What Does "Suitable For Children" or "For Eczema" Mean In Skincare?
Marcie Mom from EczemaBlues.com interviews Laura, CEO of VMV Hypoallergenics, to find out more about product claims and why they’re important when choosing your skin care…particularly if you or your child has eczema.
Understanding Baby Skin and Eczema
Q: “Suitable for Children with Eczema.” These are the most important words for a parent looking for products for their child with eczema. When a product is labeled (and prominently so) as specifically for the use of infants with eczema, we feel so much surer. Can you explain to us what “suitable for infants” and “suitable for eczema” really mean, and if there is a regulatory body that governs the use of these terms on product packaging?
A: It’s totally understandable that seeing that claim on a package would make a parent feel more at ease about choosing the product for their child. They’re not regulated terms, however. What might help is knowing a little bit more about baby skin.
Baby skin is formed and functioning from a very young age: neonatal and even younger — in utero by the end of the 1st trimester. But during the first few months of life, immunological functions are still undeveloped. For example, atopic dermatitis (aka eczema) is not often seen until after the 3rd month of life because it is an allergic disease that needs immune-forming cells to make IgE immunoglobulin. Because infant skin is newer to the world, building up its defenses, and as the surface area of skin is greater in babies (they absorb anything topically applied more than adults), baby skin care should be very safe yet still protect against micro-organisms.
At VMV Hypoallergenics, when we claim that a formulation can be used on young skin, this means that the product takes into account baby skin’s newness and absorption, and is as safe as we can make it. It would, for instance, contain zero (or close to zero) of all common contact allergens. It would also not contain other ingredients that elicit irritant responses or that have other safety issues. We would also include baby skin-compatible ingredients like a very safe, broad-spectrum (and non-drug) coconut-derived antimicrobial and organic virgin coconut oil. Monolaurin is present in breast milk and virgin coconut oil is sometimes used as an additive to some infant supplements.
In terms of something being “suitable for eczema,” it helps to first know what eczema is, which is atopic dermatitis. I left the more detailed definition to my mother, Dr. Verallo-Rowell, as this is her forte and I believe you and your readers would appreciate a doctor’s definition:
“Eczema is actually a more generalized term for any skin eruption characterized by edema (swelling) within the epidermis and dermis clinically seen as tiny itchy bubbles that ooze and become little bubbles or vesicles, even blisters. Then, exposed to the air, they dry up and become crusts. With chronicity, this wet phase may not be as obvious, and becomes replaced more by dry, thickened, very itchy patches and plaques. Atopic dermatitis is the prototype example of this process but it may be seen in other conditions such as allergic and irritant contact or photocontact dermatitis, eczematous drug eruption, and secondary reactions to a primary diagnosis.”
Because “eczema” is such a general term, a specific diagnosis can be a powerful tool towards consistent and sustained management. A specific diagnosis usually also comes with an identification of the possible triggers for an individual’s flare-ups. Children can be patch tested but not infants. The alternative is frequent and controlled observation of what seems to cause eruptions and to practice strict prevention. This is also why it is so important to use few products…so it’s easier to observe what the trigger/s might be.
The many conditions that can fall under the mantle “eczema” all benefit from the same ultra safety that we would do for hypoallergenic baby products, i.e. ZERO of all known allergens, etc. plus the inclusion of a very safe antibacterial-antiviral-antifungal in all formulations. Why? With eczema, when the skin develops fissures or cracks, this becomes welcoming to opportunistic microorganisms to enter the skin, which can lead to or exacerbate itching and further dryness…which can lead to more cracks (which can lead to more infection) and more scratching (which can spread infection)…more risk of microorganisms, etc. in a vicious cycle. This is why we put the skin-safe but powerful antibacterial-antiviral-antifungal-anti-inflammatory (monolaurin) in all these products.
This article was originally published in eczemablues.com as one of a multi-part series focused on understanding and using products for sensitive skin. Inspired by her daughter Marcie who had eczema from two weeks old, Mei (aka MarcieMom) started EczemaBlues.com with the mission to turn eczema blues to bliss. In this series of interviews, MarcieMom interviews Laura, CEO of VMV Hypoallergenics, to learn more about product claims when choosing products to care for skin with eczema.