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RatherBeInNV 06-15-2013 11:57 AM

New here, trying to reconcile my hair and skin issues

I found this forum a month or so ago and have decided to quit being a creepy lurker and join. I am 31, live in SE Delaware, and am tired of hating my curly hair. Thus far, I've either kept it cut short or destroyed it with relaxers, blowdrying, and flat irons when it did get some length. I'm tired of having short hair and have been growing it out since 11/11, it is now just past shoulder when dry and I hope to keep growing, but I'm really struggling!

I have been sulfate and silicone free for over two years, though I found the CG method much more recently. When my hair was still short I used BS and ACV or diluted Dr. Bronner's and ACV, with coconut oil as a leave-in. Now that I have more hair, that routine isn't cutting the mustard. Unfortunately I have atopic eczema, and my worst irritants are fragrances and plant-derived ingredients. CG feels impossible, the botanicals are in EVERYTHING! I've been experimenting too much lately, hoping this time my skin wouldn't freak out. My hair actually improved a lot, but my skin is the worst I think it's ever been. Now I realize I have to back off for a while, let my skin calm down, and get to work finding something my skin and hair both can agree on. I think finding a real live unicorn would be easier! In the meantime, my hair is awful again, but the skin has to come first. At least I see I'm not the only person here with skin issues, I hope we can help each other out.

Sorry for the book, but I'm happy to be here. I hope I can get my hair back on the right track and keep growing it out, and keep my eczema under control at the same time. I know it won't be easy, but I'm not ready to give up yet!

Firefox7275 06-15-2013 07:25 PM

Welcome! Baking soda and traditional soaps like Dr Bronners are alkaline, they are a disaster for dry or reactive skin because they damage the skin barrier and destroy the protective acid mantle. It's likely the reason your hair is improved is the lauric acid in the coconut oil and acidity of the vinegar, nothing stopping you sticking with these benefits.

Look to be using products at pH 4.5 (hair's happy place) to 5.5 (skin) instead of harsh baking soda such as many of those from Komaza Care or As I Am.
Komaza Care - The Complete Hair Solution
As I Am Naturally
Another option is a conditioner 'base' with few ingredients that is designed to have oils or fragrances added, you could use that for co-washing and as a leave in conditioner whilst your skin recovers. For example (note that I have not used these products so not recommending the company)
Simply Gentle Shampoo
Hair Conditioner, Silky Unscented

A damaged skin barrier will be far more reactive than a healthy one, be that defective genetically as in those of us with eczema or other forms of dermatitis, or from products or poor lifestyle choices or a combination. You may be surprised how much better your skin handles with certain plant extracts once it is less irritated or damaged. Plant extracts that are proven healing and anti inflammatory include aloe vera inner leaf gel, calendula especially combined with allantoin, comfrey. Ceramides and panthenol can be used on both skin and hair, urea is naturally found in healthy skin and can be beneficial for eczematous scalps.

Are you fully sulphate free, none in your toothpaste, hair dye (if you use it), hand wash at home or work, shower gel, aqueous cream, etc? Shampoo bubbles running down my arm was the trigger for my elbow patch of eczema, so even tiny amounts can cause problems.

Another key aspect of healthy skin is reviewing your diet and lifestyle, concentrating on anti inflammatory nutrient dense wholefoods. Particularly be sure you are eating plenty of oily fish, cut out sugar and white refined carbs, do not smoke, limit alcohol and caffeine.


RatherBeInNV 06-15-2013 11:47 PM

Thank you for your reply, Firefox. I will look into those products. Right now I am using DermOrganic daily moisturizing shampoo and intensive repair masque.I totally could do without the fragrance, but I do like the main ingredients, nothing else in it seems to irritate my skin. Waiting on a shipment of Magick Botanicals oil-free shampoo, conditioner, and gel to try out too. Just to be cautious I always wash and condition upside down to prevent anything from running down my skin. I do love ACV rinses and don't plan on giving those up anytime soon. As an added benefit, I've noticed it helps my cystic acne too!

Otherwise, I use the babymild Dr. Bronners soap on my body and as a hand soap ( I know it's super alkaline), and only use a tiny bit of Vanicream lotion on my legs right after shaving to get rid of the itch. Don't normally use lotion, I hate how it makes my skin feel. I do henna my hair, it actually makes my scalp feel better. Sometimes if I have a few hours to kill and an inflamed scalp I'll do my roots even if I can't see much regrowth, it just feels THAT good. Not sure about my other products...I think I have some research to do.

