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.


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.  Note the deep atopic pleats under them too.  I think this is where my issues re-started in trying to heal the barrier damage from this reaction.


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!












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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More Thoughts and Facts on Steroid Use Post-TSW

As discussed in my last post, I have been using – yes – a topical steroid again (2nd most mild potency, Desonide) to repair the rashes on my face.  If this is the first post of mine you are reading, a brief summary is that I went through TSW from approximately end of January 2013 (my official date of “stopping” TS was Jan. 23, though I think I was cycling through TSW before that) through about early July 2013.  By early July of 2013 my face was basically healed and there were just some residual mild areas on my body to clear up, so I was essentially “back to normal” after 6-9 months of TSW.

So yes – 6 years after going through TSW, I made the conscious choice to see what would happen with a little help from Desonide to repair my skin barrier, and did not make this choice lightly, but rather as a last-resort effort.

My experience so far has been:
* Started Desonide on Monday, May 20 in PM; used sparingly 2x a day for the next 4 days
* Took one day off (Saturday), resumed 1x/day on Sunday and Monday
* Took one day off (Tuesday), resumed 1x/day yesterday and today.

I’ll go into what I’ve found about tapering and dosage with the existing science, but first my own observations:
* On the days that I did NOT use Desonide, I seem to experience a slight burning/itching sensation around my left eye (the more troublesome one, rash-wise) and have then woken up with that eye slightly puffy underneath, as well as slightly more inflamed rash areas (this occurred Saturday night and Tuesday night).  To be clear, these are slightly more inflamed than they would be with Desonide, but nowhere NEAR the inflamed that they were in the past.  Now, this might be – 1., an interesting coincidence, 2., something to do with the nitric oxide in my blood vessels (when topical steroids are withdrawn, vasodilation occurs because nitric oxide is no longer suppressed), or simply 3., an indication that I was not yet ready to “taper” off the steroids.
* While this symptom could have been perceived by me as mildly alarming, I have had incidences of “burning eyes” while dealing with this whole skin thing well BEFORE ever touching the Desonide, and the ones in the past were WORSE, like I mention in this post from a few weeks ago.  (My best remedy is to simply get up and put an ice cube on the eyes.  I also have a cooling eye mask that I keep in the fridge.  Laying in bed with it on my face for about 10 minutes provides enough soothing cooling relief where then I’m typically able to roll back over and go to sleep).
* I really cannot in good conscience think this is like a “rebound flare” or a “danger sign” with my skin suddenly going back to “addiction” mere DAYS after using a mild steroid.  However, it’s still interesting and something to wonder about.  In this post by Dr. Rapaport, he discusses nitric oxide and it’s role in TSW further.  He also mentions that exercise and certain foods boost nitric oxide.  I am an athlete who does exercise frequently, and who is currently eating a lot of greens (which are also a food that can boost nitric oxide).
* I also came across a post (I wish I had it now so I could link back to it) where the tapering and alternating days use of topical steroid was recommended, specifically so that the blood vessels could essentially “flex” through this release of nitric oxide mechanism, i.e., vasoconstriction and vasodilation.

Here is some more information based on an article from the Indian Journal of Dermatology by Sanjay K. Rathi and Paschal D’Souza, titled, “Rational and Ethical Use of Topoical Corticosteroids Based on Safety and Efficacy”:

  • Most topical steroids, regardless of potency, should not be used for more than 2-4 weeks duration at a stretch.  If there is worsening or no change noted, the product needs to be discontinued and diagnosis needs to be re-evaluated.
  • The vasoconstrictive response of topical steroids is what makes skin develop a “tolerance”.  After repeated use, the skin requires higher dose or more frequent application.  The ability of the blood vessels to constrict returns four days after stopping therapy.  (note: I find this very interesting.  Only four days?  Does that maybe mean that the four-day mark after stopping steroids is sort of the make-or-break to see if the skin is becoming dependent?)
  • If a topical steroid loses its effectiveness, it should be discontinued for 4-7 days and then restarted.

And more info from an article titled “Atopic and Contact Dermatitis” by Thomas Bieber in Clinical Immunology, 3rd ed.:

  • The application of topical steroids should be limited to courses of about 2 weeks, no more than 2x per day.
  • “Our own experience has shown…intermittent use of topical steroids once or twice a week on areas prone to flare-ups has been proven to reduce flares for up to 6 months, with… better disease control.”

And then a direct quote from an article that sought the opinion of Dr. Rapaport himself, “If you’re going to use medium strength topical steroids, use them for five to seven days.  If the eczema clears and it doesn’t recur for months or weeks, for a patch or two, you can use it once in a blue moon.  If right away it rebounds with an eczema flare, you can’t get away with it.”  He also said in the article that before topical steroids, people went to Arizona for exposure to sun as therapy, which then “burned out” the eczema, apparently never to return.

I also found another interesting article that discussed tapering off steroids.  This doctor was specifically talking about opthalmic steroids, but I would venture to think the mechanism and logic is the same with topicals.  He said that the long-term goal is to find the absolute minimum maintenance dose to avoid relapses (which agrees with the last bullet point from Bieber’s article), and that one way of seeing if a patient is tapering too quickly involves the following:

“…ask the patient what happens when he or she misses a dose.  If the patient says, “Nothing really bad happens; I just pick up where I left off’, then you know that the patient is probably ready to taper.  If the patient says, ‘Symptoms X and Y come back’, then it’s too soon to taper.”

