Category Archives: Clothing and Appearance

TSW Clothing and My Victory Shirt

When you are going through TSW, the things you can comfortably wear change radically.  Some people can’t bear to have clothes touching their skin at all; some people need to be all wrapped up in layers due to wild temperature fluctuations and chills.  Some people want to wear minimal clothing and have their skin exposed to the air and sun, some people want to be totally covered so their rashes are exposed as little as possible.

I am one of the types that wanted to be covered up, since I continued to work full-time and attend school part-time and didn’t want people looking and asking questions, plus I’m one of those people who is fine with being too warm, but just detests being too cold.

Here are some miscellaneous clothing tips for those in TSW!  Keep in mind these are coming from the perspective of a 20 something female and they are just what worked for me personally, so they may not apply to everyone.  Also, the clothing pictured is examples, and not the specific items I wore.

 

cardigans

I have a couple cardigans that served me very well in TSW. They are lightweight and breathable, and great for layering. Best part is that I could quickly take them off in the restroom at work to scratch frantically for a bit, and then put them calmly back on when I was done. Many of my cardigans also happened to have extra-long sleeves, so they were great for covering up my rashy hands at the time. Also, since you can easily change the look with a cardigan (different tops underneath, add a scarf, etc)., I could get away with wearing them to work very frequently.

 

I was also a big fan of the waffle shirt, when it was cooler outside.  These thermal tops are lightweight but breathable, making them perfect for the temperature fluctuations of TSW whether you be sweating or shivering.  The ones I have are pretty tight fitting to the body, so they also acted as a nice scratching deterrent, since I couldn't roll up my sleeves enough to fully get at my arms and attack them.

I was also a big fan of the waffle shirt, when it was cooler outside. These thermal tops are lightweight but breathable, making them perfect for the temperature fluctuations of TSW whether you be sweating or shivering. The ones I have are pretty tight fitting to the body, so they also acted as a nice scratching deterrent, since I couldn’t roll up my sleeves enough to fully get at my arms and attack them.

 

Those funny tops with thumbhole sleeves are another superb invention that I grew to really appreciate with TSW and the time when my hands looked ravaged.  I have two tops with these type of sleeves and it was nice to just slip these on and not have to worry that my red hands would be revealed.  Plus they are nice at keeping your hands warm when it's cold out.

Those funny tops with thumbhole sleeves are another superb invention that I grew to really appreciate with TSW and the time when my hands looked ravaged. I have two tops with these type of sleeves and it was nice to just slip these on and not have to worry that my red hands would be revealed. Plus they are nice at keeping your hands warm when it’s cold out.

 

 

Exercise-type material shirts are a MUST for TSW.  As soon as I would get home from work, I would shed all my work clothes and put on a long sleeved "tech shirt" from one of my past races.  They can be breathable and loose-fitting and oh so comfortable.

Exercise-type material shirts are a MUST for TSW. As soon as I would get home from work, I would shed all my work clothes and put on a long sleeved “tech shirt” from one of my past races. They can be breathable and loose-fitting and oh so comfortable.  Then I just looked like a really cool athletic runner girl instead of a miserable itchy being.

 

Similar to cardigans but a little more casual, the cocoon sweater is a magnificent invention to be dressed up or down.  I have over a half-dozen in this style and the layering potential is limitless.  I can't wear short sleeves yet due to my scabby, scarred upper arms, which sucks as it's nearly summer, but the 3/4 sleeve length cocoon sweater is perfect for all seasons, even hot ones.  Just layer this over a tank top and you stay cool AND covered up.

Similar to cardigans but a little more casual (I always found typical cardigans with buttons to look a little frumpy sometimes), the cocoon sweater is a magnificent invention to be dressed up or down. I have over a half-dozen in this style and the layering potential is limitless. I can’t wear short sleeves yet due to my scabby, scarred upper arms, which sucks as it’s nearly summer, but the 3/4 sleeve length cocoon sweater is perfect for all seasons, even hot ones. Just layer this over a tank top and you stay cool AND covered up, and no one is the wiser that your arms look like a battlefield.

 

I think I mentioned before in a post that I developed a huge appreciation for scarves while in the throes of really bad TSW symptoms on my neck (oozing, flaking, red, blotchy, patchy, swollen lymph nodes, the whole bit).  I went through a period where I wore a scarf every single day for a good 1-2 months.  Plus a well placed scarf that goes well with your outfit always seems to make people look poised and pulled together, rather than the TSW look of "unfortunate red itchy person".

I think I mentioned before in a post that I developed a huge appreciation for scarves while in the throes of really bad TSW symptoms on my neck (oozing, flaking, red, blotchy, patchy, swollen lymph nodes, the whole bit). I went through a period where I wore a scarf every single day for a good 1-2 months. Plus a well placed scarf that goes well with your outfit always seems to make people look poised and pulled together, rather than the TSW look of “unfortunate red itchy person”.

 

Socks, to me at least, were sort of a quandry with TSW.  If I wore knee high socks like these, I kept warm, but sometimes having that fabric tight against my skin all day would make me want nothing more than to immediately rip them off when I got home from work and attack my legs.  However, short socks meant that my legs were easily accessible, and there was many a time at work when I'd be rolling up my pant legs under my desk and scratching away.  I guess you have to choose for yourself what kind of socks work for you....especially if you have bad TSW symptoms on your feet, which I was fortunate not to have.  You probably want something really light and breathable like bamboo material or athletic socks (not 100% cotton socks).

