Monthly Archives: November 2012

Why I Don’t Like Christmas

Christmas.  I don’t really care for it.

Gifts-for-kids-this-Christmas

“But WHY, eczemaexcellence?”  you ask.  “How can you not like Christmas?  It is the season of all things magical and twinkly and bright!  Santa and gifts and warm drinks by the fire!  Christmas lights and songs!  Good cheer and tidings!”

  Call me a Grinch, but….how-the-grinch-stole-christmas-c2a9-mgm

There are reasons that I’m not big into the holiday.  Call me sour if you will, but take this list with a grain of salt.  Of COURSE I don’t just spend all of December gritting my teeth and whining about my dislike of Christmas!

REASON ONE: GREED.  Christmas has turned into something entirely too materialistic.  I’m a simple girl – give me adequate food that I like, clean and reasonably in-style clothing, a clean house, a warm bed, a car that runs, and other creature comforts, and I’m happy.  I HAVE all those things, so I am content and don’t require anything else.  I’m very blessed: I have a respectable job and a great husband besides the material necessities of life.  I really don’t have an innate urge to receive something new and shiny just ’cause a holy little guy was born in a manger.  If I really want something bad enough, I’m a working adult and can buy it for myself any time of year.  There are people I know who make a six-figure salary, live in a half-million dollar home, and STILL want all kinds of presents to paw through on Christmas morn.

REASON TWO: THE EXCHANGE OF GIFTS.  This kind of plays into Greed a little, but the gift thing is only a wonderful novelty when you’re a little kid.  Here, you can RECEIVE nice things without having to give anything in return.  As an adult, the exchange of gifts is a social nicety that we do just because we “have to”, since that’s what we’ve “always done”.  Literally one year, I received a restaurant gift card from a family member, after having given THEM a gift card for the same amount.  We could have just kept our money and broke even, and not had to spend any time shopping.

REASON THREE: KIND OF GIFTS.  With sensitive skin and eczema, a lot of gifts are off-limits.  Every year I get some type of lotion, shower gel, bath product, or cosmetic product as a well-meaning gift.  I open it, express appropriate delight and thanks, read the label and confirm there’s no way I should be putting this on my skin, and later quietly end up giving it away to charity (or even re-gifting – no shame if you never opened the thing).

REASON FOUR: INCREASED SOCIAL EVENTS AROUND THE HOLIDAYS.  My skin and allergies don’t do very well with certain things, such as being in houses with animals, being around smokers, staying out late, or drinking alcohol.  Apart from the fact that I haven’t consumed any significant amount of alcohol for years, going to different places throws an additional stressor into my routine.  My idea of an awesome time is more aligned with getting some quality exercise in and then reading a good book in bed.

REASON FIVE: FOOD.  I’ve gotten very selective in my eating since I started having eczema flares again.  I could write a whole post on my dietary habits, but suffice to say there are some things I’m just picky about (meat, excessive gluten, excessive sugars), and some things that I try to avoid because they seem to aggravate my skin (dairy, citrus, tomatoes, garlic).  Having Christmas dinner at someone’s house, therefore, is usually a fun exercise where I try to find adequate edibles while hoping the host doesn’t notice that I’m subsiding on olives, rolls, and celery sticks while leaving their famous cheesy potatoes and ham untouched.

REASON SIX: MUSIC.  I have zero affinity for Christmas music.  I switch the channel if I hear it on the radio.  What can I say… maybe I really AM the Grinch!

REASON SEVEN: DECORATIONS.  Yes, they look pretty.  But stringing lights is a pain in the behind, and putting up decorations in the house just ends up gathering dust.  I don’t like having a bunch of holiday tchotchkes scattered about the house anyway.

You know the only thing I want for Christmas?  The cure for eczema, wrapped in a nice, shiny box 😉

*** EDIT: I thought of two other things as to why I have an ambivalence for the holiday.  Reason eight, it’s usually COLD, and per my last post, clearly I really dislike cold.  Reason nine, I wasn’t brought up to believe in Santa, so there was never that shiny-eyed anticipatory delusion for me as a kid.  Presents appeared under the tree, and I knew exactly where they came from…. Not from the jolly old man with his eight tiny reindeer, but from my mom’s closet (where I had likely already snooped and found out some of what I was getting anyway).  🙂

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The Unbearable Sensation of Cold

For me, there are few sensations that compare to the uncomfortable stress of being cold.  In school, I learned that any temperature under 59 degrees F can be perceived as physically painful, and I completely agree that being cold can be just like being in pain sometimes!

Maybe I’m simply a big baby, but I really, really, REALLY hate being cold.  This is just super, living in the Midwest and having eczema, as cold makes me feel stressed out, which makes me itch, and makes me want to get warm, and we all know that hot water and hot dry air is not very good for skin.  (It’s my goal to move to a more temperate climate someday soon!)

