Sunday, 20 October 2013

Perioral Dermatitis - My Latest Skin Nemisis

I was a little terrified of what my skin would be like if I ever got pregnant. I knew I'd definitely have to give up my chronic antibiotic use as that was a no-no. I did find some solace in the fact that most women have glowing, beautiful skin during pregnancy. That would be me, right?

It was . .. sort of. The first trimester started with cystic acne, but then got fairly clear. I definitely had that 'glow' in the second trimester and quite beautiful, clear skin at times. In fact, I snapped a picture one day because I couldn't believe it:

With the start of my third trimester, my skin started developing tiny bumps on my chin and seemed to be reacting to my moisturizers and most things I would put on my face. I stopped wearing foundation on the bottom half of my face. The bumps began migrating down my neck. And the closer my due date approached the worst it seemed to be getting. I'd had it with being pregnant. Not because I was really that uncomfortable, but because my skin felt out of control. I couldn't wait for the baby to be born and my skin to calm down a bit. It would get better like everyone told me, right?

They couldn't be more wrong. Within a couple weeks of my son's birth, the skin on my chin and around my mouth broke out in the most painful, inflamed bumps I'd ever experienced. It could be described as an acne rash. I was so distraught and upset. I couldn't bear to be seen in public, have my picture taken with my new baby, or look in a mirror. I booked an appointment with my doctor.

He prescribed hydrocortisone cream and finacea cream (used often for rosacea) and booked a follow-up for two weeks later. The creams really dried out my face but sort of seemed to be working. Two weeks later at my appointment he looked at my face again, took out his iPad and looked up something called perioral dermatitis. He told me to stop using the cortisone cream and prescribed tetracycline and continued use of the finacea cream.

When I got home I looked up perioral dermatitis and was quite horrified to discover that while it can be caused by hormone surges (like during pregnancy and when breastfeeding), it is most often caused by use of topical steriods, which are often prescribed for skin conditions but can MAKE IT SO MUCH WORSE! What? Thank god I didn't use that cream for very long and my doctor figured it out. Perioral dermatitis can also be aggravated by the use of sodium laurel sulfates (nasty surfactants that are basically in everything that foams and produces bubbles). I tossed the Oil of Olay face wash I had been fanatically scrubbing my face with day and night and switched to Burt's Bees royal jelly cleanser. I stopped using synthetic moisturizer and switched to coconut oil only. I switched out my shampoo for one without SLS in it. My skin began clearing up and was looking much better within a month or so. I think it was a combination of the antibiotics, skin care routine and hormones leveling out.

However, about a month ago (at around 8.5 months post partum) my skin has started getting nasty again. I'd attribute it to a breastfeeding hormone surge that also made me drop five pounds of my baby weight and helped me fit into my pre-pregnancy clothes again (there are pros and cons to everything, I suppose). Here is what it looks like now (I can't believe I'm posting this. Yikes):  

Yes, it's really bad. It's depressing, painful and makes me want to cry. It's enough to make someone run screaming to their dermatologist for a prescription to Accutane. Which is pretty much the place I've come to: More drugs? Or, is it time to go in a totally new direction?

Update: Wondering what works to cure perioral dermatitis? Check out my blog post about what seems to help and how I now have glowing, gorgeous skin.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Every Journey Begins With a Single Step . . .

My eyes are tearing up as I see the blank page to start my first post - that's quite the visceral reaction
. Why, you wonder? Maybe it's because I'd rather not be sitting down to blog about my skin problems. Because it's been quite the downhill slide to where I'm now starting a blog about how shitty it currently is - but how I truly believe it's going to get better.

So. . . . deep breath. Let's go!

I've always struggled a bit with acne. I had a few pimples here and there as a teenager. And, during my years at university. Never really that bad at all. Then, bam!, after a trip to my local esthetician to get a freshen up facial when I was 23 years old (isn't that supposed to make your skin all dewy and glowy?) my skin started breaking out BADLY. Like, painful, large cystic acne. I think my pores must have been damaged by her digging around on my chin or something. I went from getting the occasional pimple here and there, to moderate acne. All because I messed with my skin.

What followed were three years of fairly clear skin, thanks to an addiction to and strict regiment of Proactiv. I think my ex-boyfriend still hasn't forgiven me for how many of his sheets, duvets and pillow cases I bleached with that 'repairing lotion'.

Then, when I was 27, it seemed like the Proactiv just stopped working. I started breaking out again, along my chin mainly. I didn't get it. I had a great boyfriend, a great job, I was in the best shape of my life, and I was having a wicked summer. But, underneath it, I was really self-concious and upset about my skin problems.  I was on a year+ (wtf?) wait list to see a dermatologist. I heard a radio ad about this clinic in town that specialised in cosmetic skin treatments and booked an appointment. The doctor was great, and covered by healthcare, and started me on Obagi skin care, followed by antibiotics (minocycline and doxycycline), and light chemical peels. Oh, and I started the pill again. I was able to get fairly clear on this plan and the next couple of years consisted of antibiotics and lots of $$ dropped on laser and chemical peels.

Then I got pregnant. 

Ah, pregnancy. A time of glowy, bright skin. Even if you feel like a whale. Except not for me! Well, sort of not for me. The first trimester, my skin was up and down. The second trimester it was beautiful and definitely glowy (which was awesome, because my husband and I were getting married and who doesn't want to have clear skin on their wedding day?). Then, during the third trimester my skin just seemed to start reacting to everything I was putting on it. Like, breaking out with tiny bumps from my moisturizer and face wash. I stopped wearing foundation on my chin. I stopped using my Oil of Olay serum. And I had tiny red spots down the sides of my neck. My husband said I looked like Trill from Star Trek. My midwife and doctor said it was caused by the hormones and it would go away after the baby came. On Christmas Day, I was nine months pregnant and I remember complaining to my family that I was so done being pregnant and so done with how itchy and red and spotty my skin was.

A few days later, I gave birth to my beautiful, perfect son! But, instead of getting better. My skin got a million, zillion times worse. I had developed perioral dermatitis - a red, bumpy and super painful acne-looking rash around my mouth. Although how long it took to be diagnosed as that is another story.

My son is nine months old and my skin is no better. It did get better, but then just a few weeks ago I had what I will assume is another hormone surge from breastfeeding and the bumps have started coming back in full force (except for on my neck. Luckily those have been clear for months).

I've had it. I'm upset and ashamed and just want this hell to end. My doctor prescribed another round of tetracycline. But, I want something more hard core, like Accutane. That was, until I stumbled on The Love Vitamin. This wonderful website by this super wonderful gal named Tracy who has cured herself of acne holistically.

I'm ready for this. I'm ready to do what it takes to clear my skin. And I wanted to chronicle it on this blog to hopefully help other women who are struggling with hormonal, pregnancy and post-partum related acne and skin problems.

That's it. The history behind what's brought me to this Glow Journey. I know I'm going to have glowing, beautiful skin. It may take months, or even years, but I'll get there.