REVIEW: Juice Beauty Phyto-Pigments Concealer

I can be a sporadic and scattered person trying all kinds of things, but not usually when it comes to personal care & beauty products.  I like to have a stable, minimal, and predictable routine, so that way if my skin acts up, I can be pretty sure it is not from some new contact dermatitis.

Now, I WILL say that my skin in its healed, healthy state is probably best described as normal to actually a little oily.  When I have no flares and am not reacting to anything, I am prone to the occasional acne breakout or clogged pore, but overall my skin at its best is relatively problem-free.

My skin at its worst is extraordinarily challenging despite being super holistic and informed about my hygiene, skincare, food, lifestyle, etc.  I have had eczema, redness, dry areas, breakout areas, clogged pores, and cystic acne all existing on my face concurrently… not often, thankfully, but as an extreme circumstance!

I try to wear as little makeup as possible and let my skin breathe and be healthy.  I have never worn foundation, and I only wear concealer under my eyes and then if I have any breakouts, rashes, redness, pimples, etc. that I feel need covering.

My first die-hard concealer loyalty was to Tarte Maracuja oil concealer, which I sang the praises of in 2013 in this post as my go-to daily necessity in covering up the redness of TSW.

Then, they changed the formulation from a squeeze tube (and I think shuffled around the ingredients), and it didn’t work as well for me once I started having mystery flares again this past winter of 2019.

So, then after much internet research, I chose to try NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer as my next staple for a while, which I talked about in this post.

The NARS was really good for a while.  I felt like it matched my skin beautifully (my shade in it is Custard), it covered redness well, it barely creased, and it had mega-staying power on through even super-sweaty workouts.

BUT, I started to feel that it was a little drying, especially as I was applying it to skin that was already often dry, irritated, and rashy.  I don’t think that the NARS was directly contributing to rashes, but I felt like it wasn’t really helping, and it (plus maybe the combinations of the moisturizers I was using at the time) seemed to often leave my skin feeling even drier at the end of the day.  Plus it did have a lot of chemicall-y ingredients, as you can see in the below list.

nars_radiant_creamy_concealer_5

So, I set out on the hunt for another concealer to try, and after much deliberation, settled up on Juice Beauty.  I wanted to avoid aloe, beeswax, and shea butter, so I read a ton of reviews and did a ton of comparison before making this purchase.  (I also made a similar review on Amazon, so if you come across a review that sounds familiar to this post, it’s mine.)  I appreciated the tip from other reviewers to go a shade darker than you might think. I chose Sand, and this was indeed the appropriate match for me, a Caucasian with skin that tans easily.

array of juice beauty concealers_

Ingredients list: Cocos nucifera (organic coconut oil)*, ricinus communis (organic castor seed oil)*, copernicia cerifera (organic carnauba wax)*, simmondsia chinensis (organic jojoba seed oil)*, vitis vinifera (organic grape seed oil)*, tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate (Vitamin C), tocopherol (Vitamin E), citrus medica limonum (lemon leaf cell extract), helianthus annuus (sunflower seed oil), argania spinosa (argan shell powder), rosa gallica (rose flower powder). May contain: titanium dioxide, iron oxides (CI 77491, CI 77492, CI 77499).

The application of this concealer was initially a little different from what I am used to.  It is in a pot, not a squeeze tube or a doe-foot tube.  But, applying is easy!  I just make sure my hands are clean, breathe on the concealer pot to warm it, breathe or rub on my finger to warm it, and then take a super small amount and dab it on the needed areas.  I tend to dab it on with my pointer finger and then smudge and blend with my middle finger to melt it into my skin.  The warming makes sure the plant oils soften so that the application is smooth and easy.  You don’t need a lot, so this pot will last you a long time.  (HOWEVER, be forewarned because the main ingredients are plant oils, that this could melt in the sun if you leave it in a hot place.  I left my makeup bag in my backpack in the sun a few months back and rescued the concealer just in time, with only the top of it getting a little sweaty-looking).

Close up of Juice Beauty concealer

Close-up of the Juice Beauty concealer.

I’ll discuss the pros and cons of Juice Beauty along with some before and after pictures so you can see how it performs.

CONS first:

  • Creasing.  Juice Beauty tends to crease a decent amount.  I’m still relatively young, so I don’t normally have legit wrinkles around my eyes.  However, with skin that is drier and healing from rashes, it does provide more places for the concealer to settle in.  If you had ‘mature’ skin with a lot of fine creases and wrinkles, this would probably not be your best choice.  BUT, there are two things that help the creasing.  One, not putting on too much.  Less is really more with this concealer.  If you cake it on, it is guaranteed to settle into creases you didn’t even know you had.  Second, I typically will put it on, wait a few minutes, maybe make some facial expressions so it can get into the creases, and then delicately blend those out with my clean fingertip or a Q-tip, and that is quite helpful.
  • Coverage for acne.  I am not super prone to acne, but in my opinion, this really doesn’t provide the right kind of coverage.  Putting a plant-oil-based concealer on an already oily spot seems to just make it slick.  If I truly have an acne breakout, I use NARS on it instead.
  • Coverage for dry, flaky skin.  If you have really awful patches or rashes that need coverage, this will probably not look the best – because, then you’ll have to cake it on, and it will crease, and stick to the dry bits, and make the skin look kind of fake.  I have found there is honestly a fine line with this concealer where just a bit is imperceptible, but just a little too much makes the skin look weird or even drier at some angles.  This would not be something good to use as a heavy-duty concealer.

Before and After: With Hives/Dry Skin

hives eye BEFORE concealer

Here is my ‘worse’ eye as it has been healing from some redness, dry flaky patches, and raised hive-like areas.  (These have been slowly and steadily healing).  Covering them up posed a challenge!

hives eye WITH concealer

Juice Beauty definitely helps here.  I don’t think ANY concealer would really help the raised hive-like appearance, but it has got the skin looking much more even-toned.  It’s not super great on the driest patches, but I think those would be a challenge for any concealer to cover without accentuating them.

PROS:

  • Staying power.  Juice Beauty is kind of middle ground here so for this area, it really is right in between pros and cons.  It DOES have decent staying power with a light coat, but I’ve had days where it starts to look maybe a little dry and fading near the end of the day.  If you really wanted to look super fresh at the end of the day, like if you had an evening out with a hot date, you might have to just re-do it.  However, this is not a huge minus in my book.  It also has surprisingly decent staying power in sweat and humidity.  It CAN crease if you sweat a lot, but if you haven’t over-applied in the first place, that is pretty minimal.  Overall I’m pretty pleased with its lasting capability.
  • Moisturizing quality/how it feels on skin.  This was really important for me.  I had messed up my skin’s barrier through the eczema/dermatitis/rash ordeal of this past spring, and the NARS had days where it felt like total plastic on my face, even though it did a good job in the other departments.  Now, I can’t be sure if it was the NARS creating the plastic-y feeling, or if my skin was that dry and damaged, and the NARS was just accentuating it.  Regardless, Juice Beauty beats it out here.  It feels like your own skin, nice and light.  It does not dry out my face, nor break it out.  It removes very easily with grapeseed oil, my natural makeup remover of choice.  I do think it’s rare to find a ‘natural’ concealer like this with skin-friendly ingredients that performs as well as it does, so props to it there.
  • Use for under-eye circles or allergic shiners.  Juice Beauty does an AWESOME job of covering these up while looking smooth and natural, with an extremely minimal application, as you will see from my photos below.

