:  Specialty salts can be purchased through The Salt Cellar in Portsmouth, NH or Portland, ME and some can be obtained through natural foods stores or on-line.

*Tub sizes vary and therefore so do the amount of additives.  Use the lesser amount listed for standard sized tubs up to the larger amounts for full sized jet tubs.

Dry cold-weather skin; causes and remedies

dry forehead shutterstock_77409244As we all now know from all this snow we have been having, when cold weather bumps up against a warm front, a storm ensues.  This is a pretty great analogy when thinking about what happens to our skin in a moderately extreme winter climate.  When the less-moist temperatures drop outside and the dry heat goes up inside, a storm of conflicting conditions arise resulting in unbalanced, dry and irritated skin.

The skin is part of our immune system and as such it “reads” our environment adjusting itself to protect the body.  When external temperatures drop to the point when our natural “shiver factor” sets in and goosebumps occur on the skin from the activated erector pili muscle, an internal alarm is sounded to protect the bodies core.  The skin then willingly gives up its supply of naturally protective water, nutrients and oils to send to the home front recognizing that our fashionably slim, reduced-fat bodies need help.  (visualize Eskimos)

Then we walk inside – wearing our layers and wraps and coverings – into a blast furnace with all moisture and oxygen sucked out of the air.  Our poor skin doesn’t stand a chance.  If you add to the mix that perhaps hormone shifts have caused a natural loss of skin oils or you are super-exfoliating the skin with retinoid or acid preparations or skin scrubbing, dermatitis is sure to set in.

dry skin canstockphoto2335282“Dermatitis” is a name for any irritated skin condition.  Whether it is caused from exposure to sensitizing allergens or just winter weather, the skin reaction is the same.  The skin as part of the immune system reacts against the sensitizer and releases histamines (causing redness, itchiness, rashes) and in advanced cases, lymphatic white blood cells crash the skin site creating pimple-like bumps.

allergic dermatitus pustles 2 canstockphoto5440241

Like most things in life there are two strategies for dealing with this problem; #1 prevention and #2 remedies.

Prevention tips:  With dramatic weather shifts, what works to care for the skin at one part of the year, fails in another.  So to prevent any immune system reaction resulting in dermatitis, you must coat the skin with extra layers of breathable product on a daily basis; products with extra *skin-friendly oils and heavy dozes of vitamins plus hydration serums and soothing herbal blends. This extra coating is simulating what your skin would normally produce on its own if we took away the triggers that cause it to diminish (temperature shifts, hormones).    Lessen the aggressive scrubbing and replace with gentle enzyme exfoliation only.  If you are spending lots of time outdoors with winter sports, consider applying a layer of non-comedogenic oil or unpetroleum jelly to your face to protect your skin and blood vessels.

Remedies:  Once your skin is in a reactive state with irritated dry redness, what works in a normal skin renewal routine may not work.  Skin renewal products such as what I might give someone, or what you might buy over the counter, are aimed at getting the skin to turn over cells faster and slough itself, exactly NOT what you want to do with irritation present.  So if your skin is in this state, stop all retinoid or acid products, stop all scrubs and exfoliants and do the opposite; de-stimulate.   Apply cold compresses, splash skin with colloidal oatmeal infused water, apply salves with *skin-friendly oils & herbs, coat the skin with vitamin E and if the reaction will not stop then try a thin layer of  cortisone jelly (not the creme form which can clog the skin).  Once the skin has balanced then consider adjusting your basic skin routine to prevent further reactions.

These tips form a great guideline but if you want some specific direction or some products customized just for you, please consider a consultation with me.  Click here for more information.  If you are having an acute reaction and are not working with a physician, consider this skin treatment I can provide.   Please share this article with anyone you think might find it helpful – thank you!

12/12/13   “Hi Jane,

You were so nice to take the time to notice and ask about the 2 rashy spots on my hand at my facial the other day.  You suggested your hand and body lotion and whipped up a bottle with a few extra ingredients for me before I left.  It has been 3 days that I have been applying the lotion to the breakout of rashes on my hand, back, arms and legs.  I had tried cortizone and prescribed steroid creams and Eucerin lotion for the last 6 weeks without luck — still itchy (keeping me up at night), red and not resolving.  Well, I am seeing results with your hand and body lotion!  The bumpiness has relaxed, not itchy last night = SLEEP, redness diminishing and I think I may just be on the road to recovery, thank goodness!

Two Lessons Learned:  Always consult with Jane with skin issues immediately as she always has a solution.  And never be shy to tactfully use your expertise to help others.  If you had not inquired of my rash on my hand I would still be itching!

Thanks so much for what I refer to as ‘your magic’!  And please feel free to share this story with others as I am sure I am not the only one that gets these lovely rashy breakouts – especially in this weather!

Sincerely,

Kandi”