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Featured Healthy Living Skin

Skin & Food Allergies Are Not The Same Thing

If You Can’t Eat It, You Can Probably Still Use It In A Cream.

“I’m allergic to almonds…can I use a cream with an ingredient extracted from almonds?” “I can’t eat coconuts…that means I can’t use coconut oil, right?”

If you have prick tested positive to something, it is more likely than not that you can still use it on your skin.

The main reason is that, while complex, skin and other allergies involve such different cells, systems, and modalities.

Quick Breakdown

There are 4 types of reactions that we tend to have. Type 1 and Type 4 are most relevant to prick tests and patch tests.

Type 1: asthma, naso-bronchial allergies, pets, dust mites, pollen, and food

  • Is IgE-mediated and involves antibodies.
  • Is what a lot of us think of when we think about an allergic reaction (the trouble breathing (anaphylaxis), puffing up, urticaria, etc.
  • While there can be some delayed responses, always something happens quickly — within 60 minutes. This reaction is very straightforward because it is IgE mediated and IgE exists in the body.
  • Food is included here but is more complicated (see below)

Type 4: contact dermatitis

  • Is non-IgE mediated and does not involve antibodies.
  • It is T-cell mediated.
  • The response is not immediate as with Type 1. It is delayed because there is more of a process. There has to be a sensitization that then triggers a reaction to occur. This can take a week to many weeks.
  • Instead of being IgE-mediated, this is T-cell mediated.

Food Reactions Can Be More Complicated

Food reactions include…

  • IgE-mediated: e.g. strawberries, peanuts
  • Non IgE-mediated: food protein-induced enterocolitis, which is T cell-mediated, does not happen immediately, and is usually outgrown, such as when a baby is allergic to the protein found in cow’s milk.
  • Non-allergic reaction which is metabolic: such as when you don’t have the enzyme needed to break down sugar lactose, i.e., you’re lactose intolerant).
  • Food allergies can be difficult to isolate because there can be many substances at play in one food. This is especially true for drugs. Drugs are made up of so many compounds so it is very difficult to isolate the trigger. This is why drug IgE testing is rare and very hard to distinguish. On the other hand, an allergy to a drug with skin manifestations can be patch tested.
  • Other food reactions include:
    • Adverse reaction (non-immune mediated)
    • Toxic (puffer fish toxin)
    • Conditions like Irritable Bowel Syndrome, which is not an allergy but has the same symptoms.

Where It Gets More Complex for Skin: Atopic Dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis is a different type of allergy with many theories still being explored. Inheritance plays a factor. One theory is regarding the presence of over-reactors — in which case, an over-reaction to food may also occur. And contact dermatitis is frequently a factor.

There is also “atopic march”: if you had eczema as child, you could be more likely to have asthma and naso-bronchial allergies as an adult.

For more on atopic dermatitis (eczema), check out What Is Eczema.

What To Know If You Have Skin & Food Allergies:

1. A prick test is for IgE, involves antibodies, and can be more complicated. Even if you prick test positive to shellfish, for example, your allergist needs to correlate the findings with your history to determine if you really cannot eat shellfish.

2. A patch test is very straightforward: If you patch test positive to something, contact with it will be a problem.

3. If your prick test is positive for something — unless you ALSO patch test positive to it — you can probably use it on your skin because the modalities and systems are so different. For example, if you prick test positive for almonds, the chances are very high that you can use a product on your skin with an ingredient extracted from almonds.

3. If you patch test and prick test positive to something, you need to avoid it in food and in your skin. For example, if you patch and prick test positive to nickel, you’ll react to it when touching it and if it is in your food.

Which Test To Get, and From Which Doctor?

For a patch test, see a dermatologist. For a prick test, see an allergist.

Some allergists do patch testing, too. But if you have a long history of stubborn skin reactions, we’d suggest seeing a dermatologist who is a contact dermatitis specialist for your patch testing. They are…specialists! They would have more patch test tray options, can really help identify what you need to avoid, and can identify other possible skin conditions that may also need to be managed. If you also have non-skin allergies, your contact dermatitis specialist can work closely with your allergist.

How to find such a doctor?

  • In the USA: search contactderm.org. You can search by zip code and members of the American Contact Dermatitis Society also use CAMP (the Contact Allergen Management Program) to show you not just the ingredients and substances you need to avoid but brands and products that you can use (where you’ll see VMV Hypoallergenics a lot!)
  • In the Philippines: PM VMV Skin Research Centre + Clinics, where patch testing is a specialty.
  • In other countries: ask your official dermatological society about local contact dermatitis experts who offer patch testing.

How Else VMV Hypoallergenics Can Help?

Ask us to customize recommendations for you based on your patch test results and even possible cross reactants.

Otherwise, use the VH-Rating to shop safely for VMV products! Check out this helpful video on how it works.

At VMV, we make it easy to be guided by your patch test.

1) We practice allergen ommision

As our basis for what to omit, we refer to studies by independent groups of doctors who specialize in contact dermatitis, such as the North American Contact Dermatitis Group and European Surveillance System on Contact Allergies. They regularly publish top contact allergens based on thousands of patch tests done in multiple countries.

2) We do our own patch testing…

…not just of the final formulation but also of each ingredient, raw material, and applicators (and we do allergen reviews of packaging, too).