I understand what you mean about skin being more tolerant of things once it's not so irritated. I'm so bad right now, I can't even handle aloe vera gel. I wish I was making that up-it sounds so ridiculous! Normally I like AVG, I used it all winter with good results, bit it's just too humid here now to work (I live at the beach), so I tried something stronger (Set Me Up). The Set Me Up is so smelly, I should have known that was a disaster waiting to happen. Went back to the AVG, and still itched like mad. So I just hide the frizz in a topknot for the time being, it's the least irritating thing I can do right now it seems.:( Unfortunately chamomile is a massive trigger for me, previously inflamed or not my skin just can't handle it.

I have been researching the diet component, have already made a lot of modifications. Even if I'm not seeing the skin benefits just yet, I dropped 13 lbs. in 3 weeks and no longer retain water like I previously did. :D You are absolutely onto something there.

Firefox7275 06-16-2013 07:35 AM

Atopic eczema and cystic acne: both could indicate a damaged skin barrier, systemic inflammation, essential fatty acid deficiencies. You might also avoid applying any oil rich in oleic acid if you are not already, research suggests it is comedogenic/ acnegenic and it is a known irritant in atopic eczema's close cousin seborrhoeic dermatitis.

In both acne and dermatitis oleic acid in your own sebum can be part of the problem - the good news is the amount and fatty acid composition of the sebum can be improved with diet and lifestyle modification. Essential fatty acids are critical, especially the balance of omega-6s which are ubiquitous in a balanced diet (esp. nuts and seeds) and the long chain omega-3s from oily fish (also for vitamin D). Balance is important because each group influences the absorption, conversion and utilisation of the other group.

I'm so pleased to read you are already making changes to your diet and seeing results. Be sure that you are eating from all the food groups and a wide variety of wholefoods. I see too many nutrition clients who 'eat healthy' by cutting foods or groups of foods out without replacing the nutrients so end up with a diet that is deficient in a different way. It can take time to get results with the skin since turnover of the epidermis is up to two months.and you might not see the full benefits if you continue to damage your skin barrier from the outside. Also your new diet may be balancing your hormones and helping repair your gut lining and beneficial flora which means over time you will absorb nutrients better.

The is nothing gentle about Dr Bronners, dilute vinegar rinses can reset the pH of your skin (which is helpful) but cannot repair the acid mantle which supports a host of beneficial microoorganisms. If you used products at the right pH the vinegar would redundant, your products would give you the same effect. Vinegar used too frequently can be dehydrating. If you want to use an acid rinse on skin consider a lactic acid toner (you can make this up yourself so no added nasties). Lactic acid is naturally found in a healthy skin barrier and is hydrating, at lower concentrations it resets the pH, is gently exfoliating at higher concentrations. Used regularly lactic acid may be able to strengthen the skin barrier by increasing ceramide production.

Henna is interesting, research suggests it may have anti fungal, anti inflammatory and healing properties. Aloe vera is a powerful humectant, used alone in some humidities it can be dehydrating because it can attract water out of the skin or hair instead of to it, maybe try it as an ingredient or mixed with a moisturiser to 'lighten' the texture to your taste. My skin adores it with cream containing medical grade (hypoallergenic) lanolin but YMMV. Since you are at the beach micronised zinc oxide sunscreens may be helpful since zinc has anti inflammatory and antibacterial properties.

Something striking me about the Dermorganic products ingredients list is that they contain a different preservative system to many commercial products "Glycereth-2 Cocoate/Benzoic Acid" whereas parabens and phenoxyethanol are way more common and can certainly cause problems in some. The pH may also be right who knows.

Hope something in my ramblings helps.

RatherBeInNV 06-18-2013 12:51 PM

Thanks again, you know your stuff! Sorry I took two days to reply, I had two 11+ hour work days and was dead when I got home each night. Bleh.

I have been a huge fan of OCM for my face, doing it since early 2011. Have always used a 60/40 mix of castor/jojoba, usually add a few drops of tea tree as well. Best thing I've done for my face. The acne has calmed down considerably (but not entirely), old scarring has faded, and the greasies are nothing like they used to be. I wish I tried it long before. I assume these oils are not high in oleic acid, correct? My hair loves coconut oil, but I have to keep it away from my face and scalp or I will have a wicked break out.

