It has been so long since I posted and I apologize for that. Mostly it’s because my mom reads my blog and I can’t deal with her frantic calls & emails about taking down my selfies. She offered to pay me a thousand dollars to remove every selfie I’ve ever taken on my blog. THAT’S how passionately anti-selfie she is. But I can’t be bought. Seriously there should be a parental-block on WordPress blogs. PARENTS JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND. The best 3 years of my life were the 3 years in which she didn’t know I had a blog. Who ruined that for me, my cousin? Thanks Kathryn. I need to go into the witness protection program.
Needless to say, my first post back is going to be THE MOST unglamorous topic of all time, but I write about real shit on this blog — like debt, parental suffocation, our founding fathers, and acid reflux. JUST A REAL GIRL OVER HERE guys.
Today’s topic is horrible skin conditions that ruin your life.
This is serious.
So for the last SEVEN months of my life – since May of this year – I have been dealing with what I thought was terrible skin. I.e. a breakout. I.e. acne.
My whole life, I have never had skin issues, let alone persistent breakouts. My skin is dry. I have rosacea (My cheeks were always so so so so so flushed as a kid and every time I worked out). It certainly doesn’t look like a glowing super model’s in its natural make-up free state, but I’ve never had BAD skin. I’ve never had more than like 2 blemishes at a time and then they go away and things are back to normal until the next single blemish — nothing grouped, pervasive, and persistent that straight up DOESN’T heal or go away.
You can CLEARLY see my rosacea-ed cheeks in this childhood pic -
But in May of this year, I got a weird like….raised bump red / pink scaly thing near the side of my mouth and it just. wouldn’t. go. away. I would do a really good job with make-up and covering it up, and was just like “well this is fucking annoying” but figured it had to fix itself at SOME point. Then in July / August, it got really bad and started to spread to the other side of my mouth and all over my chin. I thought it was hormonal, I thought it was dietary, I was UTTERLY and COMPLETELY aghast / mystified at what was going on. I couldn’t figure it out.
I have been using prescription Tretinoin (a form of retinol) for 3 years and it does WONDERS for clearing up skin, and I applied it religiously as always but NOTHING would change.
I tried apple cider vinegar.
I treated it like acne, and usually the idea of going to a dermatologist to me is a luxury because it’s “cosmetic” and god damn insurance companies never cover it – they cover dermatological visits if you have skin cancer (OBVIOUSLY), but not if you have bad skin – so I kept thinking, I just need to keep working on it and I will figure it out – it has to clear up eventually.
So, treating it like “bad skin”, I applied benzyl peroxide. I applied salycyclic acid.
I gently exfoliated.
I tried all kinds of natural remedies in an attempt to both be natural AND spend way less than I would on an out-of-pocket dermatologist visit.
I got into coconut oil (a jar of which lasts forever).
I tried making my own at-home gentle natural scrubs – using sugar crystals, baking soda, vitamin E oil from vitamin E capsules, and coconut oil.
I used my Clarisonic, sparingly so as not to aggravate it, but enough to attempt to turn over the dead skin cells and deep clean pores- since I thought I was dealing with quintessential acne/bad skin.
I mixed lemon juice and apple cider vinegar and dipped a cotton ball in the mixture and wiped it on the affected area.
I was seriously depressed and hated meeting new people because my skin looked so horrific and it didn’t feel like me.
When Cheralee and I FIRST were going to meet for coffee in July, I almost cancelled because I was so embarrassed about how bad my skin looked. I sent her a facebook message after she said she wanted to photograph me saying “you may have to fight me to the death on this, I’ve broken out and am in NO shape to be fancy photographed, trust me.” I just looked up that message — it was July 9th, and this is December 16th. Not one thing changed – and in fact it only got worse but I kept thinking this too shall pass, things will readjust, your skin will clear up, trial and error, be patient, etc. And it had STARTED in May.
Around mid-August I felt that I needed to see a Dermatologist. In my gut, I thought, “something isn’t right. I need to treat this medically / clinically, this isn’t normal.” I would look in the mirror, and there was an aspect to the breakout that REALLY seemed ‘different’ from normal breakouts – like the bumpy breakout would lead into a pink, discolored, patch of skin. It looked like an inflamed rash, it didn’t LOOK like your normal acne, and it evolved over time and grew a life of its own, but I thought it was from me constantly picking and thought it was just some weird annoying form of acne aggravated by me touching it. BTW I hate that word and am always so embarrassed saying it and admitting it but there’s no other way to say it. I pick at things and never leave them alone and so whenever I would say out loud to my friends that I thought it was time to see a Dermatologist, they would say STOP PICKING, IT’S LIKE THIS ‘CAUSE YOU PICK, LEAVE IT ALONE.