3) Our VH-Rating System shows how many of the top contact allergens are NOT in a formulation.

If an allergen is included, the VH-Rating is lower and marked by an asterisk which corresponds to the ingredients list — you’ll see the allergen clearly marked with the asterisk and underlined, too. If they’re not allergens that you patch tested positive to, you can still use the product.

The VH-Rating System has been so effective that a clinical study published in a leading contact dermatitis journal showed less than 0.1% reactions reported in over 30 years.

4) We manufacture our own products.

We can ensure that our formulations are not mixed, stored, or handled in containers used for formulations with allergens, or otherwise contaminated by allergens..

PLEASE FOLLOW THE RECOMMENDATIONS OF YOUR OB-GYN AND PEDIATRICIAN.

Data regarding the effects (positive or negative) of topical skin treatments on fetal or infant development at this point may be inconclusive; but for anything taken orally, you should be conscientious and always consult your doctor beforehand. You’ll be seeing your gynecologist soon and regularly, then your child’s pediatrician. These visits, more than anything, will help you best monitor your baby’s healthy development. This information should not be considered medical advice. Particularly if you have a medical condition, before you change anything in your skincare or other practices related to pregnancy or nursing, ask your doctor.


Laura is our “dew”-good CEO at VMV Hypoallergenics and eldest daughter of VMV’s founding dermatologist-dermatopathologist. She has two children, Madison and Gavin, and works at VMV with her sister CC and husband Juan Pablo (Madison and Gavin frequently volunteer their “usage testing” services). In addition to saving the world’s skin, Laura is passionate about health, inclusion, cultural theory, human rights, happiness, and spreading goodness (like a great cream!)

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Featured Skin

What Is The Validated Hypoallergenic Rating System (VH-Rating System)?

“Hypoallergenic” can be an ambiguous term. It is regulated in some FDAs, but not all. When regulated, certain evidence is normally required to justify the claim but requirements can differ. Our founding dermatologist-dermatopathologist wanted a more objective, consistent, and clear way to prove what “hypoallergenic” meant in formulations.

VMV Hypoallergenics was the first to validate what it meant by “hypoallergenic” for its products with a “grading” system: the VALIDATED HYPOALLERGENIC RATING System, or VH-Rating System, created in the late 1980s (VMV was founded in 1979).

What Is The VH-Rating System?

It works a bit like an SPF in that it is a clear, immediately visible “grade” given to a formulation. While an SPF shows the product’s tested protection factor against UVB rays, the VH-Number shows how many top contact allergens are NOT in a formulation. In both cases, the higher the number, the better the “grade.”

The VH-Rating System uses published contact allergen lists of the North American Contact Dermatitis Group and European Surveillance System on Contact Allergies — based on thousands of patch tests conducted in multiple countries — as independent references.

The VH-Rating System was the first and is still the only hypoallergenic rating system in the world. A study on it published in Dermatitis, the journal of the American Contact Dermatitis Society, concludes:

“The VH Rating System is shown to objectively validated the hypoallergenics cosmetics claim.”

Verallo-Rowell VM. The validated hypoallergenic cosmetics rating system: its 30-year evolution and effect on the prevalence of cosmetic reactions. Dermatitis. 2011 Mar-Apr;22(2):80-97. PMID: 21504693.

The same study shows that VMV products had less than 0.1% reactions reported in over 30 years.

How It Works:

Check out this handy video in our YouTube Channel: Validated Hypoallergenic – The VH Rating System

Very simply, the higher the number, the more allergens are NOT in the formulation.

Every product has a VH-Rating on its label followed by a slash and the total number of current top contact allergens. The higher the VH-Rating, the more allergens are not included in the formulation.

In case an allergen is present, the VH-Rating will be lower than the total number of current top contact allergens. An asterisk will also be seen that corresponds to the allergen in the ingredient list (which will also be underlined) for quick identification.

Breaking Down the Elements

  • VH stands for Validated Hypoallergenic.
    • The product has been tested specifically for hypoallergenicity.
    • At VMV, this includes patch testing each raw material, ingredient, applicator, and final formulation.
  • -# (the minus sign followed by a number)
    • Shows how many allergens are ABSENT from the formulation.
  • /# (slash followed by a number)
    • Means “over this current total of top allergens.”
    • This shows the total count of the current top allergens.

A VH-Rating of VH-109/109 would be read as: “Validated Hypoallergenic MINUS 109 over 109.”

A rating of VH-108*/109 would be read as “Validated Hypoallergenic MINUS 108 over 109.” The asterisk alerts you to check the ingredients list for its counterpart, which would be the allergen present in the formulation.

Examples of VH-Ratings on products:

VH -109/109

The highest (current) VH-Rating: VH-109/109
  • Validated Hypoallergenic minus all 109 common allergens.

VH -108*/109

A lower VH-Rating: VH-108/109. Note the asterisk.
The asterisk from the VH-Rating corresponds to the present allergen in the Ingredients List … which is also underlined so you can’t miss it! If it’s not one of your allergens, you can still use the product.
  • Validated Hypoallergenic minus 108 of 109 allergens.
  • Allergens present in the formulation are identified with an asterisk and underlined in the ingredients list.
  • In this example, if you’re allergic to parabens, fragrance, or dyes but not to vitamin E (a great antioxidant), you can still use this oil-free moisturizer.

