Monday, 3 November 2014

Beating Perioral Dermatitis: 'My face looks like a baby's sore bottom!'

Although this post isn't exactly about diabetes (for the first time ever!) it is, of course, still distantly related to it.  I say 'of course' because it's usually the case that any other health issues aside from good old type 1 D are either caused by, or have something to do with, the fiendish workings of diabetes itself.

Around the end of August, a few dry, bumpy patches of skin appeared on one side of my chin.  They weren't very noticeable at this point, although it didn't matter how much moisturiser I applied or how much time passed, nothing made it go away.  In fact, if anything, it got worse.  What really made it flare up (here comes the D-Related bit!) was when I went for my diabetic retinopathy screening in mid-September.  I won't go into detail here (I'll save that for another post) but the test returned some unwanted results, for which I have been referred to hospital.  I'm not one to really get 'stressed' but, there's no denying it, I was a walking, talking vessel of stress after receiving this news.

This worry definitely manifested itself physically as, within a few days, the patch on my skin had spread not only to the other side of my chin as well, but also to both sides of my nose.  From then on, it only got worse.  I went to the doctors about it and was immediately diagnosed as having 'perioral dermatitis' (PD), which is often described as a cross between acne and eczema.  The GP prescribed me a topical antibiotic gel called 'metronidazole', but told me that it could take up to 8 weeks for it to have any effect.

Although I started applying the metronidazole twice a day, my PD only got more red, more spotty, sore and so dry that I couldn't even smile without feeling as though my face was going to crack.  Metronidazole also creates a 'film' over your skin, which is like glue (I wouldn't leave the house with it on - people will think your skin is peeling off!)  Just to give you an idea of what my PD looked like (and this wasn't even at it's worst) this is a photo of it:

This was taken 3 weeks after applying metronidazole, clearly to no effect.

Although I completely realise there are far worse conditions to have, it's fair to say PD was really getting me down. I've been very lucky to have never really suffered with my skin, I don't wear much make-up and I suppose I'm so used to living with an invisible condition, type 1 diabetes.  PD was making me feel very self-conscious and I was desperate to find some way of getting rid of this condition.

I thoroughly researched perioral dermatitis on the good old internet, over health sites and various forums.  All said about how common it is in women between the ages of 20-40 and also, because it has no one known cause, it can be extremely difficult to get rid of (a second doctor I saw about this reiterated this to me as well, telling me that I 'could have to live with this for years', which was exactly what I wanted to hear - NOT!)  One thing which did really surprise me was that I googled to see whether there was a link between type 1 diabetes and PD and, to my genuine surprise, there doesn't seem to be at all!  I figured the stress I'd caused myself after my retionopathy screening results had been what had made mine worse though, which is where my 'distant D-Link' comes in.

People who had suffered from PD seemed to think, according to the forums, that natural remedies and changes in lifestyle were the key to getting rid of this parasitic condition.  So, I tried pretty much every single one suggested and here's what I thought of each:

  • Coconut oil: This seemed to help with some of the dryness and is supposed to just be very good for skin anyway, but it's very greasy (there's no way you could attempt to apply make-up over it) and I don't feel it did anything to actually heal my PD.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar: Lots of people recommend applying this to get rid of perioral dermatitis, but it didn't help me at all.  To be honest I gave up on it very quickly as, even though I diluted it with water, it stung like crazy and only made my face more red and dry.
  • Aloe Vera: Again, I'm pretty sure this didn't help my PD one bit.  It's supposed to soothe it but I noticed no difference.
  • Drinking herbal tea: I don't feel this provided any solution to my skin problem, but it did make me feel healthier anyway.  I drank lots of peppermint, jasmine and camomile and honey teas.  I would even put the camomile and honey teabag to one side and would dab my PD-affected areas, which didn't visibly do anything but I reckon it probably had a positive psychological effect (every little helps!)
  • Switching toothpaste: Apparently PD can be caused by a reaction to fluoride-containing toothpastes.  I decided that I would only switch to an all-natural toothpaste as a very last resort, but I did remember that I had changed my brand of toothpaste over the summer to Oral-B.  Although I'm not sure if this had anything to do with the cause, I didn't want to take any chances so I changed back to trusty Colgate just as a precaution.
  • Natural shampoo: I was getting a tiny bit of dandruff too, so I worried my shampoo was acting as an irritant.  I bought 'Burt's Bees - 99% Natural Shampoo', which is mango scented and lovely.  Again though, this was more of a precaution than anything.
  • Extra tips: It should be noted that apparently PD sufferers should only use cool water on their face (and sometimes in showers too) and heat can irritate it.  Also avoid wearing make-up when you can, but when you do want to I found liquid based concealers were noooo good at covering PD.  Although my condition was still very noticeable, I used 'Dream Matte Mousse' by Maybelline as it rested on top better than any other BB-Creams or even tinted moisturisers I owned.

So none of these potential solutions did anything to prevent my PD from getting worse.  Not only was this frustrating because I wanted to feel confident in my skin again, but I'd also spent a fair amount of money on all these products to no effect!  That was until, last week, I decided to try one more recommended natural solution: calendula cream.  This stuff is made from extracts from marigolds and is commonly used for eczema, dry skin and nappy rash.  Seeing as my face looked like a sore baby's bottom, I figured I'd give it a shot and, I swear, this stuff works like a miracle for perioral dermatitis!


I bought the following brand (Nelson's Calendula Cream) costing around £5 from Holland and Barrett:


It's weird, it does sting and make your face go a little red when first applied, but within around 20 minutes it seems to soothe itself.  Within hours I could see that it wasn't quite as dry and within 2 days my face had gone from the image you saw above to this:

There was still some slight discolouration around my nose, but it was a million times better and now, after a week of applying calendula cream, my perioral dermatitis has gone!

My message is this: I know PD is irritating and embarrassing, but try not to stop living your life. 
 What I will say, with regards to my type 1 diabetes, is that although it can often be a problem that it is an invisible condition, having had this experience with perioral dermatitis has actually made me thankful that other people can't see my diabetes.  I genuinely feel that my PD could have continued to harass me for a very long time had I not tried calendula cream.  Thanks to that little miracle, I am now keeping much less-red, less-spotty, less-dry chin up! :)