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.

supplements

  • 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!

Lotions

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!

Humidifier

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.

makeup

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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The Canary in the Coal Mine

You might read the title of this post and be like “What on earth, Ms. EczemaExcellence?  What in the world do canaries have to do with the state of your skin?”

Well, if you’ve never heard of this saying, let me tell you how it struck me as a wonderful analogy for continuing along my journey on discerning what is causing me to flare.

The canary in the coal mine

See, long ago, starting in the early 1900s, miners would send canaries down into mine shafts.  These animals, according to this historical Smithsonian article, were much more sensitive to carbon monoxide and other poisonous gases than humans.  If the canary became ill or died, this served as an ‘early warning’ that the mine shaft would ultimately not be safe for humans.

I hadn’t come across this expression in years, but was reading an article about reactions, rashes, and flares the other day that compared the skin around our eyes to these canaries in coal mines – this skin is thin, sensitive and delicate and often will react to allergens or irritants first (potentially, even if the allergen or irritant wasn’t something put directly on the eyes – it could be something like fragrances or preservatives in hairspray, shampoo, etc. where miniscule airborne droplets of product residue are still able to get onto the skin of the face).

Now, I have already changed out my shampoo from Dr. Bronners to Vanicream Free and Clear as of last week, on the suggestion of another blogger.  BUT, it didn’t dawn on me until this canary analogy that I was still using aerosol hair care (Tresemme TRES Two Ultra Hold Hairspray level 4, with all kinds of chemical yuckies that you would never want to put directly on your face… though I had been using this for years with no apparent reaction).  I have a short hairstyle that now looks kind of stupid and flat without spray to pump it up, but it’s definitely worth it to see what happens with my skin.

(Regarding other hair products, now the only thing I use on my hair is just a bit of Fantastic Sam’s Molding Mud, just to give my short hair some texture.  HOWEVER, I keep my hair entirely off my face, really just apply the product to the crown of my head so it’s not going to come in contact with my jawline or neckline, and I wear a thin ski hat at night to eliminate any product residue from getting on my pillow and then transferring to my face.)

There are a couple other “canaries in the coal mine” that I am exploring currently:

  • Laundry detergent.  People like their clothes to have a clean and fresh smell, and I am no different.  I’ve been using variants of the Arm and Hammer brand for years  with no apparent issue; but these ARE scented.  Once my face started flaring up weeks ago, I started washing my sheets, towels, and washcloths (anything that touches my face directly) in a gentler Arm and Hammer brand for “sensitive skin” but it is still scented.  I’ve since purchased All Free and Clear detergent to use exclusively the next time laundry day comes around again.  What clued me in to the possibility that my laundry detergent could be irritating my skin is that I have a patch of mild eczema behind each armpit; this started in a few weeks after my face began to go through flares.  This is exactly where the sleeve of a shirt starts, and makes sense that a mildly irritating substance continually rubbing there would ultimately cause a flare.  My hand eczema also is not really any better (though in the grand scheme of things it isn’t horrible at all) and so it makes logical sense that something I am touching a lot is preventing it from healing.
  • Hand eczema between fingers

    Eczema between my fingers.  The back of my hand is dry and irritated too though you can’t see it here.  Admittedly, I do wash my hands frequently and don’t put barrier cream on these as much as I should.  The other hand does NOT have between-fingers eczema though, which is interesting.  I am right handed so maybe it’s getting irritated from something I am touching, which I would logically touch with my right more frequently.

  • Iron levels and Vitamin D levels.  I got my lab results back and both of these were low (and my actual iron saturation was low enough to flag “LOW URGENT” on the lab).  I haven’t really written about how I have been feeling besides my recent flares, but I have been experiencing just sort of insidious tiredness/fatigue over the past few months.  I chalked it up to having lower levels of cardiovascular fitness, as I’ve changed my workouts over the past months to much more heavy lifting/barbell work/Olympic lifts and a lot less cardio.  But when I HAVE done cardiovascular workouts (usually CrossFit style ones or longer endurance ones, about once a week), I have found that I am really unusually fatigued, I struggle to keep pace, and I really just feel a whole-body tiredness with it that can’t be pinned down to muscle, lungs, etc.  I have asthma so my stamina sometimes suffers anyway, but this “felt” different from just being tired due to working through asthma.  So even if getting more iron and Vitamin D in me doesn’t directly affect my skin, I am grateful for this insight so that I can boost up my athletic performance again hopefully.  I AM currently taking an array of supplements recommended by my integrative medical practitioner but have yet to add in the iron and Vitamin D as I want to consult with her first on what type and how much.
  • General dryness of the winter.  I have always hated winter because I hate being cold, the cold stresses me out, the cold causes me to seek heat, and all of these add up to me having dryer and itchier skin in general, come winter-time.  I live in the south Atlantic area of the US now, much better than my previous home of the North/Midwest, but winters can still get to frigid temps.  I got a nice little humidifier for my bedroom that arrived this weekend and have been running it each night to see what effect it might have on mitigating my dry skin.

