Last September is when I was diagnosed with steroid-induced rosacea and perioral dermatitis.
Steroid Rosacea is the name given to a rosacea-like condition on the mid-face caused by potent topical steroids or their withdrawal.” (source)
It is categorized by a bumpy, red, scaly, rash and irritated skin. Latent terms? I overdosed my skin on topical steroids. I had a rash that I was diagnosed with in middle school and topical steroids were the only things that took it away, immediately. Maybe the doctor told me to use it short term, who knows. All I know is that when it came back my freshman year in college, my little sister who was around 3 at the time suffered from the same condition. Instead of going to the doctor for myself, I started using her cream.
I ran out of cream once and the rash spread up the sides of my nose, in between my eyes, in my eyebrows, and all around my mouth. I took little sister’s cream and although it took a couple of applications, it was gone. Always gone.
This went on for years as aforementioned, and for a while the rash laid dormant in my body. I hadn’t thought about it for a long time. It would be triggered by stress, illness, hormones, but even when I was in the teaching program with little sleep, horrible diet, and copious amounts of stress, my old expired steroid cream would keep it at bay.
Until pregnancy– the cream stopped working. I decided to research and saw that there was a small risk of deformity that occurred in fetal mice when the mother was exposed to the prescription cream I had so liberally applied to my skin. Small risk of course, but it was enough for me to ditch the cream and try to let it run it’s course. It stayed pretty manageable for a while.
RETURN OF THE RASH:
In September of 2015, my husband and I went to the beach for a friend’s wedding. My eyes had started to get really irritated anytime I wore mascara. I was using Maybelline’s Falsies in Blackest Black. It really made my eyes look amazing.
Until it didn’t.
Until the skin around my eyes started to bubble, flake, and peel, and my eyes would water and burn.
I would stop using it and the rash would go away. I’d go back to using the mascara once I thought it was safe and the rash would come prancing back in like an uninvited party guest, invading my face and forcing me to expose my almost lashless face and accentuated RBF. It ended up getting so bad that I was convinced that the hotel we stayed at had a fungus or bug problem that infected my skin. But only mine and not my son or husband’s because the universe probably liked them more. I didn’t want to believe it was my makeup because I didn’t want to stop using it. I had used that brand for years with no issues so had a hard time believing it was the culprit. Since I didn’t want to use the cream I had, (it was expired anyway,) I decided to go to the doctor.
By the way, I’m mortified making this public but hopefully this helps someone LOL
The doctor who diagnosed me told me that the only cure was time. I would have to let my body withdrawal/detox and I would likely deal with the worst rash I had ever experienced as a result. I also wasn’t allowed to drink coffee, wear makeup, or anything else that made me feel awake or confident because it would exasperate the rash. She didn’t give much detail as to why but at any rate, she was right. The rash came back with a vengeance.
I went from this:
And when even lipstick started to make the skin around my lips peal and bubble…
You can see how the skin around my eyes had wrinkled, rough and irritated, but the redness had started to dissipate.
Below is when the rash started healing, the skin started to soften up again, and my eyelashes started growing back in thicker.
I always just thought that I had essentially no eyelashes. Ever since I started wearing mascara, I felt like I just didn’t remember them correctly. In middle school I had thicker, lusher lashes, but by high school when I started wearing makeup, they were thin and brittle.
What I learned is that what I was putting on them for years was suffocating and damaging them. Thinning them. Making them fall out.
I started becoming curious about what was in my makeup and checked out the ingredients of my favorite mascara:
Water, Paraffin, Potassium Cetyl Phosphate, Beeswax, Carnauba Wax, Acacia Senegal Gum, Glycerin, Cetyl Alcohol, Acrylates Copolymer, Hydroxyethylcellulose, PEG/PPG 17/18 Dimethicone, Steareth 20, Phenoxyethanol, Hydrolyzed Corn Starch, Caprylyl Glycol, Sodium Polymethacrylate, Sodium Dehydroacetate, Hydrogenated Jojoba Oil, Hydrogenated Palm Oil, Simethicone, Rayon, Disodium EDTA, Arginine, Serine, Glutamic Acid, 2 Oleamido 1,3 Octadecanediol, Silica, Panthenol, May Contain (+/-): Iron Oxide (CI 77491, CI 77492, CI 77499), Ultramarines (CI 77007), Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891), Mica, Carmine (CI 75470), Chromium Oxide Greens (CI 77288), Chromium Hydroxide Green (CI 77289), Manganese Violet (CI 77742), Ferric Ferrocyanide (CI 77510)
There are plenty of creepies in there, but I highlighted the ones that really worried me. A lot of them are known carcinogens or endocrine system disrupters. Not something I wanted to be putting on my eyes, my skin, so close to all of my delicate membranes, and especially while I had been pregnant and now nursing. It was no wonder my body and skin started rejecting this stuff.
The rash was actually a blessing in disguise because had it not happened, I never would have thought to look into my beauty care products.
I looked up all of my favorites and was horrified. I found the EWG or Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database which is a database that you can search all of your products to discover what is in them and their toxicity levels. It explains a breakdown of the concerns attached to the ingredients, such as organ system toxicity, biochemical or cellular level changes, and contamination concerns.
I knew that I would never be able to go back to my old makeup, but I also knew that I wouldn’t be able to feel like a confident woman, mommy, and wife, if I NEVER got to wear makeup ever again. It doesn’t make me who I am, but it does give me an oomph and give me a boost in confidence.
TRIAL AND ERROR:
When I had the rash and had to go makeup-less I felt exposed and naked. I didn’t want to look anyone in the eyes. So I tried everything:
Apple Cider Vinegar as a toner
↠burns like crazy, but does help to take some of the flaky skin away.