Socks, to me at least, were sort of a quandry with TSW. If I wore knee high socks like these, I kept warm, but sometimes having that fabric tight against my skin all day would make me want nothing more than to immediately rip them off when I got home from work and attack my legs. However, short socks meant that my legs were easily accessible, and there was many a time at work when I’d be rolling up my pant legs under my desk and scratching away. I guess you have to choose for yourself what kind of socks work for you….especially if you have bad TSW symptoms on your feet, which I was fortunate not to have. You probably want something really light and breathable like bamboo material or athletic socks (not 100% cotton socks).

 

Loose fitting cropped athletic or yoga type pants were another must have.  Really if you have TSW, throw many notions of style out the window and focus on being as comfortable as you can.  I promise, no one minds if you look like a slob for a while.  I liked sleeping in this type of pant, because it made it a little tougher to get at my thighs and scratch them (Normally I wore shorts to bed and that made it WAYYY too easy to wake up with itches everywhere).

Loose fitting cropped athletic or yoga type pants were another must have. Really if you have TSW, throw many notions of style out the window and focus on being as comfortable as you can. I promise, no one minds if you look like a slob for a while. I liked sleeping in this type of pant, because it made it a little tougher to get at my thighs and scratch them (Normally I wore shorts to bed and that made it WAYYY too easy to wake up with itches everywhere).

 

Now we get into the realm of underclothing.  I had really obnoxious TSW oozing and itching right in the groin area.  And it was right where the seam of bikini-type underwear would hit.  I never used TS near my groin, but there are a ton of lymph nodes here and I'd venture to say others of us are probably dealing with similar symptoms near the private areas.  I did two things for this - 1. boy short style underwear worked well since it didn't rub on the oozy itchy areas and thus irritate them more.  2. I recommend getting some underwear that's a size too big.  This way it won't constrict or rub.  (Or you could go commando, but that was never my preference!)

Now we get into the realm of underclothing. I had really obnoxious TSW oozing and itching right in the groin area. And it was right where the seam of bikini-type underwear would hit. I never used TS near my groin, but there are a ton of lymph nodes here and I’d venture to say others of us are probably dealing with similar symptoms near the private areas. I did two things for this – 1. boy short style underwear worked well since it didn’t rub on the oozy itchy areas and thus irritate them more. 2. I recommend getting a few pairs of underwear that are a size too big. This way it won’t constrict or rub. (Or you could go commando, but that was never my preference!)

The last overall thing that I want to emphasize for clothing is that you are probably going to have a bunch of clothing that is ruined after TSW is done, so make sure that you’re not wearing anything that is really important to you.  Yes, it’s gross and unfortunate, but your clothes will probably get stained by blood or ooze.  They will be full of flakes.  They will end up getting smeared with Vaseline or oil, which is very hard to get out.  You will end up wearing the same outfits again and again, and completely stop caring what people think.  Life becomes “survival mode” with just trying to look reasonably human, rather than caring about style or vanity.

I am now halfway through the 5th month of TSW.  Things have been going quite well ever since I passed the first 3 months.  I still flare on my limbs, but every subsequent flare is less intense than the one before.  I’m pretty much still looking like the pictures in one of my previous posts.

My arms are still my biggest trouble spots.  They are full of scars and some scabs and just don’t look good.  Sometimes I look down at them and feel like they look okay, and then I see them in the mirror and realize they have a ways to go.  My left arm is a lot better than my right, for some reason.  They don’t ITCH badly anymore, but they seem to keep developing new scabs which are tempting to pick at.  I haven’t worn short sleeves in public since December and it doesn’t look like I’ll be able to any time soon.

But when I AM fully healed, I will celebrate by wearing my VICTORY SHIRT.  (It’s motivating to have some kind of “Victory Outfit” to keep in mind through the journey of TSW, similar to how someone with a weight-loss goal might buy a beautiful dress in several sizes smaller and keep that in their closet to look at.)  Back in early January, right before I formally stopped all steroids, I was at the mall and found an awesome halter top on clearance.  It’s dark grey with small ruffles around the halter part, and little shiny grey sequins sewn onto these ruffles.  Very cute and sexy and it fit perfectly.  (Tried to find a picture online but could not).  At the time I was still married, and my (ex)husband somewhat rudely asked, “And when are you going to wear THAT, with all the rashes you have?”  (Mean.)  But even though I wasn’t too aware of TSW at the time, I somehow KNEW I would triumph over this damn skin thing, and that one glorious day, I would finally have clear skin and would put on this top, no longer caring that it leaves my upper back, shoulders, and arms exposed to the world.  I don’t care if it’s a month from now or a year from now – I am going to beat this topical steroid addiction into the ground, and when I do – my Victory Shirt will be waiting for me!  😀

Do you have a “victory” item of clothing you are looking forward to wearing when TSW is over?  Any other clothing suggestions of things that worked for you?

 

 

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An Attitude of Gratitude – Being Thankful for Thankless Things

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances…”
(from the Bible, 1 Thessalonians 16-18)

Seeing the ‘silver lining’ or the bigger purpose in things is a very powerful tool toward optimism, hope, and having control over your handling of your existence.  Joey on the ITSAN forum has a great quote in her signature – “It’s not what happens to you in life, it’s how you respond”.  So today I am making a list of some negative things in my life, and why I am actually thankful for them.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not dancing in glorious jubilee with having to go through TSW and all this stuff, but if I have to go through it, at least I can appreciate that there may be inherent benefits to things that, on the surface, are pretty thankless.

I’m thankful that TSW and my divorce are happening simultaneously.

