Thursday, 13 July 2017

How I cured the eczema on my face and eyes

REALLY OBVIOUS DISCLAIMER: I’m not a doctor. If you didn’t know. I’m not qualified to deal with eczema, dermatitis, or skincare in any which way, except that I used to have really severe facial eczema, and now I don’t. As you will see, I did – and absolutely recommend that you do – seek medical advice with this condition first and foremost, so please don’t blame me if you, I don’t know, put coconut oil on your face and spontaneously combust, okay?

Second disclaimer: this is going to be quite a long, informative post – I want it to be that way, because this is what I would have wanted to read last year when I was going through hell and back with my eczema – but if you just want a quick round up of the products I recommend, with links, I’ll put that at the bottom so you can just scroll straight down. I hope that helps!

Third and final disclaimer: I don't have any photos at the moment because although I took some 'before' shots, annoyingly I can't find them. If and when I find them I'll add them here. 

Okay, so: here we go!




My eczema history

Going way back – I’ve had psoriasis on the back of neck since I was seven years old, following a horrible flu. I very, very briefly had it on my eyes, but a course of standard steroid cream cleared it up. The psoriasis (I always described it as ‘the-back-of-my-neck’) never left me, but I could control it with Betnovate – extremely harsh steroid lotion – and it was on the back of my neck and I had long hair, so it didn’t massively bother me.

A few years ago – around March 2015 – I was on holiday in a caravan with strong lighting, looked in the mirror and realised the corners of my eyes were scabbing over. I figured I was just tired or that I’d been irritating them with overly fussy skincare/make up. I stopped wearing eye make up and started using a really simple Nivea cleanser, but it didn’t work. By the end of the week, my eyes had swollen up massively and the eczema (which was now plainly what it was) had spread across my eyelids. By the end of that month, despite the medical advice I followed below, the eczema was all across my forehead, on both my eyelids, and in a patch below my nose. 

It was red, painful, and flaky. All the skin on my face felt like sandpaper. My eyes in particular were agony and I absolutely couldn’t wear eye make up.  I did wear foundation, but I’d go to the bathroom in the middle of the day and there would literally be huge flakes of skin on my forehead and on my eyes. When it fell off the skin below was shiny, raw and red. It absolutely ruined my confidence. Everywhere I went I covered myself in powder and thick foundation – on my sister’s wedding day they had to spend an extra ten minutes layering it on thickly to try and stop it peeling off.

It lasted over a year, and in that time I found so little information that really genuinely helped or made me feel anything other than ‘live with it, you can’t cure it.’  I’ve now found a combination of products and procedures that work, and I really want you to know if you’re in this position that I get it, and don’t worry – it might take a bit of experimentation and some patience, but you CAN fix it!


Medical advice

First off – I did seek medical advice, and you should too. Once eczema has taken a hold of any part of your body, you may well need steroid cream at least to rid you of the current symptoms. I just didn't find that ultimately the doctors 'cured' it. 

I started with a basic hydrocortisone cream, which I did use on my eyes (although you’re not supposed to, so make sure your GP agrees your eczema is severe enough for this to be necessary – I had regular eye checks to ensure I wasn’t doing any damage). It worked to start with, and although I wasn’t happy about it, I used it and it got me through my wedding in September 2015. However, when I came home and the cold weather hit, it stopped working and even started to exacerbate the problem. By this point my eczema had spread and was all down my arms, legs and the bottom of my back (I know. My lucky new husband, right.)

At that stage the doctor did a load of blood tests to check there wasn’t anything else wrong (there could have been - which is why it’s really important you go to the doctor too) and on discovering there wasn’t, gave me Dovabet. Dovabet is a mixture of steroids and it’s insanely, insanely potent. Normally, you aren’t supposed to use it on your face, but my doctor advised to try it for just a week (I’ll just leave you to imagine how bad my face looked for them to even think this might be worth a shot).

Dovabet worked on my arms, legs and back, and it even controlled to some degree the tough psoriasis on the back of my neck. But even a tiny amount on my face made my skin peel off in layers - it was like curing your eczema by burning it off with a match, basically. It was clear to me that this just wasn’t the right thing to do, so I stopped, and at that point I decided it was time to see what else I could do to fix the problem.

From here on out, therefore, the things I suggest are solutions that I found that have helped me, personally, to a point where I no longer have any eczema or dry patches at all.  None. Zero. I have fixed it, despite all advice online telling me this never happens.

This took me just over a year to get to, and I wanted to keep testing it for a while longer to ensure it wasn’t just a fluke. I have now been fully clear of eczema (not the psoriasis on the back of my neck but that is under control) for nearly two years. It will take time, but I really hope this is helpful to some people.


Cleansing

My first  bit of advice is don’t over wash your face. My urge when I had eczema was to wash constantly, because the flakes look horrible and make you feel dirty, but you’re actually stripping the oil away from your skin and making it worse. Use water twice a day max – that includes being in the bath or shower - and you need a super moisturising cleanser. In an ideal world, replace one cleanse with a face wipe or a micellar water (the Garnier Oil Micellar water is brilliant for not stripping the skin). Trust me on this one – if you could remove water entirely from your life, your skin would improve.  I noticed this when I went to a festival and didn’t wash my face for four days…! I know it isn’t sustainable, but if you’ve got a weekend where you could just not wash your face, give it a go and in the first instance it’ll help.

The cleanser that works best for me is the Emma Hardie cleansing balm. It has oil in it, it’s soothing, and I don’t wash all of it off – I leave a little ‘residue’ because that allows the oil in my skin to build up. The Body Shop Vitamin E cleanser is also fine. Some people swear by Cetaphil, but I think I’m allergic to something in it because it made my redness flare up. Never, ever use anything that foams, or anything that has spot treatment in it. 