So basically, this is my own personal take-away from the scientific literature and from my own experience.  I think that I started my taper a little TOO early before the skin was fully healed because I got kind of paranoid despite no marked ill effects.  (I do plan to make a post eventually with pictures showing the evolution of my face rashes and the healing from weeks ago til now).  There are spots that were red and inflamed before on my face that have been holding steady as completely healed.  However, there are also still spots that seem like they are continuing to go through healing but are much more localized (dots rather than large patches).  My jawline is an interesting example – I used TS on it only for the first 5 days, enough to give it kind of the bare minimum of healing, and then stopped.  Since then, it looked healed for a few days, then has regressed into an oval of pinkish dry rashes that is still WAY better than before Desonide, no longer looks diseased and feels like plastic, and for all intents and purposes, looks like skin that is trying to just continue healing on its own.  So that area, I’m probably going to leave alone and continue to see what happens with it steroid-free.

Given that I’ve been struggling with these face rashes in some form on and off for months, it makes sense to me that a mere few days of Desonide probably wasn’t enough and despite the fear and trepidation that comes with topical steroids as a post-TSW individual, holding out and using it for a bit longer was probably the way to go.

Being that I used Desonide last week 2x a week for a few days, then some days 1x or not at all, my course of action going forward is to now redo my ‘taper’ to being consistent about using it for 1x a week for a few days, then alternating days, then gauging progress from there.  I have been vacillating through various emotions with this whole re-trying steroids thing, from relief that I can feel more like myself again, to anxiety “What if I eff up my skin all over again”, to frustration “why do I have to be spending so much time on finding the answer to getting my skin right” to hope and optimism “my body is smart enough to heal itself and I am being vigilant in taking care of it and doing the right thing”!

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Can You Use Topical Steroids AFTER Going Through TSW?

This was the burning question in my mind as of last week.  I scoured the internet, performed all sorts of Google searches, and came up with… nothing.  That’s not to say it isn’t out there, but I personally haven’t been able to find ANY accounts of someone relating their experience of using topical steroids after going through TSW.  (If you come across any, let me know!)

Before I talk more about topical steroids, there were many other burning skin-related questions in my mind that I have been exploring (with an embarrassingly long amount of cumulative time spent on the interwebz), some of which I still don’t have a straight answer to, but some of which I definitely have some hypotheses.  Long post, so settle in!

  • Can you be exfoliating your skin TOO much even if it is dry and flaky?  The answer to this in my experience over the past weeks seems to be YES.  The body is very smart and wants to heal itself (as I keep reminding myself!)  Flakes are unsightly, but if they are pretty well adhered to the skin, it most likely does more bad than good to really try hard and scrub them off.  Then you have a vulnerable skin barrier that yes, may be pink and smooth and less dry looking, but is now more exposed to the elements for the vicious cycle to start all over again.
    • One of the most helpful sites I found was actually a woman’s account of healing from a chemical peel under the eyes.  Different scenario than eczema/dermatitis, but same kind of healing – the outer skin barrier got damaged and now there’s some patience in letting it alone so it can heal.  She looked pretty gnarly for the first initial few days of inflammation, then the outer layers peeled right off and she had fresh new skin.  Having had rashes over probably about 70% of my body in TSW, having a rash around the eyes is one of the worst spots.  You just feel so self-conscious and it’s very hard to be patient in letting the area alone.  I’ve thankfully got to have the opportunity to do that over the past week as all my work has been online and I’ve had blessedly almost no obligations, therefore can just allow my skin to BE.  Leaving the flakes alone and simply moisturizing them did require some patience, but a few days in – sure enough, larger flakes were about ready to come off with some SUPER GENTLE pulling with tweezers, which was actually really cool and, sure enough, revealed soft, fresh, new pink skin!
  • Can coconut oil be not so great for your skin?  Goodness, it seems you’ll find more divisiveness on this on the internet than most other topics in skincare.  Some say it’s awesome and healed their rashes, some say it’s way too occlusive, some say yes it has antifungal properties but isn’t the greatest oil for most types of dermatitis.  I was using coconut oil on my skin for a while over the past months.  I would wash my face with it in the shower and I would often moisturize with it.  However, no matter what, I always felt… MEH… about it.  It always just kind of felt like it was SITTING on top of my skin and not truly penetrating the barrier or doing anything.  Then, a kind of horrifying thing happened that made me stop using coconut oil entirely.  I opened my normal jar one day and was about to put it on my face, and it smelled… off.  Mold!?!?!?!  Have I just been putting moldy coconut oil on my face for the last days?  GROSS!
    • I still don’t know what caused my raised ‘hives’ that I discussed in this post from a few weeks ago, but I have to think that possibly it was this brewing mold in the coconut oil.  I was using a very reputable brand (Nutiva) and practicing good hygiene with it (i.e., only reaching into the jar with clean hands).  However, the jar DID live in my bathroom, which, though it does have a fan, is not extraordinarily well ventilated, and we are in the hot humid part of late spring where I live.  Lesson learned that coconut oil CAN go rancid and rather quickly at that!
  • Can mold and dust mites affect your skin?  Better believe that they can.  I am not super prone to awful seasonal allergies (thankfully) like the typical sniffling, sneezing, runny eyes miserable-ness, but all of our bodies and systems are different and there is definitely lots of evidence to point to dust being something that can irritate skin, especially in people who already have the ‘atopic triad’ (asthma, eczema, and allergies).
    • The “healthy home” guy came out to my place a few days after my last post hypothesizing about mold.  In some ways I was a little disappointed, in some ways I was kind of relieved.  I think that I was hoping he would come out with some special digital “mold detecting tool” and point it at all areas of my home, and then with a dramatic flourish, find some kind of red-flag culprit that I could immediately remove and then be on my way to clear skin.  Now that didn’t happen, and in fact he didn’t find any outright red flags.  Basically, my house is old, not well insulated, and easily prone to dust (but I could have told you that).  But I was relieved that there wasn’t anything severe where, say, I should have started looking for another place to live.  He DID look at my AC units and the bedroom filter one was absolutely filthy.  I am a little ashamed that I didn’t think to open it and look in the filter, especially upon waking up with such severe asthma a few weekends ago.  The good news is that I’ve cleaned both unit filters thoroughly and replaced them and haven’t had any deterioration of my asthma with running them during the night!  He also did recommend getting a vacuum with a HEPA filter and getting an air purifier to run in my bedroom especially at night.  I’m waiting to make a purchase on those because 1., they are rather big ticket expensive items and I like to take a little time to read reviews and price compare and whatnot, and 2., I’m taking a more step-by-step approach rather than buying a whole bunch of things.
  • Is “less is more” when it comes to skincare?  I think this is definitely key, especially for any sufferers of eczema, dermatitis, or just sensitive skin in general.  I am NOT a patient person.  AT ALL.  And so, even though I definitely have reined myself in on not trying a bunch of new things (check out my sobering “Visual Display of Futility” from a few years ago, lol) – – the fact is that the less “stuff” you put on your skin, the easier it will be to narrow down if you are reacting to something.  (There are a lot of men and babies out there with GORGEOUS skin… that they use NOTHING on!  It’s kind of unfair that so much skincare marketing is towards women and basically our insecurities of looking old, looking unattractive, etc.  I think that skincare for sure has its place, but that taking care of our whole body system in a holistic and nurturing manner is really the foundation for a healthy outward appearance).  And again, patience is key here.  Healing is not linear, and it’s not really fair to the body’s healing mechanisms to try something (or try giving UP something) for a mere few days and then get impatient and think it’s not working.
    • One interesting “less is more” step that I took recently was actually to stop using my Avene cream.  This worked great for me for a time in TSW.  But guess what?  There are many Avene creams and the one that I got this time around recently actually was NOT the same one!  Yes, it felt just as soothing going on and though it didn’t seem like it did anything absolutely magical, it always felt nice.  But one thing that I realized is that THIS Avene cream contained shea butter.  I wrote about shea butter years ago in this post and how I seemed to react to it.  I also realized that the Aveeno Baby has shea butter, and the natural lip balm that I use daily also contains shea butter.  However, it honestly kind of slipped my mind that shea butter maybe wasn’t favorable for my skin, because after TSW I was able to use many things (shea butter being one of them) that had bothered me before but didn’t crop up with any problems.  If my skin’s barrier is already compromised, then the shea butter ingredient probably was not doing me any favors.  It also might explain the stubborn spots at each corner of my mouth, if those are indirect low-level irritation from applying a balm with shea butter to my lips frequently.
    • I am actually down to being able to count on one hand the number of things (creams) that I put on my skin.  I now use grapeseed oil as my nighttime moisturizer and my daytime natural ‘serum’ if you will.  I use Vanicream Sport SPF 35 Sunscreen over that (have used this favorably for years, as mentioned in this post from 2013), and sometimes I’ll use a little Vaniply (which I talk about here).  And my skin seems to be responding well to those!