These are clearly the two biggest emotional stressors in my life right now, but the same basic tenant applies to handling them.  Do what you have to do to make things as right as you can for yourself.  Try to minimize stresses from them.  Utilize other people for support if needed.  When you feel like you can’t deal with this anymore, just keep living one day at a time, or even one hour at a time.  Always have something small to look forward to in order to get through the day, even if that just means finally going to bed.

The initial shock of having all these trials at once plus a very stressful time with work and school has strengthened my ability of pure, raw perseverance.  Inside there’s a little spark burning that cheers, “I’m doing it!  I’m handling all these things with grace and determination!  I did not give up and I WILL not give up!”  I feel equipped to handle almost any life event that comes my way in the future now because I was plunged into handling so many at once.

And I think the effect of handling both at once is ultimately better than if they were to have happened in succession.  Plus, when I get done with both of them, I’m going to emerge a new and better person, with healed skin and a stronger sense of identity and purpose.

I’m thankful for my itchy, red, oozing, TSW-terrific thighs and groin.

(I know, gross.)  What?!?!  How can I be thankful for that?  Well, if I had to pick a place to have my crazy worst TSW symptoms, this is really the best place.  No one is going to see it.  If I had this crap going on all over my face, you best believe I would be hibernating in a cave like a bear and not coming out for the next year.  This is still horribly annoying and itchy, but I can deal with it.  No close-up pictures of this, sorry, the one I posted before of my thigh was pretty tame.  I know you’re all sorely disappointed.

I’m thankful for winter.

Anyone that really knows me personally will know I’m a vehement winter-hater, so for me to say this is a huge departure from the norm.  Here in the Midwest, winter is hanging on with a vengeance, but this year I’m actually glad for it, as I can stay swaddled in my big sweaters and scarves for a while yet and have most everything covered up until my TSW skin gets better.

I’m thankful for TSW because it increased my school productivity.

I had tons of deadlines and projects especially these last few months with school.  If I hadn’t had TSW, I would be my normal distracted self – able to get work done, but often getting derailed by stuff like exercise, reading, and cleaning.  On days when my skin hurt all over and I didn’t even want to walk from one place to another, at least I could sit still at the computer and work on projects for a while (while of course still itching constantly).  And living with my parents means much less housework – I’m living out of one bedroom instead of being responsible for the upkeep of an entire home, which definitely used to cut into free time and school time.  Speaking of living with parents…..

I’m thankful for living with my parents.

So I guess in a warped way, I must also be thankful for my impending divorce because otherwise I never WOULD have ended up living at my parents.  But living with my parents provides a less-stressful environment for undergoing TSW.  I started my withdrawal in late January while still living with my husband.  It was pretty abysmal – he wasn’t too helpful around the house, I was red all the time and ashamed to let him see me that way, I was dry and itchy so I was absolutely no fun, I just wanted to stay in the house all the time.  He also wasn’t very understanding of my condition, advising me to see a doctor (Hello!–Been there – they’ve been no help) and getting terribly frustrated with all my weird dietary kicks like Elimination and Candida.  In retrospect, he was a piss-poor emotional support for me with TSW, as in non-existent.  (One of the very last days I lived there, the last sincerely tender loving gesture I remember him doing was to crawl into bed next to me as I was dozing off in my red state, hugging me tightly and saying he felt bad for me because “you looked like you were dying”.  Wow, I knew I looked bad, but on my deathbed?  Geez.)  However, in some ways, I don’t blame him, as any spouse or partner would definitely have their moments of getting fed up with everything revolving around the other person’s skin and how they feel.  I get it.  He didn’t have a “normal” wife anymore – he essentially had a patient on his hands who was very sick and needed much more care than he understood or was willing to provide.

So being out of that environment and with my parents seems to be good for TSW.  Certainly I have the minor gripes of living out of 1 bedroom, having to share a bathroom with everyone, not getting to cook whatever I want whenever I want, and feeling stuck in this weird quasi-adult/child state where I’m a grown woman with a full-time job but come home to Mommy and Daddy.  However, the benefits quite outweigh this – I barely have to do any house cleaning, I’m saving money on bills, I’m mostly left to my own devices, they don’t mind in the least that I became a TSW hermit who likes to just stay in the house as much as possible, and most nights I even get a home cooked meal for dinner.  Plus being around my parents is generally calming and soothing – they’re quiet people and are there to be supportive if I need it, but are non-intrusive.  I really can’t thank them enough for all the sacrifices they’ve made to allow me to live back with them again.

I’m thankful for TSW because it enhanced my sheer appreciation for all the beauty in the world.

When I’m covered in rashes, it’s easy to be hyper-focused on all the bad things.  You know how there are stunningly beautiful girls out there in the world that are super obsessed with ONE tiny facet of their appearance, like they think their ears stick out too much or something?  I have so many ‘flaws’ going on that I can’t even be obsessed with one thing anymore, I’ve transcended that whole vanity thing in many ways.  I am what I am; I make no apologies for my shortcomings, in the grand scheme of the universe I’m just a little tiny blip on the horizon, here to live out my days as vibrantly and peacefully as I can.  Life is short and it’s not all about what we look like.  That’s a big part of our self-esteem and it’s easy to get hung up on it, but I try really hard not to.  I need improvement at this, because if I look bad, I feel bad, but I still try.  So if I don’t feel beautiful, I start to revel in the beautiful things I DO notice.  Flowers.  Clouds.  Bright colors.  Luxurious smells.  And I’ve learned, through this experience, to notice the beauty in every person.  Everyone is beautiful!  It’s not just cosmetic!  I don’t care if you’re overweight/depressed/disfigured/whatever and feel terrible about yourself, I will probably notice you have really nice hair/skin/personality/kind heart/whatever… and even if I don’t notice, SOMEONE will.  Some of the most beautiful people are that way because of their actions, not because of their looks.  Remember… “To the world you are one person…but to one person, you are the world!”