Need More Help?

Ask us to customize recommendations for you based on your patch test results and even possible cross reactants.

Where to get a patch test?

  • In the USA: search contactderm.org. You can search by zip code and members of the American Contact Dermatitis Society also use CAMP (the Contact Allergen Management Program) to show you not just the ingredients and substances you need to avoid but brands and products that you can use (where you’ll see VMV Hypoallergenics a lot!)
  • In the Philippines: PM VMV Skin Research Centre + Clinics, where patch testing is a specialty.
  • In other countries: ask your official dermatological society about local contact dermatitis experts who offer patch testing.

Haven’t had a patch test but have a history of very sensitive skin? Choose products with the highest VH-Rating!


Our team of “dew gooders” at VMV Hypoallergenics regularly shares “skinsider” tips! Follow us on Instagram for more of their hacks, “skintel” and tutorials!

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Allergen, Not An Allergen Featured Skin

It’s Complicated: Allergic Versus Irritant Reaction

A reaction is a reaction…isn’t it?

Yes, in that a skin reaction usually looks and feels “off.” No, in that a skin reaction can be irritant or allergic. Some substances can be irritants but not allergens (such as the iodine on the bottom right of the photo above) or allergens but not irritants (such as the lemongrass essential oil on the top left of the photo above). Always trust your dermatologist to make the diagnosis, but this is a quick overview to help you understand the difference between the two:

Irritant

An irritant reaction is a form of contact dermatitis but it is not an allergic response. According to DermNet NZ, “Irritant contact dermatitis is a form of contact dermatitis, in which the skin is injured by friction, environmental factors such as cold, over-exposure to water, or chemicals such as acids, alkalis, detergents and solvents.”

Irritant reactions have a relationship with the concentration of the ingredient in a product, the frequency of your skin’s exposure it, and how long your skin is exposed to it. While a diagnosis needs to be made by your dermatologist, here are examples of what an irritant reaction might look like:

  • You use a moisturizer most of your life and experience relatively mild symptoms like dryness that you don’t think of as a reaction, but that are, in fact, mild irritant reactions. If you spread on more of the moisturizer or use it more often, you notice more dryness or possibly other symptoms like redness. If you stop using it for a while, the symptoms subside. And when you use it again, you don’t notice a problem unless you use more of it or use it more frequently.
  • Babies often get an irritant reaction from their saliva around the mouth and on the chin. The reaction goes away as they drool less as they get older.
  • Temporary burns from strong chemicals like chlorine.
  • Itching and redness after touching certain insects.
  • Dry, red, itchy skin from winter or dry, cold air.
  • An instant redness or itching after applying a certain threshold amount of a cosmetic product (in an allergic reaction, the symptoms would appear regardless of the amount applied).

Allergic

An allergic reaction is a true allergy, meaning that the body has an immune response to an allergen.

You can use something for weeks, months, or years without a problem and then only later develop an allergy to it. This happens once your cells recognize a substance as foreign. After this, on repeat exposure, the allergic reaction occurs even with exposure to small amounts of the allergen (whereas an irritant reaction would require a certain threshold amount to elicit a reaction). If you are allergic to a substance or develop an allergy to it, any percentage of it for any amount of time on the skin will cause a reaction.

Irritant Versus Allergic

The percentage of an irritant or allergen (how much of it was applied or how much of it the skin was exposed to) is important in differentiating irritant and allergic contact dermatitis.

Irritants at a high concentration cause acute irritant contact dermatitis (marked swelling and blistering), such as after just a one-time exposure to a strong acid. At lower concentrations of an irritant and/or constant exposure to it, a chronic irritant contact dermatitis can develop. You might see this in the hands — the skin becomes thick and leathery — of people who work in the health, laundry, or cleaning industries from the frequent exposure to strong soaps and cleaning agents. That said, you could also actually build a tolerance to mild irritants over time.

In allergic contact dermatitis, you may be exposed to an allergen for weeks, or even most of your life, and not react to it. This changes once your skin’s T cells recognize the allergen as “foreign” or “bad,” and develop an immune response then a delayed response that continues every time you are exposed to it from that moment on. Once this immune response is set, any amount of the allergen shortly after contact with your skin will cause a reaction.

An allergic reaction can coexist with an irritant reaction. For example, dryness or redness from the frequent use of alcohol, bleaches, chlorine or other disinfecting products could be an irritant reaction. But if the products also contain fragrances, preservatives, formaldehyde or other top allergens, you might also develop an allergic reaction.

Contact dermatitis experts are the specialists to accurately identify whether the skin changes you are seeing — dryness, redness, dark patches, and other symptoms — are an irritant or allergic reaction. A patch test is important to accurately identify which substance or ingredient is causing the reaction, and patch tests can also confirm if a reaction is allergic or irritant. After you get your patch test results, you’ll know exactly what you need to avoid. And often, just simple and careful avoidance of the substance can give you relief and clarity.

