True Story: I have Eczema

Are you struggling with eczema? One woman shares her story and the products that work with her sensitive skin and how she works through her flareups >> yesandyes.org

Imagine you’re traveling around Australia, sunning yourself on beaches and learning to drive on the other side of the road when your face breaks out … not in a acne, but in weird, dry patches. That’s exactly what happened to Caroline. Today she tells us how she manages her eczema. Eczema that’s aggravated by travel, which happens to be her hobby and job!

Tell us a bit about yourself! 

I’m Caroline, 28, and I’m a freelance writer from Atlanta, Georgia. I run a number of travel blogs as well. I spent a year traveling in Australia after graduating from university and have continued regularly since then. When I’m home, I play with my two chocolate labs, read just about anything, watch geeky shows like Doctor Who, and listen to true crime podcasts.

For those of us who don’t know, what’s eczema?
Eczema is actually under the umbrella of dermatitis, an inflammation of the skin. There are multiple types, including contact dermatitis, but eczema (aka atopic dermatitis) is characterized by itchy, red patches of skin. It’s common in infants, but is also found in adults.

The National Eczema Association estimates that over 30 million Americans suffer from the condition. The cause is unknown, but it can be linked to autoimmune diseases. It can also be small patches or large, swollen areas. I may have it forever or it could go away tomorrow.

Do you know how/why you developed it?
I don’t know why I developed it, but I first noticed inflamed skin under my lips when I was living in Australia. It was winter there, so I assumed it was just standard dry skin. It eventually went away, but the next year, I was traveling in cold weather again in Germany when the dry skin under my lip came back. I also noticed little white bumps around my wrists and hands and got some hydrocortisone to treat it until I got home.

After a trip to the dermatologist, I was prescribed a few creams that didn’t really work, but years and trips back later, I was diagnosed with eczema and given yet another prescription lotion. Over the years, the regular spots have moved from my hands, lips and eyebrows to my entire face, specifically my cheeks.

Does it affect your day to day life?
When I’m not having a flare up, it doesn’t affect my day much at all. I just have to remember to put on my lotion. But when it does, it starts as soon as I get up. I see the splotches all over my face and try my best to cover it up with primer and concealer, especially if I have to be somewhere, with mixed results.The flare-ups are certainly made worse by the stresses of work and travel. Dry airplane air and changes in schedules also don’t help. I travel frequently for work and fun, which is typically when my worst rashes occur.

On one particular trip, I put on an overnight face mask to help with the dryness. When I woke up, my face was so inflamed that it felt like it could burst at any moment. Not only did I have massive rashes, but also sores that scabbed over. Not cute. I had to spend the rest of the trip with people asking me what happened to my face and offering their opinions on how to fix it.

Flare ups make it impossible to feel confident. The red patches and flakiness make it look like I have some sort of plague and I can’t seem to hide it. I didn’t have the highest self esteem to begin with, but eczema has certainly made it worse. I could deal when it came to rashes on my hands, but my face is another story. I feel like people are looking at my face, even if they aren’t. It’s worse than acne and, like psoriasis, people can be under the incorrect impression that it’s contagious. It’s just one of a handful of reasons I haven’t dated much in the last few years.

Which treatments have you tried? 
I tried a lot of things that didn’t work before I found a few things that sometimes did work. Nothing is foolproof, however. I was first prescribed Protopic, a strong corticosteroid lotion that has a lot of not-so-good side effects, as well as a stronger version of hydrocortisone.

Neither did much so next I was prescribed Locoid, a gentler cream lotion that I was to take twice daily. After my worst flare up, mentioned earlier, I also got a cortisone shot that helped relieve the pressure more quickly than it would have on its own.

I’ve also tried a number of solutions from the Internet, also with mixed results. I gave up dairy three years ago because I’d heard it could help lessen the flare ups. I can’t confirm that this is true, but it was probably good for me as before cheese made up half of my daily diet. I’ve also tried different types of lotion, specifically CeraVie and Amlactin, an essential oil diffuser and dehumidifier and a pillowcase infused with tea tree oil.