Are there “thankless” things in YOUR life that you’ve become thankful for?

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Living with TSW – A Day in the Life of My Skin

This is an overall day in the life of my skin over the past 2 months, since I’m close to the 2 month mark of Topical Steroid Withdrawal.

Early Morning:
I used to love early morning – morning was my favorite time of day.  I still LIKE morning, but now it’s tarnished by the apprehension of what’s going to greet me in the mirror.  My alarm goes off and I gingerly run my fingers over my face and neck and around my eyes, tactilely assessing how bad the day’s flakes, dryness, and puffiness are going to be.  Wishing I could just stay in bed for days on end until my skin looks better, I drag myself out of bed and over to the mirror.  If I have puffy eyes, it is going to be in the morning, and if I have to put ice on them, my mood immediately dips a notch.  The left side of my face has always been more problematic than the right, and my left eye will get way more puffy or dry and make me look like a half-elephant.  I guess I should be glad that at least the other eye usually behaves, but the idea of looking asymmetrical, especially since I feel like everyone I talk to looks me in the eye and notices, really makes me self-conscious.  I can tell that I’m healing though, because in Month 1 of withdrawal I was waking up with puffy eyes every day, and now I don’t have to put ice on them in the morning.  My face is usually, actually not too red in the morning, but this is when it is super dry since I’ve rolled around restlessly during the night and probably rubbed off all my Vaseline I put on.

Later in the Morning:
I’m off to work after having carefully applied moisturizer and concealer and choosing an outfit that either hides my extremely red neck, or carefully applying concealer to that too.  I’m sure it would be a little better to just let the skin be free and not covered by makeup, but I’ve patch tested my concealer and it doesn’t provoke any reaction.  Also, if I don’t use any, I itch just the same, so I’ve come to the conclusion that for now, I use it in order to get by, although now I have to use it over almost my entire face.  There was a day early on before withdrawal when I was flaring where I barely used any concealer and all the people’s stares hurt my feelings.  So no more – I do what I have to do to feel human.  Now that I’m in month 2, my neck is red almost all the way around, the border stops where my neck ends and my back starts – where a t-shirt collar would start – my upper back has never had any eczema and has been a completely clear portion of my body (one of the few) throughout TSW – probably because I never applied steroids there.  Also, now my neck is so completely dry and flaky that any concealer looks really bad and emphasizes the dryness.  I either wear a high neck shirt or a scarf to work every single day.  I’ve developed a new appreciation for accessorizing with scarves – I have quite a wardrobe of them now.  They’re the only outfit accessories I can have since I had to stop wearing all jewelry – necklaces rub on my raw neck, bracelets draw attention to my rashy hands and wrists, my ears ooze and flake so earrings are out, and well, I don’t wear my wedding rings anymore since the divorce is underway.  I also have to choose shirts with extra-long sleeves since my hands are really bad.  However, this is a pretty good time of day – my second favorite time besides bathtime/bedtime.  I like being in the car driving to work, and I like arriving for the day and feeling productive, getting ready to get things done.  Because my skin has just been moisturized, it usually doesn’t itch and I’m able to put it out of my mind for the time being.

Midday:
I head to the bathroom to wash my hands before I eat lunch.  I am carrying my own bar of soap from home (Dove sensitive) because my skin can’t tolerate the soap in our work’s bathrooms.  My hands are ripped up enough already, they don’t need any more irritants!  In the privacy of the bathroom stall, I pull out a tiny mirror that I always carry in my pocket, checking my face and seeing how it’s holding up.  If my face starts looking bad, I have a little emergency stash of moisturizer, concealer, and tweezers back at my desk.  I almost never pull it out, because I don’t like to obsess about my face at work.  I’ve gotten used to it and so I leave it alone.

Afternoon:
We probably have some kind of work meeting, and I start getting more uncomfortable and dry.  I covertly try to itch places where no one will see.  I constantly tug my shirt sleeves down over my wrists so that no one will see my hands.  It’s not that I care if people SEE them, as I no longer have much shame about looking bad, but I don’t want people asking stupid questions about my skin.  This is when boredom and annoyance hit, where I start to get fed up with sitting at my desk and want to go home for the day.  This is also the time when I begin to get a little bit itchy… or, well, a LOT itchy.  I escape to a restroom stall again and give my legs and thighs a good hard scratch.  Often I scratch until my skin gets raw and oozy.  I can’t control it a lot of the time.  This is also the time when, if my eyes are going to start bothering me, now is the time that they really start to annoy me.  The skin around my eyes has been dry and tight ever since I started TSW and on occasions before that, and it starts to get very uncomfortable as the day wears on.  It doesn’t help that my work involves staring at a computer screen all day either, since my eyes always feel better on the weekends.

Late Afternoon:
Oh thank goodness, work is over.  Even though I want to pick at my face and itch it, I can resist the temptation for now because it doesn’t truly itch, and I don’t want to get all flaky when I have things to do yet.  However, I can’t wait to get home as the first thing I’m going to do is rip off all my clothes and scratch everywhere.  It’s bad, but it feels so good to itch!  I worry that even when I am done with TSW, that I won’t be able to stop itching as it will be such an ingrained habit.