So, how do I feel this week overall in light of all these small considerations?  My feeling about my progress fluctuates (Sunday night I panicked because I felt itchy before bed and couldn’t get to sleep and was paranoid I would scratch at my eyes and make them puffy…. finally took Benadryl and that eventually knocked me out), but last night I slept great with really zero itchy feeling before bed, and today I feel overall more positive, like my skin is trying to make small shifts for the better in healing.  I still wake up with redness and flakes, but it very subtly feels like the rashed skin around my eyes and on my jawline is maybe starting to make its own moisture and not feel so dead and dry.  I haven’t had a day in a while where my face feels like it will crack off, and I can make facial expressions without completely insane creases from the dryness.  Here’s to seeing what this week will hold!

Flares, Puffs, Flakes, and….my liver?

So in dealing with this recent flare-up, I’ve noticed it seems to go through a cycle for the past weeks.  Early in the week will be pretty crappy, then the skin will gradually get better, and by Friday/Saturday I’m looking and feeling pretty okay and somewhat hopeful.

This was my pattern the week before, and has seemed to be my pattern so far this week (more on the craziness of this week, later).

First off, a report on my visit to the integrative doctor last week.  I had a really good experience with her and felt that she truly got to know me and my past medical history.  I left with an actual game plan for overall healing (some lab tests, another food sensitivity test… I know the science on that is mixed and not very conclusive, but it’s worth the experiment… and specific supplements for things like improving my cell membrane barrier and reducing my body’s inflammation, and a COMPLETE understanding that I did not want to ever use steroid creams again, which I really appreciated.  She actually told me she had another patient going through TSW that was so bad he had complete edema all over his legs, and he had stopped cold turkey, but that she had to put him back on some steroids just to allow the body to ramp down from that inflammation.  So I was glad she was already aware of TSW, because conventional dermatologists of my past hadn’t seemed to believe in its existence).  She also recommended Vaniply cream, which I had totally forgotten about but was very useful in my TSW so that my skin didn’t completely dry out and flake off during the day.

So far, I’ve had the first lab tests done (no results yet) and next week will be the food sensitivity test; I’m eager to see the results.  I honestly hope that there is something concrete to “fix”, like liver function or inflammation levels, as all you eczema warriors know there is nothing more frustrating than chasing down the source of your flares only to come up consistently empty-handed and even more confused and dejected.

I also had a bodywork session with one of my friends, and mentioned my recent skin issues to her.  This friend is well-educated and talented in the function of the body, and noted something very interesting – that latent strep/latent EBV (Epstein-Barr virus, aka mono) is purported to be something that can cause underlying inflammation in the liver which then can manifest through the skin.  I found this interesting as I was lucky enough to have BOTH mono and strep at the same time, about 10 years ago, and ever since have had a permanently slightly swollen right lymph node and enlarged and scarred tonsils from that.  Though I’m not claiming this is the case and I tend to treat most things with a slight healthy dose of skepticism at first, I can see that something systemic like this might make sense for me (I’ve also had underlying levels of sporadic fatigue and feeling like my throat is swollen… like a feeling on the verge of coming down with some sickness but not actually succumbing to it).

So, armed with this new knowledge, I sailed into the weekend feeling enlightened and hopeful, plus I was experiencing pretty good skin which was a plus.

On Sunday morning, all hell broke loose and I woke up with the craziest, most puffy eyes I have ever experienced.  I knew I was kind of itching and rubbing them in the night as I would wake up here and there, but didn’t think it would be THAT bad.  They were horrifying and hideous.  It took about 2 hours of intermittent icing them and resting for them to go even kind of back to normal. 

