In the spring of 2010, my dermatologist diagnosed me with eczema. He didn't tell me why I suddenly had red, bumpy and scale-like patches all over my upper arms, face and fingers. He just said what I had already read online and heard from countless doctors, that it could have been caused by allergies, stress or even a change in the weather.
The doctor first prescribed me a light steroid cream for my body and a gooey emollient for my face (the eczema had attacked my eyelids and the skin around my lips.) I was told to take short, cold showers and that I needed to try to sweat as less as possible. Great, I thought, say goodbye to warm baths in the winter and say hello to finding cold places to hide during the inevitably miserable, humid summers.
Next, my dermatologist prescribed me a stronger steroid cream and told me to start taking antihistamines (or allergy medications). The third time I went in, I received an even stronger prescription and was told I shouldn't use eyeliner or mascara and that if I really needed to wear makeup, I should find products that are fragrance-free and all natural. The doctors reassured me that my face looked great in the buff--I wasn't sure if I should be pleased with his compliment or taken aback by the creepiness... I ended up choosing a combination of the two.
According to the National Eczema Association, over 30 million Americans are affected with atopic dermatitis. If there is any fact in the world about eczema that is helpful, it's probably this one. It is nice to know that you're not alone in your frustration.
Before I was diagnosed, I considered makeup to be a hobby. When I was tired or feeling silly, I would cover my face in all layers of colors and sparkles, eye shadows and mascara, eyeliners that trailed up to there and false lashes that I could see from the corners of my eyeballs. However, I can't play with makeup anymore now that I have eczema. Yet, I've found a few reasons to appreciate and get creative with beauty products.
Firstly, I can't walk into Sephora and walk out having spent way too much money (which happened to me far too many times in the past). Secondly, I've had to really focus on my skin, rather than covering it up. I've learned how my skin reacts to different environments. Thirdly, lipstick has become my new love and I've found pleasure in wearing all sorts of shades, which I wouldn't have done as much in the past. And lastly, I've learned to love the way I look au natural.
In terms of what products I've found to be helpful, realize that indeed, every person who suffers from eczema has to go through the process of trial and error until you find out what works best for you (however, a few suggestions are always welcome!).
My assortment of eczema-related ointments, lotions and herbs.
This is my daily beauty routine:
In the morning, I take a short, lukewarm shower. I use shampoo for dry scalp and the most moisturizing and sweet-smelling conditioner. It's also really important to find a fragrance-free, hypoallergenic body soap. My doctor recommended I use Dove but I've found other, mostly natural alternatives after getting sick of using the same thing over and over. I don't use a washcloth as it irritates my skin and instead use a soft puff or loofah.
Immediately after showering, I moisturize with a hypoallergenic moisturizer (Aveeno's got really good body lotions) after I dab cortisone and steroids all over my body (though I only use my medications when I'm flaring). I then put on my facial cream made especially for sensitive skin and with SPF.
As for makeup, I go for a dark eyebrows, a matte face and bright lip look. Occasionally, I put on a little bit of foundation (if I'm breaking out or particularly red-faced) and I always make sure to curl my eyelashes. I've been looking for a good mascara that doesn't irritate my lids and although I haven't found one, I'm trying out a new tube from Tarte.
I've found that taking a daily histamine, Zyrtec seems to work particularly well, keeps my skin calm during most of the day. And now that it's summer, I find it very hard to not sweat and feel itchy for the rest of the day. The trick is to really try to not scratch as it only irritates the skin more and can cause flares.
It's been a long journey with eczema, and although I wish I did not have it, I have learned much from this annoying skin condition. In fact, I might go as far as to say that it's made me a better person and more knowledgeable about beauty and skin care. My final words of advice: Don't give up and stay strong and true to yourself and your skin.
It's taken me over a year, but I believe I've reached the final step in eczema-caused suffering: Compromise. This is when you realize that you can't fight a battle against your skin because you will lose to frustration. Instead, you must learn to live with your condition and discover what kind of lifestyle and products are best for you.
If you'd like more advice and facts about atopic dermatitis, visit the National Eczema Association here.
Click through the slideshow below for my beauty recommendations.