Before and After: With Dark Circles/Allergic Shiners

allergic shiner BEFORE concealer

Usually, the dark circles under my eyes are relatively minimal.  But, the other day I woke up with this big pinkish-red allergic shiner (I think it was maybe food-related as I went out to eat), which I took as the perfect opportunity to show you readers how nicely Juice Beauty works in this arena.

allergic shiner WITH concealer

Voila!  The skin is smooth and even toned now!  (Pardon the oily-looking eye.  I use a face oil and it was still in the process of sinking into the skin in the morning.  This reminds me, I still do need to make a whole other post about my skincare routine.  I’ll let you in on a secret – I DON’T use moisturizer at night!!!  Only serum and a skin oil!

My overall verdict:

Juice Beauty concealer fulfills really ALL my concealer needs when my skin is at its best, smooth and healthy, and MOST of my concealer needs when my skin is not quite at its best.  (Sometimes, I use BOTH the Juice Beauty and the NARS concealer if my skin needs it – I use the Juice Beauty under my eyes and with a VERY light dusting on any red patches that are still healing, and THEN I dab a tiny bit of the NARS concealer on top of the red areas just to provide more redness coverage that looks more smooth and natural.)  Overall, I really like the natural-ness of this concealer, the skin-friendly ingredients, the relative ease of application, and how it feels on my skin!

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Mold Plate Test Results: Office

In my last post, I noted I had bought these mold testing plates because of investigating a link between my work environment and reactions like rash flare-ups, dry and irritated skin around eyes, and even mild hives around eyes.

These mold testing plates are low-tech, easy to use, and come with very clear instructions, all positives.  They are also really affordable with being able to get 6 plates for $35.  This is helpful because then you could test 3 different spaces before and after, or test multiple rooms.  One negative is that you are simply testing for the PRESENCE of mold, but you don’t know what kind it is or the level of danger, but I think it is a good first step.  (The company does give you the option then for more in-depth testing at additional fees).

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The instructions recommend taking 5-7 days before checking the mold plate, and the company provides picture examples of what you might see in the mold plate in varying levels of severity.

mold plates examples1

Now, we have had a really interesting week here in the workplace, environmental-health wise.  This week, we’ve had a ceiling tile burst off, spilling its rotted pieces onto the floor and provoking a water leak in one room, we’ve had a water leak in another room, and we’ve had systemic issues with our water system where there was sewage water backing up into some places.  Now, because of the leaks, we cannot currently use the building-wide dehumidification system, and some rooms are actually starting to smell a little mildew-y.  I also just read yesterday that the high school nearby has had classrooms closed for presence of black mold.

Thankfully, none of these things are in my office directly, but all that to say, I started the mold plate last Wednesday and then all these things happened a few days later, so the mold counts in this plate could perhaps be even more.

Here is what the mold test plate revealed in my office:

Mold plate results office blacked out

(I blacked out a part of this because it had identifying info of my office and building).

So, this is interesting.  I honestly though it would be worse, but I HAVE been running a dehumidifier constantly, an air purifier constantly, and have also been using some mold spray from the same company (EC3).  I did deliberately back off on the mold spray the day of the test, and waited to burn my mold candle until I had exposed the test plate to air and closed it up, so as not to provide falsely better results.  However, you can see that there are multiple colonies of greenish-black mold, and there is a furry white colony too.

I’m not quite sure how to compare them with the picture examples above provided by the company, as it’s definitely above ‘normal healthy level’, but doesn’t seem quite as severe as the picture illustrating ‘unhealthy level with disease risk’.

I did two mold plate colonies at home too – one in the kitchen and one in the bathroom just outside the bedroom (so trying to get both rooms), and they looked about the same as this one.

So, now what?  Well, the events this week at work with the leaks and the sewage had me pretty frustrated.  They impacted our work, and they led credibility to the fact that this building is *PROBABLY* not a safe long-term space for someone like me with a diagnosed mold allergy and chronic/autoimmune health conditions that are made worse by mold.  I like my job, and I promise I am not trying to get out of it, but I truly feel that the best action for the future would be to work here only part time (and have another part time job online), or not work here at all.

I have been toying with the idea of contacting OSHA, EPA, or CDC ever since the second week back here, when I felt absolutely horrible by Friday and then felt better once the weekend was underway and I was no longer in the office.  But, I wasn’t really sure how to go about it.  I didn’t want to be perceived as weak, sickly, overly sensitive, trying to get anyone in trouble, or trying to get out of work.  That’s why I made my whole previous post about not being a hypochondriac, partly to rationalize to myself that I deserve to speak up and to work in an environment that will be supportive rather than detrimental to my health.

Then I realized, this is why HR departments exist.  I shouldn’t have to go this alone, and I shouldn’t have to feel that I need to entirely take matters into my own hands.  Plus, by this point, I have a robust amount of supporting documentation, including pictures and medical diagnoses.  I emailed them this morning with some preliminary information requesting guidance on starting an anonymous claim, so we’ll see what they say and where I will proceed from here.

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Quick Skin/Mold Investigation Update

In order to support my theory that there are levels of environmental contaminants (i.e., mold) at my workplace that are at levels enough to affect my health, I bought these simple mold testing plates to take the first step into actually seeing what results.  Today I followed the instructions and opened the plate for testing, so I get to check it again in 5-7 days and see what grows.

I also bought the mold solution spray and the air purification candle from the same website.  I’ll admit I was skeptical at first that just spray and a candle could make the environment less mold-spore-ridden, but there were many positive reviews across multiple sites and I figured what did I have to lose, it wasn’t too expensive.  I used the spray my first day back at work from the weekend, but have waited to burn the candle until I first tested for mold with the plates (didn’t want to give it a false lower count).

Symptom-wise, this week has been ok, but it’s only the second day of work.  The biggest thing I noticed today was that midway through the day, my eyes have started constantly watering out of the corners.  It’s not huge and probably no one notices, but is mildly annoying.

Because the skin around my left eye had flared up slightly again and was dry, reddish, and uneven, I chose to use Desonide yesterday and the day before, just very sparingly on like an outer corner of the eye, to hopefully ‘boost’ the skin healing and not being as open to environmental toxins.  I didn’t make that decision lightly as I certainly don’t want to get sucked into any vicious cycle of repetitive topical steroid use (as a victor of TSW, I know all about that full well).  I am a firm believer that my body can heal itself (though it can’t do its job too well if it is bathing in mold), but my logic was to get the skin a bit more healed, and then start using the mold spray and the air purification candle as a temporary ‘fix’ while I wait to see what develops on the mold plates.

One really cool thing is that I am sold on the power of wet wraps.  My recent post had a photo of my very dry and flaky eyelids that suddenly developed out of nowhere after a few weeks of being back at work.  This was pretty drastic and tipped me off that something might be wrong externally in my surroundings.  I’m happy to note that after only 1-2 wet wrap treatments, my eyelids are soft, smooth, and a healthy almost-normal pink rather than an inflamed dry flaky white and red mess.  I soak little clean cloths cut from an old sheet in water that has a pinch of Dead Sea Salt added to it, and then fold them around my eyes, put a facemask over (to provide some weight and sort of press them down), and then let them rest that way for 5-10 minutes, typically.  I tried doing it overnight, but they started to feel weird after a few hours, so I woke up and took them off; but the eyelids have gotten a few good cumulative hours being soaked in the healing properties of Dead Sea Salt!  I think they helped my under-eye area too for sure, but not enough to totally heal it like my eyelids.