Evening:
Around 7 or 8 pm, I have a “skin curfew”.  Every single day around this time, without fail, my skin begins to itch in waves that do not stop and are not satiated until finally I have scratched until I am flaking and oozing a bit.  I am told this is normal for TSW and has to do with a drop in cortisol levels. This is the “please God make it stop” type of itching that I cannot distract myself from, no matter what I try.  There is no self-control or willpower on earth that could keep someone from this – I’ve tried!  Because I’ve been covertly itching the rest of me throughout the day, this “itch attack” mainly involves my face and neck.  I can somewhat divert this itch attack if I get in the bathtub and go through my routine early in the night.  Otherwise it’s a lost cause.  Very thankfully, I’ve noticed in the past few weeks that this “itch attack” has been minimized or even sometimes can be avoided.  For example I’m posting this at night around 9:30 and I managed to not go crazy clawing at my face and neck, I just itched a little bit along my jawline and then I was able to cut myself off and stop.  I consider that progress!

Bedtime:
Time for my routine of bathing, exfoliating, moisturizing, etc.  My face and neck are dry and flaky from having gone through the entire day.  I’ve hit upon the system of rubbing olive oil on and then using very finely ground oatmeal mixed with olive oil and water to make a paste on my face and gently rub away the dry skin.  Then I rub at the skin very gently with my fingertips and more little rolls of skin come off.  I go through my other rituals of washing and moisturizing, etc. and then give myself a last look in the mirror.  Although my skin is extremely red and patchy, it at least looks clean and smooth – right before I smother it in oil and Vaseline and get all greasy.  I love nighttime because I finally get to be in bed.  I’ve been looking forward to this all day, from the time I got up.  Bed is my “safe place”, my haven, my warm cocoon.  Here I can sit alone and not have to think about my skin.  Even though TSW has messed with my sleep patterns, leaving me with many nights of lying awake until early hours, here no one is looking at me or judging me, and I’m alone in glorious privacy to finally nod off, putting another day behind me, another day closer to healing.

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30 Days Without Steroids

One month without using steroids!  Let me recap and just give a little bit of my brief steroid history, because if what I’m going through is TSW (and I think it is), I wasn’t a long-term nor hugely habitual steroid user, so my pattern of healing may be different (quicker?  I hope!) than some of the other personal accounts online.  In a following post I’m going to put up some pictures that will give a better visual demonstration of this.

I first remember being prescribed steroids around age 19-20 when I had some eyelid dermatitis/eczema.  I had always had somewhat sensitive skin and had eczema as a child on my limbs, but it was never treated with steroids at that time as it was moderate to mild.  I’m not sure what caused it, but it could have been a makeup allergy… anything really.  I was given Desonide compounded into a cream ‘safe’ to use around the eyes and I used it for probably a few weeks – my memory is fuzzy at this point.

The next few years I don’t remember very well, steroid-wise, but I wasn’t in too bad of shape as I don’t remember being hyper-focused on my skin’s state like I am now.  Somewhere along the way I must have had some itchy patches though, as I was introduced to Protopic (not a steroid in the sense of the others) and Mometasone. I used these here and there sporadically – I habitually had red, rashy skin under my nose, so I would sometimes use a dab of them here.  In retrospect, I think the red skin was probably from perioral dermatitis and using some lip product like chapsticks with beeswax.

In the winter of 2011-2012, I had an annoying patchy face rash going on.   I was getting very self-conscious and desperate to heal it.  I had used CeraVe cream to try and make it better and it seemed to only make it worse.  However, this could have been a case of trying so many things to try and heal my skin, as it had been slowly and insidiously spreading and getting rashy after starting with a tiny patch under my left eye that refused to resolve.  The insidiousness also began with me noticing my skin was getting very sensitive and I couldn’t use products I once used, like Aveeno moisturizers.  Around this time, I remember being prescribed a new cream, Elidel (which didn’t seem to do anything for me and was very expensive).

Over the following months, my rashes were in a state of flux, sometimes okay, sometimes not so okay.  Again in retrospect, this could have been linked to using products with aloe, as I found out I was allergic (or perhaps I was NOT initially allergic to aloe, but developed an allergy from using it over time).  I don’t believe that I really used steroids during this time, except for maybe a tiny bit here and there under my nose again.

Over last summer I started getting really fed up.  I had these patchy rashes on my face and no matter WHAT I did, they would not go away.  Sometimes they would improve and sometimes not, but they were stubborn bastards.  I was starting to avoid people so I wouldn’t have to look them in the eye and have them notice my rashes.  My legs were also starting to get rashy in late summer.  I wanted to wear shorts around people, but I was self-conscious about it.  In a fit of desperation one day, I put Mometasone all over them – and woke up the next day with clear skin.  Scary how well, yet how terribly these drugs work.   I think I repeated that cycle with putting Mometasone on my legs one other time.  I had also had a round itchy patch on my knee that wouldn’t heal, and I used Mometasone on that.  Strangely, it only got worse and larger (from about the size of a quarter to the size of maybe a pop can diameter).  Maybe that should have been my first clue.   In September I saw a naturopath and her remedy also made things worse – I had horrible puffy eyes and red skin.

This started a cycle where, although I wanted to avoid steroid creams,  I used Desonide on my face sporadically if things got really bad, as a last resort.  It did seem to improve things, but not too much.  I began seeing a holistic doctor, who thought the cause was my liver or thyroid and had me buy all kinds of supplements that did not end up helping and were a waste of money, in my opinion.

