Category Archives: Body and Facial Products

My Post-TSW Skincare Routine

Please excuse the very long absence from the blog world.  I have been meaning to make a post-TSW skincare routine post for a while, and then just kept putting it off.  In all reality, this blog will probably have posts that are way fewer and farther between, since now (OH HAPPY DAY) I don’t need to keep documenting progress of my skin, because I am healed and back to normal!  But, I am still here reading the blogs of others with TSW, and still here to give support and encouragement or just answer questions on TSW, skin, eczema, or life in general 🙂

So what do I use these days for general moisturizing, cleansing, skincare, etc?

BODY:

COCONUT OIL

If I want to use some type of moisturizer on my legs and body, coconut oil is really the only thing I use these days. I like the idea of using something completely natural and smelling like a tropical island. Some days I forget or just don’t want to be all greasy, and then use no body moisturizer at all… I don’t think coconut oil is a dealbreaker, now my body’s skin seems to retain oils whether I remember to moisturize it or not!

If I have any little bumps or tiny rashy spots on my legs, I use the lovely Calendulis cream from The Eczema Company.

If I have any little bumps or tiny rashy spots on my legs, I use the lovely Calendulis cream from The Eczema Company.

FACE (nighttime):

I wash my face once a day (at night) with Paula's Choice Optimal Results Hydrating Cleanser.  I used this cleanser all through my TSW days too.  It is very gentle and mild and leaves my skin feeling refreshed and clean.

I wash my face once a day (at night) with Paula’s Choice Optimal Results Hydrating Cleanser. I used this cleanser all through my TSW days too. It is very gentle and mild and leaves my skin feeling refreshed and clean.

After I wash my face, it is time to exfoliate to get rid of any dull skin.  In general, I use Paula's Choice BHA (beta hydroxy acids) exfoliant.  I have tried both AHA (alpha hydroxy acids) and BHA, but for me personally, I think I prefer the BHA's effects better.    Sometimes I will switch it up and exfoliate by giving my face a gentle scrub with very finely ground oatmeal.  Chemical exfoliants are best NOT used in TSW...they will sting.  Using oatmeal very gently is okay, and is a nice natural idea for healthy skin too!

After I wash my face, it is time to exfoliate to get rid of any dull skin. In general, I use Paula’s Choice BHA (beta hydroxy acids) exfoliant. I have tried both AHA (alpha hydroxy acids) and BHA, but for me personally, I think I prefer the BHA’s effects better. Sometimes I will switch it up and exfoliate by giving my face a gentle scrub with very finely ground oatmeal. Chemical exfoliants are best NOT used in TSW…they will sting. Using oatmeal very gently is okay, and is a nice natural idea for healthy skin too!

After exfoliating for the night, I use an antioxidant serum, again from Paula's Choice.  I used this through TSW as well and it never stung or gave me any bad effects.  I dab this gently under my eyes and then on other areas prone to eventually show aging, like my forehead and smile lines.

After exfoliating for the night, I use an antioxidant serum, again from Paula’s Choice. I used this through TSW as well and it never stung or gave me any bad effects. I dab this gently under my eyes and then on other areas prone to eventually show aging, like my forehead and smile lines.

Lastly for my nighttime routine, I use grapeseed oil as a moisturizer, putting a few drops of it over my face.

Lastly for my nighttime routine, I use grapeseed oil as a moisturizer, putting a few drops of it over my face.

 

FACE (morning):

I don't wash my face again in the morning... I don't feel like I need to, since it's not like it got dirty in the night with me sleeping.  I splash water on my face and sometimes gently go over it with a washcloth.  Then I use the Antioxidant Serum again around my eyes, and a few drops of grapeseed oil.  My moisturizer every day is Vanicream SPF Sport 35 sunscreen.  This is the best sunscreen hands down - I used it through TSW and it was one of the few things that never made my skin burn or sting.  It goes on smoothly and keeps my skin feeling moisturized all day without being greasy or oily... plus I'm protecting myself from the aging effects of the sun!

I don’t wash my face again in the morning… I don’t feel like I need to, since it’s not like it got dirty in the night with me sleeping. I splash water on my face and sometimes gently go over it with a washcloth. Then I use the Antioxidant Serum again around my eyes, and a few drops of grapeseed oil. My moisturizer every day is Vanicream SPF Sport 35 sunscreen. This is the best sunscreen hands down – I used it through TSW and it was one of the few things that never made my skin burn or sting. It goes on smoothly and keeps my skin feeling moisturized all day without being greasy or oily… plus I’m protecting myself from the aging effects of the sun!