I also feel like, in recent years (probably around the same time my eczema and rashes started getting worse) that I was MORE sensitive to cold than ever before.  Could it be something to do with my thyroid?  Wikipedia notes that symptoms of low thyroid are abnormal weight gain, tiredness, baldness, cold intolerance, and bradycardia.

Abnormal weight gain?  Nope.  If anything, I’ve probably lost a bit of weight in recent years when I started eating cleaner, and I’m definitely at a normal weight as I eat well and exercise.

Tiredness?  Well, yes.  I hate to admit it, but I’m tired a lot of the time.  Not conk out and fall asleep at your desk tired, but just hard to get out of bed in the morning, wanting to sleep a lot, etc.

Baldness?  Thank God, no.  My hair looks reasonably full and healthy as ever.

Cold intolerance?  YES and YES some more.

Bradycardia?  (abnormally low heart rate)?  Mine is probably on the lower range of normal since I do a lot of endurance exercise, but not abnormal.

Just like the itch-scratch cycle, I feel that there is a cold-warm cycle for me in winter weather, and it goes like this.  After being at work all day in a warmed office building, I go outside into the car and get cold.  The heat in the car kicks in on the way home, but then it’s time to enter a cold house.  I immediately turn the heat up and huddle by the heating vent for the comfort of being warm.  This then makes me itchy as it heats and dries out my skin, so I itch.  Then when it’s time to take a shower or bath, I KNOW that long, hot baths and showers are not good, but in order to warm up, I can’t bear the thought of using lukewarm or even cold water, so there I am, soaking in my steaming tub, knowing full well it is not doing my eczema any favors.

Yesterday, I went for a run in the cold and dark, hoping maybe more time spent in the cold would help me acclimate.  Although I’m used to running in all kinds of weather, it was the coldest it’s been this season so far (just around freezing).  Running is hard and boring, but I love it as it makes me temporarily forget about my eczema and it gives me a sense of accomplishment!  Yeah, I was cold, but my body was generating its own heat as I moved along, and there is a certain invigorating satisfaction that comes from exercising in cold weather and triumphing over the elements.  I was hoping this triumph would translate to the evening, where I planned to take a COLD shower and then bask in the great relief from itching.  But…

I couldn’t bring myself to do it.  I wanted the comfort, the blissful feeling of WARMTH, even if it did continue to ravage my legs and leave them itchy.

Maybe one day I can bring myself to do it, as I’ve read accounts of other eczema sufferers where this has really helped them not itch so much, since hot water and air can strip the moisture out of skin.  In the meantime, perhaps I can work toward the more achievable goal of just a short, lukewarm shower instead of lounging in a hot bath!

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Protopic, Paranoia, and Obsession

After my recent rash flare, the dermatologist prescribed two things.  The first ointment, mometasone furoate, is a medium strength topical steroid.  I was instructed to ONLY use this for 1-2 weeks at absolute MAX since usually it is not used on the face.  Then I was instructed to switch over to the other ointment once the initial rash had cleared up.

This second ointment is called Protopic.

  Protopic (tacrolimus) is not a steroid, but instead modulates the immune system so it doesn’t react to the things that are causing the rash or eczema.  It comes in either 0.03% or 0.1% concentration.  You can read more about all the science-y stuff online, but in short, it’s been used quite successfully and without the side effects of steroids, like thinning the skin or becoming dependent on them.

I’ve used Protopic before a few years ago, but I kind of forgot about it until I was prescribed it again this most recent time.  My memory is murky, but as I recall the last time, it worked very well.  However, I forgot about the ONE, GLARING, side effect of Protopic.  Reading the literature that comes with the package, this is the most prominent side effect experienced by people who use this medication.

Protopic, at least for the few initial times it is applied, causes a burning/itching/tingling/warming sensation.  It’s nothing too crazy, and it doesn’t happen initially, but it is very unsettling if you aren’t expecting it.  One, you may start thinking you’re allergic to Protopic (which you probably aren’t).  Two, you will want to start scratching the very sites that you’re trying to heal.

Also, even if you put it on, and then get past the slight burning sensation, anything warm on the area seems to “activate” the burning all over again (like if you have warm air on the area, or if you are rubbing other creams on it).

This (for me at least) starts causing a sort of paranoia.  If my face feels burning and uncomfortable, I immediately conclude that it MUST have some kind of nasty rash flaring up all over again.  This then causes an obsession with looking in mirrors, just to be sure that my face is looking okay.  I spent most of the last two months with  crappy-looking skin thanks to my rashes and flares, so I am still not used to seeing skin that looks closer to normal.

