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Beware of the classic Dove & Cetaphil cream combo
on February 28, 2012
Our baby daughter started suffering from either dermatitis or eczema a year ago - just a red bumpy rash - and unscented Dove and Cetaphil cream were recommended by the pediatrician, pediatric dermatologist, and an allergist. Unfortunately, they didn't know that Dove had changed the product formula and that Cetaphil contained sweet almond oil. We really wish they had - it would have saved her a year of terrible itching and rashes.
As background, our daughter was diagnosed with a milk allergy after we switched her to Alimentum and within a day or two her skin cleared up significantly. With consistent use of Dove in warm daily baths, hydrocortisone 1% cream on spots and Cetaphil cream, she soon had mild eczema. However, even though her skin was clearer, some red bumps and frantic itching continued, to the point that she was scratching areas so feverishly she was digging into the skin and bleeding. Nothing helped - not even antihistamines. Dairy had been eliminated so there had to be a secondary cause.
Quite by accident, I used her Dove soap two weeks ago. And I too started itching like crazy, even though I had used it without problems years ago. And it turns out I wasn't alone - even unscented Dove's own website addresses this issue. After some research, it turns out that in 2007 Unilever quietly changed its formulation, combining unscented Dove (recommended for years by allergists and dermatologists) and Dove for sensitive skin, into one product, unscented Dove for Sensitive skin. They changed the surfactant base and the ingredients for the whole line. In other words, the product that doctors have been recommending for years for eczema is no longer the same.
Another interesting thing is that Dove uses tallow - an animal byproduct that is often derived from cattle. This may cause a reaction in people with milk allergies.
Taking this one step further, a recent study suggests that children with milk allergies may have a higher risk of peanut sensitivity (my daughter does). Whether this can translate into a true peanut allergy is not known yet, it will take several years of research with children to find this out. One step further - some people with peanut allergies are also allergic to tree nuts. The milk -peanut - tree nut sensitivities (and sometimes allergies) can coexist.
What does all this mean? That the very mix of products recommended by three doctors - Dove and Cetaphil - may have been a trigger for her second bout with eczema. This is the multi-step process that finally worked to clear it up:
#1 - Eczema is often triggered by a milk allergy. Avoid all dairy, cheese and yogurt. Also, avoid milk byproducts such as whey (in white bread for example) or foods that might contain milk proteins such as chocolate. We saw huge improvement with Similac Expert Care Alimentum Hypoallergenic Nutrition Formula, Powder, With Iron, 1-Pound (454 g) (Pack of 6) and insurance may cover it.
#2 - If you're using Dove soap for eczema and itching continues, try another product. We are having success with Johnson's Baby Natural Head-to-toe baby wash for both hair and body; other moms like California baby. Our daughter's frantic itching stopped completely overnight after we stopped using Dove.
#3 - If you're using Cetaphil cream as a moisturizer, take note of the ingredients, especially if there's a chance of allergies to tree nuts. It contains sweet almond oil and we found that this was causing small red non-itchy bumps in both our twins. We are now using Aveeno Baby Eczema Therapy Moisturizing Cream and it's lightweight and not greasy. Aquaphor Baby Healing Ointment is also a good barrier moisturizer.
#4 - Change detergents. Even Dreft has fragrance. Several mom friends have found that All Free and Clear makes their babies itchy. I didn't notice a change in my daughter's itching but have switched to Tide Free & Gentle. I did notice a change in my own hands, for the better (they used to get red and cracked doing laundry).
#5 - always have a layer of 100% cotton next to the skin, especially with fleece clothing.
#6 - change crib sheets and vacuum once a week as dust could be a trigger (it wasn't for us).
#7 - Hydrocortizone 1% (OTC) on spots plus a thin layer of moisturizer right after a warm daily bath still remains the best treatment. On tougher spots, apply twice a day.
With the above suggestions our daughters' skin has cleared up almost completely. We are truly astonished as the ingredients in the very products recommended by her three doctors - Dove and Cetaphil cream - by all appearances were causing her rash and itching during the last year. She's like a new baby, her skin is glowing and she's finally smiling and peaceful.