My Skin Journey

Well let me start by saying this will probably be my most personal post yet. I’m going to talk today about my skin journey.

And I am not getting paid for mentioning any of the brands. This is just personally my experience.

I’ve always had sensitive skin. Since I can remember I know that every product I’ve used is dermatologist tested, recommended, for sensitive skin, etc.

I’ve had eczema for most of my life. For those unaware of this condition it’s a hassle. It is a rash on the skin that is incredibly itchy and irritating. And scratching vigorously can lead to uncomfortable cuts.

Now I had it as a child and growing up it had come and gone. Eventually it became almost foreign. Which was amazing. Fast forward to my teenage years. Not a sign which was wonderful until it came on face around age 16. Not so pleasant. The worst part was the new area on my face, the eyes. Let me describe this to you. Horrible. It’s almost how when you rub your eyes a little too much they start to turn red, but instead of stopping and redness vanishing it begins to burn, dry out, and become very itchy.

This was my experience. I would slather on some vaseline and the greasiness would keep me from touching my eyes. Yet it wasn’t going away or getting any better. I remember very clearly someone asked why I was wearing eye makeup and I had no been wearing any. I had not started on the makeup at all at this point in my life. My eyes were so red that someone thought it was an eye shadow.

Willing to try anything to relieve this irritation I was open to natural remedies, and cosmetics that I had never heard of before. My mom had been asking around for recommendations as well. She was given a recommendation for Mario Badescu Control Cream. Someone had told her it had worked wonders for the same problem on their eyes. I tried it and was ecstatic at the results. There was an initial stinging sensation but that went away fairly quickly.

Fast forward again to my college years. The current. No flares at all. It was wonderful. Until my eczema that had once vanished again decided to return. This time in full force. Now I’m 22 and the last time I remember having a flare up was when I was 16. So I was a bit surprised. I recognized the itchy, red, uncomfortable skin. And I abhor it the same.

Let me tell you for a college student I eat pretty healthy. Not to say I don’t indulge every now and then. But when it comes to my skin acting up I drink more water than I usually do and make choices to eat healthy skin foods. Anything to help the process along.

That dreaded eye eczema was back. Eczema in the normal places the creases of my arms had returned. Now there was also eczema on my chin/jaw line. That was as bad as the eyes. It hurt to talk and to eat. As a college student, going to classes, dealing with this, there was no way to hide it. I knew better than to try to cover this up with makeup.

I was doing everything I remember my previous doctors had recommended. I was looking up natural remedies online. From using apple cider vinegar, to manuka honey, to simply using a cold compress. I was just short of seeing a naturopath. I finally made a doctors appointment, with my normal doctor, when nothing was working. I’ve never seen a doctor look so confused. I had told this doctor everything I had tried, the types of steroid creams I had used. The previous medication I was given which had worked while on it, but once stopped had a terrible rebound effect making everything worse. The next step was seeing a dermatologist.

I saw one dermatologist while I was on the last day of that oral medication that worked. All I was told was to continue what I was doing. And that it looked better. I knew the rebound effect was coming, all I was told was that it cannot be avoided. To use a moisturizer that was in a tub, labeled for sensitive skin. And prescribed a different steroid cream since I might be allergic to the one I was previously given.

My next dermatology appointment I saw a different dermatologist. Now the reason I saw a different dermatologist was availability. And location. I had made another doctors appointment when my eye had swollen shut because of how severe the eye eczema had gotten. The doctor had said something along the lines of I can’t help you, I’ve seen you’ve been coming to the doctors pretty frequently, I’ll see if I can find you an immediate dermatology appointment.

So I get this appointment and meet with another dermatologist. This one gets to see how bad that rebound effect was. My skin in red blotches, eye swollen, and me trying my best to resist the urge to scratch. But I would. And I knew it didn’t help. Telling this dermatologist about what steroid creams I was recently prescribed, what types of moisturizers I had been told to use, all of the natural remedies I had tried, and what type of allergy medicine I was told to use.

I have to say I was so glad that even though I was in an incredible amount of pain, looked awful (despite my mom telling me I’m still beautiful), felt awful, that this dermatologist got to see what I had been going through. She was very nice, understanding, and prescribed me some stronger things. Told me I could use vaseline on my eye lids (which every other person told me not to do). They had told me around my eye is fine but not the eye lid. Told me to stop using all of the moisturizers I was told to use and to only use vaseline/petroleum jelly as long as it is fragrance free. And also to stop taking all the allergy medicine, or any medicine I had been using. And scheduled a few more appointments for the following week so I could take a patch test. To my delight I had seen my skin clearing up, calming down, and the itching subsiding.