Makeup wise, I LOVE LOVE LOVE these Tarte SmolderEyes eyeliners.  They come in a bunch of colors and they literally do stay on all day and are smudgeproof.  I have sweated heavily in them, and yes, they did fade a little, but still remained intact... very impressed.  I usually line my lower lid in a brown or purple, and sometimes line the upper lid too if I'm feeling fancy.

Makeup wise, I LOVE LOVE LOVE these Tarte SmolderEyes eyeliners. They come in a bunch of colors and they literally do stay on all day and are smudgeproof. I have sweated heavily in them, and yes, they did fade a little, but still remained intact… very impressed. I usually line my lower lid in a brown or purple, and sometimes line the upper lid too if I’m feeling fancy.

I wrote a whole post on this stuff because it's that good.  Tarte Amazonian Clay mascara is wonderful and comes off easily with makeup remover or (my preference) grapeseed oil.  It's not technically waterproof, but I've sweated heavily in it without it smearing.  Two coats of this and I look awake and ready to greet the day!

Tarte Amazonian Clay mascara is wonderful and comes off easily with makeup remover or (my preference) grapeseed oil. It’s not technically waterproof, but I’ve sweated heavily in it without it smearing. Two coats of this and I look awake and ready to greet the day!

So clearly, two of my favorite (and skin-friendly!) brands are Paula’s Choice and Tarte, and I know I’ve mentioned both of these brands in other posts on my blog.  I was not compensated in any way for promoting these, I just think they are two wonderful brands that are gentle on skin and free from irritating ingredients like added fragrances, etc.

One thing that I was really worried about with post-TSW skin was that my skin would be healed, but would be exquisitely sensitive to everything, more so than before.  I am very pleased to note that the ‘sensitivity’ of my skin seems to be what it was before I ever used steroids.  I guess I could truly test it with something I reacted badly to, previously, like aloe…. but since I’ve found a routine that works so well for me, I’m sticking to it.  🙂  If you’re out there still trucking through TSW… have hope!  There is light on the other side!  Normal skin awaits!

 

 

 

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Calendulis Cream from The Eczema Company – Great for Healing!

My fellow blogger, Jennifer, very kindly offered to send me some Calendulis Cream to try from her online store, The Eczema Company.  Jennifer has a wonderful blog simply FULL of great resources for eczema and food allergies.

Her online store is just as great…check it out!!  There are creams and balms!  There is soft clothing for babies and kids with eczema! (The onesies that say “Only my smile is contagious” and “Keep Calm and Carry Balm” are adorable).  There are brightly colored mittens for your child to wear at night so they don’t scratch!  (Boy… I wish my mom had had access to this site back in the dawn of the internet in the early 90s, when Ms. EczemaExcellence was but a young girl and had to make do with white cotton socks tied on her hands at night rather than fun and colorful mittens).

It is an unfortunate predicament in the world that eczema exists, but The Eczema Company’s products at least create a more pleasant and less itchy existence.  So when I got the chance to try out the Calendulis Cream, I was excited to see what it would do for my skin – especially since I had first seen it on my blog buddy The Allergista‘s site, and she gave it a great review.

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Jennifer had seen my previous posts, where I said that my skin was overall doing well, but that I still had a few residual spots that would flare and itch a bit – specifically my elbow and knee creases.  She recommended trying this cream to help heal those last stubborn flares.  I have been using it 1-2 times a day (morning and night…. I forgot a few times though so sometimes it was just one or the other) for about the past 5 days.  And you know what??  IT IS WORKING!  😀

The very first day I tried it out, the initial thing I noticed was that it stopped my itching!  I don’t get super itchy anymore, but I would catch myself waking up in the night scratching at my legs.  Since using the Calendulis Cream, I honestly don’t think I have woken myself up by scratching at all.  Then as I continued to use it, the dry, flaky patches on my skin started to heal and look more normal.  Remember my previous post with the picture of those tiny bumps on my leg?  Thanks to the cream, they now are GONE!  What an awesome thing to find a natural remedy with NO steroids or cortisone that actually works.