Next up; continuing to monitor any symptoms and waiting with eager anticipation to see what the mold plate will reveal!

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On Mold Sensitivity: Why I Am Not a Hypochondriac

One frustrating thing about having chronic health conditions is that being perceived as a hypochondriac is often on my mind.  For most intents and purposes, I am a robust, stoic, stubborn, determined, go-getting young(ish) female.  I don’t like sympathy, I don’t want people feeling bad for me, and I don’t like being coddled or patronized in any way.  I almost never talk about my health issues to other people (unless it’s extremely relevant), and I would be happy to go my lifetime with only a select few people knowing what I may struggle with (a big part of why this blog is anonymous).

So, what to do when you believe you have LEGITIMATE symptoms affecting your health, and need to bring them up to other people so that changes can be made?

In my last post a few days ago, I talked about having skin issues flare up again and having the theory that my workplace was the culprit.  Well, the flare got worse as the week progressed, and I experienced other symptoms as well.  Here are a multitude of reasons why I don’t think I am being a hypochondriac about my latest health flare-up and why I really think it is linked to my work environment.

  • EVIDENCE #1: I enjoyed basically almost-normal skin from mid-summer onward.  Within about a week and a half of being back at work, my skin (namely, around my eyes) started to get dry, uneven, and irritated.
  • EVIDENCE #2: NOT ONLY is this skin dry, but it feels like my eyelids and skin around my eyes is ‘thick’, I guess this is what scaling or lichenification might feel like.  This ‘thick, dry’ feeling means that my eyes occasionally water (because the skin surrounding them is tight) and that opening my eyes really wide also makes the skin feel weird, like it’s pulling on it.  I have not experienced THESE sensations since months ago.  This is definitely not normal to come on out of the blue.  The extra atopic folds under my eyes are also way more pronounced, which are like my barometer that there is some kind of inflammation going on; compared to them being relatively softened and minimal in the recent past.

    Eye is flaky! 8.31

    Here is my newly-suffering eye by the end of the week, so dry that the eyelid is flaking and the rest of the skin is really uncomfortable 😦

  • EVIDENCE #3: I have changed absolutely nothing in my skincare routine to my knowledge, and in fact had settled into a minimal yet effective routine (as of about 2 months ago) that seemed to work really well.  IN FACT, I was doing something I never thought I would do – going to bed with ZERO moisturizer on my face at all.  (Just serum and moisture boost oil around my eyes, that’s it).  I was also not using any sort of thick occlusive around my eyes anymore, because… they didn’t need it!  The skin was making its own moisture where I could keep product application pretty minimal.  Now as of this past week, I’m back to HAVING to use an occlusive, because my eye-skin is just so dry.
  • EVIDENCE #4: I have also been experiencing some respiratory/sinus issues this week.  Starting early in the week, I started to get a sore throat and thought “oh great, I must be catching a cold”.  However, this was weird because 1., I was not run down (though maybe was stressed out), and 2., it is still summer and typically I don’t get colds until wintertime.  While I do likely have a weaker immune system due to asthma and previous mononucleosis, I usually only get one ‘bad cold’ (i.e., leaves you feeling like absolute poo) a year.  It seemed highly unusual and unlikely that I would be catching a cold in August.  I started taking Zicam (my typical defense against potential colds) and once I had taken it for three days straight, I realized that this sore throat hadn’t devolved into getting outright sick like I normally would, but just had been a constant low-level irritation.
  • EVIDENCE #5: As the week went on at work, not only did I get to experience throat irritation, but began to also have congestion and a sniffly nose, that gradually got worse as the week progressed.  By Friday, I was sneezing violently at somewhat regular intervals, was holed up at my computer sniffling into Kleenex, and was in a generally miserable state of hoping everyone would leave me alone for the day.
  • EVIDENCE #6: It is currently Sunday night and I have been away from my workplace for 2+days.  No throat irritation, no sneezing, and the sniffling has been gone since Saturday morning.
  • EVIDENCE #7: Another interesting skin thing.  The skin around my eyes had gradually gotten a bit more pink with irritation as the weeks at work wore on.  I do wear concealer regularly but try to keep it as minimal as possible – but eventually I felt kind of forced to use it ABOVE my eyes just so people wouldn’t think I was tragically ill.  So, I was incredibly discouraged to see that once again I resembled the ‘trash panda’ (slang for raccoon and also the slang I use for when I have rings of redness around each eye) of a few months ago when my skin was bad.  HOWEVER.  Now that I have been away from work for about 2+ days, the redness has subsided more where it isn’t so bad.
  • EVIDENCE #8: I have had multiple days in the past months where I have not worn concealer under my eyes at all.  That was a huge milestone for me because when my skin was horrid, I couldn’t even conceive of that, but I knew it would be a hallmark of being pretty much healed.  Ever since all this rash stuff, I have HAD to wear a bit of concealer just cause my eye skin looks pretty gnarly otherwise.
  • EVIDENCE #9: My feelings on workplace environmental un-wellness were corroborated by my boss.  Through conversations over the week, she’s also conveyed that she gets more allergy symptoms at work, feels better when she is AWAY from work, and that they don’t seem to be getting better, despite the fact that she is on multiple medications for sinus stuff, and that she is about as frustrated as I am with feeling like it has to be something around us.  So it’s helpful to have someone else validate that I’m not crazy, weak, or a hypochondriac.
  • EVIDENCE #10: I’ve been reading a lot about mold exposure and mold allergy, etc.  What I am experiencing seems to correlate very much so with the ‘bucket analogy’ where I may be literally bathing in these allergens and therefore my body is hyper-reactive because I am sensitive to them, and being in this environment again is the final drops of the bucket where now it’s spilling over into being symptomatic.
  • mold bucketSo all that to say – I don’t think I am being a hypochondriac, or crazy, or even trying to use a health issue as an excuse to not be at my workplace.  I feel that based on the above evidence, there is legitimate reason to believe that, due to my sudden onset of symptoms, (and relief of symptoms when away from work), that there are environmental allergens afoot.

Next steps

I have to confess, I’ve been super tempted to just dab some Desonide around my eyes and squash the itching and inflammation, but I know right now that isn’t the answer – it’s just a band-aid.  AND, if I do that, I won’t have a proper indication if the supplements and Biocidin are working properly.  It’s nice to know that I have it on hand if I absolutely, positively need it (and that apparently I can use it very sporadically with no ill effects even after going through TSW), but I am not going to touch it unless I have dire need.  In the meantime, I’m sticking with my minimal skincare routine (which I’ll post about soon), adding Dead Sea Salt splash to my face, and then using an occlusive (Vaniply) for the super dry areas.

I emailed my doctor on Friday morning in the midst of my miserable sneezing, watering eyes, and general malaise to see if she had any suggestions supplement-wise in the meantime.  She gave me some guidelines on what to increase and what to add.  Most of it was relatively run-of-the mill recommendations, like upping my omega-3 and phosphatidyl choline, adding a B complex, trace minerals, and detox nutrients, as well as doing a ‘binder’ at night to bind to toxins (I have been doing activated charcoal but got lazy about being consistent about it so now I’m back to it on the regular); but one interesting addition she gave was Biocidin, which is “botanical medicine” for “microbial challenges”.  Many of the reviews raved about it for things like Candida (which I DID rate as a III on a I-V scale of the inhaled allergens, indicating I had possible overgrowth), and other infections, so hopefully this will provide some relief.  Other people talked about it providing some GI upset or Herxheimer reactions as die-off occurs, so we’ll see how that goes.  She added “Ultimately the best thing would be to get out of the work environment.”

