This article appeared in Take 5
Magazine April 27, 2005
to fix that eczema.
When I was a baby, my mother’s friends would peer
into my pram. “What a lovely…” they’d begin and then they would recoil.
“Whatever happened?” They’d exclaim. “Did he get sunburnt?” Its eczema,”
my mother Lesla said.
From the age of three months, I was in and out of Royal Children’s
Hospital in Melbourne with my eczema. The doctors wrapped my limbs in
plastic wrap or wet crepe bandages and gave me cortisone cream to keep
it under control – but I was miserable.
I couldn’t move properly and I itched unbearably. It made it hard to
sleep and I’d wake up with the sheets stuck to my oozing, crusty skin.
“Can’t you stop scratching?” people asked. “If you can stop breathing,
I’ll stop scratching” I replied. Some experts believe that eczema goes I
cycles and that’s how it was with me. When I reached school age although
I had to use a lot of moisturizer, it was barely noticeable. At 18, I
started partying at it flared up. It couldn’t have been a worse age –
just when I wanted to date girls – and I got really self-conscious about
going down to beach.
Doctors prescribed cortisone again and I began to worry that long term
use could effect my health.
Luckily, my skin was clear when I met Shannon and we later married. When
I got outbreaks, she was sympathetic, but I could see she didn’t
understand why it drove me crazy. We went on to have our son, Ryan. Our
little boy was 14 months old when he started getting pink patches around
his knees and ankles. They spread and soon he was scratching and
bleeding. The doctors prescribed cortisone. “I can’t believe it!” I
cried. “Haven’t treatments progressed?” Now we have to wrap our son in
plastic wrap, too. Once, Shannon came in from taking Ryan out, looking
upset – someone had asked her if he was sunburnt. I knew I couldn’t let
my son go through what I had endured. I worked as a builder but I
started talking to dermatologists, naturopaths and doctors. Then I
researched the ingredients in the products I’d used over the years. “I
need something that will take the heat and inflammation out of the
skin,” I told Shannon I bought some liquid herbs and oils, took them
into the kitchen and mixed them in a blender. The ingredients included
propolis, gotu kola, calendula, emu oil, and manuka honey. I then
applied these concoctions to Ryan, now four, and kept notes on what was
helping. After six months we noticed the redness had gone out of Ryan’s
I kept applying my cream and Ryan’s skin improved. The problem was now
was the dryness, so I made a special bath oil.
I heard some researchers believed some skin problems were linked to a
deficiency in essential fatty acids. So I worked with a chemist and made
Mega Oil to be taken internally. I gave my creams and oils to friends
who raved about them so much; I got Therapeutic goods Act (TGA) approval
and had them made commercially. Soon Grahams Natural Alternatives were
being sold in Health food stores.
Meanwhile, we had a daughter, Kirra.
Over the next few years, we grew our business and watched Ryan’s skin.
He was now at school and doing fine, so we relaxed until Shannon noticed
“Ryan keeps scratching his head all the time,” she said. “I think the
dog has given him fleas. He’ll have to go.” But I wasn’t convinced. I
checked the dog over. Not a flea in sight. I checked Ryan’s head. “I
know what this is,” I said. “Nits.”
Ryan then passed the nits on to Shannon and Kirra, now four. Shannon
bought a product and a nit comb to get rid of them but the girls had
long hair so it took hours to get the nits out.
Afterwards, she took Ryan to the barber’s, where he had a No. 2 cut.
That seemed to solve the problem for him – but Shannon and Kirra
continued to pass the nits back and forth. They tried every formula but
nothing worked. Worse, their hair became dry and started falling out.
The last straw came when we all went to Canada for Christmas. Despite
Shannon’s checks of all our hair. Kirra’s nits came with her and, by the
time we left, they were rampant in Shannon’s brother’s family.
“We’ve got to do something now,” she said. I got thinking. We’d already
made natural products for our skin problem, so why not something for
head lice? Shannon got to work and noticed head lice even survived when
the kids spent all day in the pool. She read they could hold their
breath for 20 minutes. Shannon decided to make a product that could
suffocate them. So she used a base of Aloe Vera and, with the help of my
mum’s 30 year old cake mixer, added tree tea oil, lavender, rosemary and
eucalyptus. She trialled different mixtures of each. Then one day, after
testing the mix on Kirra, she came out of the bathroom triumphantly. “I
think I’ve found the formula that will zap the nits for good,” she said.
She sent it to the manufacturer, and tweaked the percentages, but all we
really had to get TGA approval was a natural preservative to give out
product shelf life. We called it No Nitz.
About 75% of kids will get nits during their time at school. Although
nits prefer clean hair, people are still reluctant to talk about it.
At Ryan’s school it was rife, so we offered every family a free tube of
No Nitz. Half took us up on it. We were thrilled.
Now, Grahams Natural Alternatives and No Nitz are sold in Australia and
parts of Asia.
Ryan, now 8, and I both take the Mega Oil and you’d never know we had
Meanwhile, Shannon, 35, and I still run the company full time. The best
thing about our job is the wonderful testimonials we receive from happy
“You don’t know the difference you have made to my life,” they say and
we think: “Oh yes we do.”
All products are available at Health Food Stores and most Pharmacies