Do you battle eczema? Or perhaps you have sensitive skin and one of your children battles eczema? I'm sharing 6 very valuable things I have learnt over the past 4 years coping with my youngest daughter's eczema. Number one and number 3 may really surprise you!
I recently made the decision that all of our natural skincare products would be made without using any nut oils because of my eldest daughter's nut anaphylaxsis. But the beady eyed may have noticed I am still using Shea Butter in some products. The FDA in the U.S do class Shea Butter as a tree nut so in theory nut allergy sufferers could potentially have an increased risk of allergy to it. So this leads to the important question - why do I continue to use it in some of my products - (Emmy's Balm,Baby Buff Bath Melts,TLC Skin Balm,Butter Me Up Handmade Soap)
There are heaps of natural skincare businesses springing up in Ireland, UK and Europe at the moment. It's a huge area of growth as more and more customers are thinking about what they put on their skin. How do you choose which brand is for you? The choice is overwhelming, even for me.
So you may be wondering what's special, different and unique about Lucy's Soap Kitchen, Handmade Sensitive Skincare?Well here you go...
My natural skincare products are preservative free
Did you know many people are sensitive to cosmetic preservatives? Myself included. So I want my skincare to be preservative free. In order to do this safely I must choose not to use water in my products, they are anhydrous. (Water introduces bacteria and products including it must be preserved for safe public sale and use). I therefore also choose not to add ingredients (such as hyaluronic acid, a current 'buzz' ingredient) that require blending with water and thus preserving. This means the products will feel richer but as a little goes a long way they give good value. I know I am not alone in preferring to have a truly 100 % natural (by this I mean no synthetic chemical additions or an ingredient 'naturally derived' but so manipulated that it really is stretching it to call it natural). And I gladly prefer to have a richer product that I simply need to use less of on mine and my children's skin. Our skin loves it.
My products are nut free
Many nut oils have wonderful properties are are included in most natural skincare products. Lovely to use as long as you are not allergic to them. With allergies and severe sensitivities on the rise what you put on your skin can be as important as what you ingest. With nut anaphylaxsis a big part of our lives being a nut free house is vital for us. So there are no nut oils in my soap or skincare (a little note - I do use Shea - you can read Is Shea Butter a nut? here)
Lucy's Soap Kitchen is a small family buisness run by me, a full time mum, from my home
I am a small scale 'Indie Skincare' maker but, more importantly, I'm a full time mum of 2 small children. I've always worked from my home kitchen and its big wooden table. After 3.5 years I need my own dedicated work space so we are almost finished a loft conversion. The Soap Loft! This will keep me working from home. In reality what do these choices this mean for my business?
For me it means choosing to remain a small business as scaling up production in my Soap Loft will have it's size limitations. Which also means I am choosing not to wholesale my product throughout Ireland or Internationally. (There are just couple of local Leitrim and Longford exceptions to this, incuding the gorgeous Leitrim Design House, who stock a good range of our natural skincare products) It means you won't see me at Trade fairs or Showcase as I can't make promises to fulfill large orders and growing stockists. In all honesty I can't stay away from my girls the 4/5 days these big shows need. My eldest who is 6 has life threatening anaphylaxsis. We've had 5 hospital dashes this year already. Nothing soap related is as important as making sure I'm there to give her the immediate medication she needs. Our plans are to begin homeschooling in the future so my situation of remaining a 'work at home mum' won't change.
But please don't misunderstand my decision not to try and take over the soap world as my not being serious about my natural skincare business. I'm not just playing around with a 'hobby'. Each product comes to you with heaps of passion, hardwork, blood, sweat and tears (well you don't get the blood, sweat and tears in a jar -I'm just piling them up at home!)
So when you purchase one of my Lucy's Soap Kitchen sensitive skincare products, you make a difference to me. You are truly supporting a handmade, local, small family business.
Selling direct ensures my skincare reaches you with'just made freshness'
Selling direct ensures I have control over how my product is stored prior to sale and the jar you get is in optimum condition and as freshly made as possible (ie. it hasn't been sat on a shelf for 6 months). An important factor, in view of my desire to have preservative free products.