Eventually though, after a few applications, the skin ‘gets used to’ Protopic, and the sensations die down.  This is how I will get through the first few applications and deal with the unpleasant feeling on my skin:

  • I mentally prepare myself for the fact that this might burn and itch.  I mentally steel myself NOT to itch or rub the area further and to practice self-control!
  • Or, I mentally permit myself to itch ONE small area.  This is always an area that no one will see, like my stomach, hip, or legs.  I tell myself that if the burning is too much and I MUST itch, I can itch this area ONLY.  (And actually, the Protopic works well enough where I usually don’t do any apparent damage by itching).
  • I mix the Protopic with an equal amount of Vaseline, then put it on.  (A dermatologist recommended this to me after I complained about the burning sensation).  This helps to ‘temper’ the medication and lessen the sensation.  You can then gradually work up to the full amount of Protopic with no Vaseline.  If the burning is really bad, maybe you use 3 parts Vaseline to 1 part Protopic and then slowly increase.
  • I avoid any hot sensations right after putting on the Protopic.  No hot air like blow dryers or heaters, no hot beverages, etc if you’ve put it on your face.  The area under my nose flares up sometimes, and it drove me absolutely crazy to have the warm air from my own nostrils blowing on it and making it feel uncomfortably warm.
  • COLD sensations can help!  For example, this weekend after putting the Protopic on a few parts of my face, I was feeling the burn a few hours later.  Going outside in the winter weather for a run really helped, as it cooled off my face and took my mind off the sensations.

Overall though, I know this is a good non-steroidal medication, and I am going to stick through the side effects and continue using it as needed.

Has anyone else out there used Protopic?  What were your experiences with it, and did you also feel the “burning” side effect?  Do you feel that it was helpful for your eczema?

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Current Skincare Routine

As mentioned in my previous post, I’m very grateful to have figured out some skin sensitivities (aloe and beeswax) and have moved forward with eradicating any offending products and adhering to a pretty simple skincare routine, which so far has worked well at keeping my skin looking good!

In the past, I have definitely been guilty of switching from product to product or trying new things that I thought would help… sometimes multiple things at once.  I think that if you have sensitive skin or eczema, this actually works against you, as it makes it very difficult to figure out anything topical that could be causing or aggravating the problem.  For example, I was cycling between two moisturizers with sunscreen – one had aloe, and one did not.  The aloe seemed to have a delayed reaction (I wouldn’t break out right away when I applied it) so for a while, I honestly thought the OTHER moisturizer was the problem and stopped using it.  In hindsight, this was a bad idea since my skin did not like the aloe!

Here is my current routine, using only a few products:

NIGHTTIME:

Remove any makeup with Grapeseed Oil (I really don’t wear much makeup currently, only mascara and a tiny bit of eyeliner smudged on the lower lashes just to darken them up, so this goes fast).

1. Wash face with Paula’s Choice Resist Hydrating Cleanser.

(Ingredients: Water, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride (emollient thickener), Decyl Glucoside (cleansing agent), Glycerin (skin-identical ingredient), PEG-20 Methyl Glucose Sesquistearate (cleansing agent/emulsifier), PPG-20 Methyl Glucose Ether, Methyl Gluceth-20 (skin-conditioning agents),Glyceryl Stearate, Stearyl Alcohol (thickeners), Polyacrylamide (binding agent), Camellia Oleifera (Green Tea) Leaf Extract (antioxidant), Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract (soothing agent), Sapindus Mukurossi (Soapberry) Peel Extract (foaming agent), Methyl Glucose Sesquistearate (cleansing agent), C13-14 Isoparaffin (thickener), Laureth-7 (emulsifier), Xanthan Gum (thickener), Disodium EDTA (chelating agent), Citric Acid (pH adjuster), Caprylyl Glycol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Hexylene Glycol, Phenoxyethanol (preservatives).

COMMENTS: Okay, I know this seems like a lot of ingredients.  But, I do like how Paula (of Paula’s Choice) always breaks down exactly what the ingredients are for, and this works well at making my skin feel nice and clean without feeling OVERLY scrubbed or too tight and dry.  I thought, at one point, about switching to Cetaphil, but here is an article that made me think differently.  Plus I try to avoid SLS and parabens in my skincare whenever possible anyway.

 

 

2. Oatmeal scrub.  I have a plastic container of ground oats (kind of a powder) in the bathroom.  You can make oat ‘powder’ too by putting oats in a food processor.  You CAN use quick oats just by themselves, but that makes more of a mess and tends to clog the bathroom drain!

I measure out about 1/8 cup of oat powder, mix this with about 1/4 cup of warm water, let it sit for a bit, and then gently rub the oat powder over my face, then rinse.  I can’t say enough about using oatmeal for sensitive skin – it is one of the cheapest and BEST remedies I’ve found.  This very gently exfoliates while leaving my skin feeling very soft and moisturized.  You can also use the oat powder in the bathtub to help with body eczema or sensitive skin.