Well.  I can’t outright quit my job.  Not just yet, although I have wanted to move into a ‘work from home’ role for a while, mainly because I want to have the independence to set my own schedule and manage my own productivity, plus as someone who is introverted and mildly socially anxious (even though ironically I am in front of people much of the time at work), having a total ‘at home’ job really, really appeals to me.  However, I’m thankful in a way that this seems like it would give me the push to leave my current role WITH a legitimate health reason, not just me seeming selfish about wanting more work independence.  But, since I work in education and am unique in my role, I really kind of have to stick it out until the end of the term which is early December.

I also brought this issue up to my boss’s boss, who is a very kind and understanding man.  I first delicately brought up the issue of mold and the fact that both my boss and I have bought air purifiers because we are experiencing symptoms, and then asked if he had any health issues at work in relation to that and he said “YES” and that he would bring this up to HIS boss, who is another very kind and understanding person.  However, he also had kind of the futile mindset that we work in old buildings and there is only so much we can do.

Now, back in 2013, when I was scrambling to figure out what was making my skin go haywire (before I knew it was TSW), I actually DID file an OSHA claim for my past workplace (this was a totally different workplace in another state, as this was 6 years ago).  They found nothing, but as I recall, it was an easy and anonymous process.  So I know that I can do that, or can pursue claims through the EPA or CDC.

First, though, I found some mold testing plates on this site, and purchased them, because heck – why not take matters into my own hands and actually PROVE that there is mold in the environment surrounding us.  (I also bought the mold candle, the mold spray, and the mold laundry additive.  Nothing’s arrived yet, jury’s out on how those will perform).  I chose to do this because I wanted to have concrete evidence.  Essentially, it all boils down to – – – if I think I should need to quit my job over this, then having evidence of mold + a diagnosed mold allergy which is being treated + an already compromised immune system which I also have proof of diagnosis + various physical symptoms, means that it’s a relatively air-tight case where no one should think I’m being a hypochondriac about it.

 

 

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Quick Skin/Health Update: Positives and Negatives

I don’t have a specific topic per-se, but haven’t made a post in a while and wanted to provide just some short points about my skin status.

I haven’t had an outright flare or bad reaction since this post in late July where I ate a ton of probably inflammatory foods and was also using more cosmetic products than normal, as I was at the special occasion of a friend’s wedding weekend.

There was another day that I ate a food-sized amount of gluten (I went to a pizza place and they were completely out of gluten-free dough), but I took my histamine blocker beforehand and I did not react to it at all, that I perceived.

I have not used Desonide since July, probably around the time I mentioned it in this post where I reacted badly to a dog.

I have been on my allergy drops (Sub-Lingual Immuno-Therapy or SLIT as an acronym)  for a little over a month, I can’t tell directly if they are helping yet but I feel that it is a step in the right direction to be on them.

I have not had any outright asthma issues like I did in the middle of the summer where at its worst, it was waking me up at night or preventing me from sleeping well with compromised breathing.

All of these are good things, and the fact that I have laid off the posts for a while speaks to the fact that mainly, I have been out living my life and having skin that is maybe not ideal to what I have been used to for myself in the past, but definitely consistent and tolerable.

HOWEVER.

I have a sneaking suspicion that I’m starting to low-level react again, and that the culprit is mold or some other kind of thing in my environment, my work environment to be specific.  And, because the start of 2019 led me back into some bad flares and some downright miserable days, I won’t lie to say that gives me a bit of anxiety, as I DO NOT want anything devolving into a full-fledged flare like I had.

I work in education, and the place I spend most of my time – my office – is in an old building that was constructed I believe in the 1950s.  We’ve had issues with seeing black mold grow on a vent, and there’s been much construction this summer with putting in a humidification system.  We try to keep it as clean as possible, but I’m sure it’s not the cleanest place nor the healthiest environment for someone with the atopic triad to be immersed in – especially now that I have it confirmed from my allergy testing that I am moderately allergic to most types of mold.

I had the summer off what with working in education and having a summer break (I work entirely online in the summer which is awesome; my ultimate goal as an introvert would be to work 100% online someday).  My ‘back to work’ schedule started two weeks ago and seemed to coincide with a mild but annoying flare that I’m currently dealing with around my eyes.

Around the end of last week, I started to notice the skin around my eyes getting a little bumpy and uneven.  It then seemed to dry out and get a bit flaky, itchy, and irritated, with extra redness above my eyelids and slightly more pronounced ‘allergic shiners’ under my eyes.  At this point it may not be evident to anyone but me, I probably just look more tired.

But the ONLY REAL THING that has changed radically in my life is my environment – going from being at home or outside or out and about in my days, to being in my office for probably at least 5-6 hours of the day, Mon-Fri.  And possibly therefore bathing in mold spores and dust mites and who knows what.  My job is good overall, and I’m not in a position to abruptly quit it on a skin suspicion, but long-term this may not be the best place for me to thrive.

I DID get a little Levoit air purifier for my office last week (I have a bigger one at home  and I do think it helps with asthma symptoms and congestion.  The jury is out on if it helps with my skin, but I’ve had decent skin for much of the summer since I got it, so I’ll venture to say it probably helps on that front too).  I’ve been running this constantly in hopes of at least filtering out SOME potential irritants.

I really would love to hear from someone out there who has also used SLIT for environmental allergies and had it noticeably help their atopic dermatitis, if that person exists and is reading this.  The literature on my drops notes that some patients may start to see improvements after about 3 months or so; I’d be interested to know what others’ experiences have been like.

Not gonna lie, sometimes I fantasize about living and working in a 100% green-built, brand-new, clean building that no one else has ever used, that is completely clean, mold-free, open, airy, brightly lit, and a wonderful allergy-free oasis and refuge.  🙂

 

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Loving Someone with Chronic Health Conditions

This is a post that I have been meaning to write for quite some time, because I want to emphasize just how crucial it is to have the right kind of loving unconditional support when you are a person with chronic and often frustrating health conditions.

Even though it can be hard to be optimistic in the face of health issues, probably the most positive thing that has come out of the past months has been the reinforcement of how much my boyfriend loves and cares for me unconditionally.  The saying, “everything happens for a reason” is horribly cliche’, but if I needed health struggles to truly see the light of how special my boyfriend is, then I’m grateful for that life lesson.

I have been with my guy for over 2.5 years now, and though we had already built a very solid relationship and I KNEW he was my biggest fan, his care over the past months really reinforced that.

In the earlier days when I was first having skin issues, back in February or so, he would send me little memes and things to cheer me up.

Star damage

I LOVE the comics by Nathan W. Pyle.  When my boyfriend first sent me this, I was having a bad flare and I was totally oblivious that this comic was actually about sunburn.  I took comfort in the concept of “damage” being attractive and that I am loved for more than just skin appearance!

He put up with my regular text updates on how I was feeling and looking and always checked in on me.  He comforted me when I was having bad days and was reduced to a crying mess of despair.  He sent me things like this when I was overly worrying and freaking out, that instantly made me stop and gain perspective and be a little more calm.

what if it is going to be okay.jpg

He constantly told me I was beautiful more than skin deep and how beautiful and attractive my MIND was.  He made me laugh and gave me endless hugs on the days that were the darkest.  There was a day where I refused to go out in public because I felt so self-conscious; he readily went to the store and got things to make dinner so I didn’t have to.  He never commented on my skin when it was really bad, but did kindly comment when it was looking better as I started to heal.