Just got the DermOrganic products about two weeks ago, I shampoo with a dilute mixture every 3 days, condition daily, and use a small amount of the conditioner as a leave-in too, then seal with grapeseed oil (that is my hair's favorite oil). I really like these products. I worried a bit about the protein content, I previously thought I was protein sensitive. I think that arose from a bad experience with a homemade egg-based DT I tried a little over a year ago, that resulted in classic protein overload. I swore off all protein after that disaster, but I've recently found products with keratin or rice amino acids are helpful and leave my hair feeling great. My hair is medium to coarse, very coarse and porous in the crown area. I just can't get enough moisture there!

With gel layered over the leave-in and GSO I get much better curl formation and reduced frizz, but until I can find a gel my scalp can tolerate I'm frizzy and have looser curl. It's odd, most people complain about their ends being drier and more prone to frizz, my ends are the best part of my hair; perfect 3a smooth, shiny ringlets, little frizz. But starting a few inches up, the frizz gets awful, the curl loosens, and the dryness is in full force. I have a ton of regrowth in various lengths, from under an inch to about 4-5 inches, all from a massive postpartum shed that tapered off about 9 or 10 months ago. So much of that regrowth is wiry, finer, and without gel won't hold curl as my hair dries. I hope it doesn't stay this way.

Henna is already proving to be a holy grail, for my hair and scalp. My natural color is very dark, so I don't get the bright red some do with it, more of a dark auburn. Aside from a calm scalp, for a few days after hennaing, the frizz is more controlled too. I used to deal with a lot of breakage and split ends, but since henna ( I can't discount more careful handling, of course) my hair is like adamantium! I frequently check for splits...haven't seen a single one in ages. Rarely hear "snaps" as I detangle, and every hair I see leave my head has a bulb attached to one end indicating a shed (yeah....I am that obsessive and check). Me and henna: BFF's forever!

I'm going to experiment with some aloe-based skin treatments once this current flare up settles down. I just hate using any kind of moisturizer, maybe it's the humidity here, but most leave me feeling so greasy, like they don't soak into my skin. I hate the climate here in DE, my skin and hair both suffer. As my name would suggest, I love the desert. It defies logic, when I visit family in Las Vegas, my eczema calms down, and my hair is awesome. I would think with the dry air and hard water I'd experience the opposite. I think I need to move!

curlicious13 06-18-2013 01:53 PM

Where can I get henna treatments? Do the have one with coconut or jojoba oil? Or aloe Vera in it?

Firefox7275 06-18-2013 02:12 PM

Little or no oliec acid in your OCM blend, correct! Part of the way OCM works is eliminating harsh surfactants and respecting the skin's protective acid mantle since oils do not have a pH only water based products do.

Egg proteins are much too large to penetrate or adhere in any quantity at all so should wash away again, it's more of a lipid treatment than a protein one. What else was in the deep treatment? I wonder if you are ascribing the negative results to protein overload when something else was the culprit.

Henna acts much like a protein treatment in terms of bolstering the core structure, it makes sense your hair would like it being heat damaged. If you hair and skin love it, that seems like a winner to me!

RatherBeInNV 06-18-2013 04:28 PM


Originally Posted by Firefox7275 (Post 2181760)
What else was in the deep treatment?

Avocado (the fruit, not just oil) and EVOO if I recall correctly. That and one whole egg thrown in the food processor and whipped to a creamy consistency. Breakage, "hard hair", and dryness in the aftermath.

brimom19 06-18-2013 05:34 PM

I am really new to this and I am trying to figure out how to post a topic. I figured that someone may see this and help. I am trying to post from my iphone

Rytoka 06-18-2013 05:53 PM

Just to put in my two cents I have found that doing my hair routine upside down has helped a lot of my skin issues! The conditioners and products no longer go down my body in the shower. Significant reduction in acne on my back and shoulders as well as the various excema breakouts all over. I have decided to try and find body products without humectants, I have noticed that most body lotions have glycerin. They have been hell on my hair in this dry climate, so maybe body issues too?! Not sure if this info helps or not but I decided to throw it out there anyway :)

RatherBeInNV 06-18-2013 05:57 PM


Originally Posted by curlicious13 (Post 2181749)
Where can I get henna treatments? Do the have one with coconut or jojoba oil? Or aloe Vera in it?

I only use pure, body art quality henna. What I have now is Jamila henna, bought from Amazon. But I purchase from different vendors, where ever I can find the best price for a fresh crop. Interested in trying Red Raj from Henna Sooq when I run out of the Jamila. It pays to shop around, as price, quality, and freshness vary widely from one purchase to the next. Beware of compound hennas, or hennas that claim to produce any color other than some variant of red/orange. They often contain metallic salts and other adulterants that are very harsh to your hair and scalp.