Below I’ve put a BEFORE and AFTER picture of my right arm – I have a very cheap digital camera that may not do this justice, but hopefully you see that the cream really did make a difference!

If you are interested in trying this cream – guess what?  I have a special offer for you, compliments of Jennifer and The Eczema Company!   You can get 10% off using this code as one of my blog readers: ECZEXC10.  Don’t wait though, if you want to give Calendulis Cream a try – the code expires September 30, 2013.

Thank you Calendulis Cream and thank you Jennifer!!  🙂

My right arm BEFORE applying Calendulis Cream, with mini-flares.

My right arm BEFORE applying Calendulis Cream, with mini-flares (little red areas).

Right arm AFTER about 5 days of Calendulis Cream.

Right arm AFTER about 5 days of Calendulis Cream.  There are no active flares!!  Any red spots you see are just little scars.  (You may notice my skin has some patches that are sort of “bleached” and lighter than my normal skin tone – this is a product of TSW and not the Calendulis cream.  Other areas of my body, like my lower back, and behind knees, have the same lighter-colored patches.  The skin is just getting back to normal after TSW and I’m sure this will even out in time.  As long as it isn’t red and itchy… I’m happy)!

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Six Things That Help TSW and Eczema

Warning!!!  Two more photos of eczema/rash/TSW ahead.  If you don’t like looking at this stuff, then don’t.  Many people have said incredibly kind words commending me for posting photos.  To be honest, it was seeing photos from OTHER people that really helped ME, so hopefully this will help others going through it too.

The flaking and peeling and oozing is a pretty typical sign of TSW.  This picture really seems to demonstrate that this is probably what I have.  It’s very prominent here under my nose and under my lip.  By the end of the day, my skin in some places is so dry and tight that the top layer begins to crack and flake.  Then these flakes, if they are peeled off carefully, reveal new red skin underneath.  And then the next day, the cycle starts all over again.  It’s like I have a friggin’ dandruff mustache and beard!

You can call me Little Miss Frosted Flakes.  Except the flakes around my mouth are unfortunately not delicious and made of sugary goodness.

You can call me Little Miss Frosted Flakes. Except the flakes around my mouth are unfortunately not delicious and made of sugary goodness.

Then when I posted all my photos yesterday, I realized I didn’t take any body pictures, only my face mostly.  I took a couple of my legs, but they didn’t really turn out well, so here is one of my arm.

Left elbow crease.  Hurts like heck.  Trying not to pick at it.  Now I know what other TSW people mean when they said your skin feels like it's been sunburned and is horribly uncomfortable.

Left elbow crease. Hurts like heck. Trying not to pick at it. Now I know what other TSW people mean when they said your skin feels like it’s been sunburned and is horribly uncomfortable.

Now…. SIX THINGS THAT HELP ME, PERSONALLY.  Disclaimer that maybe these things wouldn’t work for everyone, but I’ve found them worthwhile enough to share.  In no particular order:

Avene tolerance extreme

Avène Thermal Spring Water (57%). Avene Thermal Spring Water (Avene Aqua), Glycerin, Mineral Oil (Paraffinum Liquidum), Squalane, Carthamus Tinctorius (Safflower) Seed Oil (Carthamus Tinctorius Oil), Cyclomethicone, Glyceryl Stearate, Sodium Carbomer, Titanium Dioxide.

1. Avene Tolerance Extreme Cream.

I don’t remember the kind blogger that told me about this one, so forgive me if that’s you reading this (shout out to you if so!!), but I took your recommendation and I’m glad I did!  This stuff is NOT CHEAP but after seeing that almost every single person that reviewed it on Dermstore.com gave it a full 5 stars, with some of them saying their face was a red mess and this cream was their savior, and seeing that it had only 9 ingredients (and no crazy long chemical names or bad stuff like fragrance, parabens, etc)., I decided to spring for it.

While I’ve read conflicting things about mineral oil (some people believe you shouldn’t use it, as it isn’t “natural”, and others say that it’s very mild and the skin is quite unlikely to react to it), I figured this product was worth trying.  After all, many TSW and eczema sufferers (myself included) use stuff like Vaseline in huge quantities, and that isn’t “natural” either.  (I would love to switch to purely some kind of natural oil, but an oil by itself isn’t moisturizing enough right now).