Snack

He readily adapted to all my dietary needs based on my food sensitivity test, he didn’t bat an eye at the dozen supplements I had to take AM and PM, he texted to make sure I slept okay during the nights that I had horrible asthma.  He understood the few times I was so miserable that I just wanted to sleep alone (we don’t live together; I see him mostly on the weekends where he’ll stay overnight).

There was a day where I was with him, my skin was bad, I had a lot of anxiety, he was being amazing and comforting, and suddenly I started sobbing and couldn’t stop.  I was so struck by the profound contrast of how my ex-husband behaved when I started going through TSW, and the sheer unconditional love of my boyfriend.

(If you’ve been a follower of this blog for a while, you may know that I started it way back in 2012, and then had many posts that not only documented my TSW journey but also my 2013 journey of marriage dissolve and divorce.  Lucky me – I got to go through TWO horrible things at the same time!  10/10 do not recommend…LOL.  I don’t feel like finding the most pertinent posts and linking back to them, but my ex-husband was pretty cold and unsympathetic to my health conditions, saying very unhelpful things like, “Mental health issues like mine are way worse” and “It’s just skin, it’s not like you’re dying from cancer” and doing nothing to help me feel still valued and attractive.)

So, my boyfriend has been absolutely extraordinary through all of this.  Even though my skin is consistently much more ‘normal’ now and my sporadic asthma flares seem to have resolved, I still have some levels of anxiety, I think partly because of dealing with health conditions that aren’t predictable.  He is such a source of safety and trust and comfort, I can’t even really express how thankful I am for him.

when she is a mess

Please pardon the language, but this meme is TOTALLY the embodiment of what I feel like our relationship is like some days, LOL.

One big relationship hurdle that I’ve been mulling over as well in the past months is the concept of ever being able to get married again – to commit to someone so fully that you are willing to invest 110% in being with them FOREVER.  My boyfriend and I have had some heavy discussions about that – he intends to work toward that goal; I love him but there’s an inner conflict that sometimes leaves me reticent – not due to my love for him, but I think due to my own emotional hang-ups about lifelong commitment.

It’s understandable that this is a weighty thing for me based on having a short marriage that ended in divorce at a young age, and something I’m continuing to work through.  But I can say that I would LIKE to work through it to be in our favor together, because his unconditional love and support for me, especially as someone with chronic health issues, is truly one of a kind!

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Eating Tons of Gluten After 3+ Months Without: What Happens?

In my last post from a few weeks ago, I discussed scoping out Demodex (eyelash mites) as a possible cause of the lingering remnants of my unilateral eye rash, and also confirmed I’m still really allergic to dogs.

This weekend proved an interesting ‘science experiment’, but before I get into that, I also want to note that my 52 inhaled allergens came back, and as of today, I have started sub-lingual immunotherapy (drops under the tongue) that are meant to slowly help me build immunity to my allergies over months and even years.  The allergy nurse and my paperwork say that one typically may start to experience improved symptoms after about 3 months and then things typically continue to improve up to 2 years, then it’s about maintenance as far as continuing on the drops.

The allergens are ranked on a 0-5 scale, with 0 being that they don’t even register, to 5 being the most severe.  In my report, they are separated out into types of grasses, plants, and animals, and types of mold.  For me, every single type of mold flagged as at least a 1, and a lot of them were 3s.  Cat and dog dander were also 3s as well as Mugwort (whatever that is).  I only had a couple of grasses and plants flag, such as goldenrod, sweet vernal grass, cottonwood, and walnut tree pollen.  Most grasses and plants didn’t even register and were 0s.  This was interesting and neat and really did seem to match up with what I have been experiencing – I’ve never been one for having consistent “seasonal” allergies, but rather have random sporadic sensitivities to… well, what I now know must probably be types of mold, logically.

But!  Now back to my title topic.  What I did this weekend wasn’t the brightest idea, because not only did I consume a large array of gluten, but I introduced other things to my system that I normally would not (eating a food with walnuts which also flagged on my allergy test, eating a decent amount of cheese which I know often is inflammatory for me, and then using more excess cosmetic products than I have in months – eyeliner and hairspray to be specific).  Basically, this weekend was an exercise in “what will happen if I just act ‘normal’ again as if I don’t have any kind of allergies or sensitivities?  How bad will I react, or will nothing happen at all?”

I didn’t actually plan ahead strategically to do this, but the trigger was that we (my boyfriend and I) were going to a wedding out of state.  I had been meaning to “test” myself on gluten for a while, since the general consensus of my research online concerning food sensitivity tests is that, once the suspected food is out of your system for 8+ weeks, then you can try a little bit and see what happens.  The last time I knowingly consumed a meal-size amount of gluten was April 24th when I had my favorite type of hotdog at a local place.  (It is certainly possible that since then I have consumed minute amounts of gluten in some form.  Though I’m hyper-aware of reading labels and ordering carefully in restaurants, I’m not as vigilant as someone with straight celiac disease, and I realized the other day that the communion wafers at my church have gluten, so I AM eating what is essentially a cracker’s worth, 2x a month at least).

I didn’t want to be “that person” at the wedding; asking for accommodations, to having to explain why I was avoiding it, to have to go into the various health issues I’m trying to rectify.  And heck… I kind of wanted to eat some bread and wedding cake, because if I was going to introduce it back into my system anyway, why not do it in a party-like setting at a festive wedding with nice food.

Well, the gluten-orgy started earlier than I expected – hours before the wedding.  My boyfriend and I went out to lunch after a fun morning of walking the beach.  I still planned to eat something like a salad with grilled meat that would be free of gluten.  I DID get that, but without consulting me, he also ordered an appetizer that was breaded deep-fried calamari.

Me: “Um, that’s cool and all, but I’m sure the breading has gluten.”
Boyfriend: “Well, you could maybe just knock some of it off?”

Let me say that my boyfriend has been wonderfully supportive and empathetic to me throughout this health journey.  He deserves a separate post singing his praises, which I will write eventually.  So this was not viewed by me as dietary sabotage, he simply wanted calamari and was very willing to share it with me **IF** I was going to eat it.  At that point, I thought, “Hell with it.  I’m super hungry, and I KNOW I am going to eat gluten later at the wedding.  Let’s just start now and see what happens.”

It was awesome.  And tasty.  And felt wonderful going down into my stomach.  Feeling fortunate to be someone who *might* just pay for it later but who wasn’t violently allergic, I munched away happily and easily ate my half.

Fast-forward to my food debauchery at the wedding.  There was a beautiful cheese spread with crackers and breads (I tried a conservative amount), warm rolls (I had one and debated having a second but had some self-control), a lovely prime rib with shrimp and mashed potato and green beans (very delicious), and then wedding cake (which I didn’t have to eat but at that point I sure wanted to try, so I did).

So I made a couple mistakes here, even though it wasn’t TRULY gluten debauchery (I ate what was a reasonable portion and even held back a little i.e., no 2nd roll, literally one cracker with my cheese, no trying the other flavor of cake).  I tried a lot of different things, and like I mentioned above, compounded it with using personal care products that I haven’t used in months (eyeliner on the top lid, hairspray).  I also forgot to take my histamine blocker (that I could have taken before eating).  Oh yes, and on the ride home I also ate the cookie that they gave out as a wedding favor, which was labeled as having walnuts (which have always flagged somewhat high in my food sensitivities).