I’m very careful about what facial products I use, specifically makeup, as even ones that claim to be natural can make me break out. Aveeno is my brand of choice. Other suggestions from the internet on how to control eczema include avoiding sweating, hot showers, and stress, which seems super realistic, right?

What books/websites/resources/makeup have been the most helpful?
The Internet is a good and bad thing when it comes to medical conditions. Everyone has a theory on how to fix your problems and most sources aren’t reliable. So when it comes to the facts, I only trust legit medical sites. But when it comes to home remedies that can help cool down inflamed skin, I’ve found some great recipes on Pinterest. There you’ll find all-natural alternatives for things like coconut oil lotions and beeswax lip balm.

I’ve also tried, through trial and error, to find a type of makeup that would work for me. I’m now a loyal customer of Aveeno because I find their products to be the least inflammatory to my skin.

I’ve also met people who suffer from similar conditions that I can talk to about it. Through my blog, I’ve become acquainted with a fellow travel blogger that has psoriasis. We connected over the fact that it can be hard to cover your flare ups and people don’t know what’s wrong with you. My friends and family have also been supportive when I’m dealing with skin problems. Being honest online and on social media has made me feel better about it as well.

What’s one thing you learned from this that any of us could apply to our daily lives? 
You have to treat your body with respect. I’ve always been lazy with my beauty routine and rarely washed my face. All that has changed now. I find it essential to wash my face and go to sleep at a reasonable hour, no matter what place I’m in. I have to wash off makeup every night or risk a week or longer with broken out skin.

I must keep my stress levels down, which is easier said than done, and think about the long term. I could freak out about deadlines now or not wash my face, but suffer later. It’s certainly not something so serious that I can’t live with it, like some of the other stories featured here, but it’s made my life more difficult than I expected.

Thanks much so much for sharing your story, Caroline. Do you guys have any questions for her? Have any of you found a way to manage eczema?

P.S. Interviews with a woman who’s legally blind, a women whose M.S. diagnosis changed her life for the better, and a woman who was given 15 months to live … 9 years ago.

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11 Comments

  1. Ashley

    What a struggle to have a skin condition that is exacerbated by your job! I can relate to people offering unwarranted advice about the issue, too – I have chronic migraines and for some reason people think *they* might have that one piece of advice I’ve just not tried yet.

    I’m very interested in hearing more about your job as a travel blogger. You should do a True Life with Sarah about that. Is there anywhere on your blog where you talk about how you got started and what you did to become a freelancer with some of the sites you write for?

    Reply
    • Caroline Eubanks

      Hi Ashley! Thank you so much for the kind words. Yes! I write a lot about that. I’ve linked here:
      carolineinthecityblog.com

      Reply
  2. Dalindcy Koolhoven

    I think people can really underestimate how much a skin condition can affect your daily life – especially on your face. I personally hate it when people give me unwanted advice as well, especially if it’s something horrible like ‘use pure lemon juice on your face.’ I love the part where you say you should treat your body with respect. I agree!

    Reply
    • Caroline Eubanks

      Dalindcy, isn’t it funny how EVERYONE is an expert? I don’t even think my doctor is a total expert on my specific case :). This is just one of many reasons why you have to be your own advocate and do what’s best for you and your body.

      Reply
  3. Becky Beall

    Thank you for being open and honest! This will be invaluable information to others in the same boat. As a skin cancer survivor, I’ve spent much time with “stuff” happening on my face. People have all kinds of advice without even knowing what’s wrong and it kills self esteem especially when you have to be social!! Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  4. Grace

    Great interview! So relatable as I also suffer from eczema. It started as patches on the inside of my elbow and back of my knee in high school. Years later it reappeared on my hands. It will then occasionally appear on my eyes lids and then in small splotches on one cheek and just above my lip, as well. It’s SUCH a strange condition!!! I correlate mine with allergies mostly but have gone back and forth with idea of it being diet related. I’ve also tried to give up dairy, but life without cheese isn’t one I’m ready to live! Haha.