Right now it is rare to find a product that doesn’t feel irritating or sting-y going on.  This glided on, helped my skin feel moisturized, and my skin actually looked better the next day!  I’ve only been using it for 2 days so far since it had just come in the mail, but I am really liking it.

 

 

2. Eucerin calming body wash EUCERIN CALMING BODY WASH.

This product contains omega oils and is made for
sensitive skin.  My bathtime routine includes soaking in either dead sea salt, baking soda, or oatmeal (to
soothe and stop itching) and then I use this wash over
any really itchy spots.  It isn’t drastic, but it does seem
to help calm my skin a little and lock in some extra
moisture when I get out of the tub.

 

 

 

3. VANICREAM SHAVE CREAM.

I could be the Vanicream poster child, I’ve purchased and/or used at least 7 or 8 of the products they make (not all of them worked well for me, though).  I use their Free and Clear shampoo religiously, and somewhat recently I sprung for their Shave Cream.Vanicream shave cream  Again, it’s not very cheap (about $8-10 a tube) but it lives up to its claims as being made for sensitive skin.

If you’re expecting the huge foamy stuff that sprays out of a can, that’s not what you get with this – it’s literally a cream, kind of the same consistency as conditioner maybe, but not as slick.  I would love to just let my legs go and grow hair, but I don’t like feeling like Sasquatch.  It’s not the most ideal thing to be scraping my already-irritated legs with a razor, but if it has to be done, the Vanicream shave cream leaves them feeling soft and smooth.

4. RUNNING TIGHTS.

Running tights Normally I was always one to sleep in shorts.  I didn’t like typical “sleep pants”, as they would either make me too hot at night or wind up all twisted and bunched up around my legs.  I wouldn’t have changed my shorts-wearing habit, except I discovered that I tend to claw at my legs at night while I sleep, and shorts leave them bare and accessible to this damage.

So one day I got the bright idea to don an old pair of running tights instead.  This was a great idea – they’re tight enough where I cannot get at my legs and breathable enough where I stay warm but not TOO warm.

 

5. ANTIHISTAMINES.

Antihistamines have been mentioned by many, many people, but I didn’t develop a unique appreciation for them until the last few weeks when taking them provided me a blissful, nearly scratch-free, zonked out slumber.  In the throes of feeling like you cannot stop itching and feeling like your skin hurts all over, they are a godsend.  I try to take them sparingly though, as I don’t want to develop a tolerance if that is possible.  And the great thing is that they’re cheap!  I bought a store brand and I think I spent about $3.

6. EXERCISE

Yesterday, I was being a big whiny baby, internally.  My legs hurt so very badly that it was uncomfortable to change positions and walk.  One of the symptoms posted on ITSAN is that the skin can be raw and painful, feel like a bad sunburn and be sensitive to the slightest touch.  Yep, I’ve got that!  It’s particularly exquisitely painful because the worst parts are in the creases of my knees – areas that need to bend anytime you want to stand, sit, or walk.  I’m over here hobbling around and lowering myself into chairs and toilet seats with the slow deliberation of a senior citizen.  So today, it feels about the same, but I decided I must stop feeling bad for myself and try a bit of exercise at the gym.

Exercise habits are one thing that TSW has “robbed” me of.  I used to be a pretty avid runner – now I haven’t ran a single step in over a month.  I used to love high-impact, sweaty exercise – now I’m reticent to sweat and move that vigorously.  I’ve been just doing varied incline treadmill walking now a few times a week, and sometimes some weight training.  One day I will get back into my beloved running and Zumba and kickboxing.  So anyway, once I actually got on the treadmill today, I was pleased to find that the very act of walking and listening to music was enough to distract me from most of the itchy and painful bodily sensations.  Even though I was reluctant to do it at first, I’m glad I did, and I have to remember to keep doing it regularly!

What other things would you add to this list as “must haves” for eczema and TSW?

Need Opinions on Patch Testing

Good Morning Blog World!  So it’s Day 5 of the Candida Diet and I am feeling good.  I can’t express how glad I am that I did a “trial run” with the 10 days of Elimination Diet as this ‘practice’ on a restricted diet really helped curb my ‘bad food’ cravings and give me a positive outlook.  It’s not like it’s a piece of cake to do, but I’m encouraged in sticking to it as I don’t want to undo any progress that I’ve made so far.

