|Me, on a good skin day, dressed up for a wedding - but scroll on...!|
I had been planning to do a post sometime on my overall skincare routine, having spent a couple of years now concertedly experimenting with various high end serums, night creams, eye creams, acid toners etc, and generally trying to up my game in terms of taking care of my skin, albeit very, very belatedly
. But since the ill-fated day in April
where I needed a quick fix before a gig for dark circles under my eyes, my whole dermatological regime has been thrown into total disarray and is only now starting to fall into (a very different) place...
For as well as buying that Clarins concealer mentioned in that post, in order to qualify for four free handbag sized items and a sponge bag to put them in, the sales assistant talked me into buying another skincare product, and I opted for a cream cleanser with gentian in it. I had forgotten to pack my usual Micellar water, which had actually started to sting a bit lately, so I was on the lookout for other eye makeup removing products that were suitable for sensitive skin. To the SA's credit, she said that this cleanser wasn't
formulated specially for eyes, and might irritate some people, but that I would probably be okay. I was so keen to qualify for the goody bag(!) that I recklessly took a punt. 'It's Clarins, how bad can it be?' I thought to myself.
That night I took my make up off with this supposedly 'gentle, water-free formula for oily skin', that offered 'optimum comfort' and promised to leave my skin 'gently refreshed', albeit not necessarily my eyes, though there were no overt warnings not to use it on the eye area. Well, as the next day wore on, my dark circles may have been history, but I swapped them for swollen eyelids that were both red and weirdly crepey - so-called 'lizard eyes'. It was a scary transformation, and not something I would have expected to happen while using such a premium brand.
Now you don't tend to see pics of women looking like s*** in any of the women's magazines, or even in some actual adverts for / articles on eczema products. Here is an image from an article in Allure magazine on the subject - she really has it bad as you can see...
But thankfully some of the beauty bloggers who suffer from eczema are brave enough to post pictures of themselves to raise awareness of the problem and its possible causes. Some have been lifelong sufferers, others, like me, have only started to have problems in later life.
So here goes - I would like to get the word out that some of the ingredients in so called 'dermatologically tested' and 'gentle' products are anything but. Or they can be for some people, say.
Moreover, this was not the first time I had had a bad reaction to a cleansing product, but over two years had elapsed, and I was fervently hoping the previous occasion was a one-off. I was down in Norwich, also at a gig(!), and had bought some 'emergency' cheapo, Spa brand 'cleansing eye makeup remover pads' the day before, prompting an identical flare up of the red, swollen, wrinkly variety described above. I spent half the evening hiding in the toilets at the venue, but at the end of the night when the lights went up there was no hiding place. I had warned the band of my dermatological crisis, and one of them, on seeing me, tactfully observed: 'You just look...um...slightly engraved?'
And trust me, that was being kind.
|Spa?!?! Not as relaxing as it sounds|
So while I was free of incidents between January 2014, and April of this year, I was starting to be aware of my skin's growing sensitivity in general. And now, since the Clarins 'do' in April, I have had frequent though intermittent problems, including one or two that were so bad friends said they wouldn't have recognised me! (Not that I left the house much at those times.)
I have now been 'under the doctor' since the beginning of August, and have had good results with a very mild hydrocortisone ointment. I know it has form for thinning the skin, but in a sufficiently low dose (0.5%) and used for a finite amount of time (two weeks), it really did help. But I did have a minor recurrence after I came off that, so the doctor put me on an immuno-suppressant called Elidel (pimecrolimus), also for two weeks.
It hurt like hell for the first week, as it is known to do, but my face got used to it after that and the cream has really made a difference. If anyone ever finds themselves in this unfortunate position, and is prescribed Elidel, I can definitely recommend persisting with it. The idea is that the medication turns off the allergic reaction to the affected area.
Meanwhile, the doctor asked me to see if I could possibly identify what ingredients I might be allergic to, although I will also be going for patch tests at some point. Eyeballing the ingredients on the cheap wipes from 2014, my eye immediately lit on 2-BROMO-2-NITROPROPANE-1, 3-DIOL, a formaldehyde releasing microbial preservative, which is also in Simple wipes, would you believe? I have used those a lot down the years, but they were starting to bother me, now I think of it.
