The power of love
With National Eczema Week taking place in September, Laura Cartledge meets a mum whose mission to help her daughter ended up helping others, too.
Natalie Balmond’s life changed when she had her daughter, in all the ways you might expect, but in another you might not.
“Sometimes I think oh my gosh, how did I get into this,” she admits.
The simple answer is because Lula, at about 18 months old, started developing chronic eczema.
“She was pretty much covered in it. She looked like a burns victim,” recalls Natalie.
“We did all the usual stuff people do, going to the doctors and getting all the things which are meant to help. It became a full time job to solve it.”
When creams prescribed by doctors were making it flair up, the family were desperate.
“At one point they wanted to put her in Great Ormond Street under light treatment,” she explains. “She had to be bandaged every night. It was as bad as it could get.
“I started to think outside the box, I had to find something to make her life manageable if not cure it.”
While steroids would calm it down in the short term, Natalie was keen to use something more natural but found, at that time, there was very little on the market.
“I started reading books about what people used to use before there were all these complicated chemicals and creams,” she says.
“I thought there must be a solution and answer somewhere.”
By matching the symptoms – the heat and itching – with the herbs and oil historically connected with treating them, Natalie started to form a recipe.
“I wanted to feed the skin with some goodness too, as I could see it was dry and not in good condition,” she adds.
“From all that I came up with a blend which I cooked up on the stove in my kitchen.”
So what was the result?
“In the space of a few weeks she went from having chronic eczema to manageable eczema – the difference was phenomenal,” replies Natalie.
“She looked like a different child. I could start taking her swimming and I didn’t have to worry about what clothes I was putting her in.”
Friends and family soon noticed and requests for batches started coming in.
“Then a little article went out and it went crazy,” she reveals.
“It was like that scene in Harry Potter where all the letters fly in – there were hundreds of people across Sussex wanting to try it.”
And at this time it was still being concocted on Natalie’s stove.
As she puts it: “I had spaghetti Bolognese on one ring and the cream on the other.
“I didn’t set out to start a business it was just meant to be something to help her,” Natalie confesses.
“It was devastating for us as a family, she wasn’t sleeping and my life consisted of sitting there and rubbing her skin to relieve the pain of it.
“It wasn’t a lightbulb amazing moment. You could say it was that, but at the time I didn’t believe it, I thought it might have been a fluke.” she continues.
“It was only when I saw it working on other people that I realised I was on to something.
“When the testimonials started coming back, that was the moment for me.”
With confidence so connected with appearance, and in turn how we feel about ourselves, the difference Natalie’s ‘purepotions’ have made to people’s lives have been far reaching.
“Some people had their confidence so damaged by their skin,” Natalie agrees, “some couldn’t leave the
house; they couldn’t get into relationships.”
Lula’s skin is now much better, but as a teenager she isn’t keen on using the products, which her mum admits ‘is really frustrating’.
However it has helped to inspire additions to the range, like the everyday moisturiser and bath and body oils.
Another challenge is getting people to ‘make a shift’ in the way they think about skincare.
“60 per cent can end up in the bloodstream, it is really important,” insists Natalie.
“Culturally people are much more conscious of what we eat, but that has taken a long time to translate to what we put on our skin.”
She believes one of the big hurdles is getting over the luxurious scents we associate with cosmetics.
“Our moisturiser doesn’t smell of anything other than what is in it, but it is doing the job,” she smiles. “The ingredients I am putting in are the ones it needs to work.”
As for Natalie’s ambitions, her hopes for the original Skin Salvation ‘super salve’ are simple.
“I am sure I am never going to knock E45 off the shelf but I would like to be the natural alternative to it,” she reveals.
“It needs a place in everyone’s bathroom cabinet. I want it to be the first thing people reach for.”
This year’s National Eczema Week (September 12–20) will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the National Eczema Society.
For more information, visit www.eczema.org
purepotions is available from www.purepotions.co.uk