Since it’s only Day 5, I can’t say for certain that I see a marked improvement in my skin yet.  I’m going through what I believe is a candida die-off reaction and everywhere that I’ve ever had eczema/used steroid creams has been red and dry.  I’ve been referring to myself mentally as the “Little Red Lobster”!  My face/neck are the most red (thank goodness for concealer!  it is amazing) but my skin seems like it’s getting softer, it doesn’t itch much, and I actually sleep better at night because I don’t feel so itchy.  Maybe this is also because I stopped using my face oil and face moisturizer with Vitamin E and am using just a really basic sensitive skin moisturizer with no vitamin E (Vanicream).

In a few weeks, I am supposed to have an appointment with another dermatologist for patch testing regarding topical substances (as in, this isn’t a food allergy test).  I was referred to have this done back in November when I went through finding out I was terribly allergic to topical aloe.

While I absolutely DO eventually want to have this patch testing done (there are things I *suspect* I’m sensitive to, but would like confirmation, like shea butter), I have a couple qualms about doing it around this specific time.  I don’t want to get any ‘false readings’ because my skin has been, and currently is, very sensitive.  There are many days where I feel like almost ANYTHING I put on it is bothersome, but of course I can’t go around with bare, dry skin, especially during winter as it would get so parched and flaky.  Contrast that to a few years ago when I could use a huge variety of products on it with no reaction and good results.  I also don’t really want to do it at the same time that I’m still in the beginning stages of this Candida diet, because that’s two big separate things that could affect my skin and I want to be able to monitor them each effectively.

So I’d like opinions on if I should wait to do the patch test.  I’d also like to hear your experiences with patch testing.  I’ve read a great post from The Allergista about it, but I would love to hear more experiences too!

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Candida Diet, Day 3

This is just a super quick post for now noting that I started the Candida diet over the weekend!

Phase 1 is listed as being 7 days where you eat only specific vegetables, a detox drink 2x daily, liver flush drink 1x daily, and vegetable broth.  I knew up front that I wasn’t going to do all 7 days because that’s a LONG TIME to subsist on only vegetables.  Plus I’m an active person with a relatively high metabolism and there is no way I could get all my caloric needs from vegetables for an entire week, and I ate quite clean before this already.  I was going to go as long as possible with the vegetables, (2-3 days in my estimation) and see how I felt.  The website also says that it’s okay if you only do a few days of the Detox (Stage 1) if your lifestyle doesn’t permit you to do all 7 days, it’s just that doing all 7 days may help you rid the Candida sooner.

It was TOUGH eating only vegetables for 2 days, but it honestly wasn’t as bad as I thought.   [You know you’re eating a bland diet when you view raw sauerkraut as a treat!  It actually was very good!]   I tried to eat throughout the day and I never really got crazy hunger cravings.  My cravings on Day 2 were not as bad as they were on Day 2 of the Elimination Diet, but maybe I just got used to self-deprivation!

But, by the end of Day 2 on only vegetables, I was ready for some actual food.  I was going to try and hold out one more day and make it an even 3 days.  Today I woke up and I definitely was experiencing some ‘candida die-off’ if not just sheer food deprivation symptoms.  I was weak, shaky, and felt REALLY hot – like I was burning up with a fever.  This didn’t alarm me; in fact I was glad because I felt like this cleanse was actually DOING something.  But, the thought of chewing through another plate of Brussels Sprouts and zucchini for breakfast (seriously, that’s what I had for breakfast the past 2 days) made me repulsed.  Even though I had made Kale Chips and they somewhat satisfied my need for variety, the thought of eating another whole day of vegetables was not enthralling, to say the least.  So I had eggs and noodles made only with brown rice for breakfast – much more satisfying!

So now I’m on Phase 2 and eating vegetables, certain grains (brown rice, quinoa, millet, etc.), a few kinds of protein (eggs, seeds, chicken, turkey).  Last night my husband looked at me drinking my disgusting liver flush drink (olive oil, ginger, water – I didn’t realize ginger when raw has these little hairy fibers in it, so it was like drinking someone’s mustache, ew), shook his head sadly, and said “God bless ya for trying, honey.”  He doesn’t think this is going to work, and he has repeatedly told me that I mustn’t let eczema get my confidence down and I should just accept what I have, that “I just have to live with it”.  This is not the message I need to hear – I REFUSE to live with constant unpredictable eczema and a whole host of other symptoms that don’t make me feel like the ‘old me’ from a few years ago when I wasn’t dealing with any of this.  I will go down fighting no matter what.  I have devoted so much time and money to this and I will continue my fight if it takes me YEARS to find the answer!  Other people have figured out their triggers and I have COMPLETE FAITH that I can too.