I still felt in my gut like I should see a medical professional (after 4 months), but every time someone else would say “just stop picking it will go away!”, I felt momentarily comforted, like “yeah you’re right, you’re right, I pick too much, it HAS to go away at some point” which was in line with the stress that I couldn’t afford to see a Dermatologist because I know how these things work. The visits, let alone treatment, are just never covered by insurance unless you are getting moles checked, or have a skin disease like psoriasis or contract poison ivy or something like that and I knew that if I went, it would be a minimum of $175 out of pocket and lord knows what else, and I kept telling myself it was just bad skin that I had to cover up and deal with because that’s life. ‘Use concealor, it’s cheaper than paying for a dermatologist out of pocket who is probably going to tell you you need laser treatments,’ I would say to my inner voice that was quietly objecting.
This was taken over Labor Day weekend – you can partly see the issue on the right side of my mouth (your left looking at the photo), and the difference between that and the edited version beneath it.
Do you see???
Wellllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll this past weekend, it was SO BAD on Sunday morning that it literally looked like my face had been eaten like Poppo the homeless man in Miami whos face gotten eaten off by the dude on bath salts. I wish I was brave enough to show you pictures, but I just can’t, the pictures are literally horrifying.
Except I just changed my mind and am going to post them, because it’s just so shocking and unbelievable how bad it got, you literally won’t believe it and they are so embarrassing and ugly but I am not so vain/narcissistic to not show what it was really like and potentially help someone. This negates my selfies right? Honestly I just really don’t care, no judgement. Life happens, we’re humans.
THAT WAS ME YESTERDAY.
CAN you believe that.
I was SOBBING and Alex asked me if I had ever done any internet research on what it was. I told him, no, because there was nothing to really research and I wouldn’t even know what search terms to use and it would just yield a stressful and overwhelming amount of information. I said, there are so many skin conditions out there, and if I were to google “red bumps/skin around mouth/chin” what am I going to find — stuff about acne, or rosacea, or eczema, or it’s just going to tell me I might be allergic to something I’m using or have a dietary sensitivity or a bunch of useless crap. I ACTUALLY was trying to be a GOOD ‘patient’ by not trying some fruitless search on the internet because that’s what I usually do and then I end up thinking I have 7 types of cancer, and am allergic to oxygen, water, earth, wind and fire.
I sobbed quietly to myself and Alex went in the other room. 5 minutes later I heard him say
I KNOW WHAT YOU HAVE
He came back in with his laptop, and diagnosed me with Perioral Dermatitis.
As soon as he started showing me the google images, I was STUNNED and stopped crying. I was completely floored. He was right. It was UNQUESTIONABLY clear from the pictures that I had perioral dermatitis.
I was super upset that I couldn’t see a dermatologist THAT DAY since it was Sunday, but we spent about an hour reading about it together.
A few things that instantly made me feel better to read:
- It’s extremely common
- It happens in women age 20 to 40 and is thought to be related to birth control
- It’s not serious, not dangerous (not contagious, in case you were wondering), and just all-around very common
Although comforted and calmed, I was also slightly horrified as I read about it that I’d never heard ONE word about it in life, work, pop culture, school, and/or the vague medical reading I occasionally do. Nothing.
It also made me sad to read the characteristics – like that everyone mistakes it for acne and thus compLETELY mistreats it and makes it far, far, worse.
Ingredients like salycyclic acid and benzyl peroxid and retinol – commonly used to treat acne, make perioral dermatitis 10 x worse, as do creams and lotions and oils. I felt sick to my stomach realizing that literally EVERYTHING I had tried for months, from applying aquaphor at night to soothe it, and trentinoin to attempt to turn the skin over, had been making it far worse.
Also, it was super uncomfortable and itched constantly.
I read that treatment involves several things but most importantly and effectively ANTIBIOTICS. Go figure.
The bright light in my dark tunnel of tears yesterday was realizing after reading about it, that it would DEFINITELY be covered by health insurance because it was clearly a medical issue. It’s a rash, that you can’t prevent or fix without prescription antibiotics, and that is uncomfortable and terrifying to look at it and will never go away if you don’t treat it with doctor-only medicine. I knew even before I called that insurance would cover it medically and I wouldn’t be out $300. (And yes, I am SURE that with the dedication and the right combination of elixors like grapefruit seed oil and sage extract and tea tree oil you can cure this naturally, but it would take way way longer and be way less effective – I did a TON of research on it. I am super into natural stuff, but with certain clinical issues you just can’t compete with modern, Western medicine).
Also fascinating: the fluroide in toothpaste is supposed to be a major exacerbating factor. I particularly found this to be interesting because many times over the last 7 months, I would put toothpaste around the affected skin because of the age old wive’s tale that it dries out blemish/problem areas. Like it’s not even like I read that factoid and thought “hm, weird, doesn’t apply here;” I read it and was like, well THAT makes sense because my toothpaste has had contact with the affected skin a lot since the problem started.