3. After rinsing off the oatmeal, I gently pat my face dry with a soft towel, but not COMPLETELY dry – leaving the skin still damp so that my next step, Grapeseed Oil, will help ‘seal’ in some of that moisture.  I use Aura Cacia brand of Grapeseed Oil as it’s very pure and minimally processed.  This is what it notes on the bottle:

Light, absorbent grapeseed oil is extracted from the seeds of wine grapes and contains an excellent balance of skin-supporting compounds, including oleic, linoleic, palmitic and stearic fatty acids. Grapeseed oil restores balance and firmness to combination and oily skin.

I’ve tried other kinds of oils from olive oil to sweet almond, to jojoba and coconut, but this one is my favorite.  Grapeseed oil has no smell and a nice, light texture.  I consider myself to have somewhat of combination skin, and it does NOT make me break out.  If anything, it helps with breakouts, as putting the grapeseed oil on a few acne bumps made them completely clear up in a few days.

4. Because it is fall/winter in the Midwest, my skin needs more hydration than just grapeseed oil and needs one more step to ‘seal’ in moisture.  Vanicream is a very basic moisturizer that was first recommended to me by a dermatologist about a year ago, and was recommended again at my last visit last week.

Ingredients: Water (Purified), White Petrolatum, Cetearyl Alcohol, Ceteareth 20, Sorbitol Solution, Propylene Glycol, Simethicone, Glyceryl Monostearate, Polyethylene Glycol Monostearate, Sorbic Acid (A Preservative), BHT

Even though Petrolatum is one of the first ingredients, this does a great job of moisturizing without clogging my pores (It promises to be non-comedogenic on the package).  They do make a Vanicream Light (same ingredients, just a different mix of them so that it is not as heavy of a cream) and might be something I’ll switch to in the summer when my skin is less dry.

There are just two other things in my night time routine.  One, if my lips are feeling dry, I put a light coat of Vaseline on them before going to bed.  I used to use Aquaphor, but then figured why not use Vaseline as it has just one ingredient (whereas Aquaphor has a few ingredients, namely lanolin, which people can be sensitive to).  Two, in the colder months, I sleep with a humidifier right by my bed.  I think that this helps to keep my skin moist among all the dry winter air and then the dry heat inside.

DAYTIME ROUTINE:

My day routine upon waking up is pretty similar to my nighttime routine.  I only use the oatmeal scrub to refresh my face in the morning – no need to actually wash my face again, since I went to bed with a clean face.  I hold credence to the idea that people with sensitive skin shouldn’t over-wash, as this strips the natural oils out of the skin.

Then I do the pat dry and Grapeseed Oil again, and my daytime moisturizer is also from Vanicream, but contains different ingredients and sunscreen.  You can’t find this in stores (at least I can’t), so I get this from drugstore.com.  I would definitely recommend checking out the other products from this company (Psico.com) if you have sensitive skin.  They have other things like shave cream, hairspray, bath oil, etc. that are pretty much as safe as possible for sensitive skin.

Ingredients:
Active Ingredients: Zinc Oxide (8%), Octinoxate (7.5%)

Inactive Ingredients: Water (Purified), Cyclomethicone, Glycerin, Tridecyl Neopentanoate, Cyclopentasiloxane, Cetyl/PEG/PPG 10/1 Dimethicone, Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Polyethylene, Cyclomethicone, Dimethicone, PEG 30 Dipolyhydroxystearate, Vitamin E, Magnesium Chloride Hexahydrate, Triethoxycaprylylsilane

COMMENTS: I do think that SPF 35 is a bit overkill for a daily moisturizer, especially as I’m inside most of the day in these months.  However, the company does not make a sunscreen, with, say SPF 15, which is what I would prefer (I’ve written to them to suggest this).  Regardless, I find this to go on very smoothly, have zero odor, work great at holding in the moisture from the Grapeseed oil, and keep my face feeling moisturized all day.  I WILL say that the oil plus this makes my face really shiny and ‘greasy’ looking at first, but I just put this on with adequate time to let it sink in a little before I leave the house.

I’m planning to strictly adhere to this routine for a few weeks or more before I even think of introducing any new products.  And if I DO try anything new, I will try it one at a time!

What are some of your favorite or tried-and-true products in your skincare routine??

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Clear Skin! Four days and counting!

 

(insert “Hallelujiah Chorus” here)….

This is really what I feel like!  After feeling trapped behind my (rashy, problematic) face for so long, I feel like I’ve been freed.   THANK YOU GOD!  I’m going on four days of beautifully clear skin and counting.  I achieved my goal of leaving the house without ANY concealer and received the compliment that my skin was simply glowing!  😀

It’s such a drastic turn around from just a few days ago.  I feel renewed and like I’m thankful for everything in the world.  How did I get to this great point?

Well one, drugs.  The steroid ointment Mometasone Furoate was a great, great thing.   I am actually SO glad I went to the conventional dermatologist and used this drug.   It removed my aloe-induced rashes almost overnight.  I slowly weaned myself off of it in the past few days since it’s not good to use this on your face for any longer than necessary.

