About me, Beauty, Eczema, plus sized bloggers, plus sized blogging

Scratch, scratch, itch. What it’s like to live with chronic eczema

Wasn't I a cute toddler? You can see patches of eczema here on my cheeks.

Wasn’t I a cute toddler? You can see patches of eczema here on my cheeks.

Imagine waking up one morning and discovering that your hands were covered in tiny, painful blisters. You’d probably feel alarmed and more than a little freaked out. Now, imagine that alongside giant itchy red blotches on your face, chest and arms. These blisters and blotches become dry and flaky in the summer and get irritated by everything from dust mites to moisturisers. In the winter, your hands become inflamed and your fingers crack and bleed at the joints. Your skin is so angry and irritated, you think it would just be easier to bathe in a huge pool of antihistamine laced hand cream. This is my life with chronic eczema and it absolutely sucks.

I’ve suffered from atopic dermatitis (the medical name for my eczema) for most of my life. My parents have mountains of baby pictures of me where my cheeks are flushed bright red with irritation. When I was 4, I got impetigo which meant my hands practically had to be sewed into mittens so I didn’t constantly scratch myself (which made for some great ‘furious toddler Christina’ moments.) In the pictures I have of my 21st birthday celebrations, I’m wearing a tonne of foundation because I’d used a face mask which made my skin flare up. Possibly the worst moment (or best if you’re amused by gigantic bodily appendages) came when I was in my last year of university. I was trying to write my dissertation when one of the cracks in my skin became infected. This caused my right hand to swell up to three times its normal size, leak pus everywhere and was swiftly proceeded by a trip to King’s College Hospital’s A&E department.

At the moment, I am suffering from a particularly nasty case of perioral (mouth), peri-ocular (eye area) and atopic (hands & chest) eczema. My skin looks like a giant red dot-to-dot puzzle, my eyelids are two masses of dry skin and my lips are constantly chapped. My hands are usually sore from blisters and skin wounds and my entire body boils and itches. At one point, I was forced to cover my hands in an evil smelling petroleum ointment and sleep with cotton gloves on so I didn’t claw at myself during the night. I only stopped when a private dermatologist informed me that I’d been given incorrect advice on how to apply it and that using it without the aid of a special spatula would actually cause more eczema.

A recent picture of me. You can see quite a large patch of eczema on the side of my face.

A recent picture of me. You can see quite a large patch of eczema on the side of my face.

I have become addicted to reading skin care blogs, hoping that one of them will lead me to some magical product which will make me feel human again. While I feel like I’ve tried every wonder cure going, that’s still not stopped me spending an eye watering amount of money on various emollients, steroid creams, face masks and other skin soothing lotions and potions. At one point, I was caught by a rather concerned looking SpaceNK assistant holding up a bottle of expensive face oil and whispering to it please fix my skin. I just want to feel pretty and when you’ve got a face covered in scaly red blotches, it can be very hard to feel pretty.

Living with such visible eczema makes you incredibly self conscious. On bad days, I look in the mirror and see nothing but wrinkles and cracks, all covered in a patina of dry white flakes. In a world where women are frequently praised for their fresh, bouncy, line-free skin, I feel like I’m failing somehow. I drink lots of water, I double cleanse, I use a really-fucking-expensive serum, so why am I not glowing like a sunbeam?

I win daily battles with my skin – fighting the infections, soothing the soreness, lathering myself in steroids, powdering over the blotches – but it is relentless. I am at war with my body, and it feels like I am losing. I’ve lost count of the amount of hours I’ve spent in doctors and dermatologists offices this year crying because nothing is alleviating my symptoms. Earlier this month, I went back on antidepressants with one of the triggers being how depressed and anxious I felt about my skin. While I’m no longer waking up in the middle of the night with panic attacks, that hasn’t stopped the slow, insistent creep of blisters across my palms.

While I may moan on here and on Twitter, I know that I am lucky. I have an understanding partner who supports and comforts me when I feel at my wits end. I have an employer who provides me with private health insurance meaning that I can see a private dermatologist. I earn enough money to pay for all the various treatments my skin needs. I have been referred for patch testing – an exhausting and stinky process which will require frequent trips to the hospital and not being able to wash for seven days – which means I may finally be able to discover what triggers my eczema (alongside the cold, the heat, soap, exfoliants and myriad other factors.)

