This post is going to be on the personal side. I wanted to share something with you guys that I hope is going to help someone else reading it. I know the struggle I've been facing since I was a teenager, and if I can help someone else with my story, maybe help them to get some answers of their own, then I'll be happy. I wanted to share with you guys my personal struggle with Allergic Contact Dermatitis.
I know that in previous posts I've talked about my eczema before, and I've made it known my struggle with acne. I've never hidden the fact that I don't have the best skin, despite how much I try not to. Lotions, creams, salves, nothing provides a solution. Some people are just born with it. I'm a 5'0 110 lb bag of problems really. Eczema, acne, allergic contact dermatitis, overly sensitive skin, IBS, OCD, GAD, allergies, asthma.. you name it, I probably have it or have had it. I decided to share about my Allergic Contact Dermatitis today because I have suffered for years and years, since I was 15, with no answers, and little relief. I've seen doctors and dermatologists, and all they ever did was give me some cream which really only causes its own set of problems on top of my current problem, and no real solution. Not to mention, I hate using those chemical laden products anyway. I know the reality is that all medications and prescriptions are tested on animals, and there's absolutely no way around that, so I try to avoid them as much as possible without interfering with me medically.
The only real solution to Allergic Contact Dermatitis is avoiding the allergy itself. The part that proves to be the most difficult is finding the allergy, or allergies. Here's my journey, from a young 15 year Ashleg old to a now 27, almost 28, year old Ashley:
I started wearing make up at 15. I remember distinctly that back then thick white eyeliner and iced blue eyeshadow was like "the thing," don't ask me why but it was. I loved makeup from the minute I first started wearing it. Suffering from low self esteem then (and still now), makeup allows me a small bit of confidence in myself.
After that fun phase ended, I remember my eyeshadow HAD TO MATCH PERFECTLY with whatever I was wearing (OCD, of course.) So, I had every eye shadow color under the sun. I would wear 4-5 colors at a time, eyeliner, mascara in layers.. you name it. Here's some old school photos for reference:
Because I was a teenager, I wasn't buying high quality brands. While I was a vegetarian at a young age, there was a lot I didn't know and didn't understand, animal testing being one of them. I didn't learn about that until I was a senior in high school and did my senior research paper on animal testing. I was using basic drug store brands, not that there's necessarily anything wrong with them, but when you have sensitive skin, you really need to careful about what you're putting on your skin. I remember my eyelids getting really itchy, and I would get these thick patches of dry, scaly, red skin on my eyelids. And they would swell to the point I would wake up and it looked like I got into a fist fight the night before. Since I was young and dumb, I figured I might as well put some more makeup on to cover it up. Teenage logic, am I right?! Not surprisingly, it got worse, and it spread. There were several times that it would go all the up to my eyebrow and even extended out passed my eyes. It would never go passed my eyes though. This would happen on and off. No matter what I used and didn't use, it was the same cycle. It always seemed to get worse around the spring and fall, for reasons I didn't understand at the time. I was using my makeup year round, how could it possibly get worse depending on the season? I was stumped, so I decided to do some detective work on my own. What could this be? What could be causing it? Was my makeup not good enough?
I also started doing some research once I did my senior research paper and started buying cruelty free to the best of my ability. The first higher quality brand I can ever remember using was Bare Minerals (they're not a brand I consider cruelty free now, but back then to me they were), that my Aunt got me for my 17th birthday. I used the foundation, all the face products, the eyeliner and mascara. I thought that this should help with my eyes, since it was more natural and more expensive. But no, the same thing kept happening. It was around this time I first went to see my doctor to get some answers. He gave me this liquid , which wasn't really for use on eyelids, but it would help even though it wouldn't be enough for it to stay permanently away. Something had to give.
Years went by, and it was the same thing over and over again. Between college, working 2 jobs, and trying to have a social life, I put my eyelids on the back burner. I had this liquid stuff that helped temporarily at least, and that was good enough for me, until a few years ago. It seemed that it was getting worse, as in, worse than ever. So, I scheduled an appointment with a dermatologist, who was completely unhelpful. She gave me more steroids and creams, and still offered me no solution. Covering up the problem doesn't make it go away. I knew after all the years of struggling with this, and considering it was only on my eyelids, that it was from one, some, or all of my eye makeup.
By this point, I'm in my mid 20s, and I'm a vegan. Literally, all of my products had changed, and they've changed at least 10 fold from when I was 15. I was like, there's no way that my vegan makeup could be still be causing this. Its got less harmful ingredients! I was stumped.
Fast forward to this Spring 2016, my eyelids were at their worse they've ever been. Take a look for yourself:
I decided it was time to take control back into my life, and I have been determined ever since to get down to the bottom of this. My health is more important than anything else, and I needed to make this a priority. When I went to my new dermatologist, she was better than the last. She confirmed it was Allergic Contact Dermatitis, and informed me to not wear anything on my eyes for 2 weeks, and use this Protopic cream and not the steroids and come back in two months. I was determined in those two months to go back with solutions to present to her, instead of just being told quick fixes.
I started by following her instructions by stopping all makeup and using the Protopic she prescribed. Turns out, I'm allergic to something in the Protopic (of course I would be) so I quickly stopped using it. Instead, I used the corticosteroid she told me not to use only briefly to help with the swelling, and my Zoe Organics Cream (which is a life saver for my eyelids and I highly recommend it!) to help with the dryness. Once my eyelids cleared, I used my Pacifica Dream Big Mascara and that was it. No eyeliner or eyeshadow. I had done research and discovered Nickel was a common allergy so I threw out my metal eye lash curler and got a plastic one. Within a few days, my eyelids started acting up. So I concluded that it was definitely a mascara based ingredient since that was the only makeup I was using. I did thorough research on mascaras for super sensitive eyes and landed on Pure Anada. After my eyes cleared from the Pacifca mascara, I tried the Pure Anada. Within a few days, my eyelids did it again!
At this point, I decided to research every mascara I've ever used, 20 that I can think of, and compare ingredients. The plus side to having issues with both non-vegan and vegan mascara is that I can cancel out a lot of ingredients. I kept coming back to one in pariticular, and that's Iron Oxides. Iron Oxides are extremely common in makeup, giving them their color. It doesn't appear to be a very common allergy, and considering I get everything uncommon and weird, I knew I had to have it. I did research to find an Iron Oxide free mascara, which for the record, is almost impossible. I found one, and it was 100% Pure. Their Maracuja Oil mascara uses black tea leaves for color. Once my eyelids were essentially cleared up again, I tried the 100% Pure mascara. Guess what? MY EYELIDS ARE CLEAR! There's a few spots still dry that aren't fully cleared but I haven't had any more new reactions since! I think I have finally figured out my 12 year long mystery!
When I went back to the dermatologist last week, I came armed with photos, notes, knowledge, and suggestions. I even suggested the Patch Test I'm getting the end of this month to confirm this allergy, plus help me to determine if I have any more allergies I can avoid as well. They test for the 26 most common skin allergens!
The moral of this post: DON'T EVER GIVE UP! Take control of your health. Find solutions! You can do it!
Also, if any of what I described or any pictures reminds you of yourself, please, I'm here to help. Allergic Contact Dermatitis doesn't mean you're dirty or gross, it's allergies. That's all it is! I've learned so much and I'm happy to share it!