CJ’s Butter in Lavender and Tea Tree
↠we use this on our son’s booty at every diaper change and I thought, what the heck, what do I have to lose? This was the most effective thing I tried topically, although I had to slather it on like butter and it would need to soak all night and day. I looked like a grease ball. But at least I smelled like a spa.
Vitamin E Oil
↠did absolutely nothing that I could tell, except make it itch, although I was looking for immediate results.
Fresh Aloe Vera Gel
↠from an actual aloe plant. No significant change.
I stopped using skin products that contained SLS
↠I read a lot that it could trigger flare ups. Also stopped using flouride in my toothpaste because studies have shown that this too could cause irritation around the mouth.
Every time I thought I made progress, I set myself back.
DIETARY TRIGGERS: Dairy, Sugar, and Simple Carbs
Once the rash started clearing up, I started noticing every time it would flare up again. For instance, I had a really good “face” day at one point and then ate homemade chicken and dumplings–loaded with milk, cream, butter, and flour. It was getting cold out so it is one of my favorite dishes to make and eat, packed with lots of vegetables as well.
The next day both eyes and both sides of my chin were extremely flared up. I wanted to cry. I had done so well!! But it was back. I decided to start eliminating things from my diet to see if it made a difference.
My son was also battling a yeast infection that took over a month to clear up, and since he was still pretty much exclusively breastfed at this point, disciplining myself and holding myself accountable in terms of cutting out simple carbs was easier since I knew that my choices affected my son.
If I ate pizza, both my rash and my son’s rash would flare up. If I ate a Nature Valley bar, flare up. Coffee, sugar, bread.
I started connecting the dots and wondering if I too had a candida overgrowth. My son had the typical diaper rash and although I didn’t suffer from a yeast infection in a traditional way, my body was exhibiting symptoms that manifested in other ways every time I ate something that feeds yeast.
I went with my gut feeling, no pun intended, and ordered a cookbook that promoted a candida-free diet.
It was intense at first. I didn’t realize I had such an addiction to carbs and sugar, how much I relied on them daily. Seriously, quitting cigarettes was easier for me. I’d go days staying so disciplined, no bread, no dairy, no sugar, only eggs, chicken, fruits, and vegetables. And then I would crave artificial sweets and bread like my life depended on it…I’d get agitated and grumpy. And then I would binge eat. Ev.er.y.thing.
My husband has a sweet tooth so we always had chocolate in the house, m&ms, icecream, chips, etc. I’d eat it all. I’d sneak it even. I’m serious when I say that I had a problem….
When I finally made it over a week of eating clean, I got headaches and flu like symptoms, aches and pains, even a low-grade fever for a day or so. I learned that I was experiencing candida die-off symptoms. This happens when you starve the yeast and they die, releasing toxins that disperse within your body, making you feel ill before you detox them out.
After that, it got easier.
I started having more energy and that extra 15 lbs of weight I was carrying that I blamed on the birth of my son, just peeled right off. Within a week of committing to my lifestyle change, I noticed my pants loosening up.
My skin became very clear and smooth. Before changing my diet, even when the bumpy, flaky skin was gone, the skin around my eyes was still rough and thick looking. I just didn’t look well.
After hours of research about gentle and natural makeup brands, I tried 100% Pure’s Organic Skincare Line and instantly felt relief on my skin. I felt beautiful again. I could wear mascara without watery, peeling eyes and all of the products soothed my skin rather than irritated it.
I realized something so important that seems so simple and obvious to me now but up until this experience just never seemed to figure it out…
When you have a reoccurring, triggered external irritation or malfunction on the outside, it is more than likely that there is some sort of imbalance on the inside.
It is your body either alerting you that something is wrong by creating an immune reaction, OR it is trying to detox and push out whatever toxin is invading your body at the time. A cream might calm the symptoms temporarily but until you treat the root cause of the issue, it will always come back.
Now that I’m healed, I can enjoy a little sweet treat here and there. I have bread probably once a week, if I’m being honest. I’d like to cut it out indefinitely but until my husband is on board 100%, I find it difficult. I only have dairy in my coffee, which I limit to once a day at most (unless I have kombucha on hand, in which case I don’t drink it at all) and I don’t miss any part of my old eating habits. I more or less follow a relaxed Paleo diet. I feel better, I look better, and we save money by not buying packaged foods. I know I’m on the right track because if I ever splurge too much, my face starts to get a little irritation, just enough to say “whoa, Bessie…. Take it down a notch,” to put me back in my rightful place.
As a bonus, my husband has started eating healthier by association and reaping the benefits as well. Eating out at restaurants has lost its appeal for us because it either hurts our stomachs or just doesn’t taste as good as our healthy, homecooked meals.
Here’s to an ugly diagnosis that lead to a beautiful discovery of health and healing. I wouldn’t change it.
Here I am today, with zero makeup on my eyes, (only wearing a cheek tint) in natural light, freckles, blemishes, and all. My skin is healthy and soft, and my lashes have grown in thicker and longer and I feel confident in my natural state. #Healthyisbeautiful
I’ve curated a list of supplements that have helped me tremendously (namely the probiotics and detoxing supplements) that you can find here as well as my current skincare/makeup options that have both nurtured my skin back to health and have remained gentle on my skin. I will be updating these as well!
I’ll update you if it ever comes back!
UPDATE: New Post Here
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, nurse, or licensed healthcare practitioner. This post, and every other on this website is for educational purposes only and are based on my own personal experience. The information on this website is not meant to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Always consult your doctor before beginning any type of herbal, diet, or exercise regimen. Paige Rodriguez / Love, Light, and Motherhood assumes no responsibility for the use or misuse of this material.