Saturday, February 16, 2013

Skincare Saturday: Eczema

My skin has been oily and acne-ridden for more than a decade, and is prone to bouts of dryness from product sensitivity, but it's recently added a new grouchiness: eczema! Oh, joy. It first appeared when I used MAC Pro Longwear foundation back in November, developing dry, scaly, itchy, red, bumpy, rough, and flaking (all at once, at its worst) patches along the right side of my jawline and forehead. I tried antibiotic creams (no effect), neosporin (ditto), and hydrocortisone cream (helped somewhat, but not terribly quickly). It gradually went away, and until recently, I only had the occasional dry patch.

Until a couple weeks ago, that is, when some odd combination of factors as-yet not fully identified (but certainly including either Hourglass Mineral Veil or Clarins Smooth Touch primers––possibly both!) caused my skin to freak the eff out. Back came the bright red, itchy, dry patches, with special bonuses on part of my left jaw and my temples. Accompanying this was a terrible case of acne. This is an unfortunate place to be in: the things I would normally use to treat my acne were potentially contributing to my eczema, but the things I might use for the eczema could break me out worse. I ended up opting to treat the eczema and basically left my acne to its own devices for more than a week (it was not a pretty time). I tried various things on the eczema to try and fix it; argan oil wasn't moisturizing enough (I KNOW RIGHT?!), hydrocortisone disappeared quickly, not to mention I didn't want to use it for very long due to potential side effects, and my trusty Amber Cream was powerless in the face of such angry dry patches. Aquaphor just made it angrier, which makes me wonder if I possibly have a sensitivity to something in that.

What worked? Sweet almond oil and olive oil patted on with a cotton pad (Shiseido's, which really are as soft as everyone says) helped a lot, but 100% shea butter helped even more. I applied the oil, waited for it to soak in, then slathered on the shea butter and left it on overnight. My skin the next morning was way better, still somewhat dry and flaky but no longer itchy, sore, raised, and bright red. Doing that for 2 nights, plus putting on the almond oil in the morning and the shea butter in the afternoon, after I got home and washed off my makeup, mostly eliminated the problem. After much research on carrier and essential oils, I decided there were a few that I'd like to try but I was too impatient to wait for an online order to arrive, so I stopped by one of the local health food places and got a little vial of organic tamanu oil, the one I'd heard the best things about (also, the one on which actual scientific research had been done!). At $15 for 0.5 oz, it was about 3x as expensive as online, but again: impatient. (My no-buy is still going strong, though––I counted it as my "congrats on turning in your stats midterm" purchase, because I can live without the Armani Sheers and Hourglass Ambient Lights until March, but I wanted my eczema fixed stat.)

Tamanu oil is very thick, and is a semi-opaque olive green shade due to the particulate matter in it. A little goes a long way: three drops is enough for my whole face, and adding a drop to my morning Amber Cream made it really moisturizing, so I'll need to remember to take out a smaller dollop next time. It smells very strong at first; others say it is like butter pecans, and I do get the pecan-ness after a little bit, but at first it's just...earthy, I guess. It's not my favorite, but it's fine, and it does fade. It absorbs pretty quickly, leaving skin soft but not greasy, but I don't find that it's all that effective on my eczema; using it alone at night led to the return of some of the flaky patches, so I've decided to at least top it with shea butter for the time being. I'm trying it out on my acne, though, since it's supposedly helpful for that, and I'll keep you posted on how that goes!

I guess this has inspired me to get more natural ingredients to custom-make my own skincare, because sweet almond oil and shea butter worked really well on my skin (no additional breakouts!), and I'm hopeful that I may be able to find things that help with my acne, too. I also think that my shampoo may be contributing to the eczema, just because I've recently had some dry patches on my arm (nothing like on my face, but still), so maybe I should go the natural route for my hair, too...though I'm planning to start with just going 'cone and sulfate free, but who knows what will follow. (Aka, you're probably going to see me become obsessed with essential oils and carrier oils like I have been with nail polish and perfume, though I don't see my love of either of those going anywhere anytime soon, either!)

So, dear readers, if you've gotten this far: what do you recommend for eczema? What about acne? And natural haircare? Have you tried tamanu oil? What are your primary skin woes?
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