Some pre-mixed conditioners, shampoo bars, and leave-ins contain henna, but you'll not achieve the color change or full benefits of pure henna from these products. You can mix oils with henna yourself, other common additives are lemon juice, yogurt, conditioner, vinegar, herbs, and even red wine. Not sure about aloe, but I wouldn't doubt it's been tried. I've tried a few different things in the past, but prefer only distilled water. I originally started henna for the color, as many do, but some people apply it to their hair before the dye releases for all the conditioning benefits with no color change. Not sure how well it works when used that way, as I've not tried it myself. If you do let the dye release and use it for color as well, remember that henna is as permanent as permanent gets. It's time consuming and messy, but I think it's well worth the effort. If red isn't your thing, indigo and cassia are frequently used either mixed into the henna or as a two-step process to produce other shades.

My recommended source for anything you could possibly need to know about henna is the Long Hair Community's Recipes, Henna, and Herbal Haircare forum. Make sure you have plenty of free time, it's massive! But that's where I learned everything I know about henna, and where I go if I have any questions or issues, lots of knowledgeable hennaheads are to be found there. Good luck!

RatherBeInNV 06-18-2013 06:15 PM

I agree wholeheartedly. Started doing everything upside down a few months ago. Since doing everything upside down I have no more "bacne", and I would hate to think of how much worse off my skin would be right now if I'd been rinsing right-side up. I also feel like I have more volume at the roots, which is a huge bonus! Have you tried Sarna lotion, or it's private label equivalent? Just bought some last night (the Rite Aid version), it has no glycerin. Used last night and this morning after showering, I'm impressed. I used to use Eucerin Calming Cream, which I found to be too greasy and the results were hit or miss. This soaked in immediately and I'm not itching at all. :)

Rytoka 06-18-2013 06:27 PM

I will have to look into that, thanks!

RatherBeInNV 06-18-2013 07:57 PM


Originally Posted by brimom19 (Post 2181848)
I am really new to this and I am trying to figure out how to post a topic. I figured that someone may see this and help. I am trying to post from my iphone


Go to the forum you want to post to, at the upper left side, over the existing threads, there is a red button that says "new topic". Click that. I should add that I am not on an iPhone, don't know if the layout is that much different. HTH.

allie.clark. 06-20-2013 12:26 AM

For those of you with sensitive skin issues, I have struggled with dermatitis and eczema on my scalp for years. I cannot use most shampoos or conditioners. I do not react to Kathy's family prairie therapy shampoo and conditioner and as far as I know they have nothing in it that's bad for curls. It has completely natural ingredients. And it would be considered "low-poo"
I don't know what kind of plant based ingredients you (the original poster) are allergic to, but I believe Kathy's has all the ingredients on their website. It has an herby fragrance (from the ingredients, so nothing artificial) I'm allergic to many chemicals and soy, so I have to be careful what I use and have had good luck with this brand. Just wanted to throw it out there as a option for anyone who might be interested. They also have lotion that is apparently AMAZING for eczema as well.

wavydaze 06-20-2013 07:52 AM

Is the DermOrganic poo working out for you? Recently suggested to me (for my mom) was the "Free and Clear" shampoo. I tried it for myself and liked it. Maybe not as moisturizing as other low-poos but worth a look if your skin is sensitive. If you're US-based, I found it at Walgreens but you can order online as well.

Remember that you can soak up the length of your hair in conditioner and then add shampoo to your scalp only. Massage/cleanse your scalp with the poo and rinse it all away. If you find the poos that are working for your scalp too drying for you hair, "lube-ing" up the length beforehand protects your lengths from the shampoo as you're rinsing it off your scalp. You're basically co-washing the lengths and low-pooing the scalp.

And of course, if you haven't already done so, make sure to get yourself to a derm who can properly diagnose your condition. Many skin/scalp conditions have similar symptoms but different causes so it's easy to self-misdiagnose and hence self-mistreat.

RatherBeInNV 06-20-2013 09:50 AM

I like the DermOrganic shampoo and masque. I agree, I don't think they are the most moisturizing products I've used, but they are the best I've found so far that don't irritate my skin. Can't beat the price, I ordered mine from Amazon, got both for 35.00, and at a liter each they'll last a while. Furthermore, I dilute the shampoo in a squeeze bottle for condiments, the narrow tip gets right to my scalp and I find diluted cleans as well as full strength, so that really stretches out product. If your mother has trouble with plant ingredients too, I recommend them.