Two, eradicating ANY sources of aloe or beeswax from my food or facial care.  I’m absolutely convinced that using the aloe over time (in lotions, etc., and my hyaluronic acid) had me build up a sensitivity, causing allergic contact dermatitis, and I plan to avoid it at ALL costs!  I also haven’t been eating any garlic (that I know of) since this is related to the aloe plant.

Three, I have pared down my facial skincare routine to quite a basic one.  There are only a few things I use, and for the time being, I plan to keep it that way.  My next post will be about my skincare routine that is working beautifully for me 🙂  Basically I feel the simpler I keep it, the less likely I am to come in contact with an ingredient that has the potential of irritating me.  Then if I can use the simple routine for a while with no irritation, I can gradually introduce a new product one at a time if there is something else I want to try.

When my skin is clear, it’s easy to resist the temptation to itch.  I DO still have scars and scratches on my legs, so I’m far from perfect, but I don’t go through a wild itching spree multiple times a day.  I am feeling great and hopeful that I can keep my face looking this healthy!

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Mascara Review – gifted Amazonian Clay Smart Mascara by Tarte

‘Tis time for another mascara review!  After my most recent mascara purchase left me underwhelmed, I decided to try another one from the Tarte line.  Also, in light of my recent findings that I appear to get dermatitis from both aloe and beeswax, it was super good news that this next mascara has neither.  Seriously, it is next to impossible to find a mascara that doesn’t have either of these.

My Review on gifted Amazonian Clay Smart Mascara by Tarte:

(Let me also add the disclaimer here that I am in no way paid by any companies to review products.  I buy this stuff out of my own pocket as it’s pure trial and error for me with finding high quality products.  These are solely my opinions and I post them in the hopes that they will help other people with sensitive skin that want to make good choices for their makeup.)

Cost: I got this at my local ULTA store for $19.  Yeah, it’s more than twice the price of a drugstore mascara, but I have no issue with paying more for a product if it performs well AND won’t irritate my skin.

So first off the packaging again is very cute… It’s like a wood-grain tube (it’s probably made of plastic since it’s so smooth, but it certainly LOOKS like wood) with quite a skinny brush.

When I first saw the skinny brush, I was a little concerned that this would not fare well, since the brush is about the same thickness as the one in Lights, Camera, Splashes.

 

However, I read DOZENS of reviews before buying this, and this appears to be the highest-reviewed mascara that Tarte makes.  People were giving it 5 stars and pleading with Tarte to never stop making it.

After applying it – I understood the hype!

One coat (after eyelash curler) will give you beautifully long and separated lashes.  If I was going to be SUPER critical, I would say maybe it could hold a curl a little better, but maybe that’s just my eyelashes’ problem for being stick straight.

TWO coats, after eyelash curler initially and after the first coat (which is what I prefer), will give you even more beautiful lashes as the second coat ‘bulks’ them up a little more and helps to hold in that curl.

It does not clump in the least and it gives a gorgeous look as the brush grabs and coats every lash.  I also didn’t have the problem of getting mascara smear on my eyelid while applying it.

I wore it all day and it never flaked or smudged.  Then I put it through more of a test the following day – I went for a 90 minute bike ride with my husband.  Given, I didn’t actually sweat, since it was cold out, but there was plenty of wind and sometimes my eyes watering a little if I was biking really fast.  Still perfection when I came home.

I also tried touching my eyelashes and pulling at them a little to see if the mascara would come off… barely any flaking!  It stays on so well!

This stuff is not waterproof, so I want to see how it performs on, say, a really sweaty run or bout of kickboxing, but I still love this and I’m so glad I found it!

AND, it removes very easily (I use an oil to remove makeup, i.e., olive oil or grapeseed oil) and had no problem getting it off.  My lashes actually felt healthier afterward too.

My verdict – 5 stars!  GO OUT AND BUY!  🙂

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Skin Memories

(Memories from early childhood all the way up to current adulthood based on the ebb and flow of my eczema/dermatitis).

My earliest memory of eczema is being a small child (probably 4-5 years old) and my mother tying socks onto my hands at night so I wouldn’t scratch.  This tactic worked, as long as the socks stayed on, but despite her best efforts to tie tight knots in the strings, finagling the socks off and finally managing to itch was the most delightful feeling!

I remember being a young girl in gymnastics class.  I had eczema on my wrists and elbows.  Nothing crazy or widespread, just some scabs, but kids still managed to notice and give me funny looks.

Still as a young girl, I remember having eczema in the creases where your leg meets your buttock, and being concerned that it would be very evident when I put on my swimsuit to go in the pool.  Why did I have this?  Why wasn’t I like other kids with normal skin?