  • What happens if you use topical steroids again after having gone through TSW?
    • Going through TSW made me a wiser (hopefully) and more skeptical person in regards to what I put on my body and how I treat it.  I’ve read probably hundreds of blogs, articles, and scientific research on TSW and possible “steroid addiction”.  I don’t have time to create an actual scientific research meta-analysis, as much as the scientist in me would like to, but there are a few different facts that crop up, that may or may not be common knowledge among the TSW community.
      • Topical steroids can and do have the potential for abuse.  However, there are also many eczema patients who utilize topical steroids without issue.  (My father and brother for example, are fellow eczema sufferers who also have used steroids periodically on their face, and they did not encounter TSW.  As a female, however, I would venture to say in my younger years that I probably abused its “magic cream” properties for vanity’s sake more so than a male likely would).
      • The nature of the addiction depends on many factors – time of usage, potency of steroid, and the site of applying it (for example, one statistic I came across is that your thick-skinned feet will absorb 0.1% of the steroid whereas the thin delicate eyelids will absorb up to 30%).
      • Steroid creams have been used successfully in many patients since the 1950s and in my opinion, are not inherently evil.  I am not afraid to say that as a former TSW sufferer, even with all the suffering they caused me and a multitude of other eczema sufferers.  HOWEVER as we all know, they have a potential for abuse and dermatologists are still seemingly lacking as a whole when it comes to other alternatives or other measures.  And certainly there ARE extraordinarily sad and downright evil situations out there, such as infants and toddlers going through TSW who had been prescribed something ridiculously strong like clobetasol on their poor little vulnerable bodies, that was just not necessary.
      • Steroids should be used as a last-resort defense in my opinion if nothing else is working.  Skin experts note that they are often best used for a week on, then a week off, etc., no more than necessary, and never in strengths that are excessive.

So.  Based on my judicious research and my own recent skin experience, I have actually been using a steroid cream to heal the skin barrier of my face for the last week.

WHY, you may ask?  Truly as a last resort.  I found myself completely miserable last weekend, feeling trapped in my own body, caught in a cycle of trying desperately to get my skin’s rashes to heal but not being able to catch a break for my skin to just rest and do nothing.  DESPITE following my special diet, DESPITE taking all my supplements, DESPITE the fact that I had relatively good healing skin through most of the month of April.  My face physically hurt because of how dry it was, smiling was uncomfortable, my face kind of looked like that of someone on meth, and I was going out of my way to avoid any sort of interaction with people.  I wasn’t myself, I was avoiding activities, and it sucked.  It had been a relatively downward spiral for a few weeks (and I still don’t know the cause but I strongly lean toward the mold in the coconut oil or maybe a culmination of many small things).  I felt like my skin barrier… was F***ED, and in need of some serious help beyond whatever I could do to futilely try and help it.  My integrative health practitioner, who has been wonderful through this ordeal, supported my choice as well.  I did not make this decision lightly, but finally came to the conclusion in good conscience to utilize a short-term, low potency, topical steroid (Desonide – a class 2 steroid – basically just one step up from OTC hydrocortisone) to give my skin some expediency in healing.   This would allow my skin to have a ‘re-set’, to pare down to just a handful of products, and provide me with some discernment as to what to do for the future.