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Check out the other posts related to contact dermatitis:

Allergen-Not An Allergen

Get A Patch Test Or Photo-Patch Test

On Contact Dermatitis, Sensitive Skin, and Patch Testing: Interview with an Expert


Laura is our “dew”-good CEO at VMV Hypoallergenics and eldest daughter of VMV’s founding dermatologist-dermatopathologist. She has two children, Madison and Gavin, and works at VMV with her sister CC and husband Juan Pablo (Madison and Gavin frequently volunteer their “usage testing” services). In addition to saving the world’s skin, Laura is passionate about health, inclusion, cultural theory, human rights, happiness, and spreading goodness (like a great cream!)

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Beauty Healthy Living Skin Tip of the Week

Top 40 Skin, Makeup, Health & Happiness Tips!

Pause, please. 

40 years of published and awarded research on skin, hypoallergenicity, and clinically-effective care has led us more and more to this fact: what affects the skin is far more than what is applied on it.

Science is showing just how interdependent — how linked — all aspects of our health are. The care of skin cannot be separated from what we eat, how often we exercise, underlying health conditions, and how well we sleep and manage stress.

It’s time to pause, review, and share some of the most proven ways to care for all aspects of health — skin, body, and mind.

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Healthy Living Skin

Less Is More In Skincare, Too!

SIMPLIFY.

“Less is more” is a healthy philosophy for pretty much everything in life.

In food, less processed means more nutrients and less junk. Studies show that mindfulness — clearing the mind of clutter and focusing on the now — has significant health benefits for the brain and aging. In skincare, simple formulations with as few ingredients as possible minimize the risk of cross reactions — it’s a golden rule of hypoallergenicity. Plus, sticking to fewer products from fewer brands means there’s less guesswork involved when identifying what could be causing a reaction or acne.

“Less is more” helps doctors more easily identify what could be the cause of a problem. Frequently, the first step of allergy or contact dermatitis management (often, along with a patch test) is an “elimination diet” (our popular, ultra-reliable 7-Day Skin Fast). In the Skin Fast, you’re asked to stop using all products — except a very, very controlled few — for 7 days. This helps skin return to its most non-irritated state, so that when new products are slowly introduced (one every three days or so), problem products can be more accurately isolated.

The same applies to acne: acne can have several causes and certain types of acne can take days to develop…making it almost impossible to accurately identify which product is causing the acne when using many different ones.

Having fewer ingredients in a formulation is a best practice in hypoallergenicity…so much so that one of the quickest ways to spot a high-risk product is to look at how many ingredients it has: the longer the list, the higher the likelihood of reactions.

In addition, using multiple products can lead to over-treatment and drying of the skin…getting it to a borderline-irritated state so that anything new applied (whether or not you are actually allergic to it) could trigger a reaction.

This is why doctors tend to recommend sticking to few products and, ideally, from the same brand. It is impossible to ensure how products are made from one brand to another, ingredients can have different raw materials (some pure, some with additives such as trace amounts of preservatives or allergens), and many formulations are outsourced to third-party manufacturing facilities where vats can be used for mixing many different formulations, including those with allergens. Check out Why Sticking to One Brand Is Safer (an interview with EczemaBlues.com) for more on why using products from different brands can make the management of complex skin conditions difficult.

For more on hypoallergenicity and how less is more, check out:

HYPOALLERGENIC: What is it Really?

Why Sticking to One Brand Is Safer

For more on reactions:

Reactions: About, Allergic, Irritant, Sudden, Prevention, Using VMV & Other Products, etc.

Mythfoliation: If I Get a Reaction, The Last Product I Applied Is The Problem

Categories
Skin

Top Recommendations for Patients With Eczema

Eczema is characterized by inflammation, barrier defect, blistering, itching, and very dry skin. Eczematous skin can get so dry that it cracks…and then microbial infection can become an additional problem.

What to do to keep skin with eczema smooth, happy, and healthy…and steroid free? Let’s start with what not to do.

What To Avoid:

  • Harsh soaps;
  • Hot water;
  • Frequent washing;
  • Drying alcohol (not all alcohol is drying);
  • Natural remedies (without your doctor’s ok) — many natural ingredients are common contact allergens;
  • Using topical steroids every day for a prolonged period of time — this can be dangerous to your skin and cause other serious health problems;
  • NOT using topical steroids if prescribed by your doctor;
  • Not taking other prescribed medication and not following your doctor’s instructions;
  • Using products with allergens, especially perfumes, dyes, preservatives or any other allergen identified by a patch testing.
  • Your allergens in everything else: skincare, makeup, shampoo, clothing, digital equipment, plants and fruits, house cleaning products, laundry detergent, room sprays, vaping, scented candles, etc.

Best Practices:

1) Practice Strict Allergen Avoidance.

Contact dermatitis is a common cause of eczema and flare-ups, which is why patch testing is standard in the diagnosis and management of the condition. Once you know what your allergens are, you can avoid them in your skincare, makeup, shampoo, conditioner, clothing, phone cases, house cleaning products and laundry soap, and more.

For more on common allergens, check out our popular Allergen-Not An Allergen tab. For products free of all or most common contact allergens, check out VMVHypoallergenics.com. If you would like customized product recommendations based on your particular patch test results, contact us or drop us a private message on Facebook

2) Less Is More, and Hypoallergenic Is Best.

The fewer products the better, and hypoallergenic products — without the top allergens as published by dermatologists who do lots of patch testing — are the safest options.