Then in November I had the whole aloe allergy thing.  The dermatologist took one look at me and prescribed Mometasone again, but this time to use on my face, and then Protopic to use once most of the rash had cleared up.  I used the Mometasone for about 4-5 days and then the Protopic sparingly.  Over the next few months, although I KNEW it was bad to use the Mometasone on my face, I did use it a handful of times – one time I had a random rash act up under my eye, and the most recent time my face got completely red and dry when I was sick with a cold and bronchitis.  I also started to have rashes crop up on my body, like on my stomach and back.  My legs looked wrecked all the time and I had given up on them.  I used a little bit of Mometasone to heal my body rashes and I thought maybe it really worked for good, but the rashes came right back after about a week of not using the cream.  The very last time I touched steroids was in January where I used Mometasone on my face for one day when I was sick and I got very red and dry.

Pretty much just a few days after using the Mometasone for the last time, my skin got even worse (this was last month).  This was also the time that i started the Candida Diet in another attempt to heal myself as it made sense to me that I might have Candida (had used antibiotics and birth control in the past, both contributors).  The first/second day of the Candida Diet (where I was eating only vegetables and broth), my face got even redder and my eyes were puffy.  This seemed to either be a ‘rebound reaction’ from using then stopping the steroid, or some kind of detoxing from the Candida diet, or both.  I read a very interesting post the other day from Eczemancipated re: diet and RSS/TSW which may have explained what happened to me.  I had done the Candida diet for about three weeks and didn’t notice any skin improvement (in fact, worsening), although I FELT really good internally, albeit sometimes deprived and hungry.  Diet-wise, because I didn’t see any improvement and because now I recently am under the stressful change of living with my parents and undergoing separation with my husband, I kind of scrapped the true Candida diet.  I can’t cook as many special foods when I’m sharing a small kitchen and fridge with my parents, and the stress caused me to turn to comfort foods like toast and cookies because the stability of my living situation got abruptly uprooted.   I also felt that being a stickler for the diet might have been causing more stress than it was worth in the face of having lots of stress already.   Sure, I probably should have stuck it out for longer to see what happens, but I still AM taking the supplements, like probiotics, eating lots of fresh vegetables, eating minimally processed foods for the most part, trying to avoid sugar and fake sugar for the most part, and still avoiding fruit, dairy, chocolate, and nuts.  Avoiding gluten didn’t seem to make a difference in my skin, so now I do have some toast or crackers every day, but I don’t go crazy with gluten and eat it at every meal.

So.  Now that it has been a month, how am I doing?

  • RED.  My face and neck are still about as red as ever, but the redness SEEMS to very slowly be fading.  It’s more blotchy than all one color, which seems promising.  It’s not as prominent as it was a few weeks ago.  I still have to wear concealer if I want to look normal, as I’m scary looking otherwise, but thankfully it seems to be improving.
  • ITCHY.  For the most part, I’m itchy most of the time, but it isn’t something that is completely uncontrollable, and I can usually distract myself, like if I’m at work.  However, a few nights ago I had a huge horrible itching attack where my face and neck began to itch.  My face and neck always seems to get somewhat itchy in the evenings, just after the duration of the day and probably getting dry.  Knowing what would happen (an inevitable itch cycle), I itched just a little bit and hoped that would settle things down.  I should know better ’cause it never works.  An uncontrollable itch began to start and spread all over my face and neck.  After trying to ignore it for about the longest 30 seconds ever, I hightailed it to my bedroom, shut the door, and began the blessed relief yet curse of  mercilessly itching my face and neck.  I keep my fingernails short so I didn’t do much damage, but it was like the itch to end all itches.  I thought it would never stop.  I was entering the horrible itch realm.  The realm of begging, pleading, “PLEASE GOD MAKE IT STOP”.  What does it feel like to be a person that doesn’t itch?  Or one that can just itch a single spot normally, and then be done?  I haven’t known that feeling for years and feel like I’ll never know.
  • OOZY.  Some people with TSW wake up in a state of ooze.  They are exuding crazy amounts of liquid.  I didn’t use steroids long-term, so thankfully I don’t wake up soaked or anything, but I did have a few spots that did this.  I had a random itchy oozy patch on my upper leg near the groin, and then my earlobes (which have been very flaky and dry for months) will sometimes ooze and crust at night.  Nothing huge though thankfully.
  • DRY.  I felt like my skin would never make its own moisture again over the past few weeks.  It was so dry that even slathering it with olive oil and then putting Vaseline on top didn’t completely help things.  I got gleefully excited the other day when I finally had a small pimple, as this meant my skin seemed to finally be manufacturing oil.  I sometimes feel like I should use NOTHING on my face at night and let it try to learn to ‘make its own moisture’, if you will, but it gets too dry and uncomfortable to use nothing.  I seem to be very, very slowly getting better regarding dry skin, but by the end of the day, my face is tight and uncomfortable – around my eyes especially, which is very annoying as I constantly feel like they are puffy and half-closed, because the skin on my eyelids is so tight.  It prevents me from making full facial expressions or genuinely smiling if it’s really bad.   If I look closely by the end of the day, the upper layer of skin has become flaky (notably in the places I used steroids most – around the eyes and around my mouth), and I can go through a cycle of peeling off these flakes which then repeats itself the next day – moisturize, dry/tight, flake and peel, repeat.  After I moisturize, my skin FEELS soft to the touch, but still looks red.  This is encouraging to me as it wasn’t always soft to the touch!
  • SKIN SMELL.  I mentioned my skin had a weird smell in a previous post, kind of like wet paint, but very faint.  The oozy parts did have this smell, but it seems to be dissipating.  Healthy color also seems to be coming slowly back into my skin, notably my legs.
  • PUFFY EYES.  When I started the Candida diet around a month ago, I would frequently wake up with puffy eyes.  I had to get up earlier than normal to put ice on them before work.  Although I still wake up with *somewhat* puffy eyes, they are overall better in that respect and I haven’t had to ice them for a few days.  I’m also hoping that after all of this nonsense heals, my eyes will have their Dennie-Morgan lines fade and become less prominent.  (These are lines under the eyes, also called ‘atopic pleats’, that are markers of allergies and dermatitis.  Other people might not notice them, especially if they aren’t right up close in my face, but I feel like they make me look older and more tired, hence I get self-conscious of them.  I always HAD them very faintly since I was a kid, but they got more noticeable when my eczema got worse.)
  • MISCELLANEOUS.  Other bloggers have talked about non-skin symptoms like sweating, temperature regulation, and hair loss.  For whatever reason, my eyelashes seem to be getting more sparse and less lush.  With body temperature, it’s not anything drastic, but I’ll have sporadic days where I feel warm and cold at the same time, or instances where I just can’t seem to warm up.  It IS February in the midwest, so the near-zero wind chills have not been helping.
  • BODY RASHES.  My legs, stomach, and lower back seem to be slowly getting better.  A few weeks ago they had widespread scattered rashes, which have now scabbed up/dried up and seem to be slowly, slowly healing.  They are also not as itchy, even though it’s still tempting for me to itch and pick at them.  My elbow creases, shoulder area, and wrists all have rashes too, but these also don’t seem to be getting any worse – they’re unsightly (I have sometimes even been using a little bit of concealer on the backs of my hands at work so the rashes aren’t as noticeable), but seem to very, very slowly be drying up and scabbing off.  Sometimes the dryness is very painful and feels like a sunburn.  I was limping the other day because the area behind my knee was hurting when I bend it, or it will hurt to bend my arms because of the dry rash in my elbow creases.  I know I could go through another flare with the cycles of TSW, but I remain optimistic that a few more months of healing will bring me right into spring and summer and by then I’ll be able to wear mostly whatever I want again… I HOPE!  😀

