Weakened Skin Barrier and Food: Study Warns Against What You Put on Your Skin

A new study from King’s College London and the University of Dundee has demonstrated that “food allergies may develop via immune cells in the skin” when the skin barrier is weakened in babies with eczema. According to the article in US News & World Report, “It’s believed that the breakdown of the skin barrier in infants with eczema leaves active immune cells found in skin exposed to environmental allergens — in this case food proteins — which then triggers an allergic immune response, the researchers explained.”

The study was conducted on infants, but it seems possible that adults with a weakened skin barrier and a weakened immune system could also develop sensitivities or allergies to foods via the skin. Now, I’m certainly not a scientist, but it seems to me this would mean so much else could be absorbed through the skin and into our blood stream. I’ve always heard mixed comments from physicians about what can be absorbed through the skin. Many claim that commercial and pharmaceutical skincare products are formulated so they cannot be absorbed through the skin, but I’ve personally always questioned this as I’ve heard of many people developing allergies to ingredients like propylene glycol (also see this post)and to treatments like cortisone or developing red skin syndrome aka Topical Steroid Addiction.

Let’s just say it’s possible that anything can be absorbed into your skin, if your skin is broken and irritated, as is the case with those suffering from eczema. And since we can become allergic to just about anything, what are we to do?

Rotate Skin Care Products

We all know to be careful about what we apply to our eczema and now it seems we must be even more cautious if our weakened skin barrier is truly a direct portal to our blood stream.  This means the chemicals in our skincare could potentially be absorbed into our bodies – potentially leading to chemical allergies or sensitivities, or maybe even other health issues. This is why if you do opt to go with cortisone, which can be essential in some cases, or other pharmaceutical skincare products, share your concerns with your physician and try to limit exposure to them or rotate your skincare products (a good idea with natural products as well) so you’re not using the same products daily. Most dermatologists will tell you it’s not safe to use cortisone for long periods of time anyway.

Take Precautions When Feeding Baby

Its not just chemicals and toxic products we need to watch out for either – we certainly need to be cautious of rubbing any of the top 8 food allergens directly on our skin, either just the food itself (dairy products, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, shell fish, fish, soy, and wheat) or via a natural skin care product. Now, babies are messy. When they start trying these highly allergenic foods, they will spill some on themselves. That’s unavoidable. As parents, freaking out as soon as some peanut butter touches an open eczema wound won’t help anyone. You’ll probably scare your baby into tears and we don’t want them to become scared of trying new foods.  If you’re worried about your baby dropping some food on their skin, try dressing them in long sleeves and pants or you could purchase a long sleeve bib to avoid food-skin contact.

Natural Ingredients to Avoid

It may be wise to watch out for skincare products containing soy oil or protein (or any “vegetable” ingredient), peanut oil,  dairy products (goat milk products are quite the rage), even almond oil and other tree nuts oils. Shea butter, cocoa butter, and coconut oil are popular and effective natural skincare options for eczema, but some believe they are considered tree nuts. For more on this topic, take a look at this post. While these tropical “nut” butters may be in the same family as tree nuts according to some sources and not according to others, there is a very small chance of developing an allergy to shea, cocoa butter or coconut oil. Although it’s important to remember anyone can develop an allergy to literally just about anything.

True, this is just one study, so it’s not the be all end all, but it should open our eyes to what we’re applying to our skin.

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