I've always struggled with acne.
I remember my first pimple, under my nose right where that thin, sensitive skin is above my lip. It was so utterly painful I vowed to never get a pimple again. My preteen self kept dreaming, and more pimples arose as puberty took full control of my body.
I began my skin journey by washing and moisturizing regularly, unaware of what kind of products to use and by never popping my pimples. That quickly changed when the girls I spent time with in middle school urged me to pop my pimples, because "they're gross!" I don't think I've ever let a pimple run its course untouched since (hello scarring!).
High school was a bit better as I learned more about the different ingredients in skin care products, but the struggle truly began my senior year.
I was insecure about my face, struggling to solve my problems, and the dermatologist through my health insurance turned me away because she deemed it "not that bad." Turns out it was that bad, because it made me feel less than and what I was doing wasn't working. Enter Curology. I decided to try the free trial ($5 for shipping) and it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. My skin cleared up over time, and I continued my subscription.
Then came dermatitis
I noticed that I was breaking out significantly more around my mouth and on my chin after about 5 or 6 months of using curology. My skin was red and irritated, and flaking in certain areas, I messaged my dermatologist through Curology seeking advice, since my Curology treatment wasn't helping. Little did I know the journey she was about to send me on.
"In regards to the dry and red spot on the side of your mouth, I do see what you mean—we are most likely looking at what is termed perioral (or periorificial) dermatitis. Perioral dermatitis is a common rash, mainly affecting adult women. Itchy or tender small red bumps appear in the skin around the mouth and chin, sometimes involving the cheeks or around the eyes (in which case it is termed periocular dermatitis) or around the nose (termed perinasal dermatitis). Dryness and flaking skin may be seen. At times, the use of strong topical steroids provokes perioral dermatitis; often the cause is unknown. Sometimes, topical cosmetic products or fluorinated toothpastes seem to provoke it."
I took to Google immediately. After a bit of research on Mayo Clinic and Healthline, I deemed her diagnosis correct and was desperate to follow all of her advice to make this go away.
She recommended that I discontinue the use of my Curology treatment on that area of my face since it is a steroid cream, along with cleansers and moisturizers. She said not to use ANYTHING on that area of my face topically, although Vaseline would help if I chose to do so. I also learned that fluoride in some toothpastes can cause perioral dermatitis too, so I switched to a fluoride free toothpaste. After a few months it began to clear up, and I began using Vaseline on the area as she recommended.
I was still struggling with acne on the rest of my face here and there. I decided to switch cleansers and moisturizers. I spent a lot of time and money investing into every product that promised to aid my skin. The difference I was looking for didn't arrive until I got in touch with my values again.
The beauty of all natural
I would like to think of myself as ethical and sustainable. I recycle materials (including my clothing), compost, buy food only in season, and use eco friendly alternatives as often as I can. I buy and use only cruelty free products, but I had never invested into all natural products at this point. I began by buying Pacifica, a vegan and all natural (and cruelty free!) product that promises to gently care for your skin. Although I enjoyed the products, the price, and ease of accessibility, I felt like it wasn't really helping me. I decided to go back to products that I used in high school, because there was a point in time where I had clear skin.
Enter The Jojoba Company and Eminence
Now, I have said in the past that I primarily use all natural products. When these did help, it was great, but when they didn't, I felt lost. This all natural journey also applied to my hair, and my hair girl educated me on the importance of chemicals that aid in the problem without being too harsh and causing more issues. Since that conversation, I leaned towards products whose main ingredients are all natural, but still contained some harmless chemicals. This is where the products I swear by come into play.
The Jojoba Company is an Australian based company who uses jojoba oil and other natural ingredients as the primary ingredients in their products. Jojoba oil is the only oil that mimics our skin's natural oil, and leads to a cleaner and more healthy face. I use the Jojoba Bead Cleanser daily every morning and night. I like this product because the jojoba oil beads lightly exfoliate and allow the jojoba oil to seep into my skin and work it's magic. Following this, I use witch hazel as a toner. There has been some debate about whether or not toner is necessary or not, and personally I would suggest using a toner of some kind because I have found it to be extremely helpful in evening my skin tone. Witch hazel is my toner of choice because it is natural and possesses anti-inflammatory properties that aid in treating acne, redness, and promoting an even skin tone. Following this, I use Clear Skin Probiotic Moisturizer by Eminence Organic Skin Care. This product is primarily natural, organic, and they plant a tree for every product sold. It is light and can easily be diluted for the same effect and using less product. Its a spa quality product and can only be purchased through an affiliated spa, making it less accessible but nonetheless still effective and 100% worth the price. One container lasts me about 6 months, and I argue that there is no reason to not invest into your face.
The Skin Care Journey
Investing into my skin and my face is one of the best decisions I have made. I am happier every day thanks to the products that align with my values and actually treat the issues at hand that I experience. It has been a long journey, and continues every day with upkeep, but being confident in my skin is priceless. Self treating my perioral dermatitis at home with the help of my dermatologist is one of my proudest accomplishments, and it's such a common skin issue that I wanted to shed light so those who may not know about it but have it can find the joy, freedom, and confidence in their skin that they deserve.
So to recap, if you have perioral dermatitis do not put anything on that area of your face (especially steroids). Vaseline is safe to use if you choose to do so. Switch to a toothpaste that is fluoride free (I like this Charcoal and Hempseed Oil Toothpaste from Hello). Allow your face a few months to heal and expect to see a difference after investing the time and proper treatment after about 5 or 6 months. If you have the access, contact a dermatologist for more information. Acne can be treated with both steroids and natural products, but I have found that natural ingredients in conjunction with a steroid cream (such as Curology or Retinol) work best. Take the time to invest into products that align with your values and provide you the most relief for your specific skin issues. For me, I choose cruelty free and primarily natural products from reliable and trustworthy companies. They are out there, here to help you!
- the need for toner is widely debated, try it out for yourself before you brush it off. you may be surprised at how much it truly helps
- there are many products that help with different skin issues at different price ranges. I purchase high quality products because I believe in investing into my face (we have to look at ourselves every day so we might as well enjoy it)
- vitamin c in serum and moisturizers has been shown to improve skin as well
- investing into chemical peels or semi-regular facials is a nice self care treat and can diminish the appearance of pores and help to even skin tone (which I did but it almost wasn't worth it and I didn't mention it because I picked at my skin after the fact which made it counterproductive)
- bear in mind the role that what you put into your body shows in your skin. stick to a balanced diet of veggies and fruits (smoothies!), less red meat, and 64-80oz of water a day to keep your skin glowing
- again stay hydrated (it's so important I mentioned it twice)
- hormones also play a role in skin, along with the quality of the functions of your internal organs. take care of your physical body inside and out to see real results in your face and physique (this means take care of your whole body, holistically)
What are some of your skincare tips? Share them below!
Maren Hoflund MT HHP, is a massage therapist and holistic health practitioner based in San Diego. This her self created space where she explores topics such as mental and physical health, self care, spirituality, and child development; in addition to her poetry and prose.