I’ve been using the Desonide at its minimum effective dose for 6 days now and am now tapering off of it (i.e., only using it once today vs. 2x, and then will use it only once over 2 days, and then not at all).  My skin is immensely better!  My neck rash has completely cleared and the rest of my face looks almost normal.  There are some faint pink spots around my right eye, and my left eye still has some red under it but it is gaining moisture and elasticity again.  A lot of the “bad areas” peeled away after a few days of me being patient.  I also deliberately did NOT put any Desonide on my eyelids (which were prone to redness and flaking) and those are coming along healing on their own just with grapeseed oil at night.  They still have a little bit of flake and redness sporadically, but nothing an observer would probably notice, and they are baby soft and almost smooth.  I feel like myself again – not afraid to interact with people, not an introverted hermit, not completely self-conscious about my face.

I have a slight amount of underlying nervousness as to what next week will hold for my skin, but I know a few things – 1., topical steroid addiction is not immediate and to think that my skin will erupt in worse rashes after 1 week of sparingly using a weak steroid is rather illogical.  2., the body is capable of healing and WANTS to heal, we just have to give it the conditions to do so.  My slight nervousness is made dim by the brightness of my optimism that my skin has now been given a thankful kick-start to healing and will continue to keep healing on its own!

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Could it be…. MOLD?

My last post from a few days ago brought up the mysterious evolution of my rash into something that seemed quite different from eczema or atopic dermatitis.  This also seems way different than simply a contact dermatitis as well, and I’ve cleaned up my personal care routine thoroughly over the past months of this journey where, unless I have suddenly developed a sensitivity to something usually benign (like dimethicone, which is in a lot of my products), there is no logical reason for my skin to be acting up in new and strange ways.

Here’s a picture of my face from the other day.  The areas that are irritated looking are red, raised, and clearly delineated; though they don’t itch at all.  I have similar rashes around the other eye (though this eye in the picture is worse), by each corner of my mouth, and on/above one side of my jawline.  All in the same areas that I’ve been dealing with rashes and breakouts on and off over recent months, but in these new raised, inflamed, blotchy ways.

Suspected mold rash side 2

Yesterday was definitely a struggle-bus day.  I woke up and was having some extreme trouble breathing.  I had also woke up in the night with my eyelids BURNING like mad, to the point where I had to wake up to get an ice cube to put on them to soothe them enough where I could go back to sleep.  Not itchy like in the past, but like they were on FIRE.  (This happened another night this week too).  Even though I took my inhaler, the trouble breathing persisted, and I ended up taking my inhaler about 6 times over less than a 12 hour period, which for me is unusual, extreme, and a sign that there is something really not right.

I didn’t have time to mull this unfortunate transpiring over for too long, as I had an event to go to.  I made myself look as human as possible, though my eyes still felt thick and awkward.  I reassured myself that I felt worse than I looked, but once I walked into the event, a well-meaning acquaintance looked at me in a concerned manner and said, “Are your eyes okay?”  Yes, yes, I hurriedly said, I’ve been having a horrible time of allergies lately.  Which everyone understood.

I sat through the event realizing that my chest was still tight with shortness of breath, DESPITE taking my inhaler, DESPITE being on these new histamine support supplements, DESPITE even taking an extra antihistamine (Allegra) before I left home.  I quietly sat and tried not to panic-breathe.  I’ve dealt with asthma enough that I know I’m not going to die, but having reduced lung function is extremely uncomfortable.  Then my nose began to run.  (Also unusual considering I had taken an antihistamine).  Not having any tissues on me, I discreetly wiped my nose on my hand.  Again, and again, and again I did this, while continuing to try breathing calmly; counting down the minutes until the event was over.  I did my bare minimum of social duties and then couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

But oh joy, I had another event to go to in a few hours!  This time, a party for a friend, and even though I was sorely tempted to beg off and claim not feeling well, I knew it would mean a lot if I showed up.  And sitting around at home feeling sorry for myself and my skin sounded even less appealing.  I actually put on my glasses (which I never wear out) to hopefully allow my eyes to feel mildly more comfortable into the night (and to distract from how chewed up the skin around my eyes looked).  I was still having a sporadic runny nose, but this time I brought tissues and it wasn’t too terrible.  I survived the party and had a reasonable amount of fun despite my eyelids starting to feel thick and unwieldy as the night went on.

Once I got home, I started to ponder all of the pieces of this puzzle for the day – WHY systemic issues like respiratory distress along with strange rashes?  WHY would taking an antihistamine not even seem to touch my “allergy” symptoms?  WHY would my skin be seemingly getting WORSE in a non-eczema manner DESPITE cleaning up my diet and being on my supplement regimen?

I don’t know how exactly I stumbled upon it, but in my thought process of putting things together and doing some Internet sleuthing, I hit upon the concept of mold being a factor.  Ah!  This to me sounded extremely plausible that mold could be a factor in my skin’s recent demise.  I live in a home that is close to 100 years old, I have a bathroom that, even with a fan, doesn’t seem extremely well ventilated, and I have a window AC unit that could well be harboring all kinds of spores, as I’ve lived here for 3+ years and haven’t ever had it maintained.

I then began to mentally retrace my days and patterns and think about the days that I had burning eyes and respiratory distress upon waking in the past – and these were days that I was running the window AC unit.  And in fact, my skin getting worse over the past weeks did seem to roughly correspond with running the AC unit at night more frequently.  I resolved to look into this further in the morning and did not run the unit for the night.

