CeraVe - Avoiding Irritants in Conventional Skincare Products

My father is turning 90 years old on June 4. He’s had eczema his entire life; the itchy, red, dry skin kind. Two months ago he told me he couldn’t sleep because he was scratching his legs all night long. Since he lives in West Virginia and I’m in Seattle I told my sister to change the lotion he was using to one that had only natural ingredients like coconut oil, shea butter, cocoa butter and ones with skin calming properties like German Chamomile or Damascus Rose.


Unbeknownst to me she took him to see a dermatologist who recommended CeraVé Moisturizing Lotion. A week later my Dad told me his skin was worse! The dermatologist actually recommended a product that actually CAUSED my father’s irritated skin along with the usual strong prescription Hydrocortisone Creams that have nasty side effects like skin redness/burning/itching/peeling and blistering skin according to rxlist.com.

I didn’t recognize any of the ingredients except water, glycerin and cholesterol (?).

INGREDIENTS: Purified Water, Glycerin, Ceteareth-20 and Cetearyl Alcohol, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Behentrimonium Methosulfate and Cetearyl Alcohol, Cetyl Alcohol, Ceramide 3, Ceramide 6-II, Ceramide 1, Hyaluronic Acid, Cholesterol, Petrolatum, Dimethicone, Potassium Phosphate, Dipotassium Phosphate, Sodium Lauroyl Lactylate, Disodium EDTA, Phenoxyethanol, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Phytosphingosine, Carbomer, Xanthan Gum.

The natural and ‘clean’ skincare movements have been gaining traction in the last few years because large corporations have been making products that are irritating people’s skin with cheap petrochemicals and irritating ingredients for those with sensitive skin. Clean products typically avoid sodium lauryl sulfates, parabens, formaldehydes, synthetic fragrances, pthalates and petroleum products to name a few.

I went to EWG’s Skin Deep’s database to see the toxicity rating for CeraVé’s ingredients. It turns out the water, glycerin and cholesterol were innocuous! The other ingredients…not so much. The overall rating was ‘4’ so on a scale of 1 (low) - 10 (high) it was a MEDIUM hazard. For those with sensitive skin, it’s probably better to use a product with a maximum rating of ‘2’.

The ingredient with the HIGHEST hazard rating (7) was Propylparaben. EWG notes it is related to: Allergies/immunotoxicity, Endocrine disruption, Developmental/reproductive toxicity, Ecotoxicology.

Petrolatum is related to organ system toxicity (non-reproductive).

Phenoxyethanol is known for: Irritation (skin, eyes, or lungs), occupational hazards, organ system toxicity (non-reproductive), allergies/immunotoxicity.

CeraVé’s product description is, “A compromised skin barrier can lead to dryness and itching—and aggravate skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis.” Perhaps they should also note that their moisturizing cream ingredients can CAUSE skin irritation.

Read your labels. Get educated on ingredients in conventional skincare products. Avoid them!

Balinese Skin Healing & Yoga Retreat - March 10 to 13, 2018

Balinese life is full of traditional rituals, daily offerings, temple ceremonies and jamu (traditional Balinese medicine). Bali is probably the best place on the planet to learn about traditional rituals to care for sensitive skin. I've been going to Bali at least once a year since 2008 and have discovered the many traditions and practitioners that support healthy skin; yes they're tucked away from the tourist crowds.

Fresh fruits and vegetables are in abundance in Bali and these will help support our skin via detoxification. The warm climate facilitates doing yoga in fresh tropical breezes which also help the skin detox through gentle sweating. The ancient sacred temples and waterfalls will purify our skin, heart and minds. We'll participate in an ancient fire ceremony led by Balinese Hindu priests to release negative emotional patterns that no longer serve us.

There will be daily Yoga for Skin classes, workshops to learn to make our own skin care products to nourish our dry or inflamed skin, as well as a facial and massage using pure local products specifically formulated for those with sensitive skin. 