I remember puberty – Thank goodness for puberty!  I don’t remember a single instance of eczema from about age 14 to maybe age 19.  Which is wonderful, because kids can be so cruel in high school, and I have no idea what I would have done if I had these present rashes at that time.  My heart goes out to anyone that has to deal with the ostracizing of eczema during those formative years.  I was able to be in so many activities, from cheer to track, without giving my skin a second thought.  I don’t even think I put anything on it day to day!

I DO, however, remember going to gym class in high school and getting paired up with the guys for square dancing.  One guy peered at my face and said critically, “You have wrinkles under your eyes”.  (I had very faint Dennie-Morgan lines, a sign of dermatitis/allergy, which even I wasn’t conscious of until he said something and I didn’t know they were an indicator that comes with eczema).  Well thanks a lot, kid.  I go home, peer at myself in the mirror, and settle on using my mother’s Oil of Olay cream to try and ‘remove’ the wrinkles (which probably ended up irritating my skin).

Onto college age, and ending the period of puberty.  In early college years, I remember getting up and putting on anything that I wanted to … again, no thought of my skin.  I could wear skirts, shorts, tank tops, you name it, no fear of rashes, no self-consciousness.  I must have had really great skin back then.  Awesome!

In my third year of college, I was afflicted with some type of eczema/dermatitis around my eyes, probably similar to what I have now except not as bad.  I remember working in the cafeteria and wearing a cafeteria-issued hat to try and shield my face so that people couldn’t look at me as much.  So many cute guys came through the cafeteria line and I desperately wanted to smile and flirt with them, but I couldn’t help feeling self-conscious.

From the end of college until about 1.5 years ago, the skin on my face was fine and I don’t remember giving it a second thought.  Of course I used mild moisturizers and all that, and I didn’t wear a lot of makeup, but I definitely had no reason to be obsessed about its condition.

On my wedding day, the makeup artist looked at me, smiled, and said, “You have great skin, doing your makeup should be easy”.  I had a perfect wedding and I looked and felt like a million bucks.  Those were the days!!!!

A year later on a friend’s wedding day, I got airbrush makeup done.  I had false eyelashes too, and I was beautiful and glamorous!  The pictures of me look absolutely flawless.  The current Me wants that old Me back!

Now here I am.  I wake up every day not knowing what will greet me in the mirror.  Praying it will be clear, bright, healthy skin, but more often than not, it’s red, rashy, irritated skin.  However, now that I found out I seem to be sensitive to aloe vera and beeswax and have eliminated all products with those ingredients…. I remain optimistic that I can get back to feeling attractive in my skin!  🙂

What are some of YOUR skin memories??

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Guess What I Must Be Allergic To!

Well.  It has been an interesting ride the past few days.  One week ago, my face was pretty great.  Smooth, barely any rashes, and I only had to use a little concealer.  Thank God, because I had a job interview and I was filled with apprehension all week as to if my skin would behave or not!

Then after the weekend and with my face recovering from the whole beeswax incident, my skin was kind of meh.  This morning, I wake up with my eyes SO puffy and swollen that I can barely open them and my face SUPER red.  After putting ice on my eyes and STILL looking crazy, I immediately took a sick day from work and made plans to see the doctor ASAP.

I thought back… What did I do last night that was unusual?  Other than taking 2 Benadryl for the redness of the beeswax-rash (thanks for the suggestion from Celiac and Allergy Adventures blog for that!).  Two things immediately jumped out to me.

1. I had Lebanese food with lots of garlic.  I have been keeping a little written ‘journal’ (besides this blog) of how my skin feels/looks each day and any suspected triggers.  A couple weeks ago, I had skin that looked really good, and then abruptly turned the corner to flare when I woke up.  That night I had eaten a prepared piece of fish with garlic breading on it for dinner.  So I immediately suspected that.

2. I had (maybe stupidly) purchased some pure Aloe Vera gel at the store last night.  I didn’t want to use any steroid creams on the rashes on my body, and wanted to try something else ‘natural’ but not too expensive.  I did not put the aloe on my face, however.  The aloe didn’t sting going on or anything, but when I woke up, I checked my eczema and it was no better… and maybe some worse.

I email the holistic doctor I’ve been seeing, to tell her about my flare and kind of seek guidance.  I was hoping she would email back right away, but after a couple hours of hearing nothing, I decide to actually see a legit dermatologist because I was looking and feeling absolutely miserable.  I thought, if they have to give me more steroid creams, so be it, but maybe they can rule out an allergy or something, or maybe they can give me a patch test/ RAST test/ IgE or IgG test on the spot, who knows.  I get an afternoon appointment for the derm.