And I do have something else to try, thanks to my friend Courtney over at her blog.  Her mention of having an allergy to Vitamin E made me realize that a lot of my personal care products have Vitamin E in them.  I’ve been using grapeseed oil (with vitamin E) on my face twice daily and although it worked great at first, now I constantly have red, rashy skin on my face and have to use huge amounts of Tarte Maracuja Oil concealer (which umm also has vitamin E) to look reasonably human.  I thought I might have an allergy/sensitivity to this when I started rashing out after using a Vitamin E cream, so I stopped using it but didn’t think to check for it in other products.  The good news is that about half of my current products DON’T have vitamin E (shampoo, bar soap, mascara, chapstick, my facial cleanser), but for the other half, I am going to eliminate ALL topical products with Vitamin E and see what happens.

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Five Favorite Things, Part 1

First off, I want to thank everyone in the blog-o-sphere for all the traffic, support, and nice comments as of late.  I am still sorting through all the “likes” in my inbox and checking out new blogs from people who have stopped by!

I have a lot of subjects that I want to write posts about as of late, but today’s post is just going to be kind of a random smattering of Five Favorite Things that I am loving as of late.  Things that are small but enhance my life in some way.  I intend on doing more installments of “Five Favorite Things” maybe every month.

In no particular order:

1. BAKING SODA.  baking soda I just recently discovered the tip of adding baking soda to a bath to help stop the itching of eczema.  I can’t believe I didn’t know about this before!  I’m pleased to note that since the whole aloe-rash debacle, my face has stayed reasonably presentable with maybe just a few minor dry or red patches here and there sometimes.  (I believe this is directly linked to what I eat, as I put the same products on my face every day and I don’t think it’s due to a topical contact dermatitis.  For example, I flared up a tiny bit after eating four sour-cream-and-onion chips from a friend at work, too late realizing my apparent sensitivity to things in the onion and garlic and aloe family).  However, my body, namely my legs and torso, has been very rashy and itchy.   Protopic is slowly working which is good, though.  And the Baking Soda has been excellent at helping me to not itch at bath-time!  I just add about 2 tbsp or a small handful to running water (along with some finely ground oatmeal) and it is very helpful.

2. cocoon sweater Cocoon Sweater from Target.  I love these so much that I have one in three different colors – and I might even go get more.  I am always looking for clothing that strikes the balance between being reasonably stylish yet comfy, and this fits the bill.  They are VERY soft.   They are  incredibly versatile – right now I am wearing one at work over a plain brightly colored t-shirt and a multi-strand beaded necklace and I look and feel pulled-together.  Yet, on the weekend, I can wear the same sweater over a graphic tee and with jeans and be more casual.

3. Blistex 5 star Blistex 5-Star Lip Protection.  After finding that I was sensitive to aloe and beeswax, and having had a negative reaction with shea butter as well, it was pretty darn tough to try and find a lip balm with sunscreen that had none of these ingredients.  Oh yeah, and I didn’t want anything that was flavored, either.  AND I didn’t want to shell out a lot of money for a specialty lip balm online.   Regular Chapstick does fit the bill, but it has only SPF 4.  I like to exercise outside (running and biking) frequently so I like to use more SPF for those times.  I was very pleased to find this product at my local drugstore.  It has SPF 30 and just a very faint, pleasing flavor that’s kind of vanilla-y.  It is long lasting and makes my lips feel protected in the cold!

4. Beauty Rush lip gloss In the same vein with another good product for lips – Victoria’s Secret Beauty Rush Lip Gloss.  I went through and purged all old lip glosses from other brands, because most of them have beeswax or potentially irritating ingredients like peppermint or citrus-derived ingredients.  This gloss has none of those, has a pretty mild flavor/smell, is very long lasting, and feels nice – not gloppy or sticky.  I’ve worn it for three days straight so far with no issues of irritation!

5. stash tea Stash Tea!  I like the ritual of drinking something warm, especially in the winter.  Since I pretty much gave up coffee, I have developed a deep love and appreciation for tea.  As I work at my desk right now, I have four different kinds to choose from!  But I have to say that Stash Tea is my new favorite.  I am currently enjoying trying the flavors in my Superfruits Sampler, and their Licorice Spice tea is also incredible.