So to be honest, I sort of deserved what was coming to me when I woke up, but I knew this full well and took full responsibility.

Before I went to bed, once we were back in our hotel room post-wedding festivities, I did notice that above my left eye (the historically rashy one in my unilateral history of late) was a little bit red and irritated.  Based on this, I performed some due diligence by taking a Benadryl and also taking some activated charcoal (toxin-ridder) along with of course washing my face and hair well before bed.

I slept like a rock, but woke up to itching at my throat with my tongue and then kind of rolling about groggily until it felt like it was really time to get up.

Looking in the mirror, I was actually pleasantly surprised that I hadn’t reacted worse, but my left eye was definitely puffy and red along the upper lash line, had a raised red oval area between the eyelid and the eyebrow, and both eyes had some wicked awesome allergic shiners.  I was also congested and sniffling.

Allergic shiners, itchy throat, and congestion all seemed par for the course, but it STILL puzzles me that I seem to have these unilateral flares that only affect my left eye.  My right eye was fine (minus the allergic shiner).  I would venture to say that it seems that my eyeline was the culprit that irritated it, since the puffy upper eyelid and the raised area above the eyelid seem to correspond with the eye areas that came in contact with it – but it still seems odd that 1., I use this eyeliner on my LOWER lash line sporadically with seemingly no issue, and 2., my right eye had zero issue.  I’d love to hear from readers if you have any experience or insight on unilateral flares or rashes.

So, I was awake, I accepted my fate, and now it was time to try to look and feel a little more human.  I sprayed some Xlear nasal spray into my nose (recommended by my allergy doctor – works really well and is only like $7), took an Allegra for the anti-histamine effect, and did my face moisturizing routine plus concealer for my shiners, but my left eye still felt puffy and weird to see out of.  I showed my boyfriend my face and asked, “Look!  I reacted to something!  Do I look really terrible?”  “No”, he readily answered, “You look like you just woke up.”  Well, since I HAD just woken up, that was fine.  And, we were out of town, so I wasn’t facing anyone that knew me anyway.

We went to the hotel breakfast area and ate (me taking the seat more hidden in the corner since I did still feel self-conscious about my eye).  We went on with our day, going to check out another beach, and then hitting the road for the long drive back home.  Whether it was the antihistamine or my mostly-healthy system clearing things out, I looked and felt essentially ‘back to normal’ within a few hours, minus still being a little sniffly and congested throughout the day.

What did I learn from this experience?

I CAN eat gluten and other inflammatory things, I’m probably just going to pay for it, so it’s wiser not to.

I still don’t know why one eye reacts badly to unknown triggers and so I still need to be hyper-vigilant about what I put in my body and on my face.

Demodex, Desonide, and Dog Allergies

(Yes, I wanted to make a post that had alliteration, but this is also useful in making headings in the updates to my skin and overall health).  🙂

My skin has been holding relatively steady since the time of my last post (about two weeks ago).  I have had a little bit of minor flaring up of some areas (which I’ll talk about shortly), but overall, I’m very appreciative to have entered a realm of consistency with my skin.  You really don’t realize how much you take for granted until you don’t have it – I mean, I remember the days of TSW and spending so long to get ready in the morning and to go through the whole skin routine at night, but then after years of “normal” skin post-TSW, it’s easy to forget about that.  The best skin is skin you don’t have to think about!  I had actually stopped working out in the early morning because I never knew what I would wake up to and if I needed to make more of a lengthy routine to soothe my skin and help it look somewhat human.  Now that I have relatively predictable skin every day, I am ready to get back to early-morning wake-ups!  (kind of weird, I know :P)

As to the Desonide – I have only used once a week or less with seemingly no ill effects.  (Therefore I have only used it a handful of times since tapering off of it’s use regularly).  But, keep reading and eventually you’ll hear about how I felt like I HAD to use it the other day as a preventative measure from an allergic reaction!

So, the past few weeks haven’t been without a few interesting bumps in the road.  I was still bothered by the fact that my eye rash was unilateral (one eye only) and that I couldn’t track it down to any cause.  The GOOD news is that I have not had any episodes of it burning or waking me up in the night, but it pestered me as to why it wouldn’t heal, when the rest of my skin had come along so nicely.

I don’t even know how I stumbled across it, but I think I Googled something like “flaky lower lash line” or “itchy lower eyelashes”.  THEN, I dove down the rabbit hole of reading everything I could get my hands on about Demodex.

Demodex to me sounds like some kind of pharmaceutical product, like a dandruff shampoo or something, but it’s actually the name for a tiny mite that can live in your eyelashes.  I’ve racked up reading probably two dozen sites/scientific papers/articles about Demodex, so you can search for it on your own (and it’s worth it, cause the magnified view of these mites is actually pretty horrifying), but basically, these are some of the most interesting facts that I gleaned:

  • Demodex seems to be implicated in the majority of rosacea cases, and according to some sources, may also be linked to eczema and dermatitis.  (i.e., people with these have our lovely compromised skin barrier so Demodex has the potential to irritate us more than the average folk).
  • Demodex is very common and is really on most people’s eyelashes and basically if you live long enough, you WILL have Demodex.  (However, it may not cause you any concerns).
  • Demodex mites have no anus (neat trivia, LOL) and have a life span of 2 weeks.  They love to feed on sebum and oils.  They aren’t just limited to the eyelashes but can be found in other places on the face and body as well.  If you do things like not washing your face, or sleeping in your makeup (ugh I used to be guilty of this…. ashamed face), or not taking off your makeup properly before bed, it’s a ripe target for Demodex to come feed.
  • There are various things that have been studied to eradicate Demodex, but the most effective seems to be tea tree oil.
  • The basic treatment for Demodex is to apply tea tree oil (DILUTED – not straight!!) to the eyelashes 1-2x a day; it also may be recommended to wash the face with tea tree soap.

When I looked at pictures of eyes with Demodex, I came across all kinds of crusty eyeballs, sad looking lids, gross lashes with little “collarettes” that the tiny mites had formed.  (Go Google it for yourself.  It’s fine.  I’ll wait.  🙂 )

Now – while my left eye was nowhere near as gross looking as the pictures, I found it most peculiar that I would often wake up with crust and flakes along the lash line.  And that, though using the Desonide in a taper method had mostly eliminated any outright rash, this strange form of irritation still persisted.

So, I figured I had nothing to lose by trying the tea tree oil method.  Truly, if you suspect Demodex, you are apparently supposed to seek out your ophthalmologist and have them pull out one of your eyelashes and then examine it under a microscope to see if the wiggly creatures exist.   That is my disclaimer.  But having already spent hundreds the other day on the allergen testing, I didn’t choose to go that route.  I ALSO knew that tea tree oil did not have any history of irritating my skin, as I have used it in the past on things like bug bites and acne.

However, I was wary about the concentration.  How much to dilute it?  What kind of carrier oil?  Applying tea tree oil right near your delicate eyeballs is a whole different animal than dabbing it on a bug bite on your body.