A Paris Spa for Sensitive Skin - La Maison Dr. Hauschka

The fourth step in The Zen Skin Philosophy is to NOURISH SKIN. That means using products that don't contain ingredients that irritate sensitive skin conditions like dermatitis. For an eczema-prone person like me that loves to get spa treatments that's always been a touchy subject.

Spas offering facials and massage services may use conventional products that contain irritants. [Sign up for the newsletter and I'll send you the NEVER LIST-The Top 10 Ingredients to Avoid in Skin Care Products for free.] A spa may not be forthcoming about the ingredients in their 'house brand' of massage oil or the exfoliating, cleansing, toning and moisturizing products used during a facial. My goal has always been to find a spa that is transparent about the ingredients used in their products for facials and massages and one that knows how to specifically address the needs of someone with sensitive skin.

A friend of mine highly recommended  La Maison Dr. Hauschka in Paris because of its ambience. Truth be told Vanessa is an interior designer that specializes in Feng Shui and she designed the layout, colors and elements in the spa to create the most Zen-like atmosphere possible. That was great in terms of the Zen Skin Philosophy's principle of Calming the Nervous System, but what about the products?

I remember seeing this Dr. Hauschka brand at Whole Foods and other natural food stores in the US and in France but then I did more research about the German-made line of products. I liked the transparency and full disclosure of how they are made, how the plant-based ingredients are grown in their gardens vs. being outsourced, but mainly that Dr. Hauschka products are approved by the strict NATRUE non-profit certifying agency which means:

Natural Ingredients, Minimal processing, Free of synthetic fragrances, colors and dyes, No petroleum-derived synthetics (parabens, propylene glycol, silicones), Exclusively non-toxic processing methods (no PEG’s or Sodium Laureth Sulfate), No GMO ingredients, and No irradiation at any stage of production. 

Once I knew that there were no synthetic ingredients (known to be irritants to those with eczema), I wanted to find out how their spa specifically catered a facial to people with sensitive skin. I booked the Soin Plénitude two hour facial with Emelie. Quite simply she explained that all the products she would use on me were very gentle and designed (and labeled) to be used by persons with atopic dermatitis!

Two hours of BLISS! The ambiance in the treatment room, the sounds in the room and smells of all the natural products, Emeilie's soft and precise description of each step along the way; all heaven! I lived in Seattle and then Bali for two years and have had hundreds of spa treatments, this was the best facial experience I've ever had! 

I don't always like the sales push to buy products once the facial treatments are over (at least that's how most American and European spas operate). Emelie presented me with a list of four products I could use at home that were the same as she used during the treatment. I was shocked to see how affordable they were. (I'd been to the famous/shi-shi Biologique Recherche's L'Ambassade de la Beauté on the Champs-Élysées two other times and there was a hard sales push and each of the recommended products was at least 120€). 

I bought three products for a total of less than 100€: Cleansing Cream, Soothing Intensive toner treatment for reactive skin, and Ice Plant Face Cream. I've been using this routine for a month at home and my face looks the best its ever been; no reaction to the ingredients at all. I attribute this to the cleanser being 'oil based' instead of detergent based. The philosophy is that like attracts like in the field of chemistry so the oil in the product absorbs the dirty sebum on the face and mimics natural viscosity of naturally produced skin oils. 

I'm not affiliated with La Maison Dr. Hauschka in any way, but if you're ever in Paris, go there!



Go Nuts! Make Your Own Almond Milk

Soothing the Digestive System with dairy-free milk alternatives is a great way to boost the health of sensitive skin. Almonds contain a lot of Omega fatty acids (good fats for skin). Since I learned that commercial almond milks only have 2% almonds in them I started making it at home. 

Making it at home has another benefit not available in boxed almond milk; soaking the nuts overnight in water begins the sprouting process, releasing additional nutrients good for the skin. Soaking also helps to get rid of the reddish-brown phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors in the almond skins, which can interfere with the function of our digestive and metabolic enzymes. 