 

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The Exodus, and TSW Symptom Checklist

THE EXODUS

An EXODUS is defined as a going out or a departure, usually of a large group of people (i.e., a “mass exodus”).  Today, I had an exodus.  What happened exactly was this.  In the throes of all my marital difficulties, I decided I was going to secretly move out and not say anything to my husband, and do this at a time he was gone so that he wouldn’t know.  Let him worry, let him figure out why I didn’t come home.  Let him get lonely when he has to get into an empty bed.  He’s probably going to figure out that I’m now living at my parents’ house temporarily, but it gave me a sense of control to plan this behind his back, I was actually kind of gleeful about having a secret.

The perfect opportunity presented itself this afternoon when he went to go to dinner with his parents – I sprang into action, hurriedly throwing food into bags, clothing into a hamper, and all my many toiletries into a crate.  Before I drove hell-bent over to my parents’ house, I gave him the kind parting gift of washing the bedding and changing the sheets.  I really don’t know if I truly have RSS/TSW or not, but my skin has been crazy shedding over the past few weeks.  We have dark colored sheets, so I can see every bit of skin that’s been scratched or rubbed off during the night.  I’m like the Human Dandruff Maker.  Although a vindictive part of me wanted to leave the sheets, skin flakes and all, I decided to be the bigger person and not do that.  Bits of dead skin all over the place are probably not what I want him to remember me by!

WHAT GOES AROUND

Earlier that day, I was at the gym and listening to a mix of songs, when on comes Justin Timberlake’s “What Goes Around”.  I nearly stopped short on the treadmill…. what a perfect song for my current situation with my husband.  (Lyrics slightly edited).

Hey boy, you were everything I want in a man
You know I gave you the world
You had me in the palm of your hand
So why your love went away
I just can’t seem to understand
Thought it was me and you babe
Me and you until the end
But I guess I was wrong

Don’t want to think about it
Don’t want to talk about it
I’m just so sick about it
Can’t believe it’s ending this way
Just so confused about it
Feeling the blues about it
I just can’t do without ya
Tell me is this fair?

Is this the way it’s really going down?
Is this how we say goodbye?
Should’ve known better when you came around
That you were gonna make me cry
It’s breaking my heart to watch you run around
‘Cause I think that you’re living a lie
That’s okay baby ’cause in time you will find…

What goes around, goes around, goes around
Comes all the way back around

Now boy, I remember everything that you claimed
You said you wanted to move on now
And maybe I should do the same
Funny thing about that is
We made a promise and I took your last name
Thought it was me and you, babe
And now, it’s all just a shame
And I guess I was wrong

Don’t want to think about it
Don’t want to talk about it
I’m just so sick about it
Can’t believe it’s ending this way
Just so confused about it
Feeling the blues about it
I just can’t do without ya
Can you tell me is this fair?

Is this the way it’s really going down?
Is this how we say goodbye?
Should’ve known better when you came around
That you were going to make me cry
Now it’s breaking my heart to watch you run around
‘Cause I think that you’re living a lie
That’s okay baby ’cause in time you will find

What goes around, goes around, goes around
Comes all the way back around
TSW SYMPTOM CHECKLIST

Now!  It’s time to stop my whining about marital difficulties and get back to eczema.  I’m actually really curious if my eczema will get better while living at my parents’ house, since it only got worse about a year after I got married, and I really NEVER had any significant eczema issues while I lived at home.  If it does get radically better, I can either blame stress or some environmental pollutant in the home I shared with my husband (we do live by a really suspect plot of land where toxic chemicals were dumped…. hmmm).

