Let’s talk about allergies. And not food allergies or seasonal allergies, I want to talk about 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. It took me months before going to a dermatologist for this. Despite it being annoying a little redness around my lips seemed trivial to me and I even felt kinda silly asking the doctor about it.
Once I did see the doctor I told him what it felt like and when the irritation would get worse (specifically after using facial soap & moisturizer) he easily diagnosed it as contact dermatitis. He said 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 these kind of allergies can develop over time and after switching to a new brand of facial cleanser & moisturizer the dermatitis went away.
I ended up not getting the allergy test (which would have required me to not shower for a week and go to the doctor 3 times a week) so I never figured out what was causing the problems. For a long time I stayed away from 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 can use “all natural” products with no negative effects. In fact after about a year and a half of only using the brand of skincare products I got from the dermatologist I was able to switch to other brands without any problems. Now I am once again using natural products but specifically stay away from anything with sulfates, lanolin and other common ingredients that cause irritation.
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 looking of a good lotion free of irritating chemicals or plant derived products, Vanicream. is a good option.