Our baby daughter started suffering from either dermatitis or eczema a year ago - just a red bumpy rash - and unscented Dove was recommended by the pediatrician, pediatric dermatologist, and allergist. Unfortunately, they didn't know the manufacturer had changed the product formula. We really wish they had - it would have saved her a year of terrible itching its new formula caused.
A change in formula to Alimentum resulted in dramatic improvement after a milk allergy was diagnosed. However, small raised red patches and intense itching that caused frantic scratching to the point of bleeding soon became major issues; we visited a second dermatologist - atypical eczema was diagnosed.
Treatment until just a few days ago had been warm daily baths and unscented Dove, along with hydrocortisone 1% on spots and Cetaphil cream all over. Children's Zyrtec did not seem to alleviate the itching, although it did help her sleep. A prescription for Calcitrene did not help either. Only a physical barrier - footed PJs with both zippers and snaps, kept her from picking at her skin constantly.
Quite by accident I used unscented Dove two weeks ago. I suddenly found myself having intense itching as well. Could it be that my daughter was allergic to Dove? It did make sense as Dove was used directly on her exposed areas, arms and torso, and she had her most intense and frantic itching episodes after her bath. We discontinued Dove immediately and her intense itching subsided overnight.
What I didn't understand was why I was suddenly was allergic to the new bars. After doing some research it turns out that Dove has discontinued the old Dove unscented bar along with the Dove for sensitive skin (the one with sweet almond oil - itself an allergen) and combined them into one bar, Dove Unscented for Sensitive Skin. In so doing, it's changed its main surfuctant and other ingredients - in other words, the Dove doctors have been recommending for years is no longer the same product.
An online search revealed complaints about itchiness and the new Dove. One website site in particular on the treatment of eczema has an enormous amount of information on detergents, soap and their effects on eczema - especially the change in Dove soap. It no longer recommends it for eczema. Please see the comments section for more information.
Interestingly, itchiness and redness with the new formulation was brought up by a customer in Dove's own website and no solution is given other than Customer Service's phone number.
I've also found some mentions of another Dove ingredient, "Sodium tallowate" - tallow, sometimes derived from cattle - as sometimes causing a reaction in people with milk allergies, causing flare ups in acne and eczema. Whether this too caused an allergic reaction in our daughter, I don't know.
We thought our case was isolated. However, it's possible that the skin problems related to the new Dove may be more widespread. I hope this information helps as this change was done quietly by the manufacturer.
We also found sweet almond oil in the Cetaphil cream she was prescribed - an allergen for anyone with a tree nut allergy. We stopped using it later and the remaining red raised patches she had also diappeared. Other changes that were recommended including a change to Tide Free - it didn't help my daughter but it healed my red, cracked hands, the result of doing laundry 2-3x a day with All Free.
Granted, individual reactions to products vary but the new ingredients in Dove may be causing allergies rather than helping them. None of the three doctors consulted knew of the formula change in Dove nor realized that the "Dove + cetaphil" combo they were recommending were causing the very symptoms (itching and rash) they were trying to treat. It's possible parents may just assume it's ongoing eczema, just like they did. It may not be.
** Update 4/13 **
As noted in my review above the allergen that caused my daughter's eczema was detergent - in this case, the surfuctants in Dove. We then found out that exposure to other sulfates, such as Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (the main ingredient in Johnson's Baby Bath Head to Toe Baby Wash) are huge triggers for eczema in general - not just my child (why don't doctors know this?!). They may also contribute to scalp eczema - important to know as most shampoos contain SLS.
The solution is simple - avoid anything with detergents and/ or sulfates and switch mostly to soap-based products. These are way milder than what we've been led to believe by advertising. Please see comments section for alternatives to Dove and baby washes with SLS.
** Update 10/14 **
New types of treatment are available for eczema nowadays that have nothing to do with the traditional Dove & Cetaphil Combo, and are one step up from regular hydrocortizone 1% + moisturizer.
My daughter, who still had mild dermatitis / eczema was recently prescribed "Locoid" (4 oz, hydrocortisone butyrate 0.1% by prescription only) which is applied twice a day; for bathtime a gentle no-sulfate soap is used (such as Luxo Creme soap) with warm water. For her hair and scalp, Ciclopirox shampoo 1%, every other day along with Neutrogena T/Sal Shampoo, Scalp Build-up Control, 4.5 fl oz
in the days in between, left on for 5 minutes before rinsing well. Her skin cleared up COMPLETELY in a matter of days. Please note Locoid works by blocking the production of inflammatory chemicals prevents the swelling and redness, and preventing the itching and rash formation that can happen as a result of inflammation of skin conditions such as eczema. It should only be used under the care of a doctor and is not recommended for long-term use, especially in children.