I was diagnosed with perioral dermatitis a few years ago. What a frustrating experience.
How It Went Down
In the fall of 2013, I noticed a few red bumps on one side of chin. I have acne, so I just chalked it up to a new breakout. Coconut oil was just becoming a big thing, so I started using that as a moisturizer as the breakout on my chin got worse. After a few weeks, it got so bad that I realized it wasn’t a breakout but something else. I went to Patient First thinking that maybe I had just picked up some sort of inflammation or infection at the barn (lots of poop and dirt and stuff). That was my first mistake. Never trust your skin to an urgent care doctor — it’s not their specialty.
The doctor I saw put me on a high dose of doxycycline for a week and said to come back for a check up. I took the meds, and the breakout went away. But it came back even worse within a month or so, and I decided to suck it up and go to a dermatologist. The doctor I saw spent less than 5 minutes in the room with me and simply prescribed a lower dose of more doxycycline with a request to come back for a follow up. I was sick of my face looking inflamed, so I took the meds.
At my follow up appointment, I was handed over to a physician’s assistant, and she was wonderful. She actually gave me a name for what was going on — perioral dermatitis — and let me ask all my questions. Basically it affects young women, and there is no known cause or known cure. It could be seasonal, so it could get better or worse depending on the time of year. Her only solution was to stay on the doxycycline (cheap) and try a topical cream (expensive). I followed her advice for several months, maybe even a year. It worked.
But I didn’t want to live my life on antibiotics. I didn’t want to be self-conscious about my face either. So what could I do? I quit taking the doxycycline and eventually stopped the cream. My face stayed clear for a while.
Time to Research
A few months ago, I started doing some research when I noticed my face was getting inflamed again. Turns out perioral dermatitis can be caused by (among other factors):
- Fluoride in toothpaste
- Topical steroid creams
- Heavy face creams/moisturizers
- Exposure to paraffin (often used in candles or wax products)
- Exposure to sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate
Hmmmm…..okay, well now we are getting somewhere! But what exactly is sodium lauryl sulfate? That is the million dollar question that ended with lots of my stuff in the trash.
Sulfates, Sulfates, Everywhere
I decided to try switching body care products. I wanted to remove all sulfates from every product I was using. This was a major adventure! I had no idea this little idea would mean a change to almost every single product I was using.
I found sulfates in my:
- Shampoo – various
- Conditioner – various (One brand I was using claimed to be “sulfate free” on the label, but when I researched the ingredients, it still had sulfates in it. They
- had just been renamed).
- Body wash – Aveeno (Chemicals? But it says “natural” right on the bottle?!)
- Feminine wash – Summer’s Eve
- Hand soap – various kinds
- Dish soap – Ajax
- Hair products – various kinds
- Toothpaste – Crest
Oh boy. Almost every.single.thing I was putting on my body had sulfates in it!
Time to go shopping, I guess.
*Surprisingly, I did not find sulfates in my face cleanser or moisturizer, but I did find some other problematic ingredients including parabens. Since my face was the main issue, I was most interested in switching these two products.
I’ll be doing a “Making the Switch” series here on my blog, and I will tell you about how switching all these products (and more) went.
If you’re interested in reading about what sulfates are and why they’re toxic, I’ll be writing a follow up blog about that. If you’re considering switching body care products, I’ll be writing a follow post soon on chemicals to avoid.