In the morning, these extraordinarily dry areas on all my rashes greeted me, like these ones around my eye:

Super crusty eye

I took this as a good sign that the inflammation (whatever it was) was moving out and the outer layer of skin was shedding off in order to make room for new healing skin.  I’ve experienced this “peel and flake” cycle before quite a few times over the past months and certainly quite a bit back in the days of TSW.  I picked off any big flakes with tweezers and then I did some gentle exfoliation with coconut oil.

I had a blessedly free day of ANY obligations today, so I spent it cleaning my house, looking more into the potential mold issue, and hard-core moisturizing my dry patches regularly (coconut oil, Avene, and Vaniply).  I was super happy to have a complete introvert hermit day and not have to look presentable at all.

It’s always good to be a bit skeptical of things you find on the Internet and not take everything at face value, but it’s a real fact that mold in homes can make people sick, and it seems like my recent symptoms would make sense with lining up to the use of the window AC unit blowing out mold spores into the air which are then causing irritation to my probably-already-compromised-immune system.

I have an appointment with a highly rated ‘healthy home’ personnel in a few days who is going to come and check out my house for potential mold or other hazards.  In the meantime, I am NOT running the AC unit and I am staying positive in my body’s ability to keep on healing itself even if that is going to take a little bit of time!

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Still fighting rash, and now it’s new

Last I wrote, I had just gotten the results of my food sensitivity test and my skin was doing pretty good.  I had an appointment with my doctor a few weeks after that and thoroughly discussed the results of the food sensitivity, as well as a plan of action, and some edits to my supplements.

The last day that I KNOWINGLY ate foods that I am supposed to avoid, like gluten, was 4/24/19.  Since then, I unknowingly had a little bit of pea protein (in non-dairy whipped cream – who knew!  Not me, until I read the ingredients AS I was eating it) and had finished up some gluten-free focaccia in the house that has yeast, which I am also supposed to avoid.

Over this past week though, I have been dealing with the rash around my eyes especially manifesting in a new and annoying way – raised round/oval bumps.

I had a mild skin-catastrophe last weekend Friday night into Saturday morning.  I was exhausted and being lazy and I didn’t want to properly wash my face.  I decided to try my former go-to, Tarte face wash, because I knew it would be super quick to clean my face.  That was a big mistake as I woke up the next day with puffy eyes that were extremely irritated, red, and dry.  I was back to looking like an extreme trash-panda with red rings COMPLETELY around both eyes.  And, because they were so dry, concealer just made them look really crusty and uncomfortable.  Over the next days though, they gradually got less ‘trash-panda’, but an unusual thing started to happen – I started to develop these round, raised areas around my eyes.

Cropped & Blocked_Raised areas on face2

They almost look like a mild type of hives, but they are very weird because they aren’t like any eczema or atopic dermatitis breakout I have experienced.  They don’t itch and they don’t burn, the skin feels fine other than still being somewhat dry.  I’ve dealt with patchy redness before which is par for the course, but the raised nature of these is peculiar.  The sense of vanity in me finds these quite annoying, as concealer covers the redness but does not cover the raised nature of them, so my eye area looks really chewed up under certain lighting.  The combination of the dryness and raised patches also means my skin creases weird when I smile – no bueno.

They seem to have an ebb and flow to them over the course of the days/this past week – they will typically get a bit better as the day goes on (for example Saturday, two days ago, I looked pretty normal with concealer on as they weren’t so raised), but currently they are not so hot – but it’s still morning, so I’m hopeful.

Antihistamines don’t really touch them (I tried), and there is nothing else I can think of that I am doing differently.  All I can figure out is that it’s either 1., a weird manifestation of seasonal allergies, 2., reacting in an inflammatory way to something I am not yet aware of, 3., some kind of Herxheimer reaction (aka the “healing crisis”) where my skin is getting worse before it gets better as my body rids itself of foods that I was sensitive to.  Or, hell…. it’s just the ebb and flow of eczema that I am fortunate enough to be strong-willed to deal with!  😉

Dealing with this is nothing like having dealt with TSW back in 2013 – TSW was tons worse.  And this is a pretty mild drop in the bucket compared to the levels of eczema and skin irritation that some people constantly struggle with.  But I’m definitely feeling frustrated today – I’ve cleaned up my eating, I’ve been taking my array of supplements from my doctor religiously, and I just want the skin issues to go away once and for all.  I guess I should be positive and bring up the fact that my hand eczema and the patches behind my armpits have gone away completely.  I’ll stay optimistic and think that my eye-area skin is not far behind!

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Food sensitivity test: another piece of the puzzle?

Skin update: My skin has been a LOT better since changing things in the previous posts.  I no longer wake up with the area around my eyes hurting, with a face that looks wrecked, and haven’t had skin so dry it felt like cracking and peeling right off in weeks.  I can go about my daily activities with little to no bother and I no longer feel like hiding my face.  (For example, I stayed out late last night with a friend and had a few drinks and my skin is not really the worse for wear, which I couldn’t have done a few weeks/months back!)  My skin is definitely making its own moisture again (to the point where I have had to actually dial DOWN my moisturization-cream level because I started breaking out with acne, but that is a-ok!)  I think some of this is also helped by the warmer weather, which has been really nice.

But, my skin is not totally healed yet.  I still have some mild but annoying “peri-oral dermatitis” on each corner of my mouth, the dry rashy patch on my jawline (though it’s gotten smaller) and I still have some mild dryness around the eye area.  I’m being patient with this, as the skin around the eyes is thin and fragile, so I know it might take a while to be completely back to normal.

The “peri-oral dermatitis” (I’m putting that in quotes because I am not sure if that’s what it truly is) has changed from being super dry, to being more flaky and uneven textured, but not super dry.  Because it doesn’t have the same level of irritation as the skin around my eyes had, I am making the reasonable hypothesis that there were really two separate issues going on causing my rashes – a primary issue, and then a secondary irritation (potentially caused or aggravated by things I have now stopped using or switched, such as my eye makeup, shampoo, hairspray, and laundry detergent).

