In my newsfeed today I got a press release from Aveeno-- apparently they have just rolled out a new line of moisturizers especially for kids and adults with eczema. In fact, you can find a promo video on Facebook. In the video, Suzy Deprizio, a brand manager for Aveeno, talks about how she's been involved in developing the moisturizers (or developing the marketing strategy? Not entirely clear to me) for five years, and how she found out that her young daughter had eczema. She also offers a few tips, none of which will surprise you if you live with eczema: clip fingernails, etc. It is interesting to know that there are people at Aveeno who have a personal stake in the products. Aveeno's definitely an example of a company whose products benefit society. Looking forward to trying out the new creams!
On the topic of moisturizers & skin barrier, there is a good article in The Advocate, basically a transcript of a presentation by Peter Lio, MD, at the 2010 NEA Patient Conference in Chicago. Lio makes a few interesting points. One is that traditional soaps-- say, Ivory, or something that you might make yourself from lye and rendered fat if you're under the impression that "pure" or "simple" equals better--are harsh on the skin. Quite apart from their surfactant properties, when mixed with water, they increase the pH, making a strong alkaline solution. Why is alkalinity bad? Because the skin's natural pH is slightly acidic.
When the skin becomes more alkaline, the conditions favor the action of natural enzymes called serine proteases, which break down the bonds between skin cells and chew up other enzymes that produce fatty molecules called ceramides. Ceramides, in the right balance, are essential in creating a good skin barrier. So traditional soap not only removes these lipids from the skin, but reduces the skin's ability to replenish itself. You can find a good review of the skin barrier in eczema here.
Lio also discusses commercial moisturizers. He says (and I've found) that pure petroleum barriers such as Vaseline aren't very useful. They do indeed keep water in the skin, but as soon as they rub off, they don't. When I put Vaseline on eczematous skin, the benefit seems to wear off within minutes. "Right now I would say it's nice to look for something that contains ceramides," Lio says.* We're using CeraVe on Voov--it contains ceramides--and it seems to be working very well. The stuff is hella expensive though. It makes Eucerin look cheap. But I am going to start trying it out on my hands to see if it makes any difference. (I know, I know, Eczema Mom, you advised me to try it a while ago. But we all get attached to our daily routine and it's hard to change.)
*So do these Aveeno products have ceramides? If not, why is colloidal oatmeal so good for skin? Will investigate.