Selling direct allows me to keep my pricesfair and affordable
I'm in that tricky bracket of 'affordble skincare'. All of the business mentors will tell you never to go there. Artisan skincare makers are always advised to go for the luxury market. 'Affordable skincare' is not profitable. Why you may ask? It's fairly impossible to sell to shops and keep your product prices under a certain price point. There needs to be enough profit to make it viable for the retailer which doesn't leave enough profit for the artisan skincare maker to be viable unless they increase their prices significantly. But heres's my take on it, based on my own experiences. I have sensitive skin and both my daughters do. Especially my 2.5 year old, who as you probably know by now, has chronic eczema. The amount of product I get through maintaining her skin is shocking. I couldn't afford it if I wasn't making it myself. One of my core values is to keep my prices within reach for these people. People like me, that don't have a lot of expendable income but need a natural, skin sensitive product that isn't a weekly luxury but a daily staple.
Experience is something you can't buy or teach fully. Experiencing severe allergies and eczema first hand gives me alot of insight and helps me truly understand the issues involved with treating both long term. I don't make any wild claims of curing the condition (see the bottom section of this link for my answer to Will your products cure my childs eczema?) but I use and share what helps us live as 'normal' a life as possible.
I hope this little run down of what makes me different is helpful and is a little insight to some of the values that are important to me personally. Feel free to ask me anything below or you can always contact me direct.
It's been one whole month since I unveiled my new branding for Lucy’s Soap Kitchen. A new name and logo with vibrant colours I love. Who knew 'pomegranate' was such an amazing colour! In fact - who knew it was even a colour?!
But why did I take the plunge and rebrand?
When I first started selling my soap and skincare 3.5 years ago I didn’t know where my business would lead me. I had a romantic ‘rose tinted glasses’ vision of me making and selling a variety of crafts and thought calling myself 'Made in Lucy’s Kitchen' would leave the way open for it all to come under the one brand ‘umbrella’.
A steep learning curve and a huge investment of time and money, in soap selling admin and assessments, later and I knew I needed to concentrate ALL my focus on skincare.
What also followed over the next 18 months was the realization everyone thought I was selling food! My brand name “Made in Lucy’s Kitchen” didn't help. More than a few people have actually taken a bite of my Sugar Scrub Cubes! Event organisers never got my business name right. They always called me Lucy's Kitchen. As I began to focus on my online presence I also wished many times I had included ‘soap’ in my brand name, to help with basic S.E.O.
Even though I knew my name wasn’t ideal it was always too much for me to tackle and didn’t seem worth the upheaval. But 2016 has been a changing point for me. Why??
At the end of 2015 I had got focused on my business vision. Where I wanted to go, where I didn’t want to go, what was working for my family’s needs, what was not and what needed to change.
I got sharp on my numbers, realized I needed to streamline my range and increase some of my prices.
I wanted to produce promotional banners, point of sale & a brochure but with no graphic design skills I approached a graphic designer, Vicki Nicolson, from brandingtherapy.co.uk, whose work I had followed from afar, for help. We had some brilliant skype chats (a great way to chat business by the way - a new one for me but one I'll definitely be doing alot more of!) and I quickly realised this was a unique opportunity for me to make those changes (that were now obvious with hindsight) and the focus and direction this would actually give me.
With some brilliant photography by Rooskey based Jason Christopher jcphotograpy.ie, branding and graphics support from Vicki, I feel incredibly proud of Lucy's Soap Kitchen. With a focus on sensitive skincare, that's natural and gentle for all the family and my very own soap kitchen being built here in my Leitrim home the future is decidely soapy!
So it has been a long time since I last wrote about the eczema hell that my family have been through. As I write this I'm all too aware many people in the world are living in such horrific circumstances that it makes me feel shallow calling it 'hell'. But our world was for that time of "eczema hell" almost totally self centered. Looking after Emmy and her skin occupied much of my time and alot of my mental attention.
Her eczema really started to manifest itself strongly from her being 7 weeks old. This is a photo of her at 8 months during a typical night.....