Horribly puffy eye

Check out my super special double-triple-quadruple eyelids!  😦

What had I done differently yesterday, when I had been feeling so good and optimistic, and experiencing pretty good skin?  My first thought was to connect the dots from liver function to the fact that I had consumed 2 alcoholic drinks over the course of the day at a social event with friends.  No big deal, no excess, and I had been careful to also drink plenty of water.  But, if my liver was truly struggling to process out toxins from my body, maybe this stimuli (which never gave me trouble in the past) could have completely overwhelmed it.  Luckily, I had no obligations for the day and was able to just stick around home letting my eyes rest.

The start of this week has progressed relatively similar to last week – Monday I have to ice the eyes, Tuesday I barely have to ice them, Wednesday (today) I am still really red around the eyes but look almost normal from a reasonable distance thanks to Vaniply and concealer.Really flaky eye

However, the skin around my eyes is going through a cycle (similar to last week) where they will be puffy, red, and horribly dry early in the week, then will go through a flake cycle where I can literally pick flakes off with tweezers, then will be really red but more soft and less dry.

Now my concern is that maybe I have some kind of secondary atopic dermatitis (or maybe this IS the primary issue) from whatever I am putting on my face.  The rash is not getting better overall and now each eye is typically ringed with red on a daily basis, making me look like some kind of weird eczema-raccoon.  (My boyfriend’s slang for raccoon is ‘trash panda’, so when I referred to myself as such, he kindly said, “You are like the ANTI-trash-panda!” [because I tend to love neatness and cleanliness and organization], lol).

One helpful blogger commented on my last post that perhaps I am having a reaction to my shampoo, since it’s really just my face, jawline, and hands which are rashed (of which I have been using Dr. Bronner’s peppermint ‘magic soap’ shampoo, but have now bought Vanicream Free and Clear to switch out, as well as the Vanicream bar soap and hand soap too… by this time I’m back to having the whole array of Vanicream line like I did when I was in TSW.)  My other thought is that maybe I have developed a sensitivity to Tarte makeup, even though in my last post I discussed some things I have eliminated, and the very basic things I have kept are things that I have never reacted to in the past and were fine even through the throes of TSW.

We shall see what the lab test results are and if anything happens when my Free and Clear shampoo arrives tomorrow!

 

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Years Later…. Rash Flares Again!

Greetings all!  I’m BACK with another post and so many questions….

Can TSW have ‘latent flares’ years later?
Why is my skin suddenly going haywire when it didn’t react to anything for YEARS?
Is this a hormonal thing now that I’m a female approaching my mid-30s?
Have I suddenly developed an adult-onset allergy?

My last blog post on here was in January of 2014.  Now that it’s just past January of 2019 – *FIVE* years later (how time flies), let me give another little update.  I’ve spent the past 5 years overall loving life’s adventures and having healthy clear skin.  I’ve been through moving to another state, switching jobs, improving my fitness and achieving goals, going on some awesome trips like to beaches and to California, making a whole new lifestyle for myself in my new home, and investing in a relationship with the world’s most awesome, loving, and supportive man that has been going strong now for 2+ years.  TSW, eczema, atopic dermatitis, rashes, and any of that stuff was a distant memory.

Until recently.

I’ve had overall steadily worsening rashes going on for about a month now, and have been tracking them carefully each day in a sort of informal ‘skin diary’.  After poring the internet using endless search terms to see if there could be some type of latent flare cropping up (and not really finding anything to satisfy my curiosity), I figured I’d turn back to the blog world and chronicle my findings, just in case it helps someone else.

The issues started rather subtly, with what looked like peri-oral dermatitis – small rashes at each corner of my mouth, and a small subtle coin-sized rash on the side of my jawline.  (Incidentally, the patchy rashes in kind of similar places is how my whole aggravating TSW journey began before I knew it was TSW).

Perioral rashNeck rash

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Upon researching peri-oral dermatitis further, I started to think that this wasn’t really it, as peri-oral dermatitis seems to be composed of small acne-like bumps, and mine was more rashy, dry, and flaky (in the initial days, it was dry enough that opening my mouth wide to eat would make one side crack and bleed slightly).  Mine appeared more like an eczema flare, a contact dermatitis, or an atopic dermatitis.  It didn’t really itch, but was dry as hell and even though it would flake, it would ebb and flow and not really get better.

