By ALISON SMITH SQUIRE
When she was a toddler, Lula Balmond’s eczema was so bad that she had to be bandaged every night to help her sleep.
And when Great Ormond Street children’s hospital said they wanted to admit her for two weeks, her mother Natalie was at her wits’ end.
So in desperation she concocted her own cure in kitchen – and it worked.
Lula is now 14, and the cream – a combination of soothing oils and herbs that is now available on the NHS – is helping Mrs Balmond and her business to earn up to £100,000 a year.
Mrs Balmond, 43, said yesterday: ‘Developing my ointment really was a last resort. Life with Lula’s eczema had become unbearable. Normal life had become impossible.
‘Her skin was so sore, she often cried herself to sleep. Yet, although we saw various doctors and specialists, even changing Lula’s diet and using Chinese herbs, no treatment they suggested seemed to help.’
She became concerned that conventional treatments could be doing more harm than good. ‘Many of the creams contained strong steroids that actually hurt Lula to apply and I became increasingly worried about the potential long-term side effects,’ she said.
Mrs Balmond refused when Great Ormond Street asked to carry out steroid treatment when Lula’s eczema was at its worst aged three.
Her breakthrough came when a friend gave her a book about herbs. Mrs Balmond, who lives with husband Mark, 46, an actor, in Brighton, began studying the ones known to alleviate skin problems.
She said: ‘I realised I could make up a cream in my kitchen. I began with hemp oil as I knew it was an excellent source of essential fatty acids, which eczema sufferers lack.
Sore: Lula Balmond, pictured at 3, suffered severe eczema as a child but her torment was ended when her mother invented an ointment that has inspired a successful business
‘I experimented by adding various ingredients known for skin soothing such as beeswax, nettle, chickweed and camomile.
‘In hindsight, I’m sure many friends and even Mark thought I’d gone mad as I was cooking up these concoctions in my kitchen. But I was determined to find a cure. Finally, after dozens of changes, I hit on the right consistency ointment.
‘After trying it on myself to ensure it was totally safe, I gently rubbed some on to Lula’s skin.’
Lula didn’t even flinch as the cream was applied for the first time, and it immediately soothed her skin. Within days Mrs Balmond noticed her beginning to heal. ‘The difference in her was enormous,’ she said. ‘Lula was like a different child, our lives were transformed.’
The ointment then began to take off. ‘One day a friend asked if she could try it on her child’s skin,’ Mrs Balmond said. ‘When it worked for him, she told other friends.’
Before long Mrs Balmond, then a housewife, was working day and night to make enough of the cream to meet demand.
Since then she has teamed up with a business partner to sell Skin Salvation, which costs £6.30 for a small pot, online and in shops. Her business, Pure Potions, is now turning more than £100,000 a year – a total of £750,000 since she began.
Mrs Balmond has two other daughters, Ellie, 17, and Ida, eight. Lula is now 14 and Skin Salvation cream is available on prescription.
Mrs Balmond said: ‘When I formulated the cream all I could think about was Lula and how I just wanted her to have a good night’s sleep for once.
‘It was a complete surprise when friends began asking to try it and I was overjoyed when it worked for them too. But mostly I had no idea just how much a pot of cream was to change all our lives.’