3) Your Dermatologist Is A Long-Term Partner, Not A Fling.

Your skin, as with all other organs, changes over time. If your eczema is being managed well, schedule an appointment with your doctor once or twice a year for a general checkup. Your patch test might need to be repeated because you may have developed new allergies (or outgrown others). And of course, follow your doctor’s instructions for flare-ups.

4) PRAM: Prevent, Repair, Antimicrobial, Moisture.

Normalizing eczema means babying your skin:

Prevent:

  • Avoid your allergens as strictly as possible.
  • Use very gentle cleansers, soaps, lotion…everything. Think “gentle” in terms of textures, too: no rough or abrasive fabrics or materials.
  • Look for products that are validated as hypoallergenic and that contain as few ingredients as possible.
  • Prevent flare-ups before they can even start by being consistent about your daily care and trying a steroid-free soothing balm or anti-inflammatory balm if you feel that there is a risk of a flare.

Repair:

  • The skin’s barrier layer becomes compromised in eczematous skin. Look for moisturizers that provide barrier repair like virgin coconut oil.
  • “Repair” here also means: quickly and properly address a flareup should an emergency happen. Your doctor may prescribe a topical steroid for a short amount of time. Immune-modulating and other anti-allergy drugs may be called for if the eczema is generalized or recurrent despite strict allergen avoidance. Antihistamines or centrally-acting medicines can help relieve severe itching.
  • Part of repair is normalizing skin quickly after a flare. Early on, apply virgin coconut oil (VCO) to soften the crust as it forms (the crust makes the skin dry, hard and itchy). Keep applying the oil for occlusion, giving skin a secondary barrier against water loss.

Antimicrobial:

Opportunistic bacteria and viruses can enter microscopic cracks in very dry skin to cause a secondary infection. This makes the management of eczema more difficult, and can make itching and dryness worse. Remember that some antimicrobials are allergens, too, so use a non-allergenic option like monolaurin) or ask your doctor for guidance as prescription drugs may be needed for a secondary infection.

Moisturize:

Avoid drying ingredients in skincare and be generous about applying occlusive, healthy moisturizers. It’s so important that layering moisturizers for extra protection is often recommended: follow a daily moisturizer with virgin coconut oil (VCO replaces the fatty acids that make up the skin’s cell walls which are destroyed with inflammation).

How To Care For Skin With Eczema

Based on what we know about eczema, we recommend this daily regimen:

  1. FACIAL CLEANSING: Red Better Deeply Soothing Cleansing Cream
  2. SHAMPOO & BODY CLEANSING
  3. CONDITIONER: Essence Skin-Saving Conditioner
  4. MOISTURIZERS:
  5. FOR CRUSTS OR VERY DRY PATCHES: Grandma Minnie’s The Big, Brave Boo-Boo Balm
  6. FLARE-UP PREVENTION: steroid-free Red Better Calm-The-Heck-Down Balm
  7. SUN & LIGHT PROTECTION, BARRIER PROTECTION: (physical sunscreens that double as a barrier cream to help prevent contact irritations)

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Check out the other posts in this series:

What Is Eczema?

What Causes Eczema?

Eczema Flare-Up? Here’s What To Do…


Laura is our “dew”-good CEO at VMV Hypoallergenics and eldest daughter of VMV’s founding dermatologist-dermatopathologist. She has two children, Madison and Gavin, and works at VMV with her sister CC and husband Juan Pablo (Madison and Gavin frequently volunteer their “usage testing” services). In addition to saving the world’s skin, Laura is passionate about health, inclusion, cultural theory, human rights, happiness, and spreading goodness (like a great cream!)

Categories
Skin

Eczema Flare-Up? Here’s What To Do…

If you’re noticing a flare coming, try staving it off with a steroid-free soothing balm or anti-inflammatory balm. If you experience a flare-up, follow what your doctor prescribes.

First, practice mindfulness.

Eczema is an inflammatory condition. Panic and stress can fuel inflammation. Make your first action to practice your calming techniques such as meditation and breathing exercises.

Next, do what your doctor tells you…which is probably a steroid.

For emergencies, dermatologists will usually prescribe a topical steroid. For bad flare-ups, dermatologists may prescribe a steroid of moderate to high potency in a cream base for acute eczemas, and in an ointment base for chronic eczemas.

While a topical steroid may be necessary — which means you should use it as prescribed — remember that steroids are not meant for daily use over a long time (like a regular cream).

The goal is to quickly address the emergency, then move to softening the skin, and prioritize prevention to avoid future flare-ups as much as possible. Done right, strict allergen avoidance and a simple regimen that is ultra-gentle and prioritizes barrier repair should reduce your need for a steroid to one or two times a year, if that.

Then, focus on normalizing and getting back to prevention…

…by softening the dry skin that develops as the eczema moves into a subacute, then to a chronic phase.

Virgin coconut oil (VCO) applied at any phase of eczematous skin is soothing, and moisturizing. It is also, importantly, a gentle yet potent antimicrobial (secondary bacterial, fungal and even viral invaders can penetrate cracks in dry skin and worsen eczema and itchiness). VCO is also ideal for barrier repair because it replaces the fatty acids that that make up the skin’s cell walls which are destroyed with inflammation. Just remember to choose a 100% pure, organic virgin coconut oil, or one with monolaurin for additional antimicrobial protection.