    It has such a huge affect on my day to day life though when I have flare ups. I can so relate to people commenting and wanting to help though – yes, I’ve tried to moisturize and yes I’ve seen my doctor…. Thanks but no thanks ..hehe.

    My doctor has prescribed different lotions for my hands, but nothing has been successful. I’ve found it manageable by only bathing and washing my hands with Dove soap, using Polysporin 1% hydrocortisone lotion when I have flare ups and then just vaseline before bed on my problem areas on a daily basis. Aveeno is also my number one lotion that I use everyday!!!!! They have a nice eczema specific lotion that I’ll use on my hands, as well. Thanks again for sharing. xo

    Reply
  5. Meg

    Huh, my rosacea started while I was traveling around Australia. I thought I just didn’t wash my cleanser off well enough, but the redness never went away. I had to switch to oil cleansing because every single cleanser or moisturizer or rosacea cream I’ve tried exacerbates the redness and the heat.

    I feel you so much on the useless advice– no hot foods, no hot water, no sun exposure, don’t touch your face… it’s ridiculous. I just try to keep a list of what I need to watch out for, such as how I have to wash my face after I swim in a pool or the ocean because the salt or the chlorine makes it really bad if I let it linger. I also get frustrated when I see makeup tutorials (most makeup doesn’t bother me, which also makes no sense) where the person complains about how red their face is and I literally cannot see any redness.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing. 🙂

    Reply
  6. NZ Muse

    Augh, fellow eczema sufferer! Locoid is always my saviour. I don’t always know what triggers it but I had pretty severe chronic eczema due to stress for the past couple of years. It sucks having to try and work daily life to accommodate it.

    Reply
  7. Andrea

    Hi Caroline! Thanks for sharing your story. I’ve had eczema for years on my hands. For the past couple of years, it’s been only my left hand. I’ve tried everything over the years: steroid ointments, lotions, and a very restrictive diet that cut out gluten, dairy, coffee, alcohol, etc. (The diet didn’t diminish my inflammation at all, it just made me ornery!) Finally a dermatologist recommended UV light therapy (not a tanning bed, but a targeted type of UV light). The light therapy is the only thing that’s successfully cleared up my eczema. Not for good, but when I have a flare up, the light treatment clears it up. I’m not sure if this is a treatment that’s available for faces and it may not work for everyone but wanted to mention it to you and others dealing with eczema.

    Reply
  8. Ruth

    HI there!

    Thank you for sharing. I’ve had bad winter eczema outbreaks for the past seven years, which seemed to worsen with each passing year. This year, I read The Eczema Diet by Karen Fischer. It was hard to change my diet, but well worth it–flare-ups were calmed and rashes subsided. I know you said advice is annoying, but I think this book is dope!

    Reply
  9. Dee

    Glad it doesn’t keep you from traveling!! It *IS* a misunderstood condition, but I think it’s like anything that starts off seeming rare–the more people talk openly about it, the more people know at least ONE person with it, the more understanding spreads ((i had a bad flare on my hand once when I was going for an hour long massage–I know, sounds like first world problems 😛 in my defense it was medicinal and via a gift certificate– and when the masseuse asked why I had a huge bandaid covering my hand I ended up mumbling something not too in-depth about it,figuring she wouldn’t know too much about it and not wanting to gross her out, but she totally got it–she had a friend who has terrible flares, too.

    And I know we all hate the perpetual advice, but in case one day it DOES bring the one thing that helps–things that have helped me: SOFT TOWELS (this may be hard to manage if you’re traveling all the time, but it makes all the difference–soft towels and PATTING dry instead of rubbing post-shower. I refuse to let my skin take my looooong hot showers from me, and this helps); VANICREAM (smeared on post-shower)–it’s non prescription lotion that won’t thin your skin; and Allergy Testing/Avoiding Crappy Products—I used to get flares real bad on my feet. I now wonder if cheap shoes from Target and the like have *nickel* in them bc it turns out I’m super reactive to that, and once I stopped buying bargain shoes (well, bargain quality–i get the higher brands off places like 6pm[dot com]), my feet cleared up!

    Happy travels and thanks again for sharing!

    Reply

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