For 2 years I hardly slept, really, I hardly slept. Probably the longest stretch I ever got on a good night was an hour and a half (with 3-4 hours of pacing with a screaming baby in beteween) Usually her sleep cycles were around 40 minutes before coming into light sleep and totally waking up due to itching. Poor thing look at her skin, it drove her demented, its no wonder she couldnt sleep. The emotions you go through are from nurturing caring mother to sheer desperation just wanting the noise to end and to just somehow sleep. I don't want to write about it anymore as it was just awful and it makes me very sad to think about it.
So what practically did we learn that we can pass on....
We have a brilliant dietician and paediatrician that support us. I exclusvely breastfed for 6months. From 4 months I knew when I consumed egg or milk around 3 hours later Emmy's dreaded itch began. Although our medcal team are brilliant - they didn't believe this would affect Emmys excema the way it did. So little is supposed to transfer into mothers milk but I can assure you it most certainly does. Without any doubt.
So I completely cut out eggs and dairy. At 6 months she had a pin prick test and bloods done. Sure enough milk and egg showed. Not as strong as we thought it would but her physical reaction to it was alot stronger than her allergy test would indicate. From 6 months she has had a brilliant appetite but if I, in a moment of weakness, had a piece of cake then I would have the constant disturbed night time scratching and 3-4 hours of pacing and screaming (not just crying, inconsolable screaming).
So DIET has been all important to us.
As she got older on occasion she has been given dairy directly (on one occasion by my mum "ah, it won't hurt her that much, just a little will be alright....") As well as the severe hives, swelling and itching her behaviour was very extreme. Crawling into cracks between chairs, refusing to come out, dragging herself along the floor, headbutting walls, scraping her head off the walls and floor. She was 18 months old. And I include this as she has only behaved this way when exposed to foods she has a supposedly 'low to moderate' allergy to. There is, in my opinion, a definite connection even though our dietician and paediatrician didn't think this connection was there.
A couple of my friends asked me if I would stop breastfeeding and I considered it but as a family we felt the benefits still far outweighed the negatives. She just would not accept infant soya (we have huge reservations about it anyway but I was so desperate I tried to introduce it more than a few times). There is one other (nasty tasting) milk infant substitute but if its not introduced very early on it isnt accepted very easily by the little one. Very few options for a parent in this situation.
It is really important to say that anaphylaxsis (life threatening) allergies are on the rise. Latest research indicates that when an allergy manifests itself and the food is eliminated and the child is never exposed to it that if an accidental exposure later occurs the likelihood of anaphlaxsis is increased.So tolerance of a food is what the doctors are aiming for. So there may be a minor reaction but this is preferable to a life threatening reaction. After months of not eating egg and milk when my dietician explained this research I did begin to introduce a small amount (ie a small amount of milk in 3 mugs of tea/day - no more latte's for me) into my own diet. So Emmy had a small exposure without eating it directly. It affected her skin but I didn't want to inadvertently be the cause of her having an anaphlactic reaction to it. For this reason it is important to work with a dietician if you are thinking about eliminating a food type completely.
So my diet and Emmy's diet have been very important factors in our managing the severity of her excema.
My next blog posts will be about the role of the skin protein FILLAGRIN and importantly the practical things we have found that help our management of the excema. It is still part of our daily lives (and always will be) so needs constant maintenance, without which very quickly her skin would deteriorate. BUT she is 2 years and 4 months now and I have started to get more sleep. I can get a run of 5 hours now which is just amazing. That light at the end of a dark tunnel is getting thankfully beginning to get brighter!
I get asked what I use to cleanse and look after my own skin alot. To be honest, I keep it simple and as quick as possible!
I used to have terrible skin flare ups. I'm talking raised red areas, tiny bumps, dry flaky areas around my nose, forehead and chin. It wasn't as bad as this all the time but when it flared it was sudden, full on and could take 8 weeks for it to ease. It felt awful, tight and itchy. I was incredibly self conscious about it. Nothing I put on it helped and always irritated it during a flare up. To this day I don't know the exact reasons. From my own personal research and experience I feel the main cause was, (and is) for me, predominantly internal and hormonally imbalanced. More about external skin care factors another time though!
Whatever the exact reasons for my skin flare ups, when I began making my own COMPLETELY natural and simple skincare I genuinely had a steady improvement. At first the main (wonderful) relief was that it didn't itch and I could put something on my skin to stop it feeling tight. But since then I have only had minor flare ups on at most 3 or 4 occasions (Irritated from wearing makeup - have you ever looked at the ingredients????... I am mostly an 'au naturel' girl now when it comes to make-up, although I do wear it for special occasions).
