When “All Natural” Isn’t Your Best Option

I want to discuss allergies today, and no this isn’t about food allergies or seasonal allergies, I want to talk about my experience with contact dermatitis. Contact dermatitis is the medical way of saying you developed a skin rash due to physical contact with a certain substance. In my case I noticed a slowly increasing redness around my lips that developed over a few months. It almost looked like I had done a poor job of putting on lip liner but it was itchy and felt like dry skin so I tried moisturizing my lips and face more but it didn’t get better.

I then started noticing it would get worse when I would wash my face even though I was using a face wash specifically for sensitive skin. I took me months before going to a dermatologist because it was annoying but I’m in and out of the hospital for more serious problems so often that a little redness around my lips seemed trivial to me and I even felt kinda silly asking the doctor about it.

After taking a close look and hearing me explain what it felt like and when it would get worse he told me it was contact dermatitis and that I was likely slightly allergic to a common skin care ingredient like lanolin, aloe, or any number of ingredients that are found in almost every skin care product. I told him I had been using the same products for literally years, things specifically designed for sensitive skin & rosacea so it seemed odd that suddenly these products were causing a problem. But after switching to a new brand of facial cleanser & moisturizer he gave me samples of the problem did get better.

It may seem counter-intuitive but I ended up having to get rid of any product containing “all natural” ingredients like aloe or any plant botanicals or essential oils. The immune system evolved to protect us from things in our natural environment. However sometimes our immune system becomes overly sensitive and reacts to things that aren’t really a threat, the most common example of this being pollen for people with seasonal allergies. We often assume that if something is natural it has to be good for us and that anything man-made in a lab is more likely to be harmful. This is a way of thinking that many food & beauty companies have been repeatedly reinforcing over many years now.

Everyone is different including our biochemistry and immune systems. Most people probably can use “all natural” products with no negative effects. I wanted to share my experience to highlight the fact that “natural” isn’t always better for some people. I used to spend a lot of money on fancy products containing fruit extracts, essential oils, cocoa butter, etc. only to find out those products where making my skin problems worse. While my new lotions & soap isn’t exactly cheap it has made a huge difference in my complexion and has gotten rid of that annoying itchy sensation that was starting to become constant.

If you’er having skin problems it’s best to consult with your dermatologist before investing in new products. Often they can provide samples of what they think might work best for you and if it’s serious they may want to prescribe a medication like a steroid cream. But for anyone who is curious this is the new product line that I use, Vanicream.

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