About a week or so later, I noticed my rashes not getting any better, and seeming to get worse – and to top it off, my eyes were getting puffy looking and irritated, with a deep ‘atopic pleat’ underneath them.  (I always have these atopic pleats but they are pretty mild and only visible up close… this one got way more profound).

Rash and dry around eyesl       Irritated atopic pleat

What WAS this?  The cruel curse of eczema is constantly overthinking and analyzing what in the world could have set your skin off out of seemingly, absolute nowhere.  Maybe I had gluten or dairy overload?  (I usually try to avoid these… “try” being the key word as I am not very good at it, especially in restaurants.  And I have no evidence that they make my skin bad as of recent times, but in the past when I was hyper-sensitive, I would sporadically seem to react to them).

Because the rash started around my mouth, I began to hypothesize that maybe it was from trying a tropical Chapstick, mango flavor, that I had been given as a gift.  In the past throes of TSW, I reacted badly to beeswax, which Chapstick contains, but I had forgotten all about that until this rash cropped up.

Once the rashes started getting worse and spreading, I changed my face wash to ultra-gentle Cetaphil wash (instead of Tarte wash, which had worked for me for years/months) and began using pretty much only Aveeno Baby cream on my face (instead of Tarte moisturizer at night and Vanicream SPF 35 cream in the day… both of which had worked well for me for years).  I still needed to wear some makeup and definitely concealer to look human at work, and my choice for YEARS has been Tarte brand products, as they have never provoked any irritation in the past.

One day a few weeks into this ever-worsening rash journey, I thought “F*** it” and had a BLT, hotdog, and fries from a local burger joint for dinner (drowning my skin sorrows in carbs, full of yummy gluten!)  Ironically when I woke up, the rash was definitely better, and it continued an unpredictable ebb and flow over the course of the next days. One day, my “peri-oral dermatitis” was basically healed, but the next day, my eyes were even worse – red, wrinkly, and dry.

I did some more skin sleuthing and looked up all the ingredients of all products I put on my face.  One interesting find from my detective work is that one of my newer Tarte eyeliners contained Aloe, which I had been using on my lower lash line sporadically (but with no prior reaction to it).  There is a years-ago post on this blog that discusses a horrible reaction I had to aloe where I put it on my body and my whole face flared up bad.

So, I purged using that eyeliner (which thankfully was the only thing in my makeup arsenal with aloe).  Logically if my eyes and skin were getting worse (and the neck rash was spreading and migrating toward my chin), I thought it had to be some kind of contact dermatitis.  BUT, some evidence led me to believe that it was some kind of eczema flare, as I also started flaring up a bit between my right hand finger webbing (but not my left, oddly) and on the back of each shoulder around the armpit crease.  Both these rashes looked like the typical “eczema” of my past.

Less than a week ago, I felt like I was on the mend – from far away, my skin looked almost normal (despite still requiring some concealer).  I had been taking an antihistamine (Benadryl) for the past two days and all of that seemed to work.  I was optimistic and feeling pretty good!  Over the weekend, I complained to my boyfriend that I thought I was maybe getting worse, and he kindly and wisely said, “Just because you are only getting a little better at a time doesn’t mean you are getting worse” which I found infinitely comforting and reassuring.  I remembered how nice colloidal oatmeal was, and got some as a supplement for washing my face.

Monday, for whatever reason, though I don’t think I changed anything, my face hated me again.  I woke up with visibly swollen puffy eyes, red and uncomfortable skin.  Despite putting ice on my eyes for minutes at a time in the morning, and using only coconut oil and Aveeno baby as moisturizer, I still had visibly puffy eyes (the pads underneath them really, not the eyelids themselves) and skin on my rashed areas that is so crazy dry I had to take a “skin break” during my lunchtime and re-moisturize it and then re-apply concealer so I don’t look completely scary.  I’m remembering all too well the horrid days of TSW when my face was so tight that it felt uncomfortable to laugh or smile.