So I bought a fluoride-free tooth paste, and sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner since the sulfate in that stuff is also supposed to affect the skin. The dermatologist himself said nothing about fluoride or sulfates but I don’t see any reason why, while this is healing, I wouldn’t stay away from those 2 things.
So anyways, I called the derm first thing this morning (Monday) and they were able to fit me in as an emergency appointment because a severe inflamed outbreak of perioral dermatitis, by their medical codes, is an emergency. It had been horrifically painful yesterday too (and still is), though it eventually calmed down. Sure enough, my insurance covered it, and all I had to pay was a $35 co-pay for a specialist. When they took me in, the nurse asked why I was there and I said “I self-diagnosed and think I have perioral dermatitis” and without a S-E-C-O-N-D’s pause she said, “you do.” Period. And that was that. Then the doctor came in and of course confirmed and gave me 3 prescriptions.
I have to take doxycycline for 1 full month (yeast infections / severe acid reflux here we come! literally fucking kill me), and then apply two separate medicated gels – one in the morning and one at night.
What I read on the internet yesterday, and what the doctor confirmed is that you can’t cure this “forever” and that it always comes back, but for some reason I’m not stressing that part because all I care about is fixing and healing it NOW. I can manage future things and there’s no guarantee that it WILL come back again and again (look at me being a non-catastrophizer!), so all I care about is right now. It takes time (blah blah blah), but with the antibiotics and gels, and hopefully with using fluoride free toothpaste, by mid/late January my skin will look like itself again.
I have never in my life experienced anything like this, and though it is common and my overall outlook is fine, I am still in general shock that things like this continually happen to me. I am the only person I know that continually suffers from random, unwelcome afflictions that always take LONG periods of time to “heal,” and even then don’t ever “fully heal forever,” and cost money to fix. From my gastrointestinal issues that really were quite frightening for a number of years (all kinds of bleeding, tests, and procedures), to fibromyalgia, to hamstring tendinitis, to fucking PERIORAL DERMATITIS, I am just always that one person that gets the random weird thing that can’t just be CURED and that “fixing” is a long complicated ‘forever’ process of trial and error and lifestyle factors. According to the INTERNET/Dermatologist, this is “common,” and that’s nice and all, but I’VE NEVER MET OR HEARD OF A SINGLE FUCKING PERSON IN MY LIFE that has had this.
HOWEVER, I wrote this post in case you, or someone you know, EVER experiences something like this. So that it doesn’t take them 7 months to figure it out.
I am extremely happy to have gotten to the bottom of the problem, and HOPEFULLY to heal over the next month or so and get back to looking like this!
The primary lesson I re-learned (that I re learn constantly) is to trust your gut. In my gut, I knew 4 months ago that this was beyond MY personal control. In AUGUST my gut told me, from within my own body, that this thing – whatever it was – was clearly beyond my ability to fix and that I really should see a dermatologist and that picking alone wasn’t the culprit – that it had morphed into something that was strange, and refused to respond to any kind of treatment, and multiple times I said “I need to go see someone this just isn’t right.” But I didn’t listen to my gut, I listened to other people, which affirmed my other non-gut ‘trying-to-be-practical-about-money’ voice that had been thinking “no, no, keep holding out, you don’t need to see a fancy dermatologist, just leave it alone.” WRONG. Listen to your gut. If I had, I would have gone in August and been diagnosed with perioral dermatitis and treated. Mostly I am glad that Alex is a brilliant internet researcher and was able to help me figure this out even before the doctor.
So……if you ever experience a “breakout” around your chin that simply doesn’t go away and feels/looks/seems like something slightly different than usual acne, you may have perioral dermatitis, and listen to your gut. I’m just a normal, 27 year old girl, who likes fashion and lives a normal life, and for seemingly no reason I got this, so theoretically anyone could at any time and I would really hope it might take someone less time than 7 months to figure out and deal with. Having bad-looking, bad-feeling, uncomfortable skin on your face is upsetting. No one WANTS to look like an ogre, and your skin – particularly and ESPECIALLY your facial skin – is the single most external, outward-facing (no pun intended) part of us – other than hair. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. GOOD skin is irrelevant with bad hair. But good hair with bad skin is second worse. I don’t know if that just made sense but somehow the logic is supposed to show that hair supersedes skin because it doesn’t matter how good your skin is if your hair is bad; but I think I just changed my mind and decided that bad skin with good hair is still worse. Yep, skin is the most important. Skin, then hair. K bye.
Literally can’t believe I have this. WTF.
P.S. This is my first selfie ever. I think I’ve gotten worse Like my selfie game peaked with the first selfie ever, and then has just progressively gone to shit.