I started to notice a difference in middle school. Not just the usual, though that as well. Hives. Red splotches on my neck and my face.
By college, I’d figured a few items to eliminate. Strong acne cleansers? Out of the picture. Wool? Donated all of those sweaters and I was suddenly free of hives for the most part. I selected gentler shampoos, body washes meant for eczema ridden folks, and natural face creams from Lush. It seemed to be getting better. I no longer had that horrible red discoloration under my eye that made me look like I’d gotten in some sort of rumble between the Jets and the Sharks.
And then, in the midst of 2010, everything hit the fan with the itchiest of force. It’s a long story, perhaps a story for another time, but let’s just say my mouth looked somewhat like the Joker’s from all of the redness and cracking, and the color of my face rivaled Red Ross (bonus points if you get that reference). After a lot of embarrassment and crying (it hurt, it hurt to smile!), some doctors at Brigham and Women’s helped me in identifying the causes, and I did some detective work myself.
Since then, I’ve been horribly afraid of something like that occurring again. No matter the type of fancy new products that are advertised, I know my body and what I need to stick to.
Does this sound familiar? After speaking to a fellow holiday party goer about what I use to avoid eczema flare ups and itchy, splotchy misery, I thought about all of the others out there who probably run into the same roadblocks.
Well, my friends, here are some tricks. The following items are easy to make on your own (or are pretty much ready to go), have yet to cause any reactions, and don’t punch my wallet in the face.
PLEASE note, though, that every body reacts differently. If you’re not sure about any of these ingredients, always do a spot test first and leave it for 24 hours before going wild with it. You can alway ask your doctor, too!
You don’t have to store these DIY mixtures, as you can always make some on the go for use when you need it. If you want to store, be sure you have some clean, dry jars or bottles, and something to mix them in.
One of my fellow employees at the college summer program I worked at years ago had amazing skin. I was in awe. Finally, one day, I asked him what his secret was. He said he just scrubbed his face with sugar. Hesitant, I tried it. It was a little rough, but the result was ridiculously smooth. Companies like Fresh sell brown sugar scrubs for up to $65!
A lot of face scrubs out there still use preservatives and surfactants that can irritate those prone to allergies. So, after trying my coworker’s trick, I started to make my own. It’s simple!
● Sugar (I prefer brown sugar or Sugar In the Raw) – 1 cup
● Oil- 1/8 cup (For the face, I use something lighter like Vitamin E oil, Grapeseed, or Jojoba. Argan oil is also great. For body scrub, olive oil is wonderful.)
● Essential oil (some people also use Vanilla Extract)- .5 tbs
You can tweak the measurements to your liking.
Step 1: I used brown sugar today. I like Sugar in the Raw also because it melds really well with the oils for an extra gritty scrub. I measure out one cup for every ⅛ cup oil.
Step 2: I like to add the oil in increments, so you can really blend it. I’ve used jojoba in the past, but since the air is not as dry right now, I opt for lighter oils, like grapeseed.
Be sure you’ve got a good consistency.
Step 3: Add essential oils last. Vanilla extract is also great in the winter. I like to use tea tree oil in the summer.
This oil combo can be used for a multitude of skin uses-cuticles, stretch marks, feet...fragrance, paraben, and dye free!
You can use any of the oils mentioned...Vitamin E, Argan, grapeseed, olive...I like to use no more than two and combine them. Shake it up! Add an essential oil for smell if you’d like. Lavender is my favorite. Burt’s Bee’s sells a Lemon & Vitamin E Body Oil, which is pretty much just the moisturizing oils and essential oils.
Tada! You’ve got a nice oil to soothe dry patches. These oils (Grapeseed, olive) are marketed in the beauty section of many stores, as well as the cooking or health sections. You’ll also find these ingredients in many beauty products.
Witch hazel is always great, but mild.
Someone once recommended citrus, as in...just the juice from an orange. I wouldn’t recommend it.
For stronger (but not biting) astringent, tea tree oil and lavender oil work quite well. Tea tree oil has been found to be useful against acne.
When lavender oil was first suggested to me, I did not take it seriously. I had read about it being used on sunburns and mosquito bites, though, and was eager to try anything at that point. I have to say, it reduced inflammation quite a bit. Be sure to mix it with water, as most of the directions on the bottles suggest. You’ll want to dilute it.
Primer for Eye Makeup
If you have sensitive skin, it’s likely you have trouble with eye makeup. I once tried a luxury brand mascara that left me with Black Swan red eye. Combine that with the horrid rash on my back, and I was two seconds from plucking feathers out of my shoulders.
Not only am I careful with the makeup I put on my eyes, primer is pretty much out of the question. What to do when you don’t want your eyeshadow to budge?
My friend, who wears stage makeup for work, gave me her backstage trick: petroleum jelly.
Yes, I know some are against using petroleum jelly, but I’m not currently in that camp. So many scientists and doctors have recommended it to me and, honestly, it keeps my skin out of harm’s way.
Swipe some on your lid-even eyelashes if you’d like-and the eye makeup goes on super smooth and stays in place. It glides off when you want to get rid of it.
I mistakenly picked up a hair mousse that was labeled as sulfate free and alcohol free. Seemed great. Smelled lovely, looked like whipped cream, worked really well. Until I got the red forehead and scalp again (gross). What was that? One of the main ingredients in this hair mousse was a surfactant commonly used in shampoo, cocomidopropyl betaine, also a foam booster. Duh. One of my allergens!
In the meantime, I needed something to calm everything down. I didn’t dare use another shampoo, and reeeally didn’t want to break out the tar shampoo (yes, because that happens). I thought about one of the soothing conditioners I have from Whole Foods, which contains...you guessed it, tea tree oil.
I left the tea tree oil in there for a bit before rinsing it out and, yikes, it was like a Benadryl for my scalp. I also felt like my hair was super bouncy and shiny, but perhaps that was my imagination.
I hope those are somewhat helpful to any of you who suffer from topical allergies. Again, I can’t stress enough how important it is to also discuss with an allergy doctor and/or dermatologist. If you have questions, feel free to send them my way! I’m happy to help out fellow allergy ridden friends.