I have struggled with a variety of skin issues throughout my life, especially acne, and it all got significantly worse a few years ago. Little did I know, it was thanks to an ingredient that was present in all of my products. Wondering if your products are causing your skin issues? It’s definitely a possibility. Read on to learn more about my health journey & how/why my skin has finally improved.
PS: I haven’t posted much lately because life has been crazy busy. I’ve been doing some wedding planning, some working, some socializing. Despite all of that, I’m still managing to make time for the important people in my life, my workouts, and cooking mostly healthy meals. For the most part, I have my priorities straight at the moment. But it can be hard to achieve that balance when there’s so much going on!
the life of a perfectionist
In case you didn’t already know, I’m very type A. I’m a perfectionist and I’m way too hard on myself. In the past, I have had to deal with a lot of stress in my life because of these personality traits.
Sometimes I don’t even know exactly what I’m stressed about. I’m a very happy person and I love my life, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have a lot of stress, too.
There’s always something that could be going a little bit better, or something that needs to be done, right? I’m the kind of person that can never sit still too long without feeling guilty about it. I think to myself, “I should be doing x, y, or z right now…”
As a dietitian, it’s important for me to stay up-to-date on what’s happening in the world in terms of health. I try to be in the know about any new research findings that could be applicable to me or my clients/patients.
The more articles I read, the more I am amazed (but not surprised) at how much stress can negatively impact your overall health. You may be doing all the right things — eating well, working out, drinking plenty of water, etc., but if you are always stressed, it can take a serious toll on your body, despite all of those healthy behaviors. I have experienced that firsthand in many ways.
how stress impacted my gut health
In 2015, I had a colonoscopy and EGD because I was convinced something was wrong with my GI tract. Of course I imagined the worst. It had to be Crohn’s or Celiac Disease, or something of that nature.
Thankfully, I was wrong. My diagnosis turned out to be “irritable bowel syndrome“, which is a legitimate diagnosis, but unfortunately there’s not a ton you can do about it besides try to avoid certain trigger foods that cause discomfort, eat a healthy diet rich in fiber & plant foods, probiotics, etc.
One of the main factors the GI doctor thought could be causing my symptoms was stress. “Perfect! I’ll just stop being stressed!”, I thought. Ha – easier said than done.
Several years later, I wouldn’t say my IBS has resolved, but on most days it is very manageable. I can live with it. By getting those tests done and finding out that there wasn’t something seriously wrong going on with my GI tract, some of my stress actually was alleviated. So in that sense, it was helpful.
How Stress Impacted My Skin Health
A year or so later, I began having some problems on the exterior part of my body.
I have had skin issues for as long as I can remember. I started getting acne in late elementary school/early middle school and visiting with a dermatologist around that time. Since then, I think I have tried every topical cream and medication ever created to treat acne besides Accutane.
I have always felt self-conscious because of my skin. For years I refused to leave the house without makeup on because I felt like the imperfections were all people could see, because they were all I saw when I looked in the mirror.
When I was in college, my dermatologist told me I had developed eczema. It started out as itchy, red patches on my legs and later I had similar spots appear on my arms and hands. My eczema never got close to being as severe as some people who suffer from eczema. It was more of a nuisance than anything and one more thing to add to my insecurities with my skin.
when my skin took a turn for the worse
Around June/July of 2016, I started having severe rashes and breakouts on my face. I wasn’t sure exactly what the cause was, but I originally attributed it to my eczema.
Some days I woke up with red, swollen, puffy eyes and red, itchy rashes around my mouth and chin. Not only was it incredibly unattractive, but it was usually painful as well.
Sometimes it actually looked like I got in a fist fight, as you can see below. On those days, I had a hard time getting myself to even leave the house at all. Makeup could only mask the breakouts for so long before the dryness would catch up to me, and I could feel people staring at those spots on my face wondering what happened, but resisting the temptation to ask.