I bundle myself up and put on a scarf and sunglasses so that I don’t frighten the populace at the doctor’s office.  I explain to the derm that I have been going through these cycles where the rash on my face will clear up, then get bad and worse, and then gradually get better.  I also explain that this rash isn’t the same as the eczema on my body because it generally doesn’t itch.  I then tell her about the garlic and say that I wonder if I have a food allergy.  She said that she doesn’t think I have a food allergy.  This seems to stand to reason as I have NO other symptoms besides skin symptoms.   One would think a legitimate food allergy would manifest itself with some GI disturbance, headache, whatever, none of which I get.

I also tell her about my experience with steroid creams… that I’ve used them on my body, but the eczema comes back, and that they don’t really respond to the rashes on my face.  She prescribes me a medium strength steroid (Momentasone furoate ointment) and says we need to use it because otherwise the rash won’t get better…it’s not responding to, say, Desonide because it’s not strong enough… just use this for 1-2 weeks at MAX and then go down to a weaker topical ointment (Protopic).

Well, on my quest to avoid steroid creams, this isn’t looking in my favor, but what she says makes sense and it’s what I expected from a traditional health practitioner… to go home with some drugs to glop on my face.  Fine, no problem.  I’ve actually used both of these drugs before in a cream and they do work to heal rashes, they just don’t get at the source of the problem.

After I get home, I wash my hands with some mild Dial soap and absentmindedly touch my face, which begins to itch a little.  This triggers my memory to look up Aloe Vera.

The Dial soap has aloe vera.

The mild Badger Balm sunscreen I’ve been using daily has Aloe Vera.

The Hyaluronic Acid that I used to use has Aloe Vera.

I’m still raiding my cupboards to eradicate more products, but it’s in SO MANY things because it’s a ‘natural’ product and yes, has healing properties for some.  Not for me, obviously. Actually, my husband and I used to love these Aloe drinks from Whole Foods and purchased them here and there… maybe the first drink of them is when this problem all started.  I knew it HAD to be something different and not topical, because I didn’t change any of my face products but suddenly my skin was getting all sensitive.  And this makes sense since I never consumed or used aloe as a child or teenager, and subsequently never had face rashes before these incidences.

Getting on the internet, I read that:

Aloe Vera is part of the Liliaceae family, which also includes garlic, onions, leeks, and chives.  AH HA!

Things all start to come together in my mind.  The garlic I ate last night plus the fact that I put aloe on my body (and then likely itched myself in my sleep and then touched my face) must totally be what irritated me.

I also read (and of course, don’t believe everything you read on the internet) that a rash from aloe vera is often worse on skin exposed to the sun.  This makes perfect sense why my LEFT side of the face is all rashy, and my RIGHT side is pretty clear… because when driving in the car, the LEFT side is the side that gets hit more by the sun.

I love garlic, so giving it up will be hard (Pickles… I already miss you 😦 ), but for now I am going to eliminate ALL traces of it from my diet.  Food manufacturers can hide it in ingredients like ‘natural flavors’, so I’ll need to be a label-reader.  And, no more aloe vera for me!

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Dressing Right to Deal with Eczema

When you have eczema and rashes, a lot of the time it seems that there is no control over your physical appearance.  That’s how I feel right now – my skin is out of control.  I can put on a smile, but the bottom line is that I don’t feel warm fuzzies and rejoicing in the way I look.  But, the good news is that one does have control over other aspects of their appearance and you can manipulate it to try and feel as reasonably positive about yourself as you can!  These are some clothing/apparel tips that work for me:

  • Stay away from any type of itchy materials (wool, angora, etc).  This goes without saying, but one has to check labels carefully… sometimes they sneak like 10% angora into a perfectly good acrylic or cotton sweater.
  • Avoid any super tight clothing.  I wrote a previous post (“Tight ass itchy ass pants”) where I remarked that wearing exercise pants every single day to work seemed to irritate my thighs.
  • Try not to sweat in tight clothing.  This traps the sweat and then I really start to itch.
  • Wear something that will make you feel good about yourself and is COMFORTABLE.
  • I like to wear bright colors and/or patterns.  This keeps the eye moving and draws the attention away from the face.
  • I also have been in the habit of wearing either a necklace or a scarf with almost every work outfit.  This is intended to detract attention from the face and focus on the accessory.
  • LAYERS!  Not only do layers add visual interest, keeping the eye moving, but they will keep you comfortable, which is so important.  If I am uncomfortable either physically, mentally, or emotionally, I begin to itch.  I’m also the type of person that HATES to be cold – for me it’s almost like physical pain, it’s so annoying – and so I always layer up so that I’ll be assured of being warm.  I don’t mind sweating and being hot at all!
  • Wear something with pockets.  Why pockets you ask?  Well, I carry a tiny container of Vaseline/Aquaphor and a tiny mirror on me at all times during the workday – this is so I can check on the status of my facial rashes during a trip to the restroom and discreetly moisturize if necessary.  I work in quite a public area so it’s not like I can whip these things out at my desk.  I also have been carrying my tube of Tarte concealer and a tweezers, for any noticeable skin flakes.  If I don’t put these things in my pants pockets, I’ll wear knee socks and stash everything in my sock during the workday!  It sounds crazy but if you don’t wear tight pants, no one will be the wiser and you can carry your own little private arsenal of stuff.
  • Put in some effort.  It is so tempting to put on the sloppiest outfit, but if your clothing looks crisp and put-together, you’ll feel better about yourself even if your skin doesn’t quite match it.
  • Haircut and style matters too.  I can’t stand the sensation of hair touching my face or neck, so I keep it pretty short.  While it’s tempting to hide behind long hair, this could actually be negative as any products you use in your hair might irritate your face when your hair touches it.  Yeah, I have nothing to really hide behind with my hairstyle, but I think I’m better off for it.  And a good haircut will instantly make you feel better about yourself.  Take it from me… I had shapeless, growing-out, nasty-ass hair for months because I was trying to hide and didn’t want to put in the effort, and last week when I got a haircut, I instantly felt so much better.  Hair accessories can also be nice too as a way of diverting attention.  I’m not really into the whole headbands or bows thing, but it might be just the ticket for someone else.