 

What are some of your random little favorite things as of late that bring a bit of joy to your life?  🙂

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Food on Face (or, Natural Remedies from your kitchen cupboard)

One time, (probably when browsing skincare and eczema stuff online), I read someone say, “Never put anything on your face that you wouldn’t eat”.  Do I agree with this?  Not necessarily.  Certainly I agree with staying away from harmful chemicals, but there are topical things that can really help that I would NOT pour down my throat.

However, I’ve tried some ‘natural’ (meaning edible) things in recent times for my skin.  Here are my personal reviews of a few ‘remedies’:

white sugarSUGAR.  I tried this in conjunction with honey, making a sort of scrub for the face.  I think that sugar crystals are way too abrasive to use on sensitive skin, even if it IS dry and flaky.  Using a washcloth very gently is likely a better alternative.  However, if you have real dry lips, making a little scrub with sugar and some type of oil HAS worked well for me.

 

 

 

HoneyHONEY.  I read online somewhat recently about using a honey and oatmeal mask.  How it was so great for the skin, etc etc.  I mixed up oatmeal and honey and applied it….. and then my skin began to tingle and burn a little.  I don’t notice any allergy or side effects when eating honey, although it’s not like I tend to eat it straight, just if it’s IN things like cereals.  I didn’t note that the honey did anything for my skin.  And of course, after this honey face mask experiment, I found out I was sensitive/allergic to something in beeswax, i.e. bee propolis, so I connected this to why the honey mask made my skin feel so unsettled and promptly tried to stop eating anything with honey as well.  But, you might have better effects when trying it.

 

 

 

Braggs vinegarVINEGAR.  I wrote about my experience with this a while back and how applying straight vinegar to already irritated skin is exquisitely painful.  Then I tried diluting it with water (about 1 Tbsp vinegar to 1/4 cup of water).  It does seem to mildly soothe itching and it did not make my skin any worse.  But, I got tired of smelling like a giant pickle and having my husband avoid hugging me.

 

 

 

olive oilOLIVE OIL.  Really any kind of oil is a great and cheap makeup remover.  After my favorite Almay makeup remover pads were found to have aloe vera when I read the ingredient list, I stopped using them and switched to using olive oil, and later grapeseed oil to remove makeup at night.  Excellent for removing makeup.  You can put it on a Q-tip if you’re trying to remove eyeliner.  I also tried using olive oil to wash my face (look online for tips…. usually they say to use 1 part castor oil to 3 parts olive oil – the castor oil is supposed to draw out impurities), but I didn’t have any castor oil.  I appreciate the feel of moist skin as much as any dry-skin afflicted person, but this left an uncomfortably greasy feeling.  I also tried olive oil as an overall face moisturizer…. but to be honest, I felt like it was suffocating my skin.  And, this might be coincidental, (as I couldn’t pinpoint ANYTHING with my wildly fluctuating skin at the time), but when I stopped using olive oil as a moisturizer… my skin got a lot clearer and softer.  My theory was that it was preventing my skin from making its own moisture.

GRAPESEED OIL.  So now this is the only oil that I use on my face.  I use it as a makeup remover and I also use it under my moisturizer.  I use it on my body too after I get out of the shower or bath.  I love this stuff and you can read more about it in my current skincare routine post.

OatmealOATMEAL.  This is my super great winner out of all natural remedies.  Not only do I eat oatmeal every morning, but I gently wash my face with it morning and night!  (At night, I first wash with a very gentle Paula’s Choice cleanser).  You can put oatmeal in a food processor and make very fine ground oat dust, which is what I do.  You can also use quick oats in a pinch, but it’s messier in the bathroom and can clog up the sink.  I also put  a handful of the dust in my bathwater.  This has been WONDERFUL at soothing any flares and my face felt very soft and soothed afterwards.

Are there any other natural remedies I have missed?  I’ve also read about yogurt masks, but since dairy doesn’t seem to like my skin when I eat it, I’m reticent to put it ON my skin.

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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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Visual Display of Futility

A sampling of some of the products I’ve used to try and get my face and/or body skin under control.  This doesn’t even include products that I used up, or that I returned because they didn’t work for me (I’m looking at you, shea butter).  Most of them didn’t work, so they sit in my cabinet because I can’t return them and I don’t know what to do with them.  Free skincare, anyone?