Anyone can easily make their own almond milk at home for a fraction of the cost of the factory-made versions in supermarkets. Caveat: A regular blender isn’t going to be strong or sharp-bladed enough to make your own almond milk (or a Skin Nourishing Smoothie), so I highly recommend investing in a Vitamix (or in Europe a Pousse Pousse) machine, a nut milk straining bag, a funnel, and a glass jar (preferably with a wide mouth that's easy to clean) to store and serve nut milk). 

The Zen Guy's Almond Milk Recipe: 

Most almonds are required to be pasteurized, a process that strips the nuts of nutrients using heat or the Propylene Oxide (PPO) chemical treatment. (PPO is a highly toxic flammable chemical compound, once used as a racing fuel before it was prohibited for safety reasons.) Raw almonds are better to use than dried or roasted because they haven’t been heated or exposed to PPO, but it can be hard to find almonds that are truly raw. Some small producers in the U.S. have been exempted from the pasteurization requirement and sell raw almonds. 

1. Soak 1 cup of raw almonds in water in a glass or ceramic bowl overnight on the countertop to soften. 

2. Rinse off the brown phytates that have soaked out during the night and toss the nuts into the Vitamix. 

Notice that after soaking the almonds over night that the reddish-brown phytic acid makes a solid ring around the bowl that takes some scrubbing to remove. This isn't removed from commercial almond milk.

Notice that after soaking the almonds over night that the reddish-brown phytic acid makes a solid ring around the bowl that takes some scrubbing to remove. This isn't removed from commercial almond milk.


3. Add 3 cups of filtered or spring water. 

4. Start the Vitamix on 1 and then gradually turn up to the highest setting for about 30 seconds. 

High almond to liquid ratio

High almond to liquid ratio

5. Rest the funnel on the mouth of the glass jar, and place the nut milk bag in the funnel. Pour the contents of the blender through the bag. Squeeze the pulverized nut meal until all liquid has been removed. 

Squeeze the remaining almond milk out of the nut milk bag.

Squeeze the remaining almond milk out of the nut milk bag.

6. Consider adding 1 teaspoon of coconut sugar nectar (based on a factory tour in Bali of the 'Big Tree' brand; the taste is amazing, it's sustainably collected, it has a low glycemic index and the taste is excellent) and a dash of vanilla extract.

Stay tuned for The Zen Guy's Skin Quenching Superfood Smoothie Recipe  

Avoid Irritants by Reading Labels

Avoiding Irritants is the first step in the Zen Skin Philosophy. It is critical to learn about the substances in our everyday lives that can provoke skin reactions. These triggers can be conventional skin care products, detergents, fabrics, plants, and foods that cause an allergic reaction when put in direct contact with the skin. Over-the-counter moisturizers and their irritating synthetic ingredients are one of the biggest sources of irritation for those with eczema and sensitive skin issues. According to a 2008 dermatological study published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), “Cosmetic products (83 percent of the 276 moisturizers found in the Walgreens pharmacy database) contain ingredients that cause allergic contact dermatitis."

A few of the irritating ingredients are: Methylisothiazolinone, Synthetic Fatty Alcohols such as Propylene glycol, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, BHT, and petroleum-based mineral oils. I remember a dermatologist who recommended Eucerin Original Healing Soothing Repair Lotion. According to the scientific analysis on this product, the Environmental Working Group 'Skin Deep' database shows that this Eucerin product contains all five of those skin-irritating ingredients!  

Get educated about the ingredients in your conventional skin care products! Sign up with your email address and you can immediately download "THE NEVER LIST - THE TOP 10 MOST IRRITATING INGREDIENTS TO AVOID IN CONVENTIONAL SKIN CARE PRODUCTS". 



Irritating ingredients for those with eczema

Irritating ingredients for those with eczema