I want to say that I have learned to live with my eczema, but I don’t think I ever will. It will always be a part of my life. I just don’t want it to be my life.

 

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Beauty, Eczema, Face Masks, Glossier

McMc’s beauty corner: Glossier’s face masks

Glossier stickers

If 2015 was the year I spent an indecent amount on jumpsuits and lipstick, then 2016 looks set to be the year where I spend an indecent amount of money on my face. This is partly due to the dual horrors of ageing (hello dark circles under my eyes!) and vanity (hello me caring too much about dark circles under my eyes!) and partly because my skin is an eczema battleground. I feel like I’ve spent far too much time over the past few months forlornly wandering around Space NK and whispering ‘please fix my face’ at bemused beauty assistants.

I’ve tried a lot of things in my quest to cure my irritated skin without having to constantly resort to steroids (so much so that I’ve been forced to buy a new cupboard for my bathroom to store all my products.) But I think I may have finally found facegoop nirvana with Glossier.

Glossier is the beauty brand created by the people behind the luxe beauty blog Into The Gloss. (I’m addicted to their ‘The Top Shelf’ column where they go poking around people’s bathrooms as I am incredibly nosy and love reading about the beauty routines of those who have more money and time than me.) They’re a bit of a cult brand in the USA and have been getting rave reviews for their make-up, particularly their eyebrow pomade, Boy Brow.

Unfortunately, they don’t currently ship to the UK but I managed to find a rather lovely person on Twitter who was happy to send some of their stuff over to me. I opted for three products – the Mega Greens Galaxy Pack and Moisturising Moon Mask which are recommended to be used in tandem and the aforementioned Boy Brow (which will be reviewed in a later post.)

Mega Greens Galaxy Pack

Made up of leafy greens, ‘superfruit antioxidants’ and white kaolin clay, the Mega Greens Galaxy Pack is described as being a ‘juice cleanse for your face.’ As someone who eschews green juices, cleanses and green juice cleanses, you could forgive me for being slightly wary. (And don’t get me started on the whole ‘detoxification’ language thrown around on their website.) However, in the interests of research, I slathered a large amount of it onto my face and set my timer for 20 minutes waiting for it to do its work.

Greens facepack face

I’d decided to err on the side of caution as I’ve found a lot of clay face masks to be quite drying, but I could probably have gone thicker with the application here as I did find that quite a bit of this sunk into my face. However, I absolutely loved how this felt on my skin – it was cleansing and nourishing without that awful tight cracking feeling you can get with other clay face masks. When I washed it off, my skin definitely felt firmer, bouncier and brighter.

Moisturising Moon Mask

Glossier recommend that you use their Moisturising Moon Mask as a ‘chaser’ to the Mega Greens Galaxy Pack. As you may have guessed, this mask promises moisture – and lots of it. Filled with almond oil, honey and aloe to soothe and liquorice root and lemon extract to brighten, the blurb for this makes it sound like the face mask equivalent of one of those soothing whale song apps.

Mega Moon Mask face

The texture of  this is much lighter and – for want of a better word – gloopier than the greens mask. It reminded me of my trusty Body Shop Aloe Soothing Rescue Mask which I’ve been using as an overnight treatment to help calm and soothe the blotchy red eczema patches I tend to find under my eyes and on my cheeks. It did the job though. I left it on for the recommended 20 minutes and when I washed it off, my skin looked less aggravated and blotchy. Plus, all the red patches had settled down. My face also looked – and felt – incredible. Sadly, I can’t remember the last time I used a face mask which left my skin looking so dewy and fresh.

Post-Glossier facial face

I’m guilty of being incredibly aware of my appearance, particularly my face. Having eczema, particularly in such a visible place, makes me feel incredibly self conscious. While I can – and do – go to great lengths to cover it up, anything which can help calm the raging, itchy fires bubbling away underneath my epidermis will always get a thumbs up from me. I’d definitely recommend Glossier’s skincare products if you’re suffering from dull or blotchy skin, or if you just need an excuse to pamper yourself with some really nice smelling stuff for an hour or so. The two masks and ‘Boy Brow’ cost me $60 altogether (which is roughly £40) without shipping. While it’s not cheap, I’d definitely recommend asking a kind transatlantic person to nab some for you if they can. Also, each package comes with free stickers. Who doesn’t love stickers?

Have you tried Glossier’s products yet? What were your thoughts? Let me know in the comments!

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