Then the Clarins cleanser has a controversial preservative in it called METHYLISOTHIAZOLINONE - that I can actually spell now without looking it up each time! I note that people suffering from an allergy to this have their own Facebook page
, and it isn't pretty, like that pic of me below. The European regulations changed in 2005, allowing a much greater concentration of this chemical in beauty products, and dermatologists are witnessing an epidemic of cases of allergic contact dermatitis, especially in the past two years - perhaps these things have a cumulative effect, and are now just reaching a tipping point?
|Truly shocking 'double decker' scenario - don't remember me this way!!|
Now of course I don't know for certain that these are the two offending ingredients, but having done a triage of toiletries that have made my skin sting and those that don't, the pile containing one or other of these ingredients tells its own story. Yes, all unwittingly over the summer, I had regularly been using a hand wash (by The White Company!), a shower gel (by Molton Brown!), a supposedly nourishing shampoo with argan oil and a Micellar water, ALL with MI or some kind of formaldehyde-releasing chemical in it. Anything with 'urea' in the name is a giveaway of the latter.
I also learnt in my reading up on the subject that there is a distinction between so-called 'leave-on' products (creams and to a degree also cleansers), and 'rinse off' products like liquid soaps, shampoos etc. The latter should be less of an issue in theory, as the residue is meant to be washed off your skin. In practice, however, I ain't so sure, plus there is the risk that you might inadvertently rub your eye with a finger that has just touched something really quite aggressive - which shampoos are as a rule.
|Very elderly shower gel on its last gasp|
I should also say that my problem may not just be caused by preservatives in cleansing products, though they were definitely triggers. I sense that I may be guilty of contributory negligence of every stripe over the years, creating an underlying climate of intolerance which has finally blown! The other two villains in my triple pronged campaign of skin abuse may well be:
Using old makeup / skincare products
Hey, I have blogged about this
more than once, have even been proud of myself for not being wasteful, and defiant in the face of the dire warnings of bad reactions to bacteria-ridden mascaras. Well, that was flagrant and chronic hubris on my part for which I may now be paying!
Using too many products at once
Certainly in the past two years, I have been testing and trying out loads of products in every skincare category imaginable, toggling between 2-3 serums or eye creams or toners in any given week, complicating my beauty regime to such an extent that my skin may not have known if it is coming or going! Goodness knows how Korean women get away with it, with their 21 step routines - but I think my skin was very possibly registering a protest vote...
After extensively reading blogs by fellow sufferers, I have now switched to a new set of skincare products, which also retains a few tried and tested favourites:
Facial cleanser / makeup remover - La Roche-Posay Toleriane and Fushi Organic Sweet Almond Oil (I also have their Coconut Oil, but have yet to try it.) I cannot speak highly enough of the Toleriane cleanser - it is totally bombproof, however sore my face is feeling.
Daytime serum - Olay Regenerist Daily Regenerating Serum (several years in, and counting!)
Daytime facial moisturiser - Nivea Light Moisturising Day Cream with SPF 15 (on cloudy days) and Paula's Choice Resist Super-Light Daily Wrinkle Defense with SPF 30 (for sunny days ;) )
Body lotion - Fushi Organic Virgin Unrefined Shea Butter. I would probably use most things, as it is only the face that is sensitive, though I would wash my hands well afterwards.
Shampoo - Dr Organic Vitamin E shampoo
Hand Wash - Marsiglia BioOliva with olive oil liquid soap, but anything wholesome-looking from T K Maxx will fit the bill
Night cream - either The Fushi Organic Sweet Almond Oil above or Dr Organic Manuka Honey Rescue Cream
Washing up liquid (for my dishes, I hasten to add!) - good old Ecover
And that's it so far, but I might gradually - and very tentatively - try to introduce a few other things at some point. Also, I don't think soap is the problem, nor perfume - oh, I do hope not! Nor parabens or SLS or other additives that often come under suspicion. I am just being really careful while I try to figure out if my hunch about the preservatives is correct.
|Trusty staple Nivea has never been anything other than benign|
And even now, I can't be sure if the dermatological demons were just resting on shoulder for a while or have dug their forks in for the long haul...But with my new armoury of truly gentle products, a policy of wearing only new-ish makeup, and not too often at that, I am least doing everything I can to keep them at bay.
|Me today, not a scrap of makeup - first such photo on here in 7 years!|
And the good thing to have come out of all of this? The fact that I have had to wear no makeup
almost all summer. Unthinkable, really. And to my astonishment, I have still been served in shops and some friends have said they didn't even notice - whereas I thought I looked completely different. I haven't not worn makeup since I was 18. So the summer has been character building, and a real eye opener in a good way, as well as harrowing and depressing at times.
Have you suffered from eczema of any kind? Do share your own tips and remedies in the comments!