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Don’t Believe the Hype on Hypoallergenic

There are a ton of products out there touted as being “hypoallergenic” or “for sensitive skin” or “unscented”.  As an eczema sufferer/one with exquisitely sensitive skin, one must be wary of claims so that you can buy things in good faith and have them work for your skin and not irritate it.  For example, you want to look for products that are “fragrance-free” rather than “unscented”.  Unscented may mean that the manufacturer has actually ADDED scent to neutralize other scents.  Fragrance-free simply means that no extra fragrance was added – the product may have a slight natural fragrance.

Below are some examples of products I’ve tried that sounded great for sensitive skin, but in actuality, were a big disaster for me.  Again, the disclaimer – I’m only one person.  I’m not here to demonize any products and I am not saying they’ll be bad for you, necessarily.  My skin may be a lot different from yours even if we both have eczema and sensitive skin.  I’m Caucasian, mid-20s, female, medium skin tone, dry skin in winter and combination skin in summer.  I am usually struggling with some type of dry patch or random little rashy breakout on my face.  To the products!!!!

Cera Ve Moisturizing Lotion:

This started a whole lot of badness for me.  Ok, it was winter, I was desperate, I saw this lotion (with the National Eczema Seal of Approval, yet!!) and figured it had to be awesome.  Tried it for a few weeks, it made my eczema WORSE and gave my face a horrid dry feeling.  Like feeling as if I was wearing a mask and the skin might crack if I smiled or raised my eyebrows.  My skin got so bad I went to the dermy (my personal slang for dermatologist 🙂 ), who said it might be the parabens in this product.  Stopped using it, got better, never looked back to Cera Ve again.  (I had also bought the Face Wash which, incidentally, had parabens as well.)  I hear this works awesome for many people, but not me.

Aveeno Ultra-Calming Moisturizer, Aveeno Skin Relief Body Lotion

Aveeno always seems to project itself as being for people with sensitive skin.  The claims on these looked great – Ultra calming?  Yes!  I need calm!  Skin relief??  Yes Please!  My skin does indeed need relief!  Well.  The facial moisturizers are all pretty heavily fragranced.  I USED to be able to use them years ago, with pretty nice skin.  The last time I put it on, a couple months ago, my cheeks started itching wildly and I couldn’t wash the stuff off fast enough.  With the body lotion, this specific one has shea butter, and I’ve mentioned my trials with that stuff.  It probably would be wonderful if you didn’t have a shea butter sensitivity like me, though, as it really does moisturize all day.

 

 

California Baby Calendula Cream

I really did my research on this one.  I figured, tons of mothers of sensitive-skinned little babies can’t be wrong, can they?  This stuff is also EXPENSIVE so I was hesitant to buy it.  When I put this stuff on, sometimes it would sting so bad I would literally be hopping around the bathroom fanning my face, “Ouch!  Ouch!!!  OUCH!”  I still don’t really know what to think about this one.  On the one hand, it seemed like it may have improved some eczema patches.  On the other hand, it stung, and it contains lavender which, while smelling nice, isn’t an ingredient you want in skin care products.  I also found the natural lavender fragrance to have a gross smell since I used the stuff on my face and had to smell it all day.

 

 

Almay Nearly Naked Cover Up Stick

Excited for the prospect of a new concealer, I gave this a whirl this past winter.  Almay has been a brand that, overall, I have trusted for quite a few years makeup-wise.  They have a great mascara (without parabens!) called Get up and Grow that is waterproof (a must since I love to get my sweat on with exercise) AND makes your lashes look long yet still natural (I go for the cute athletic look, not the drag queen look).  I also use their liquid eyeliner and pencil eyeliner for special occasions.  These eyeliners DO have parabens but I haven’t determined yet if the small amount in them bothers my skin.

Anyhow, this cover-up stick was something awful.  I still don’t know what was in it that made me react, since it was touted (along with the whole brand) as being good for sensitive skin, but it completely rashed me out.  Then it was a vicious cycle of having to cover the rashes with more cover up, which made MORE rashes, until I figured the whole damn thing out in a few days and realized the cover up was bad news.  It DID cover nicely, though, so I was disappointed I had such a reaction to it.

Eczema friends out there, have YOU had any experiences like these with suggestions on what products to avoid?

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