My physician had me do a 132-food sensitivity test a few weeks ago and I recently got the results back.  I could do a whole separate post investigating the ‘science’ behind these tests, as there seems to be a lot of mixed data with some consensus being that they can be misleading.  However, I had a 96 food test years ago that actually DID help as it pointed to many inflammatory foods that truly did provide me improvement once I eliminated them and then very gradually re-introduced them.

So one of my theories now is that the lingering ‘peri-oral dermatitis’ is based on something I am consuming, so I was eager to see the results of my 132 food test.  Here they are:

Food sens

SOME of the purported issue with food sensitivity tests is that they are picking up on levels in your body, which can either be caused by true inflammation, or because you ate that food recently.  I should have recorded what I ate the night before the test (and my doctor said to just eat normally), but I am pretty sure I had lentil soup, spinach salad, and some kind of bread.  The 2+ reactions of walnuts and hazelnuts are interesting as I never eat those (and actually, walnuts flagged off the charts on the 96 food test I took years ago and I’ve never really gone back to eating them, as I don’t care about them one way or the other), so those are probably legitimate.

The gluten flagging honestly doesn’t surprise me, as gluten tends to make me feel tired, achy, and not as well recovered.  I already know I feel better when I avoid it, as tasty as it is.  Peas flagging is interesting too – in my reading of labels, I realized that I typically consume at least two things with pea protein most days of the week – my protein powder, and these protein bars I enjoy.  Also interesting, my brother is legitimately allergic to peas (and beans, and many other things).

The **IDEAL** way to handle this data would be to eliminate all of these foods for at least probably 8 weeks, and then gradually try re-introducing them one at a time.  A long process.  It’s an extremely busy month for me where right now, I’m simply doing my best at avoiding all of these foods while not striving for absolute perfection.  (Gluten is the hardest as I do crave it!)  Once this month calms down a little, I’ll be much more systematic in eliminating them and then monitoring my progress, and seeing if that solves my “peri-oral dermatitis” rash!

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Current Skincare Routine, and NARS Concealer Review

I had made a post years ago on my current skincare routines, both in TSW and then once I was recovered from TSW.  My skin is overall a LOT better in the past few weeks, so I thought I would share the consistent routine I’ve found through recent trial and error that seems to be working well for me.

First off, even though it isn’t directly skincare, I’ll post all the supplements I’m currently taking as per my integrative medicine practitioner.  Note that this is NOT a recommendation for you to do the same thing (I’m purposely not posting the amounts or the AM/PM regimen), and that these were obviously recommended for me on an individual basis based on my appointment and symptoms.  Most of these were prescribed to me as either anti-inflammatories or for skin barrier/cell repair.  I have been taking the majority of these supplements now for about 3 weeks.  It would be difficult to discern if they are a main reason my skin is better, but they may well be helping my overall health.  My lab reports showed that my vitamin D and my iron saturation was quite low, and there is some research out there that has made links between these and atopic dermatitis/eczema.


  • Omega Plus
  • Phosphatidyl Choline
  • Quercetin phytosome
  • Inflama-care
  • Meriva (turmeric compound)
  • N-Acetyl-cysteine
  • Ferrasorb (iron with vitamin C)
  • Liquid drops of Vitamin D and K

At night, my general routine is as follows – Remove makeup with grapeseed oil and cotton balls.  Take either a bath with Dead Sea Salts to soak, or a warm shower.  Wash face with Vanicream Free and Clear Liquid Cleanser.  Not pictured is Vanicream soap bar which I use to wash any body parts in the bath/shower.  I am not one for overtly washing everything (unless I have been doing super sweaty work or got really full of dirt) so I only soap up the important areas (armpits, butt, etc., LOL) and I usually leave my limbs alone and just let the water rinse them.

(Sometimes I have been washing my face with coconut oil and then do a light scrub with colloidal oatmeal to get rid of flakes and dry skin.  I will also sometimes use the oatmeal scrub after the Free and Clear if I have very flaky areas.  Honestly now my skin is thankfully seeming to make its own moisture – I’m even starting to get some acne on my forehead – so washing my face with coconut oil feels entirely too greasy to do more than occasionally).  I think the key with eczema/atopic dermatitis on your face is that you want to get rid of any residue or top layer of dead flaky skin, but you don’t want to completely go to town and OVER-scrub your face and risk even more irritation.  Once I am done washing my face, I mix a pinch of Dead Sea Salt in a small cup of water and then splash it on any irritated areas, and pat dry, leaving some moisture on the skin.

Bathtime routine

Then it is time for creams!  I always currently use the Avene Tolerance Extreme cream as a base layer.  This stuff is wonderful and will not burn or sting even if you have super irritated skin.  It feels very soothing going on; it’s pricey ($38 for small tube online in the US) but a little goes a long way and it is worth it.  It is not super thick, so if your skin is very dry, you will probably want another cream over top of it, as I prefer.

I tend to layer these three creams in this order – the Avene, then the Aveeno baby on extra dry areas, then Vaniply over top of the extra dry areas.  Vaniply is a nice barrier cream that seems to “lock in” the moisturizers underneath.  At night I have now pared down to just the Avene and the Vaniply, because my skin seems to hold more moisture as of these past weeks…. yay!


Another thing that is probably helping out my skin retain moisture is having a humidifier running in my room at night.  I browsed humidifiers on Amazon, reading many reviews, and finally settled on this one, which my boyfriend kindly bought for me as a gift.  I keep it right by my bed and on continuous mode, it will run for about 9-10 hours straight before running out of water!  I think the wood grain looks classy, and it also has 14 different color settings for the lights (a nice touch, though I like to sleep in the dark so I haven’t really used them) and is an essential oil diffuser too (though I haven’t used it with oils and probably won’t, as the main purpose is to just benefit my skin and keep the bedroom environment’s air more moist).  It is small but for me it does the job.  I used to wake up with super dry mouth and super dry eyes and they have greatly improved.  Whether it’s this little guy or a combo of many things, I don’t know, but I am grateful!