All the above normalizes eczema, lessens inflammation, and helps remove dried-up crust, making the skin much less itchy. Once you’re in this phase, circle back to strict allergen and trigger prevention and your gentle regimen.

TIP: VCO is especially soothing on flaring skin when stored in the refrigerator here it naturally “butters” (it melts upon contact with skin). Or, use the VCO as a cold compress on eczematous skin.

Do NOT:

  • Ignore your doctor’s orders.
  • Reach for natural remedies without your dermatologist’s approval (many natural ingredients are common contact allergens).
  • Continue to use your topical steroid beyond what is prescribed to calm an acute flare-up.

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Check out the other posts in this series:

What Is Eczema?

What Causes Eczema?

Top Recommendations for Patients With Eczema


Laura is our “dew”-good CEO at VMV Hypoallergenics and eldest daughter of VMV’s founding dermatologist-dermatopathologist. She has two children, Madison and Gavin, and works at VMV with her sister CC and husband Juan Pablo (Madison and Gavin frequently volunteer their “usage testing” services). In addition to saving the world’s skin, Laura is passionate about health, inclusion, cultural theory, human rights, happiness, and spreading goodness (like a great cream!)

Categories
Skin

What Causes Eczema?

Eczema causes include…

a. Contact dermatitis

From…

  • Allergens in skincare and makeup;
  • Clothing, jewelry, eyeglasses, accessories;
  • Phone and computer materials and protective cases;
  • Flowers, plants, and fruits;
  • Insecticides, dishwashing liquids, laundry detergents, house cleaning solutions;
  • Airborne allergens from perfumes, room sprays, even vaping.

There are many more common contact allergens than you might think. This is why a patch test is normally done if eczema is suspected. For more on common allergens, check out our popular Allergen-Not An Allergen tab. For products free of all or most common contact allergens, check out VMVHypoallergenics.com. If you would like customized product recommendations based on your particular patch test results, contact us or drop us a private message on Facebook.

b. Atopic dermatitis:

Atopy means an inherited allergy. It is…

  • …Atopic dermatitis when the target organ is the skin;
  • …Rhinitis if the target is the nasal passage;
  • …Bronchial asthma if the target is the bronchial passages (the lungs).

c. Hereditary or acquired:

Because atopic dermatitis is hereditary, it often starts in infancy or early childhood.

Contact dermatitis, on the other hand, tends to develop later as we become more exposed to allergens in things that we use, touch, and are otherwise exposed to.

d. Nummular eczema…

…is caused by a combination of factors that include:

  • Atopic skin with bacterial contamination;
  • Insect bites;
  • Friction and irritation from rough materials; and/or
  • Allergic contact dermatitis.

These factors make the skin hyperactive, causing the large circular patches that characterize nummular eczema.

e. Seborrheic dermatitis

Also known as skin dandruff of the scalp or face often starts as scales. If irritated or secondarily infected (those opportunistic microbes again!), they can become eczematous.

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Check out the other posts in this series:

What Is Eczema?

Eczema Flare-Up? Here’s What To Do…

Top Recommendations for Patients With Eczema


Laura is our “dew”-good CEO at VMV Hypoallergenics and eldest daughter of VMV’s founding dermatologist-dermatopathologist. She has two children, Madison and Gavin, and works at VMV with her sister CC and husband Juan Pablo (Madison and Gavin frequently volunteer their “usage testing” services). In addition to saving the world’s skin, Laura is passionate about health, inclusion, cultural theory, human rights, happiness, and spreading goodness (like a great cream!)

Categories
Skin

What Is Eczema?

Eczema is…

…not any “sensitive skin.” Eczema is a general term for atopic dermatitis, which is the inflammation in the upper dermis of the skin.

This inflammation brings about “edema,” which is swelling from fluid retention. The fluid then moves upwards to the epidermis (the skin’s topmost layer), collects in between cells, and eventually becomes fluid-filled “bubbles” on the skin’s surface.

These bubbles get bigger, then enlarge, become blisters, dry up, and crust over, which is when they can get itchy and develop cracks. Opportunistic microbes can invade the skin through these cracks, causing more dryness and itching.

Redness is common, too, and indicates an active inflammation from…

  • The barrier defect inherent to atopic dermatitis; and/or
  • An offending product with an allergen — which is why patch testing and using validated hypoallergenic products are so important;
  • A secondary infection; or
  • Dry, crusty skin.

Removing the cause removes the inflammation and reduces the redness.

Note: Food can also contribute to redness. Scratch testing can help but positive results do not always correlate with the eczema flare-ups.

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Check out the other posts in this series:

What Causes Eczema?

Eczema Flare-Up? Here’s What To Do…

Top Recommendations for Patients With Eczema


Laura is our “dew”-good CEO at VMV Hypoallergenics and eldest daughter of VMV’s founding dermatologist-dermatopathologist. She has two children, Madison and Gavin, and works at VMV with her sister CC and husband Juan Pablo (Madison and Gavin frequently volunteer their “usage testing” services). In addition to saving the world’s skin, Laura is passionate about health, inclusion, cultural theory, human rights, happiness, and spreading goodness (like a great cream!)

Categories
Allergen, Not An Allergen Featured

INFINITY STONES: Allergen or Not An Allergen?

