I want to use less topical steroid for my eczema, saving it for emergency cases rather than maintenance, especially since I use a strong product (the only one I’m not allergic to). I have experienced some negative effects from over-use of topical steroid ointment and immune inhibitors. I would love to use them one or two times per week rather than every second day or more, because I know that they can be helpful (and a life saver!) if used appropriately.
I learned when writing Monday’s blog post that high-mineral-content sea salt, especially dead sea salt, can be good for calming irritated skin and helping to hold moisture in the skin. This makes sense, because I have in the past successfully used epsom salts to help calm my scalp. These salts can often be found in creams, lotions, and masks for just that reason. I also learned that peroxide can kill Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, but only in high doses (higher than is safe for skin). Staph. bacteria are said to be related to incidence of eczema. I decided to try an experiment.
I was having an eczema flare on my arms, back, neck, and chest. On the first day, I put epsom salt water on one side of my body and diluted peroxide on the other side. I added peroxide frequently so that I was using lower concentrations but replenishing the peroxide often in the hopes of overwhelming any Staph. that was present. I did not rinse. On the second day, I repeated the peroxide and put Dead Sea salt water on the epsom salt side (both salts are high in magnesium). I mixed one tablespoon of Dead Sea salt into 250 mL of water. I used a face cloth as a compress, because I didn’t want to soak my whole body in the tub right up to my ears. The sea salt side was red and angry-looking after that treatment. I then rubbed a bit of coconut oil on my damp skin (both sides). Both days, I treated both arms equally with prescription creams.
On the morning of the third day, the salt side of my body was almost smooth, only pink and slightly raised in a few spots, and well-moisturized. The peroxide side was covered with the eczema that had already been there, lumpy, and dry.
I decided to try the salt water all over, followed by coconut oil, and give up on peroxide. From the results above, I clearly had a winner. My eyelid stopped itching after a brief wipe with the sea salt water, too, but the relief was temporary. I should have rinsed it off after a few minutes. Normally when my eyelid starts itching I have about 12 hours to apply immune inhibitor cream before my eyelid swells up. This tends to happen every two to three days. This time, the itching stopped within a half hour of applying the salt water. While relief was slower on my heavily-reacting arms and neck than with steroidal creams, the treatment was absolutely a relief.
Five days later, my skin is still not healed, but it’s better. My chest and back, and the back of my neck, are the best. The front of my neck and my arms are not so lucky yet. My eyes, on the other hand, are getting worse as the rest of my skin improves. I’ve realized that this whole reaction I’m having must be the delayed response to the house contamination a week prior. Obviously I was premature in thinking I’d gotten through it reaction-free; it WAS a pretty strong allergen exposure. It’s the worst flare I’ve had in a year, since I was first diagnosed with these allergies.
Would I use epsom salts or Dead Sea salts again as an eczema flare treatment? Probably not, unless the flare was on a very small part of my body. Will I use this method for continuing skin maintenance so that I can limit my topical steroid and immune inhibitor cream use? Absolutely. I’ve found the best way to ensure I don’t overload my skin with salt is to splash the water onto my skin with my hand while wiping so that old salt is rinsed off as the new salt is applied, if I haven’t washed it off already. This way the amount of salt used is limited to appropriate amounts. On sensitive areas, including my scalp, I need to rinse off after a few minutes.
Have you tried using high-mineral-content salts to help reduce reactivity in atopic or allergic skin? What was your experience? Comment below.