Anyway, I was on the ITSAN site looking at common symptoms of steroid withdrawal.  Here they are directly from the site.  I will comment after each symptom on my own experience.

These symptoms occur after you stop using topical steroids. You may not experience all of these symptoms, although some people do. You may start experiencing some of these symptoms within days of stopping topical steroids; other symptoms may take longer to occur or may not occur at all. You may experience some of these symptoms throughout the entire time or you may only experience them during flares.

  1. Red burning skin. This typically appears within a week after stopping topical steroids. It may cover a large area from the start or it may start as a small area, eventually spreading. One classic sign is red skin that stops at the wrist. This leaves the palm unaffected but arms and tops of hands red. It may take weeks for the red arm/white palm to appear as the redness spreads.  I don’t really seem to have this – I’ve seen the ‘red sleeves’ pictures of people who have it very badly.  I DO have areas that are red and burn, but they are not large areas.
  1. Unbelievable extremely intense itching. Most experience the itch throughout the entire process, not just during flares. The itch feels like it originates under the skin and is difficult to sooth.  Well, the very nature of eczema is that you’re always itchy.  But, I’ve read this itch is crazy bad.  People will be on their knees begging it to stop.  I can distract myself from itching if I’m doing something with my hands like typing or working.  My itch is no more intense than the constant itch of eczema.
  1. Shedding or flaking skin. Many people find that they shed a lot of skin. You may need to change bed linens and vacuum daily to keep up with the amount of skin flaking off.  I DO have this, hence the mention above of being the ‘human dandruff maker’.  Also, I’ve been experiencing peeling skin around my eyes, under my nose, and under my lip.  This skin will gradually get very dry and tight as the day goes on (no matter how I moisturize) and will be ready to peel by evening.  Using Vaseline actually helps the peels of skin come off better, so I use that at night (not during the day tho, too greasy and shiny).
  1. Edema. Swollen skin; swollen body parts containing fluid. Hands often swell during TSW.  Nah, no swollen skin.  Then again though, I didn’t use steroids for very long periods or use high-strength steroids.  It makes sense that I wouldn’t have all these symptoms.
  1. Oozing skin. Ooze may seep out of skin or form in small blisters (vesiculation). You may find a hard crust over your skin – this is ooze that has dried.  I DID have some ooze/crust under my nose for a few days.  I know, gross.  What a blog, I’ve talked about skin flakes and now oozing.  What’s next, my bowel habits?  They’re great, in case you’re wondering, haha.  The candida diet works magic on keeping people regular and feeling sleek and un-bloated.
  1. Itchy skin. The itch is unbelievably intense and feels like it originates under the skin.  Hmmm, ITSAN already mentioned this one.  I guess they REALLY wanted to emphasize it.
  1. Raw, painful skin. It may feel like a bad sunburn and may be sensitive to even the lightest touch.  I DO have this, especially in my elbow creases.  It’s very red and shiny and it just hurts and is uncomfortable, even though I’m not picking at it or itching it.  It’s also painful and raw behind my knees and can make walking uncomfortable at its worst.
  1. Eczema-like rashes spread from area of skin that was originally affected by eczema. You may experience hives, very dry skin, itchy skin, deep cracks, or tiny cuts in the skin even in areas where topical steroids were never used. The skin is one organ so when one area is medicated, it can affect all of your skin.  I think this is a yes too.  The places that I used topical steroids THE MOST were on my face, and then on my wrists/elbow creases/shoulders, and behind my knees.  Now I have rashes on my neck, stomach, and lower back, and my legs.  I also have very very dry skin.  My skin had kind of an unhealthy color (notably on my legs), but the healthy color seems to be coming back amidst the existing rashes.  I noticed this over the past few weeks.  I don’t know where to mention this but my skin has also had a very faint yet odd smell for a long time – probably noticed it around the time I started this blog and my eczema was getting worse, like September.  I thought it smelled a little like wet paint, but someone else mentioned a ‘skin smell’ on their blog (I think it might have been Pink Like a Beacon’s blog) and so that makes me think it’s connected to RSS/TSW. 
  1. Difficulty regulating body temperature. You may experience freezing hands, feet, or body and often get the chills.  Kind of, yes.  I was always cold this past winter (I don’t know why I’m talking about winter in the past tense, as it’s still here and I still get cold).  My feet are always freezing in bed, so I developed the habit of putting towels in the dryer and then putting them around my feet in bed.
  1. Exhaustion.  Ehh, I don’t know about this one.  I wrote a post about being tired, but I got better with that and I don’t think I’m any more tired than the average person. 
  1. Insomnia or difficulty maintaining a normal sleep schedule.  See above.  I never have trouble getting to sleep, I used to have trouble getting going in the morning, but that got better too.
  1. Loss of appetite.   Nooooo.  Today I ate a whole box of cookies, for example.  They WERE allergy-free special Whole Foods cookies, but I guess that doesn’t make me any less of a glutton.  Following the candida diet has not been so diligent on my part in the past few days, can you tell??
  1. Very, very dry skin that has the look and feel of plastic.  I do have ‘shiny’ very dry parts of skin, like above my eyes and under my nose.

Anyway…. I hope everyone is having a great weekend!

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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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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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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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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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