My Mum moans about having it in all the weirdest places and my eldest son was the most miserable, pathetic little creature who would cry at night, bloodied, itchy and sore; with sandpaper dry skin from the top of his head to the tips of his toes and the unending need to scratch. So what am I talking about? Eczema of course.
I tried all sorts of things for my son and nothing ever seemed to help, it resisted all the way – topical , dietary. alternative medicines – you name it we tried it. The thing that actually ‘cured’ it was a family holiday to Greece in 1997. It was blisteringly hot for the two weeks we were in Zakynthos but that didn’t stop the kids in and out the sea, the pool and lathered in sun cream – in and out the sunshine.
By day one, my son looked like a baked lobster and I panicked that the sun cream hadn’t worked – his whole body was red raw. But everyone else was fine. I couldn’t understand how he had caught the sun so badly, and yet he seemed unconcerned, he wasn’t overly hot or burning – it seemed most peculiar. The fact was that his skin stayed red raw for more than half that first week but there was no sun burn – it was his skin that seemed to have reacted to sun, sea and sand – but in a wholly good way. There was no itching, no bleeding, no scratching and as the holiday progressed the redness started to lessen and by the time we came home – there was no more eczema.
My eldest son has always since that day had dry and sandpapery skin – and whilst he has flare ups of eczema as he has got older – those early terrible days of bleeding and cracked skin were gone for good. It was amazing.
My Mother has never been abroad and so the same can’t be said for her – she wouldn’t be one for frolicking in the sea and truth be told even if she did – I am sure she would remain heavily swaddled up in lots of layers and therein lies her personal issue, because my mother gets eczema in places that easily get hot, or often where she has heavy elastication.
She has suffered for a long time with resistant eczema on her scalp at the nape of her neck – and annoyingly, that is where, about 5 years ago, I also started to develop raised, itchy lumps. They are only small – I have about 8 small patches, lumps that all itch at different times, but all are active pretty much all of the time.
Unlike my son, who suffered right from birth, and my mother who seems to have had it forever – this was a new thing for me and I hate it. It is a devil to deal with. The little lumps inflame, get dry, itch, crack, bleed and the cycle repeats over and over.
What to use?
Well Betnovate liquid for the scalp is a popular presciption – but I don’t like steroids and they don’t actually cure the blasted thing – it might subside it for a while, but not for long.
Creams of any sort are a nuisance because unless you can shave the hair away, getting to the scalp is problematic and the cream will make the hair greasy – some more than others. But eczema needs a lot of emollient and even then, with ruined hair it still might not be sufficient.
I have found coconut oil a useful oil for scalp eczema but the mess it makes of the hair is awful. I tended to use it on the night prior to hair wash day, the following morning – and that is how I have been managing it up till now.
Thinking back to my eldest son in Zakynthos – I never really got to the bottom of whether it was the Ionian Sea, the Greek sunshine or both that were to be thanked for the miracle it performed. We have never been back to Zakynthos, but certainly there is no suggestion I can recreate those marvellous ingredients taking a chilly dip in the North Sea – which brought me to think of the therapeutic effects I might get from using dead sea salt.
For about the last 6 months I have been using medicated shampoo which has helped a bit – but I realised I had about half a bag of dead sea salt in the cupboard. I like dead sea salt in a bath or mixed with some body oil as a scrub – it is very softening.
The therapeutic effects of Dead Sea salt are well known, but could it help with my eczema?
Well the short answer is a resounding – yes it can.
I have been itching badly lately, and seemed to forever be scratch scratch scratch – to be honest, it was starting to become a habit – I always seemed to be touching and rubbing at the back of my head. Nice Eh?
I took a few grains of salt between my fingers and just rubbed it into my nape.
Dead Sea salt has a slightly naturally oily texture – it isn’t the same as ordinary sea salt. It has a much lower sodium content and much more in terms of mineral content. Unlike the oils and creams, the salt didn’t really impact my hair that badly – yes it does make it feel a bit dry, but nothing that a bit of conditioner can’t solve -and the effects have been nothing short of brilliant.
The first time I did it, it stung a fair bit – but not so it put me off at all. I did it for a few consecutive days, just straight in to dry hair. Or if it was a hair wash day, onto my scalp before I blow dried my hair.
The little lumps stopped itching almost completely, but I still had the raised bumps which appeared to scab. In time previous, those scabs would re open and the cycle would start up again in short order – but no. These lumps have gone progressively smaller.
I didn’t continue to do this daily for long – only for about a week. I then reduced the frequency quite quickly and now am maybe only doing it twice a week.
I’m not going to lie – it hasn’t been eradicated completely and if I stopped using the salt rub, it would easily come straight back. Also I will add that I obviously have it relatively mild – so this isn’t designed to be a cure for all – all the usual disclaimers – but..
I am continuing to use the medicated shampoo
But honestly, it is the best solution I have personally come up with to date and I feel so much happier. I’m not touching and scratching all the time – and I feel much more in control. I am so impressed with how much it has helped me – I have bought some for my Mum for Christmas.
If you have eczema – particularly annoying in the hair – and if you have never tried Dead Sea Salt – google it to see for yourself – I’m really glad I did.