Ultimately (and one of my Demodex searches led me to this product), I chose to go with this product from hEYEdrate.

hEYEdrate tea tree oil

Yes, it’s an eye makeup remover oil (and by this point, I wear extremely minimal makeup that I can almost guarantee has nothing to do with my lash line irritation, as I’ve switched products, tested things extensively, done trial periods with no makeup, and come up inconclusive – more on my routine in a future post) – but it can also be used as a topical treatment to swab the eyelids and eyelash line for Demodex, as it contains tea tree but in a diluted enough form where it won’t burn or sting your skin.

What the manufacturers recommend is swabbing the eyes with this, washing your face with their tea tree oil soap (also available for purchase), then using a Lid and Lash cleaner (I did just order this out of curiosity since they gave me a promo code for a free bottle, but haven’t received it yet to try).  I figured let me try ONE thing at a time (as is important when you have sensitive skin that is prone to dermatitis) and see what happens.  Plus, I didn’t want to switch up my current cleanser or any other steps in my skin routine as it seems they are working overall well.

I have now used the Tea Tree Oil solution for about a week, each night.  First I swab it on my eye area with a cotton ball and then wash my face.  Then I dab a drop or two of the tea tree oil solution on a Q-tip and swab along each lash line, upper and lower.  Then I go on with the rest of my skincare routine for the night.

The first night, I woke up with a LOT of crust along my lash line and in my eye!  My left eye was almost crusted shut and I had to put a cool washcloth on it to help it open.  However, I wasn’t too alarmed, as I had read that “Demodex die-off” is a thing and your condition can worsen before it gets better.  Remember, their lifespan is 2 weeks, so it’s important to adhere to 2 weeks of treatment if you were to do this.  Once the crust got smoothed away, my eyes were none the worse for wear.  I would venture to say that using it each night for a week has definitely improved the condition and look of my eyes, and lessened the flakiness and dryness.

HOWEVER!  Just when I was cruising along well, a bump in the road happened.  (Isn’t that how it always is?)  Thursday, I actually WENT IN A POOL and WORE GOGGLES and though I did re-moisturize my face and eye area after, my skin was none the worse for wear.  Then Saturday (two days ago) I woke up and thought to myself, “Gosh!  This is great!  This is the best my eyes have looked in some time.  I’m having an excellent week!  Even if I didn’t have a proliferation of destructive Demodex, everything seems to be really helping!”

Then, some dog allergies happened.

I went to a social event where one dog was there (alright, fine) but then another dog showed up (meh) and yet ANOTHER dog.  I have nothing against dogs.  I truly love them.  And it breaks my heart that I am allergic to them.  But I avoid petting them, touching them, or really being around them for any length of time.  (There HAS been a hypoallergenic dog I knew who was kept very clean and I was able to pet him all the time with no issues.  And I think it does depend on the breed too, and how close in proximity they are to me, and how clean the surrounding environment is.  I have definitely made excuses in the past to not attend events at people’s houses if I know they have dogs.  It’s just easier to say you have other plans than to be THAT PERSON with the unfortunate allergy to pets).

The one dog – the hugest one – a grayhound that a child could have ridden on – was very curious and ended up plopping down right next to me.  Poor thing.  He was so miffed as to why I wouldn’t pay attention to him or love on him.  Dogs often seem to LOVE trying to make friends with me because I won’t have anything to do with them.  “HOOMAN!!!  WHY YOU SO ALOOF?  I WILL WIN YOU OVER!  I WILL OBTAIN YOUR LOVE!”, I imagine them thinking with their bright doggy brains.

I really didn’t think it would be an issue as long as I didn’t touch any of them, but then my left eye started watering and feeling weird.  I stayed for a little longer just to be socially acceptable, and then I rushed home.  I kept wanting to touch and pull at my left eye, because now it felt like there was something IN it, up underneath the lid. Pretty soon after getting home, I decided just to take a whole shower and go through my whole nighttime skin routine and wash out my eyes and take out my contacts and put on glasses and see if that helped.

My boyfriend (who had come over and kindly brought us some food for dinner) came in to check on me and caught me in a frenzied rubbing at my eyes.  “STOP THAT!” he ordered.  “RUBBING YOUR EYES WILL JUST MAKE IT WORSE!”  “I KNOW, but they ITCH SO MUCH!” I whined.  I knew he was right though.  I got my hands out of my eyes, took 2 Benadryl, and dabbed some Desonide under my left eye as a preventative measure so I wouldn’t wake up inflamed.  Again, by this time I have only been using Desonide 1x a week OR LESS, so this didn’t seem to be an issue.

Thankfully in the morning I wasn’t too much the worse for wear.  My left eye still FELT a little strange, like it was still slightly puffy, but I looked okay.  Today it looks and feels a little dried out, which is typically what happens for me a day or two after some kind of inflammation.  But I think it’s going to keep improving back to where it was relatively quickly… as long as I stay away from dogs!

Coming up soon – the report on my 52 inhaled allergen testing (I’m really eager to get the results and get treatment underway!!!)

 

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Steady Healing, and Allergen Testing

My last post was exactly two weeks ago, where I provided a long but useful pictorial evolution of the healing of my face rashes.

Good news!  Since then, my skin has been holding steady to being about 95% normal without any use of Desonide.  I had ONE day in the past two weeks where I used it ONCE because I woke up with my left eye burning (still not sure from what) and just used it as a spot-dosage to immediately help reduce the inflammation.  The stubborn spots under my left eye keep going through a subtle but continual peel-and-flake cycle – there will be a day where they are a little inflamed looking, then they dry out and flake, then they look pretty normal, and a few days later the whole cycle seems to begin again.  (I’m not sure what this is linked to, but on the days that the eye gets inflamed, I know that I wake up itching at them in my sleep, though this doesn’t happen every night.)  Overall though, this is probably not noticeable to anyone but me, and I’m relieved to have entered consistent WEEKS, not just days, of “near-normalcy” where I’m not constantly caught up in how my skin feels or appears.  I am still on a very minimalistic skincare routine (and plan to probably stay that way), but have incorporated a thing or two that really seems to help, which I’ll discuss in a future post.

What I’m currently looking into now is testing of allergens – 52 inhaled allergens, to be exact.  In my last post, I mentioned that though my skin is markedly better than even just a month ago, my asthma has been UNUSUALLY bad lately.  The only thing I have been able to link it to is rain.  Going outside after rain will immediately make me start wheezing.  Rain from evening into night will almost guarantee that I will wake up with a tight chest and need to reach for my inhaler, stat.  It can also flare up without rain, but rain seems almost a given.  It’s almost cruel in its sporadic nature, especially for me as an athlete – one day I will feel unstoppable and conquer a super hard set of things, the next day I’ll be struggling to even GO ON A WALK and be limited to only non-cardio things in my gym programming.  Probably linked to this, I’ve been really feeling a weight of fatigue and anxiety many days (logical, when you have this sporadic shortness of breath that kind of mimics dying…. lol).  I could make a whole other post about my mood and psyche, but I really have not felt like *truly* myself for a good amount of time.  There is certainly scientific evidence out there that has linked allergies and/or asthma and mood changes, such as depression, anxiety, stress, etc., so I wouldn’t be at all surprised if that has something to do with it.

So, even though it’s not cheap, and the cost of medical things is stressful, I felt like this 52 inhaled allergen testing was my next logical option if I wanted to truly get at the root of feeling better.  At first, I wanted to do patch testing because I wanted to get at the root of finding any unexpected things that could be causing my past eczema/atopic dermatitis flares.  I also find it odd that I have these small areas of my skin that keep going through cycles and never truly heal, so something external or internal has to be provoking some repeated assault of irritation.  I really believe I’ve ruled out anything topical by this point – and for good example, my right eye is perfectly normal and healed by now, so having a unilateral skin issue makes me think it can’t be primarily caused by anything being applied to my face.  However, upon researching things more, the inhaled allergens test seemed to be more appropriate and very likely could shed light on some things irritating my skin anyway.