Another thing I'm trying are Magick Botanicals (which don't actually contain and botanicals anymore!) oil-free shampoo, conditioner, and gel. I just got them Tuesday, so not much time to experiment yet. Haven't shampooed yet, tried the conditioner on it's own, not moisturizing enough for me. But it looks like a great base to add my own favorite ingredients to, yesterday I mixed 5 tsp. conditioner, 1.5 tsp. honey, and 1 tsp. jojoba oil, put on before I showered under a processing cap for over an hour. I had tried honey before in DTs and liked it, but didn't know it was good for skin as well. Apparently it has mild antibacterial and antifungal properties too. I rinsed well, my hair still felt a bit dry even while wet, so I ran some of the DermOrganic masque through my hair, left on a few minutes as I did other shower things, then rinsed, scrunched out water twice w/ t-shirt. Then used a tiny amount of the masque as a LI, some GSO to seal, then used the gel. Wow, I have curl again! And while my scalp isn't 100%, it's a major improvement over what I had before the honey DT. I think I'm going to try doing this regularly. The gel is okay, I could use a bit more hold, but it looks like I have few other options for fragrance free, botanical free stylers.

I was diagnosed back in 2005 with the eczema. At that time, I had no clue what CG was, in fact I had a bleached, flat ironed mohawk. I just had all these itchy, white, scaly patches of skin. My dr. recommended the basics; avoid fragrances, no long, hot showers, pat skin dry rather than rubbing, and gave me a few OTC product recs should I need them. I was okay for the most part for years, until I decided to try this whole CG I heard about a few months ago. I tried products from Shea Moisture, Jessicurl, Chagrin Valley, Vo5, Suave, and made a lot of DIY products too. Everything was full of botanicals, and my hair liked it! But then I started itching, and my ears swelled shut, and my face, shoulders, neck, arms, and back developed these huge fields of red, dry, peeling blotches. It was always the worst right after I did my hair. Went back to the dr. and asked about the products I was using, as that was really the only thing that had changed lately. She had never heard of CG, or the products I was using, so she looked into it. Was told to stop immediately. Many plant ingredients are irritants, but aren't used so frequently or in such large doses that most people won't have problems. Since I was using so much, I ended up with a major flare up unlike anything I'd ever had. I will be sent for testing, but have already pinpointed a lot of the worst triggers. Lavender, rosemary, lemongrass, citrus, and chamomile seem to be the worst. Algae maybe, but I was already so irritated that it was possible it was just residual. As I said previously, I'd even gotten to the point where aloe was making me itch, even though I'd used it daily for months with no ill effects. Other than carrier oils and henna, I'm staying away from all plant ingredients until my skin clears up and I have some definitive results from allergy testing.

allie.clark. 06-20-2013 08:08 PM

Not all doctors will agree with this, but I would research symptoms of candida overgrowth. It can make you REALLY allergic to all kinds of stuff you wouldn't normally be allergic to. I was allergic to way more than I am now, but after I treated for candida many allergies are gone. My aunt also had a problem with it, and when she had the allergy testing she was reacting to most of the stuff. Thankfully her doctor had knowledge of what yeast overgrowth can do.

RatherBeInNV 06-21-2013 09:40 AM

Interesting. I don't need to go into too many details, but I already have been dealing with that problem in one of it's more common forms for years. Ugh, miserable. In fact, it was my OB/GYN who first told me to cut back on sugar and refined carbs as they support a good environment for yeast to grow, much like Firefox suggested above. I will bring this up. I just feel like all of my allergies (skin and the sneezing, itchy eye types) have been on overdrive lately.

Firefox7275 06-22-2013 05:28 AM


Originally Posted by RatherBeInNV (Post 2182951)
Interesting. I don't need to go into too many details, but I already have been dealing with that problem in one of it's more common forms for years. Ugh, miserable. In fact, it was my OB/GYN who first told me to cut back on sugar and refined carbs as they support a good environment for yeast to grow, much like Firefox suggested above. I will bring this up. I just feel like all of my allergies (skin and the sneezing, itchy eye types) have been on overdrive lately.

Well done OB/ GYN, I so infrequently see clients who have had any significant input on lifestyle modification from mainstream medical professionals.

Do you have a history of antibiotic use or digestive problems? Do get your essential fatty acid intake/ balance right, that plays a huge role in dermatological health, appropriate immune responses, really every aspect of health.

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