Morning routine: I only wash my face 1x a day, at night.  This has always been my practice as I don’t see a point in washing a face that you went to bed with it clean anyway.  When I wake up I will take a washcloth and lightly wet my face and gently scrub off any flakes of skin.  Then I put on my layers of Avene, Aveeno, and Vaniply on any eczema-prone areas of my face.

Makeup routine: Has always been very minimal.  Some products I have been using for years successfully, and some, per my last posts, I have switched out.  Subtle swipe of Ecco Bella eyeliner (Since using them for about a week, I have found the Violet really tends to fade and needs multiple re-applications during the day, which is annoying, but the Seal has decent staying power).  2 coats of Tarte Amazonian Clay Gifted mascara.  Concealer on any red areas and under eyes.  In my last post, I talked about Tarte Creaseless Concealer and how I have been using it with success and no irritation for years, but chose to also try NARS concealer just to assess how it is in comparison.  Tweezer is necessary to lightly pick off any flakes if needed, and Q-tip for gently blending out any concealer that has settled into the under-eye area.


My review of NARS concealer so far: After reading and making comparisons online to see what shade I would likely be in NARS, I chose the Custard shade.  I am Medium Neutral in the Tarte Creaseless and it seemed like this would be the most logical choice.  I have Caucasian skin that tans easily, is not dark, but is definitely not fair, with relatively neutral undertones (neither yellow or pink).

The NARS honestly seems to be a little better of a match for my skintone than the Tarte, which was a pleasant finding.  (The Tarte actually seems a little bit too light sometimes, providing an ever-so-slightly “glowy” and bright look, which isn’t a terrible thing, but if you are dealing with dry skin around the eyes like me, you don’t necessarily want to illuminate the area).

Like any good eczema sufferer, I tested the NARS behind my ear for a full day as an informal “patch test”.  No irritation at the end of the day, so I took that as the green light to try it on my face.  Just to be on the cautious side, I used it only on the “peri-oral” spots at the corners of my mouth, and retained using the Tarte around my eye area and on jawline.

So far, I would say that the NARS and Tarte concealers are really quite comparable.  I’m only using the NARS on a small area so far (I’m going to give it a few more days of trial just to make SURE there is no irritation, and then try it around my eyes), but if I had to compare and contrast, I would say that NARS does seem to be slightly more hydrating, and better hide the look of dryness on my skin.  It overall seems to look a bit more natural as well.  Based on this, I would recommend it and I can see why many eczema sufferers like it!

Reading about other people’s routines is often immensely helpful to me, so hopefully this helps out someone else!  When I read about others’ recommendations, I take these with a thoughtful grain of salt.  I don’t rush out and buy a cream or product based on what one person says, but I like to look for trends and then weigh them against what I am already doing, considering what is working for me and what might not be working.  In the case of the NARS concealer, I kept seeing it come up again and again with people raving about it, and with so many positive reviews and seeing it specifically mentioned as a seemingly very eczema-friendly concealer, that was adequate evidence for me to give it a try.

Any readers want to weigh in with any must-haves for your own skincare routine?


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On Vanity, Makeup, and a Review: Ecco Bella Natural Eyeliner Pencils

I’ve never considered myself a vain, high-maintenance person in appearance, but this latest bout of rashes and flares on my face and around my eyes had really got me thinking about how us women put so much (possibly unnecessary) stock in our appearance.

I have been a devotee of Tarte makeup for well over 5 years, I own probably every color of eyeliner pencil in the Smoldereyes line that they’ve issued in the past few years, and I was thrilled to have eyeliners that were high-quality and seemed to be non-allergenic.

Once my face started flaring up as of these past few months, and once the rash started spreading to my eye area and not really going away, I started to take some serious thought to altering my (albeit minimal) makeup routine.

I had never reacted to Tarte eyeliners before and had been using them successfully probably every day of my life for years, yet once my eyelids and under-eye area got so red and irritated, I thought that it probably couldn’t be good that I was continuing to apply makeup to them.  My doctor said nothing about it at the visit, and I HAVE done the informal ‘patch testing’ of trying the product behind my ears (with no subsequent irritation).  However, even if THEY weren’t the prime culprit of irritation, at least I could change things up and see what happened.  They are probably not great for me right now with irritated skin, but I don’t think they are the direct cause of my rashes.

I’ve come across a few interesting things in my sleuthing of reading ingredients and poring the internet, and maybe this post will end up helping someone else experiencing the same thing.

I always LOVED the big SmolderEyes from Tarte, but they stopped making them as of a while ago, (and now they don’t even make the skinny SmolderEyes any more).  I always line my lower lash line in a subtle brown, and had been using a skinny SmolderEyes, because my big one was getting small and stubby.  Though my rashes started as perioral ones by the corners of my mouth, about 2 weeks later is when I noticed my eyes starting to get rashy.  The ingredients in the big SmolderEyes are NOT the same as in the skinny one – the skinny ones have aloe, which I reacted to really badly back in the days of TSW.  (Note – Most of the time that I tell doctors that I seem to be allergic to aloe, they always react with surprise, saying “That’s a really soothing substance for most people and seems an odd thing to be allergic to”.  I have never had formal patch testing done for aloe but the fact that I reacted to it so horribly in TSW makes me unwilling to try putting aloe on my body again, so for now I just assume I AM allergic/hypersensitive to it).