So here are some simple D.I.Y skin cleansing tips....
1. WATER!! You can only add so much water from the outside, you really do need to drink and hydrate from the inside
2. This is THE best tip! A simple, cost effective way to cleanse, that your skin responds really well to as it doesn't strip its necessary oils....
Take a cotton wool pad and lightly dampen it with a drop of water.
Apply a dash of Sweet Almond Oil to the cotton wool pad and use very gentle upwards sweeping motions up through the neck and around the chin line. Check and see what's on the cotton wool pad. (I know, it didn't look that dirty did it?!)
If you need to, turn the cotton wool pad over. Adding a drop more oil when necessary, continue gently around the face. You will be surprised at how effective this is for eye make up too!
Personally I mostly use Avocado Oil as I can only tolerate a little Almond without getting itchy. But I'm in a small minority and Sweet Almond Oil is such a beneficial oil to use . It is suitable for all skin types, soothing and has anti-inflammatory properties. Its also readily available. You can pop into your local asian market and buy it extremely reasonably. (@200ml for @€3)
A soapy friend reminded me that Sunflower Oil is great for acne and also Olive Oil is wonderful for the skin. Find what suits you!
3. Then I have a lovely glass jar (with a cork stopper that feels very decadent to use) that I decant lavender and chamomile floral water into. I add a dash of witch hazel (readily available from Boots). I pre-dampen a cotton wool pad and add a little of my self blended toner to it.
4. To moisturise I use the Naturally Perfect Serum (which is silky and amazing for facial massage, yes - for that rare occasion it happens.....) and when I need extra moisturising the Au Naturel Skin Mousse. If I have a flare up (usually around my nose and lips) I use the TLC Balm, which is my personal fave as its so handy for everything, and it's great for my trouble areas. Because I don't use essential oils all the time in my leave on skin care, I find when I do use them they are really effective.
5. When I'm in the shower or bath I will use either Bleating Lovely or Butter Me Up as a gentle cleansing facial wash. Some of my lovely customers have had good results with Detoxify, Floral Digestive or Chocolate Orange Coffee. But my skin is so dry that on a daily basis I use the oil cleanser.
And here is my first video, the same one that I posted to my facebook page, there were lots of bloopers but you can see how simple oil cleansing really is!
I am really delighted to have my natural handmade soap and sensitive skincare products available with The Leitrim Design House at the The Dock, Carrick on Shannon, in lovely Leitrim. It's been available there for over a year now & it always makes me feel, just a little bit, proud that they feel it is good enough.
I made the deicision this year not to wholesale my Natural Soap & Skincare products but to concentrate on my direct online shop. Selling products at a wholesale price makes it necessary to sell more to make the necessary financial return. This in turn means making more product. For me making & selling Handmade Soap is a lifestyle choice. I want to spend time with my small family without having constant deadlines adding to the pressure I sometimes feel. I still have deadlines and work commitments but they are mostly self dictated. When it gets too much or the children need me more, I can still choose to slow down. And I do.
So, back to The Leitrim Design House! This shop is the only exception to my wholesale rule. They are close to me in my home county of Leitrim & easy to pop into for a chat & restock. They fly the flag for a lot of local Leitrim makers that I respect. It helps to raise my profile but also it reassures me that my product is a high enough standard to be sold in a premium venue like this. Perhaps I shouldn't need this reassurance - but if we are honest I think we all do at times.
This is the little selection from Made in Lucy's Kitchen, Natural Soap & Skincare, that you will find on their shelves
Lucinda Lee, T/A Lucy's Soap Kitchen, Bornacoola, Co. Leitrim, Ireland. Est. March 2013
All of our products are traditionally made in small batches, from scratch, with completely natural, petro-chemical free, ingredients. They are created to be gentle to sensitive and allergy prone skin, however individual allergies may still occur. Discontinue use immediately if you experience any irritation. If you or your children have sensitive skin we recommend doing a patch test 24 hours before regular useage. Please contact us prior to purchase if you are aware of allergies & need additional product information & advice.