Tuesday was about the same – being relatively anti-social, trying to avoid excessive eye contact, noticing people’s eyes flicking sporadically to my rashes.  I couldn’t WAIT to get home because I had ordered some Avene Tolerance Extreme cream and it was set to arrive, one of the most helpful things when I was in the throes of bad TSW.  (I actually helped myself out by looking through my older blog posts and finding that gem, I had forgotten all about that cream and how soothing it was).  I “washed” my face with just coconut oil and colloidal oatmeal and then put on a layer of that.  The cool thing was that parts of my rash were peeling and flaking a bit, so I could carefully pick those flakes off and reveal new fresh soft pink skin underneath.  This made me hopeful that any moisturizers there would actually sink in and start helping heal the skin, rather than sitting on a filmy barrier of dry skin.

Peels on neck rash

Today my eyes were not puffy and although my rashes are still dry and red, they do seem less dry than yesterday and Monday.  I have an appointment with a local Integrative Medicine office that’s been rated very highly, so I’ll keep posted on what I find out!

 

1 Year Update!

Hello everyone!  I have been very lax about posting on this blog and it has been time for an update for a while.  I just realized that yesterday I passed the ONE YEAR mark of being steroid free, so this is timely!

January 23, 2013 was the day I eliminated topical steroids from my life.  My blog took a turn from trying to chase down what was causing my “eczema” to documenting the progress of healing from topical steroid withdrawal.  In addition to my blog, I began keeping a regular diary in Microsoft Word to have an additional uncensored place to vent about my skin, my moods, my emotions, the divorce I was going through, etc.  It’s really interesting to look back at my private diary and see the raw emotion and frustration that was centered mostly all around my skin.

In an excerpt from a few weeks after I stopped topical steroids, I vented about the things that eczema had taken from my life.  I lamented not being able to wear whatever clothing I wanted since I needed to cover up all my rashes; the fact that I had to give up “vanity” girly things like wearing perfume, dying hair, and wearing jewelry so as to not irritate my skin; and I mourned the fact that I felt completely disgusting, un-sexy, and un-confident, and nothing like my old self.

(Almost) one year later… My skin remains mostly healed from when everything cleared up this summer.  My hands sometimes get a little bit cracked and dry, but that’s probably more due to the fact that I wash my hands a lot at work and the fact that it’s very very cold outside right now and EVERYONE’s skin is probably dry, eczema or no.

My legs have also been a little bit more itchy and rashy than they were a month or two ago, but again, I think this is due to the cold dry air outside and then wanting to be in the warm air or taking hot showers inside.  Overall I’m pleased with my healing because the winter months used to wreak absolute havoc on my skin.  Interestingly enough too, my body temperature regulation is such where I don’t really get super cold anymore at all.  For the past 2 or 3 winters after being outside, I would have to rush inside and warm myself by a heating vent.  I suspect this was also due to the steroids but I didn’t realize it.  I have barely sat by the vent once this winter so far, and in fact I happily march around the house sometimes in SHORTS!

This past month I have had some really fun times that I thought I could never enjoy again when I had eczema and TSW rash so badly.  I had written about my Victory Shirt, and how I would know I was truly healed when I could wear this sparkly little top with complete confidence.  I got the perfect chance to wear it at some New Year’s Eve festivities with friends.  I went out, I drank, I danced, I flirted quite shamelessly with guys, I got complimented, I looked and felt great, and I had a blast.  Anyone that has gone through TSW has to permit me a little bit of vanity here, I’m not a vain person but we all want to feel and look our best and it’s wonderful when you can be in that moment, and even more poignant to appreciate it when you know how bad things used to be and everything you had to go through to get here.

I also started hanging out with a guy that I’m sort of interested in, and one of our hangouts was to work out and then go in the hot tub.  THE HOT TUB!  A year ago, or even 8 months ago, there would have been no way that I would have let anyone see me in a bikini because my skin was so bad.  My skin still has slightly better days than others (maybe stress related too) and I wouldn’t want anyone to be scrutinizing my skin really closely because I have a lot of scars (not all from TSW, just from years of eczema), but that was another huge indicator that all is back to “normal”.

And you know what else?  I think I can finally say that I am completely and utterly over my ex-husband and am no longer emotionally affected by the fact that I got divorced.  I never thought I would say that!  Physical and emotional healing is such an amazing process.  I have come to the mature and wise mindset that I am thankful I was married, I am thankful for the times I had with him, and I’m thankful that I got to be in love for the duration I was, as I think it is going to set the stage for an even more awesome and fulfilling love for the future if I find someone.  And if I don’t find someone, I am okay being fabulous and single and independent because I just KNOW this is going to be a great year for me!

