I am as vulnerable to marketing as anyone else, and in my search for the perfect recipes I bought many useless expensive oils and ingredients just because the word "dermatitis" was printed nearby. My husband is the chronic psoriasis sufferer in the household, but despite his cracked hands and angry red itchy skin he's a very tough customer. The cream has to feel just right, it can't smell funny, and he doesn't like green hairy stuff to start growing in the jar after a few weeks. He was very suspicious of my homemade attempts to replace his familiar, dermatologist sanctioned products, even though the Cetaphil he used does not score very well on the safety scale set up by the Environmental Working Group Cosmetic Safety Database... but when he ran out of my home-made cream and had to resort to commercial products during a trip, he finally had to concede that even the worst of my experiments were far superior to anything he could buy... and much, MUCH cheaper.
This instructable was adapted from a book I'm working on, Make Anything, a Handbook for Saving Money, Living Green and Having Fun with Trash. If you like it, sign up to be on my mailing list. You won't be getting spam (I set this up a few months ago and have yet to send out a single newsletter....) but you will get a chance to win a free pop-up card template....
Step 1: Prevention
Water is both a villain and a hero. Hero because when you soak in water it moisturizes your skin. Villain, because once you stop soaking, unless you seal in the moisture it will evaporate and leave your skin even drier than it was to begin with.
What this means is that you need to avoid casual contact with water, especially hot water with detergents -- that's right, no more dishes! Well, actually, you still can do dishes, but NEVER without really good gloves. My husband also uses gloves in the shower, the clear, latex free variety, which he seals around his wrists with rubber bands. When he gets out he washes his hands in cold water and quickly covers himself with the cream described in step 2.
Gloves should also be used any time you are doing messy or dusty work, lifting cardboard boxes, gardening of course, but also handling a lot of paper which might dry out your skin. Wear cotton gloves at night too, after slathering on an inordinate amount of cream, to keep it from rubbing off on the sheets.
You probably already know what type of fabric you need to avoid: my husband can never wear any type of wool against his skin, even the softest cashmere, and he avoids synthetics but also silk. Cotton is pretty much his only choice.
Wash the clothes often with so called "fragrance free" detergents -- I actually make my own mix of sodium percarbonate, borax, washing soda and sodium lauryl sulfoacetate (a surfactant which comes in powder form) because commercial detergents, no matter what they say, always contain fragrance -- but for most people detergents marketed for babies should be OK. Don't use fabric softeners -- use a little distilled vinegar instead.
Use sunscreen generously, and favor the kind with titanium or zinc oxide -- these offer broad spectrum protection (i.e. they block both UVA and UVB beams), and the zinc has the added advantage of soothing the skin and reducing itchiness. Even better, make your own sunscreen! Your active ingredient can be 100% zinc and you can avoid the chemicals which might cause irritation (before I started making this my fair skinned husband had to choose between a sunburn and an itchy rash). The Neem oil in that sunscreen recipe is also great for eczema, although you might want to omit the essential oils.