If I need additional make up removal I use the Garnier micellar water with oil in it, which is AMAZING at not drying the skin out. If you want face wipes the Simple ones are the best but again, just don't get anything that says it fights acne or has tea tree oil in it, or anything that says 'for oily skin,' because it'll make it go like parchment paper.

I mostly just cleanse using my hands, but about three times a week, I use this wonderful product called the Konjac Sponge instead of a flannel. They’re little sponges which exfoliate slightly but are suitable for sensitive skin, and they leave your skin soft and silky smooth – they are perfect for when you’ve got that horrible flakiness and you want to get rid of it without aggravating your skin. I use the French pink clay one. They cost like £7 and they’re genuinely brilliant.

Oils
When you have washed your face – either cleansing or in the shower, or swimming pool, or anything – you need to put oil on it, like, stat. Every time, without fail. I apply it and don’t wash it off. None of this ‘using it as a cleanser’ jazz. Literally put it on like moisturiser.
I tried a bunch of insanely expensive serums. None of them did anything. If you want to layer one, say at night, the Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Concentrate is very nice, won’t completely break the bank and it didn’t do any damage. 

However, the best thing is just a plain old oil. The ones I have found work best are Bio Oil (my personal favourite), coconut oil, and argan oil. I use big vats of coconut oil like you cook with. In the summer you can put it in the fridge and then melt little shards on your face. In the winter, put oil on when you’re in the bath as well as afterwards.  Put the oils on after you've washed your face when it's still a bit damp. 

I can’t emphasise enough how much using these cheap oils changed my skin. None of them cost more than £10. You do NOT need to spend £100 on an oil endorsed by famous Youtubers. You can if you want, but personally, they did nothing that a bog standard oil wouldn’t do except make my face smell nice for a few minutes. Save the money and buy a perfume.

Moisturiser
I use moisturiser every time I cleanse, over the top of the oil. I massage in one layer, then apply another layer over the top.

Again, I have tried a multitude of these, and the absolute best one by far - and one of the products I credit for saving my skin - is the Body Shop Vitamin E Cream for dry skin. I personally use this morning and night. It doesn’t leave a residue and it softens the skin. It is a lifesaver and it costs £14 and is generally on a 3 for 2 deal. Trust me. THIS IS A MIRACLE PRODUCT.

Close runner up goes to the Avene Rich Compensating cream, which is also just £16. This feels a bit thicker so can ‘sit’ on your skin a bit, but it gets the job done, and it’s nice in winter when you maybe want to ‘feel’ that additional layer of protection.

Some expensive moisturisers work very well too, but none of them work better. Word to the wise – if you have one of those sets with a day and night cream, stop. The day cream isn’t strong enough. Trust me on this one.

Some people recommend products with Manuka honey in them – again, I think I’m allergic to it as it made my face go bright red, but it might work for you.

Exfoliators

DON’T. I know you want to get rid of that skin, I know you do. But don’t. Nothing. No exfoliating creams, no horrible scratchy flannels. Nothing. Nada. Okay? You need to be soft and gentle and then your skin will end up soft and gentle too. Trust me on this one. The Konjac sponge I mentioned above is as rough as you can get.

Face masks

Moisturising ones don’t hurt but I’ve never found one that helps either. The Origins ‘Drink Up’ mask is probably the best one I’ve found, although I think it smells revolting. Generally, I’d rather just use coconut oil. Just layer it up really thickly for five minutes and then wash off the excess (my face would actually drink it up and there wouldn't be any excess. So gross).

Because of all the oil, I do find my pores can get a bit clogged so I occasionally use the Sanctuary charcoal clay mask (pretty sure they’re all much of a muchness, but this one heats up and so feels AMAZING) on my nose and any other areas that are looking a bit clogged up.

Make up

I try and stick to the same foundation (I use Charlotte Tilbury but anything you aren't allergic to is fine) and I don’t wear a huge amount of eye make up. Other than that, I don’t find that make up really makes a huge amount of difference one way or the other. The key bit is really taking it off and putting the oils on!

Other:

You need to get a face steamer. One like this. You can get expensive ones but mine was about £12 from Amazon and is fine. About twice a week, more if I can manage it, I slather oil all over my face and steam it. It’s like forcing moisture into your skin. A steam room is good too, especially if you’ve just been swimming. But honestly – if you need to go out, and your skin looks flaky and horrible, pile on the oil and steam your face for ten minutes. Wipe with a cotton pad and repeat. You’ll be amazed.

If all else fails and you need to go out RIGHT NOW, Vaseline– not the lip balm, the stuff in the tub – will make you look normal for a couple of hours. Put it on and then put foundation over the top. 

Supplements
I take a ‘Skin, Hair and Nails’ tablet – I have no idea if it really helps – and a Vitamin E tablet. I have heard fish oil supplements can help too, but have yet had to try them, so I can’t judge. 

WATER
Not washing, drinking. Four cups a day. Get an app. Drink it. If you’re hungover, drink more. In the months after I first cured my eczema, alcohol was the only thing that triggered it again. 

Time
Keep doing the above. Get into a routine and stick to it. Get enough sleep, look after yourself. It's going to take weeks, not days, but you will see results. If you're worried at all feel free to message me - I'll help if I can! 





Product list 
Emma Hardie cleansing balm - here
The Body Shop Vitamin E Cleanser - here
Garnier oil infused micellar water - here
The Body Shop Vitamin E Intensive moisturiser - here
Bio Oil - here
Avene Compensating Cream - here
Origins Drink Up Mask - here
The Sanctuary charcoal clay mask - here
Face steamer - here



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