After experiencing these severe breakouts a couple times a week for a month or two, I was fed up. I went to the dermatologist to try to figure out what was wrong. At first, he didn’t really have an answer for me. We thought we would just continue to keep an eye on it and see if we could find a trend. Was it something I ate? Something I put on my face on those days that caused the breakout?
the results of my allergy test
Finally, I requested an allergy test. I knew that this had to be a reaction to something that was coming into contact with my skin on a regular basis. I went back to the dermatologist yet again (for my third visit in a month or so), and got a patch test done on my back to test for common allergens that may have been causing the contact dermatitis on my face.
Lucky for me, this test just consisted of tape that they placed on my back with the allergens on it, rather than 50 needles in my back like they did when I was a kid.
On Monday of that week, the tape was applied to my back, and I went back on Wednesday for the dermatologist to do the first reading. As he started checking the spots on my back, he told the nurse one by one which ones were negative, and she’d mark a 0 with a slash through it on her sheet of paper.
But then he discovered that one of the spots, #17, had a major reaction. The name of it was “Methylchloroisothiazolanone“. (Try to say that 10 times fast.) He told me that this was a preservative that could be found in tons of products, and was more than likely the cause of my recent breakouts.
My dermatologist recently had a male patient who was experiencing similar symptoms on his face, and he discovered that he was allergic to the same thing. He described them as “severe welts”, and said that once the patient identified it and eliminated the preservative from all of his products, all of his symptoms subsided.
Finally! Some answers! maybe…
Naturally, I was incredibly excited and hopeful that this would be the solution to all of my skin problems. I immediately went home to check the ingredients in all of my products, and I was shocked to find that this preservative really was everywhere.
It was in the ingredients list of my shampoo, conditioner, face wash, body wash, hand soap, even our dish detergent! I thought that surely this would be the answer. I knew that I had to get rid of all these items right away and buy replacements that were safe for me. Off to the store I went to get new all new products. (Luckily, all of my makeup was safe.)
At first, it seemed that removing those products was making a difference. I was feeling very excited and hopeful that this was it. The cure. All I want is to have clear skin for my wedding in a year, was at the front of my mind.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before I started having issues yet again. More redness, dryness, swelling, and itchy, flaky skin around my eyes and mouth. Exactly the same as before.
I was so incredibly disappointed and discouraged and couldn’t help but feel like I was right back at square one. Yes, there were lots of tears.
After talking with my mom about it and expressing my frustration, she realized that the spot on my back from the patch test was still inflamed. I was told by my esthetician that the preservative could stay in my system for a while, but I couldn’t believe that it would really affect me for 6 more weeks until we realized that an entire month later the spot was still there. My dermatologist’s nurse confirmed the same thing when I called to ask.
don’t stop until you get answers
Luckily, similarly to my previous breakouts, it cleared up within three or four days. Then something amazing happened. My skin started looking clear, feeling soft and healthy. Something I hadn’t experienced in a very long time. Even my acne started to clear up.
My skin wasn’t perfect, and probably never will be, but there was significant improvement over the next few weeks. At the time I first wrote this, I figured it was too soon to assume that I’d no longer have more issues. I’m happy to report that I have not had any of those symptoms in YEARS, and I continue to strictly avoid my allergen.
The point of all this is that if you are experiencing any health issues, whether it may be stomach pain, skin issues, mental health problems or anything else, do not hesitate to reach out and get help. Whatever you’re going through does not have to be permanent, and it’s very likely that there is a solution out there that can help you get better. You just have to be determined to look for it.
Always make your health and well-being your number one priority. You only get one body, one face, one life. Allow yourself to enjoy it to the fullest and don’t live your days feeling sad, defeated, self-conscious, or sick if you don’t have to. I realize that some health issues are chronic and not fixable, but some are..
It may take time to figure out how to fix the problem. Weeks, months, years even, but once you do, you’ll be so glad you took control of your life and did something about it.
Finally feeling happy, healthy and confident in my skin again.
More skincare-related posts:
If there’s something that’s not quite right with your health but you’ve been ignoring it or putting up with it for too long, make this the week you decide to do something about it.
Have a healthy week!