So, once I found that out, I went through reading the ingredients of all my makeup products, making sure that none of the other ones contained aloe that I missed.  Nothing else had aloe in it, which was great.  My upper-eyelid eyeliner of choice has been these Double Duty Beauty ones from Tarte, which provides a nice subtle shimmer without looking too fancy or overdone and are a pretty good sub for the now-defunct SmolderEyes.

After totally eliminating the seemingly-offending aloe-containing liner, I was discouraged that it had been a few weeks and the irritation around my eyes was really not getting any better, and some days looked worse.  So, back to the Web for some more informal research.  I read from a fellow blogger that had eye eczema that talc or mica tends to dry out the skin and make eczema worse.  I also read a source of information from a dermatologist said that anything with mica can have sharp edges and make microscopic cuts to the top layer of skin.  Anything with shimmer usually has mica.  Ok – I figured it was worth a try to eliminate mica in case this was causing some secondary irritation, and try out something new.

In going through cosmetic ingredients, let me tell you that it is HARD to find eyeliner without mica!  (And, I also have to avoid aloe and beeswax!  I also wanted to make sure that the eyeliner didn’t have other ingredients generally perceived as not-so-great: parabens, fragrance, dyes, SLS, phthalates, etc.)

Now, you may be saying, “Whoa there.  Wouldn’t the easiest thing just be to avoid eye makeup entirely?”  Yes.  Yes indeed, that would be the most logical thing.  In fact, the source from the same dermatologist mentioned above, said the best thing is to avoid ANY eyeliner entirely, as this skin is very delicate and can take 4 months to totally repair its barrier function.  (4 MONTHS?!?!?!)

HOWEVER, this is where the sense of vanity that I didn’t know I had comes in.  Though I am not someone who has ever made a practice of wearing a lot of makeup (I have never worn foundation in my whole life for example, I have no idea what contouring is, and I have never experienced blush), I am definitely one of those women who looks markedly different with just a tiny bit of accentuating makeup.  The ONLY things I wear daily are a little swipe of eyeliner, 2 coats of mascara, and some concealer where needed, but these make a difference.  The last time I went out in public completely bare-faced, I got countless questions about why did I look so tired, was I feeling okay, why did I look kind of sickly, etc.  I honestly didn’t think I looked that awful, but these unexpected comments actually kind of hurt my feelings.  Natural beauty is definitely a thing, and if you are a woman who goes about your day bare-faced, natural, and radiant, then I applaud you and hope the universe gives you all kinds of sparkly rainbow starry awesomeness.  I, however, am not that woman.  I COULD do it, but I don’t WANT to do it.  Would my face heal faster if I went totally makeup-free?  Possibly.  Is it possible it would make no difference at all and simply frustrate my self-confidence?  Also possibly.

So, resolving to continue on my minimal, yet to-me-necessary trajectory of just a hint of daily makeup, I settled on a new eyeliner to try – Ecco Bella Natural Eyeliner Pencils.  These are touted as being vegan with no synthetics and were pretty highly rated overall.

Ingredients: Hydrogenated palm kernel glycerides, hydrogenated palm glycerides, hydrogenated coconut oil, microcrystalline wax, japan wax, carnauba wax, hydrogenated castor oil, titanium dioxide, sorbitan palmitate, stearalkonium hectorite, iron oxides, ultramarines.

I purchased Violet (a dark purple) and Seal (a deep brown).  These are a true pencil and arrived very sharp.  I actually had to wear them down a little bit because at first they felt very sharp and poky going on my eyes.  Once I got through that, I was pleasantly impressed to experience a relatively subtle, yet buildable color that provided just the right amount of slight accentuation without looking overly made-up.  You DO have to make a few swipes back and forth, the color doesn’t go on super rich with just one line, but once it is on, it has pretty good durability and staying power.  I wore the Seal one through a day that included a workout (though not a super sweaty one) and it stayed pretty much the same as I had applied it.  The Violet seems to fade a bit more, and due to that I would likely choose to re-apply midway through the day to keep the look fresh, but that’s a minor trade-off if it doesn’t irritate my eyes.  They aren’t as pretty or rich as the Tarte ones for sure, but that is because they don’t have mica, so the color is pretty flat rather than a shimmer.  Overall though, this is about what I expected and was looking for; I recommend and would buy again!

Eyeballs no makeup

Here are my eyes makeup free.  Still rocking the more profound atopic pleats under them but whatever.  I know those will get more faint when my skin heals.  The redness is way better though!  I have relatively long eyelashes but they are stick straight + super faint and fine (note you can barely see that I have lower lashes at ALL!), which is why I choose to wear just a bit of makeup.

Eyeballs with makeup

Here are my eyes with Ecco Bella eyeliner in Seal on both top lash line and very subtly on bottom lash line.  Also wearing Tarte Amazonian Clay Gifted Mascara, 2 coats, which has been my go-to for over 5 years with no issues.  Not trying to be a glamour queen, just look semi-human and awake 🙂

My next endeavor in switching things up and the content of an upcoming blog post will be a review of NARS concealer.  I have been a devotee of Tarte’s Maracuja Creaseless Concealer for years and sang its praises in this post when I was in the throes of TSW and used it literally all over my face and neck to cover up redness so I could go to work without looking completely awful.  Since then, they have changed their formula from the squeeze tube (which I actually liked, though other people seemed to hate it) to a doe-foot tip application concealer.  It is not *entirely* creaseless, but I have those deep atopic pleats where the concealer can easily settle in, so my trick is to take a Q-tip a few minutes after the concealer is applied and then just blend in the crease.

I’ve had no real issues with this concealer, though as of late, I do find it a little drying (however, my skin has been really dry ANYWAY so it probably isn’t the concealer’s fault).  People with eczema-prone skin seem to like the NARS concealer, so I’ve ordered it and will see how the two compare.  It does have more chemically-sounding ingredients (and more ingredients total) than my Tarte one, but it could be a useful experiment!



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