I go in for patch test. This is where 3 different patches were placed on my back each patch with 12 different ingredients. Spread out and numbered so they would test all these ingredients and see if I had a reaction to anything. I go on with these patches for a few days. Not allowed to shower (but a sponge bath is fine) for as long as these patches are on. I go back for a check up so a nurse can see if I have an early reaction to anything then am on my way.

I go back to the dermatologist to find my patch test results. I’m sure I had a reaction to something because my back was itchy. I did a better at not scratching this time around because I knew how important keeping those patches in place were.

My results. I’m allergic to Lanolin, which I had suspected before since I had a reaction to Aquaphor (it’s a Eucerin brand of Vaseline but contains lanonlin).

And I’m allergic to Formaldehyde. What is formaldehyde? Well I had the same question. Turns out it is a commonly used preservative in skin care products such as lotions and shampoos. It is also a known carcinogen from what I’ve read. The hardest part about avoiding this ingredient is not the fact that it is commonly used. Which is difficult. But that formaldehyde releasing agents have a bunch of different names.

Eye eczema could have been a result of an allergy to a normal shampoo brand. Why were my arms so itchy? Those moisturizers I was told to use contain the formaldehyde releasing agents. It all started to make sense. Liquid soap I had used, you guessed it contains that ingredient I’m allergic to.

Other names for Formaldehyde:

  • Formalin
  • Formic aldehyde
  • Methaldehyde
  • Methyl Aldehyde
  • Methylene oxide
  • N-methylol
  • Oxymethylene

Some of those names of formaldehyde releasing agents are

  • Bronopol
  • Diazolidinyl urea
  • DMDM Hydantoin
  • Imidazolidinyl urea
  • Tris Nitro
  • Quaterernium 15

And these formaldehyde releasing agents I’ve listed all have other names they are known as.

Let me tell you looking for a product that didn’t contain any of these ingredients takes a while. Reading through all those weird names on the ingredients list, seeing if any of these were listed on products I had, was quite the challenge.

The next step was switching to products that didn’t contain these ingredients.

Now the one thing I will say is that I had tried Vanicream Moisturizing Cream before. Before I had all these dermatologist visits. Now on the jar it is listed as free of lanolin and formaldehyde along with a few other ingredients. My dermatologist was about to recommend this to me, but I told her I had tried it before and had a bad reaction. It gave me a rash. So she didn’t recommend it for me since I had already tried a patch test of this product. (Patch test is trying a new product on a small area to see how your skin will react to it).

Instead I now use Vaseline/Petroleum Jelly. Not their lotions or creams. Only the pure petroleum jelly that is not fragranced. I use Vaseline brand since it what I have at home. And I’m not into trying new skin care products. Especially after finding out how challenging it is to avoid some of these ingredients.

I’ve switched over to using California Baby products such as the shampoo and conditioner they have. As well as a bug spray.

And for sunscreen I now use Badger Sunscreen.

And I use Dove Bar Soap. I can’t use their liquid soap since it does contain a formaldehyde releasing agent. But the bar soap is fine for me.

As always skin is a very unique to each person. What has worked for many people has not worked for me. And I’m sure what works for me will not work for other people.

After all these switches I did have another flare up. A severe one. One that was very similar to the reason I had made all these changes. And since making all of these switches I was able to identify what I had a reaction to this time. I knew it wasn’t a reaction to my soap, shampoo, conditioner, sunscreen, moisturizer, since I had switched to things I was sure I would not be allergic to. I had reacted to an allergy/congestion medicine. Specifically Claritin-D. I  believe my allergy was not to this brand of medicine but more one of the active ingredients. Since I know I’m not allergic to regular Claritin, I can assume the other active ingredient is what I reacted to. The name: pseudoephedrine sulfate. I believe that is the ingredient to help with congestion.

The good thing is now I know not to take this medicine. And that it was probably what was making my reaction to all of those other products so intense. I have learned of allergies I now have, and how to avoid them in common products.

I took some Benadryl to help with the allergic reaction and had the right products to use to help with itching and my skin drying out. These past few months have been painful. Throughout everything I have managed to keep my life.

This is my skin journey. Now you know what I’ve been going through. And maybe my story will help someone else.

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