Any other tips out there?

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Allergic Reaction to Beeswax?

After recently finding a wonderfully written and informative dermatology blog (zizaidermatology.wordpress.com), one of the first posts I read was about the author struggling through a rash around the mouth and discovering an allergy to beeswax (http://zizaidermatology.wordpress.com/2010/07/16/am-i-allergic-to-beeswax/), specifically the Bee Propolis that occurs in the wax.

This post couldn’t have come at a more opportune time, as I think beeswax might be a big trigger for some of my own current skin issues.

I recently purchased two Badger Balm products because I was looking for 1. a good lip balm, and 2. a good soothing natural moisturizer for the spots on my face that get really dry.  I purchased the Creamy Cocoa lip balm, and the Badger Balm Baby Balm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I diligently read online reviews, and read nothing but good stuff about these things.  And I thought, “Yay!  Beeswax is all natural.  This should be good!”

When I put on the cocoa butter lip balm, my lips felt a little tingly and itchy.  Nothing really major, but it just wasn’t as pleasant as I anticipated.  So, after one use, I put it away and thought maybe I would try it again later on.

Then I moved on to the Baby Balm.  It’s only got 5 ingredients, all natural things, but it’s primarily composed of beeswax.  I did do a patch test on a dry spot on my knuckle – no ill effects the next day, so I figured I was good to apply the stuff to some of my facial rashes before bed to heal and soften them.

This is what happened (I’m tilting my  head back in these pictures so that the rash can be fully seen):

This is the rash I’ve been dealing with on my neck. This is the “BEFORE” picture – it’s flared, but it’s not too bad and red and it can be easily covered with concealer if needed. It has very clear borders and is pretty much right in the center.

This is the same neck rash the morning after having applied the Baby Balm (with beeswax as the main ingredient). Terribly red and flared!

I don’t have a Before and After picture of my face available to post, but let’s just say the results were about the same.  This was two days ago and my face is still recovering.  I look like I have very unhealthy skin and I feel about the same.  People at work are giving me concerned looks and asking me if I am okay.  So.  Judging by this experience, I do not react well to beeswax.  Which then got me thinking.  A LOT of mascaras contain beeswax.  You need something waxy in it to get it to stick to the lashes.  I went online and checked the ingredients for my current Almay Get up and Grow mascara.  Yup, beeswax.  Swell.

Which THEN got me thinking about when these rashes around my eyes and on my face all started.  Things began with a little spot under my left eye that started around July of 2011, and then gradually got worse over my face in the last, oh, maybe 6 months or so.  It was really weird, because I don’t remember changing any of my facial products, but all of a sudden it was like my skin became extremely sensitive and I couldn’t use my previous moisturizers AT ALL.  I can’t remember exactly when, but one day when I went to the store to buy mascara, my normal type was out (I used to use Almay Triple Effect – which incidentally does NOT have beeswax), so I got this Get up and Grow stuff instead.  I have to wonder if these events coincided.

(And, okay, I know mascara and makeup in general is not the best thing for sensitive skin.  I know this.  This is why I read reviews and ingredients like a hawk, try and search out non-irritating products, and wear quite minimal makeup.  I gotta at least look human at work, as I’ve tried to do NO makeup and was sick of the stares and comments, so I just wear mascara and concealer right now.)

Today’s evening activities will involve a trip to the store for a new, NON-BEESWAX-USING mascara.  I’m either going back to the Almay Triple Effect, or trying a new Tarte one (gifted Amazonian Clay mascara, which uses rice bran wax, carnauba wax, and candelilla wax instead of beeswax).  It is HARD to find a mascara with out beeswax, but I’m making the switch tonight and hoping this will eventually clear up a lot of my problems!

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