Not An Allergen…but a Strong Irritant

SPOILERS ahead for Avengers: End Game.
If you have not seen the movie, stop reading here.

Infinity Stones

Infinity stones are extremely dangerous, but we feel that they are more likely to be irritants than allergens. Irritants should not be thought of as less bothersome than allergens. In fact, irritants can be, as in the case of chlorine, toxic or deadly with too much exposure. Based on what we know about the infinity stones as well as how irritant and allergic reactions work, we feel that these cosmic gems would be strong irritants based on five main justifications: rarity, molecular size, lack of the need for sensitization, speed and type of reactions, and that reactions tend to occur with more exposure.

1) Infinity Stones Are Really Rare

Our first justification for infinity stones as strong irritants but not allergens is their rarity. Common allergens tend be “everywhere.” Infinity stones are even rarer than our other fantasy allergen-not an allergen vibranium, which we theorized as Not An Allergen.

Not only are infinity stones extremely hard to find, each stone is unique — one of a kind. All six stones are either the six fragments of the oldest being in the universe who committed suicide due to loneliness (from comic archives), or the embodiment of six entities that existed before the universe came into being and that control every aspect of life and the universe (MCU). Being so rare and with a good likelihood of staying rare (pre-universal beings aren’t exactly next to the mints at your local convenience store), there is little likelihood of them becoming common contact allergens.

2) Molecular Size…They’re Gemstones

Allergens tend to have a small molecular size (less than 500 daltons), which allows them to be more readily absorbed into the skin. Infinity stones are solid gemstones with large molecules, and they are not ground up into a powder and applied. If there is anything absorbed, it seems to be the energy emitted by the stones…which, while also having a correlation in skin, is not a contact allergen.

There are different types of energy that we know that the skin gets exposed to, and that can affect the skin. These include: UV, lasers, infrared, visible light, radio frequency, ultrasound, cryo (cold) energy, and kinetic energy. Many of these energies can penetrate the skin, and even tissue and bone. But when they do, their action is different from sensitization. They break down cells.

As they appear and exist, and as they are used, the infinity stones are solid entities with a molecular size too large to penetrate the skin, which makes them less likely to be allergens.

3) No Need For Sensitization: Infinity Stones Can Hurt Anyone

Allergens cause allergic reactions after sensitization: exposure to the substance causes an immune overreaction in your skin that your cells then remember. This can happen quite suddenly and be a surprise, as sensitization can occur late (sometimes years later) to a substance that was previously never a problem. Once you have been sensitized — have developed an allergy — to a substance, your cells remember so that even a small amount of it can trigger an allergic reaction.

Irritant reactions are not allergic reactions and do not require sensitization. Think of them instead as “injuries” to the skin’s surface…specifically when an injury from friction, chemicals, certain physical materials, or even too much water or the cold happens faster than the skin can repair itself.

Irritant reactions can occur after just one exposure, especially if the irritant is a strong one like an acid or an alkali. Mild irritants may elicit reactions after repeated contact or exposure. And other irritants may cause certain people to develop a tolerance to them over time. The point is, allergens elicit allergic reactions…if you are not sensitized to the substance, you should have no problems touching it. Infinity stones seem universal in their ability to cause harm to anyone — with reactions being more severe with prolonged exposure and with some stronger beings having a higher tolerance — without requiring sensitization.

Another way of thinking about this is: a common contact allergen is not harmful to everyone; just to those allergic to it. But infinity stones seem to be problematic for everyone. No one seems to be able to hold an infinity stone for long without sustaining injury or death. For this reason, infinity stones tend to be housed in a gauntlet or other object (the Mind Stone in Loki’s scepter, Time Stone in The Eye of Agamotto, the Space Stone in the Tesseract, for example).

4) Speed and Type of Reactions

Unlike anaphylaxis, contact allergic reactions (once sensitization has occurred) tend to occur not immediately but after a day or several days, while irritant reactions can occur quickly after contact. Certainly the power stone (as we saw in Guardians Of The Galaxy) elicits immediate reactions, as does using all the stones together, as we saw with Thanos, The Hulk, and Iron Man.

Strong irritants can cause gnarly reactions, even if you aren’t allergic to them. These can include redness, but also blistering, swelling, pain, and chemical burns, all of which we seem to see with infinity stones.

The “reactions” from prolonged contact with infinity stones seem to involve the skin — burns and other trauma that seem to spread quickly beyond the hand to the arm, neck, and face. In the case of Jane Foster’s “possession” and The Collector’s assistant’s explosion, these quick reactions also seem to spread and become systemic. While systemic reactions are more common with allergic reactions, they aren’t unheard of in irritant reactions, particularly to very strong irritants.

5) Amount and Length of Exposure Matter

An irritant removes the skin’s natural moisture and oils that it needs to protect itself. Once this occurs, the irritants can penetrate the skin even more and cause further inflammation and other damage. Allergens tend to be able to cause an allergy even with tiny quantities of the allergen or with short exposure. Irritants can require more of a substance or more exposure to it to elicit a reaction.

The infinity stones seem to cause more damage the more they are used, or the more of them are used together, as we can see from the lack of harm to some individuals in MCU who touch individual stones briefly (even non-super or celestial individuals like Hawkeye) versus the spreading damage to Thanos, The Hulk, and Iron Man after handling the stones for longer, or all together.