Post-TSW: What A Difference a Year Makes

One year ago, November 2012, things were radically different.  I was still (happily, I thought) married, living with my husband in our nice little house, working full-time and going to school part-time for my masters degree.  BUTTTTT I was also in the throes of my struggle with the demon known as Topical Steroid Withdrawal, though at the time, I didn’t know yet that steroids were at the complete root of my problem.

If you refer back to my March post, “Living with TSW – A Day in the Life Of My Skin”, that pretty much encompassed what my life was like for months at a time.. TOTALLY. OBSESSED. WITH. MY. SKIN.

Let me tell you about what you have to look forward to when you conquer the TSW demon, and describe some things that I do now that I NEVER would have thought of being able to do with TSW.  I wanted to make this post because I noticed I have some new followers lately (Welcome!!) and so I wanted to send some more encouragement out to those that are still toughing it out.  Plus I haven’t posted in forever due to a crazy busy work schedule, and I still want to have this be a relatively active blog.

  • My skincare routine is almost exactly the same every day and is COMPLETELY predictable as far as products and how long I take to get ready.  With TSW, I never had any idea of how bad I would look when I woke up, and so I would wake up extra early to allow more time to pick off all kinds of unsightly flakes, moisturize, put on concealer, etc.  I KNOW now every morning, the same healthy, rash-free face is going to greet me in the mirror…what a relief.
  • I have no problem trying new products on my skin, things with ingredients that I thought I was “allergic” or “intolerant” to before.  I just received a body lotion sample the other day that had both beeswax and shea butter – things I thought were high irritants to me – and I used this lotion on my legs with zero ill effects.  I’m still very cautious of my face and don’t use new lotions or products there, but my body is fair game for experimentation now, to see just how UN-sensitive my skin has returned to since healing.
  • I can and do eat whatever the heck I want without worrying if the food is affecting my skin.  This doesn’t mean that I always binge on junk – I chose to go vegetarian a few months ago (for more moral and personal reasons than pure health reasons) and most of my meals are actually vegan just because I like to eat plant-based and I feel good eating that way.  However, it’s great not to have to chase down various things like bananas, chocolate, cheese, onions, or garlic, and obsess over avoiding them or try to do restrictive elimination diets.  And if I do want some greasy pizza, I ENJOY and think almost nothing of it in relation to my skin.
  • I can go swimming and be in a swimsuit in public.  One of my goals for a while has been to actually learn to swim, so that I can get involved in triathlon races, because I already love to run and bike.  In the throes of TSW, anyone that saw me in a bikini probably would have run for their lives, fearing whatever nasty rash I had was highly contagious.  I actually regret not taking a full-body picture of myself in a bikini when I had raging TSW, and comparing it to now, since the difference is so drastic.  I went from 50-75% covered in grossness to 100% clear.  So now I am learning to swim and I happily splash around un-self-consciously in the pool.
  • I don’t have to carry tiny mirrors, tweezers, and little tubes of moisturizer everywhere I go, and I am no longer obsessed with constantly checking my skin out in the mirror.
  • TSW doesn’t dictate what I can do for a job anymore.  In my current job, I now work in the fitness industry.  I get up-close with all kinds of people and I speak with them at length… it can be an intimate type of job and one where you can feel like you’re perpetually on display.  Because you’re a fitness professional, people are looking to you as the picture of health, which means having a good body and nice skin.  I had been offered this job for MONTHS, but I never could have done it confidently before because of my skin.  I truly feel for anyone that has TSW and has a job where they have to interact with the public.  TSW made me stay a LOT longer at my previous (unfulfilling and not very challenging) job, because I didn’t interact with the public there, I could hide behind my desk and just talk to my co-workers.
  • TSW is not going to be the limiting factor in stopping me from [someday] dating, getting close to guys, or being in a relationship.  Emotionally I feel I’m nowhere near ready to do that yet, but if and when I am, my skin will be no issue.  And I really have no skin qualms about someone seeing me in any state of undress, besides the usual little body-conscious things that probably 99.9999% women think about themselves (“I have to suck in my stomach” or “My arse could really use a bit of a lift”).

If anyone else that is post-TSW has any thoughts to add on contrasting their own personal then and now, I’d love to hear them!

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