Imagine you’re traveling around Australia, sunning yourself on beaches and learning to drive on the other side of the road when your face breaks out … not in a acne, but in weird, dry patches. That’s exactly what happened to Caroline. Today she tells us how she manages her eczema. Eczema that’s aggravated by travel, which happens to be her hobby and job!
Tell us a bit about yourself!
I’m Caroline, 28, and I’m a freelance writer from Atlanta, Georgia. I run a number of travel blogs as well. I spent a year traveling in Australia after graduating from university and have continued regularly since then. When I’m home, I play with my two chocolate labs, read just about anything, watch geeky shows like Doctor Who, and listen to true crime podcasts.
For those of us who don’t know, what’s eczema?
Eczema is actually under the umbrella of dermatitis, an inflammation of the skin. There are multiple types, including contact dermatitis, but eczema (aka atopic dermatitis) is characterized by itchy, red patches of skin. It’s common in infants, but is also found in adults.
The National Eczema Association estimates that over 30 million Americans suffer from the condition. The cause is unknown, but it can be linked to autoimmune diseases. It can also be small patches or large, swollen areas. I may have it forever or it could go away tomorrow.
Do you know how/why you developed it?
I don’t know why I developed it, but I first noticed inflamed skin under my lips when I was living in Australia. It was winter there, so I assumed it was just standard dry skin. It eventually went away, but the next year, I was traveling in cold weather again in Germany when the dry skin under my lip came back. I also noticed little white bumps around my wrists and hands and got some hydrocortisone to treat it until I got home.
After a trip to the dermatologist, I was prescribed a few creams that didn’t really work, but years and trips back later, I was diagnosed with eczema and given yet another prescription lotion. Over the years, the regular spots have moved from my hands, lips and eyebrows to my entire face, specifically my cheeks.
Does it affect your day to day life?
When I’m not having a flare up, it doesn’t affect my day much at all. I just have to remember to put on my lotion. But when it does, it starts as soon as I get up. I see the splotches all over my face and try my best to cover it up with primer and concealer, especially if I have to be somewhere, with mixed results.The flare-ups are certainly made worse by the stresses of work and travel. Dry airplane air and changes in schedules also don’t help. I travel frequently for work and fun, which is typically when my worst rashes occur.
On one particular trip, I put on an overnight face mask to help with the dryness. When I woke up, my face was so inflamed that it felt like it could burst at any moment. Not only did I have massive rashes, but also sores that scabbed over. Not cute. I had to spend the rest of the trip with people asking me what happened to my face and offering their opinions on how to fix it.
Flare ups make it impossible to feel confident. The red patches and flakiness make it look like I have some sort of plague and I can’t seem to hide it. I didn’t have the highest self esteem to begin with, but eczema has certainly made it worse. I could deal when it came to rashes on my hands, but my face is another story. I feel like people are looking at my face, even if they aren’t. It’s worse than acne and, like psoriasis, people can be under the incorrect impression that it’s contagious. It’s just one of a handful of reasons I haven’t dated much in the last few years.
Which treatments have you tried?
I tried a lot of things that didn’t work before I found a few things that sometimes did work. Nothing is foolproof, however. I was first prescribed Protopic, a strong corticosteroid lotion that has a lot of not-so-good side effects, as well as a stronger version of hydrocortisone.
Neither did much so next I was prescribed Locoid, a gentler cream lotion that I was to take twice daily. After my worst flare up, mentioned earlier, I also got a cortisone shot that helped relieve the pressure more quickly than it would have on its own.
I’ve also tried a number of solutions from the Internet, also with mixed results. I gave up dairy three years ago because I’d heard it could help lessen the flare ups. I can’t confirm that this is true, but it was probably good for me as before cheese made up half of my daily diet. I’ve also tried different types of lotion, specifically CeraVie and Amlactin, an essential oil diffuser and dehumidifier and a pillowcase infused with tea tree oil.
I’m very careful about what facial products I use, specifically makeup, as even ones that claim to be natural can make me break out. Aveeno is my brand of choice. Other suggestions from the internet on how to control eczema include avoiding sweating, hot showers, and stress, which seems super realistic, right?
What books/websites/resources/makeup have been the most helpful?
The Internet is a good and bad thing when it comes to medical conditions. Everyone has a theory on how to fix your problems and most sources aren’t reliable. So when it comes to the facts, I only trust legit medical sites. But when it comes to home remedies that can help cool down inflamed skin, I’ve found some great recipes on Pinterest. There you’ll find all-natural alternatives for things like coconut oil lotions and beeswax lip balm.
I’ve also tried, through trial and error, to find a type of makeup that would work for me. I’m now a loyal customer of Aveeno because I find their products to be the least inflammatory to my skin.
I’ve also met people who suffer from similar conditions that I can talk to about it. Through my blog, I’ve become acquainted with a fellow travel blogger that has psoriasis. We connected over the fact that it can be hard to cover your flare ups and people don’t know what’s wrong with you. My friends and family have also been supportive when I’m dealing with skin problems. Being honest online and on social media has made me feel better about it as well.
What’s one thing you learned from this that any of us could apply to our daily lives?
You have to treat your body with respect. I’ve always been lazy with my beauty routine and rarely washed my face. All that has changed now. I find it essential to wash my face and go to sleep at a reasonable hour, no matter what place I’m in. I have to wash off makeup every night or risk a week or longer with broken out skin.
I must keep my stress levels down, which is easier said than done, and think about the long term. I could freak out about deadlines now or not wash my face, but suffer later. It’s certainly not something so serious that I can’t live with it, like some of the other stories featured here, but it’s made my life more difficult than I expected.
Thanks much so much for sharing your story, Caroline. Do you guys have any questions for her? Have any of you found a way to manage eczema?