Finally, stopping contact with infinity stones — as in the case of Jane Foster, Drax, and Mantis with the Reality Stone, and any of the individuals under the mind stone’s spell after Loki’s scepter is destroyed — even without an antidote or medicine (or antihistamine?) seems to alleviate the symptoms completely…which is also consistent with an irritant reaction.

 

Infinity stones being fictional, there is lots we might be missing of course. But do you think we got it right? Would you have said allergen instead? Let us know in the comments!

 

 If you have a history of sensitive skin in real life, don’t guess: random trial and error can cause more damage. Ask your non-fictional superhero dermatologist of choice about a patch test.

To shop our selection of hypoallergenic products, visit vmvhypoallergenics.com. Need help? Ask us in the comments section below, or for more privacy (such as when asking us to customize recommendations for you based on your patch test results) contact us by email, or drop us a private message on Facebook.

For more:

On the prevalence of skin allergies, see Skin Allergies Are More Common Than Ever and One In Four Is Allergic to Common Skin Care And Cosmetic Ingredients.

To learn more about the VH-Rating System and hypoallergenicity, click here.

Sources:

Russel, B. (2019, February 6). The Definitive Guide to the Marvel Infinity Stones in the MCU: Powers, names, locations, and everything else you need to know before Avengers: Endgame. Retrieved April 29, 2019.

Fandom contributors. (2018, April 10). Infinity Stones.Retrieved April 29, 2019.

Dockterman, E. Everything to Know About Marvel’s Infinity Stones Before You See Avengers: Endgame. (2019, March 10). Time.

Mayo Clinic staff. (2018, October 4). Contact dermatitis. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved April 29, 2019.

InformedHealth.org [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. Allergic contact dermatitis: Overview. 2017 Jul 13.

Ngan, V. (2003). Irritant Contact Dermatitis. Dermnet New Zealand. Retrieved April 29, 2019.

Additional References (Nonfictional): 

Regularly published reports on the most common allergens by the North American Contact Dermatitis Group and European Surveillance System on Contact Allergies (based on over 28,000 patch test results, combined), plus other studies. Remember, we are all individuals — just because an ingredient is not on the most common allergen lists does not mean you cannot be sensitive to it, or that it will not become an allergen. These references, being based on so many patch test results, are a good basis but it is always best to get a patch test yourself.

1. Warshaw, E.M., Maibach, H.I., Taylor, J.S., et al. North American contact dermatitis group patch test results: 2011-2012. Dermatitis. 2015; 26: 49-59

2. W Uter et al. The European Baseline Series in 10 European Countries, 2005/2006–Results of the European Surveillance System on Contact Allergies (ESSCA). Contact Dermatitis 61 (1), 31-38.7 2009

3. Wetter, DA et al. Results of patch testing to personal care product allergens in a standard series and a supplemental cosmetic series: An analysis of 945 patients from the Mayo Clinic Contact Dermatitis Group, 2000-2007. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2010 Nov;63(5):789-98.

4. Verallo-Rowell VM. The validated hypoallergenic cosmetics rating system: its 30-year evolution and effect on the prevalence of cosmetic reactions. Dermatitis 2011 Apr; 22(2):80-97

5. Ruby Pawankar et al. World Health Organization. White Book on Allergy 2011-2012 Executive Summary.

6. Misery L et al. Sensitive skin in the American population: prevalence, clinical data, and role of the dermatologist. Int J Dermatol. 2011 Aug;50(8):961-7.

7. Warshaw EM1, Maibach HI, Taylor JS, Sasseville D, DeKoven JG, Zirwas MJ, Fransway AF, Mathias CG, Zug KA, DeLeo VA, Fowler JF Jr, Marks JG, Pratt MD, Storrs FJ, Belsito DV. North American contact dermatitis group patch test results: 2011-2012.Dermatitis. 2015 Jan-Feb;26(1):49-59.

8. Warshaw, E et al. Allergic patch test reactions associated with cosmetics: Retrospective analysis of cross-sectional data from the North American Contact Dermatitis Group, 2001-2004. J AmAcadDermatol 2009;60:23-38. 

9. Foliaki S et al. Antibiotic use in infancy and symptoms of asthma, rhinoconjunctivitis, and eczema in children 6 and 7 years old: International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood Phase III. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2009 Nov;124(5):982-9.

10. Kei EF et al. Role of the gut microbiota in defining human health. Expert Rev Anti Infect Ther. 2010 Apr; 8(4): 435–454.

11. Thavagnanam S et al. A meta-analysis of the association between Caesarean section and childhood asthma. Clin Exp Allergy. 2008;38(4):629–633.

12. Marks JG, Belsito DV, DeLeo VA, et al. North American Contact Dermatitis Group patch-test results, 1998 to 2000. Am J Contact Dermat. 2003;14(2):59-62.

13. Warshaw EM, Belsito DV, Taylor JS, et al. North American Contact Dermatitis Group patch test results: 2009 to 2010. Dermatitis. 2013;24(2):50-99.

Want more great information on contact dermatitis? Check out the American Contact Dermatitis SocietyDermnet New Zealand, and your country’s contact dermatitis association.