Monday, August 11, 2014

Banishing the Alligator Skin

So my kids are both dry-skinned little ones. The big guy was diagnosed with eczema when he was teeny - probably two months old. The doctor prescribed him a topical steroid. She even told me, "if you apply this every day, it can thin his skin." And I still used it! (Can you believe that?!)

Eventually, at about age three, his skin softened up and we just stuck with using regular lotion on his extremities after a bath. He was fine.

Then the little one comes along, and he was a health nightmare! Among several health issues, he of course, had eczema. I didn't want to thin his skin with steroids - I was a bit more educated in natural approaches than I was both my big guy. While littlest was nursing, I eliminated meat, dairy, and peanuts from my diet to see if those were causing issues. They weren't. Dietarily, I was going about it improperly, but I didn't know that, three years ago.

When the little one turned three, his skin did not clear up. It got worse, in fact. He not only had dry skin, but it was rough, scabby, slightly discolored, and the poor guy complained that it itched  constantly. When I went to my [holistic practicing] doctor for my dry skin and allergies, she suggested eliminating dairy and gluten. Isn't that just a fad? I already buy organic, whole wheat flour, shouldn't that be enough? Pffft.

It took about four weeks for me to see any difference, but my face cleared up, my stomach deflated a bit (no, I didn't lose weight, sorry friends!), I could breathe (that was a plus), and I didn't need to scratch my legs with my driver's license every evening because they were so itchy. Mkay... fad or not, no gluten meant yes happy.

Meanwhile, I'm soaking my kid in oatmeal baths, exfoliating him with sugar scrubs, blobbing on straight Shea butter, and not using soap but twice a week on his dry, scabby skin.

*Light bulb* ... Take gluten out of his diet! (...duh!)

So apparently, there was soft, sweet baby skin underneath all those scales... It took him about four weeks also, but sure enough, he didn't complain about itchiness, and didn't wake up with little, scabby bumps along his forearms, tummy, thighs, and hips.

Does he still break out? Sometimes, when his dad falls for the face if Dad's enjoying pancakes or a cookie and gives him one. When he does have those mishaps, I apply a skin salve that I whip up and it helps with the inflammation and itchiness - the same recipe I used while we were waiting for the no-gluten diet to kick in. Regularly, he still has dry skin, as we all do here in Arid-zona, but the itching, discoloration, and scabs are gone. Happy mama.

Here's a skin salve recipe that works for us. I only use this on my littlest, because he still has the more problematic skin. As for the rest of us, I use different combinations of oils, butters, and essential oils (EOs), which I'll give recipes on in separate posts.

Anti-Alligator Skin Salve

1 Tbsp avocado oil
1 tsp vitamin E oil

Using a candle warmer (here's one for cheap):

Add the Shea butter and coconut oil to the container you plan to keep your skin salve in. Place the container with the oils on the candle warmer, and turn it on. The Shea butter will take a particularly long time to melt entirely, so give it at least an hour.

While you're waiting, you can mix the vitamin E and avocado oils and set aside.

 When the oils on the candle warmer are thoroughly melted, gently stir them with a spoon. Turn off the warmer, and mix in the other oils.

Put a tight cap on the container of skin salve, and place in the refrigerator until hard, then remove. Don't leave it in there, it will get grainy. The texture should be creamy.

Using a double boiler:

If you do not have a double boiler, you can make one by filling a small saucepan about halfway with water, and putting a glass or metal bowl on top. Make sure it is big enough not to fall in, but not so big or heavy that it creates suction onto the pan.

Set the stove heat to very low. Let that heat for a good while. 

**You don't want the water to boil because if you heat Shea butter too quickly, it becomes grainy once it cools. Shea butter is very temperamental stuff!

Place the Shea butter in the bowl on top of the saucepan and let it melt, completely. Do not let any water get into your oils (this helps the preservation -  no mold will build up with no water!). 

In a separate container, combine the vitamin E and avocado oils and set aside.

When the oil in the double boiler is completely melted, mix them together with a spoon, then pour into your container of choice. Mix in other oils to the melted shea butter.

Stir well, cap tight, and put in the refrigerator until hard. Remove once the skin salve hardens.

To use: 
After a bath or shower, pat skin dry with a towel. Immediately apply the skin cream to affected areas, let it soak into the skin for about three minutes, then dress as usual.

I keep my boy's skin salve in a closet next to his bedroom, and it is usually used up within about three weeks. I would say it keeps well over six months, as long as no water has gotten into the salve container, and is tightly sealed.

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