I had my blood drawn for the test yesterday – just a few small tubes of blood, where they are then mixed with allergens such as different types of molds, pollens, grasses, danders, etc.  I will receive my results by mail, and will then have an appointment with the allergy nurse to discuss them and have allergy drops custom-made for me based on the results.  I honestly would expect a lot of things to flag – I know I can’t be around pets (they make me itch and wheeze and I have gotten hives before from playing with pets when very young), I’m probably sensitive to mold, and based on my asthma symptoms, I feel like I can almost guarantee that dust mites and/or some plant pollens are going to rank way up there.

The doctor I met with yesterday before the blood draw said something very interesting – once I told him I’ve lived in this area for 4 years and have only recently been experiencing symptoms, he noted that he’s seen this pattern in multiple people, where their allergies tend to really explode here around the 3-4 year mark.  He also noted we live in a very bio-diverse region of the US, so we have a bigger variety of plants and pollens and grasses, making this not the best area for allergy sufferers.

In a way, it was kind of reassuring to know that maybe my system is simply becoming hyper-reactive out of nowhere, and it’s not my body’s “fault” or something I did or didn’t do.  In another way, it was a little bit discouraging, because the allergy drops take time to work, and he said that realistically it might be up to a year before they can determine if the drops are working, and that they don’t work for everyone.  But, I had to take the first step, and it’s good I took it now rather than waiting, I suppose.  In the meantime, things are tolerable and I am thankful for that.

Pictorial Evolution of my healing skin

As discussed in my last posts here and here, I did a lot of careful consideration before choosing to use a mild steroid cream (Desonide) short-term in attempts of healing my face skin’s damaged barrier.  I started off with multiple distinct rashes – under/around both eyes, a spot on either side of my mouth, a tiny but pesky spot in sort of the ‘smile line’ area, and a larger oval rash on the side of my jawline.

Here was my rough timeline for use of Desonide:
– First week – used Desonide 2x a day for first four days, then an off-day, then switched to 1x a day.
– Second week – did 2-3 days on with Desonide 1x a day, alternating with an off-day, then moving to 2 days off, then 3 days off going into 3rd week.
– Third week – Using Desonide only as absolutely needed 1x a day – I think I used it once on my eye area and then later in the week, two days in a row for my jawline rash.

The status of my skin after going through this Desonide treatment and taper is as follows:

  • The spots at either corner of the mouth are fully healed and have not returned to rashes!
  • The tiny pesky spot is almost normal but still gets flaky and a little red.
  • The jawline rash was close to healed, and held steady with decent skin after being left alone from Desonide for a number of days – but then seemed to flare up a bit, 2 days of 1x/day Desonide has it looking fine again.
  • The right eye is doing really well!  I had a cluster of three red flaky dot patches at the corner of the eye, I’m down to one that is faintly pink but the skin there seems pretty much almost normal.
  • My above-eyelid area – I chose to never use Desonide here just because the eyelids are so thin and can have high absorption rates for steroid creams.  They’ve had days where they are pink and soft and look essentially fine, and other days where they are a little more red and flaky.  They aren’t completely normal, but they also aren’t anything awful either.  I can deal with that.
  • The left eye area has been the most troublesome for sure.  However, it has healed immensely with help of the Desonide which you’ll see in the pictures to follow.  I haven’t used Desonide on it since June 4th which is over a week ago.  I’m really cautious about the concept of using Desonide around the eye considering all I know about TSW, and hope I won’t have to go back to it.  It seems to still be maintaining its healing status on its own, but has never truly healed.  I read that the skin can take 27 days to renew itself, and of course the eye area is thin and subject to environmental stressors, etc., so maybe it’s just lagging behind.  It keeps going through a mild peel-and-flake cycle every few days which it has been doing for a while regardless of using Desonide or not.

If I had to assign a number to my healing so far, I would say this is probably a 70% improvement (where 100% would be completely back to normal).  70% is still excellent and I am grateful for that!  However, the mystery to solve now is what to do (besides being patient) to allow the rest of my skin to reach that 100%.

A very interesting occurrence happened over the past week.  I went on vacation to the beach for about 5 days.  I had a few days there of almost completely clear skin – the best it had looked in SO LONG.  This was pretty amazing and remarkable and filled me with hope!  Back at home from vacation, my skin didn’t do anything drastic, but it seemed like the healing kind of ‘stalled out’, as far as the left eye and jawline rash regressing a little.  Another very interesting occurrence since I have arrived back home is that my asthma has been absolutely kicking, some days.  I had a day where it woke me up, a day where I couldn’t sleep because of it, a day where I took my inhaler probably 4 doses in 16 hours and it STILL felt futile, etc.  So, I STILL have to really suspect that there is something in my external environment that I have become sensitive to.  Otherwise, why wouldn’t my skin have totally healed by now, and why would my asthma flare up so very badly for no apparent reason at all?  I’ve controlled for as many topical things and ingestive things as I can think of (holding strong to my food sensitivity guidelines!  No gluten now for almost 2 months, for example…!  And, I’ve also done days with no makeup, which doesn’t seem to make a difference one way or the other.  I DID switch concealers, which seems to have helped, and I will make a future post with my review of it.)  I also got this wonderful Levoit air purifier per the recommendation of the “healthy home” inspector that came out a few weeks ago.  I think it’s too soon to say if it is truly making an impactful difference, but I haven’t woken up with burning eyes in a while, so that’s progress!

I’m grateful for my wonderful integrative practitioner, whose office has a system where you can message your doctor and have email conversations.  I’ve been communicating with her about this, and she also thought it was very interesting that my skin improved while away from home.  I have a referral from her for some further allergy testing which I am in the process of pursuing.

So now, to some illustrations of the progress of my healing.  I actually hate that this whole ordeal has me being relatively obsessive about my skin what with taking progress pictures.  HOWEVER, I am also grateful for them, because I can look back and see that there truly is a difference, and I know that pictures are really helpful to see as other people go through their own healing journey.

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Here’s an example of my skin after a bad reaction.  April 27, 2019.  I had pretty good skin in this ordeal from mid-March through mid-April.  Then I made the mistake of washing my face with Tarte facewash one night that I always used to use with no problem.  It made my eyes super inflamed, red, dry, and uncomfortable.  I think this is where my issues re-started in trying to heal the barrier damage from this reaction.

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I forget if I have mentioned it in this blog, but having never had hives before despite my history of skin issues, I have a very strong suspicion that this was from coconut oil.  Not just any coconut oil – but oil that had actually gone rancid and I wasn’t aware of it!

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This is a pretty good average representation of my current skin status.  This picture was taken on June 9.  I’ve still got these small persistent areas under my left eye, that vary in their appearance depending on the peel-and-flake cycle that they seem to go through (some days look more dry, some days look better).

What’s next?  PATIENCE and continuing to monitor my healing!  I’ll also be sure to post when I meet with the other integrative doctor about allergy testing and treatment!  My practitioner said that mold is a big problem in our area, so I wouldn’t be surprised if that gets confirmed.  Happy healing to everyone else out there going through their own skin journeys!

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