Having sensitive skin and suffering from allergies has been a major part of my life. Since birth, my mom and I struggled with understanding the cause of my skin irritations and illnesses. I’ve been hospitalized and quarantined [at home] because of my allergies. Doctors were able to confirm that my “episodes” were not caused by viral or bacterial infections; but, they were not yet able to identify their true source. So, doctors began looking at aspects of my life: home, school, diet and self care products. I endured restrictive diets, aggressive medications (to combat negative skin/body reactions), and limitation on which products I could use at home and come in contact with at school. Needless to say, adolescence was tough for me. Despite all of the trips to the doctor and restrictions, I learned a lot about how to better care for my skin. Specifically, I learned how to minimize the frequency and severity of sensitivity and allergy reactions by following these five actions:
- Pay attention to changes
Often times, we neglect issues with our skin until there is unbearable pain and/or an unsightly issue. Regular visual checks can help you notice changes sooner. I recommend daily checks when you shower/bathe. Pay attention to how your skin looks and feels when you touch it. Note: Grab a mirror to help you see the areas of your body (back, genitals, scalp) that you can’t readily check.
- Keep a body journal
Documenting issues is a good way to maintain awareness of changes with your body over a period of time. It helps to identify trends, identify potential triggers and be reminded of pain levels. In addition, it helps doctors to have a better understanding of the issue and provide proper treatment. Example: A doctor will appreciate knowing that the same irritation has reoccurred five times within a month and each lasted for three days with mild pain (from the journal) vs. hearing my “…skin sometimes breaks out” (from you).
- Seek medical help
A primary care specialist, dermatologist or allergy specialist can help determine whether or not a skin issue a minor non-issue or caused by a sensitivity or allergy then treat it. Getting help early on can help prevent minor issues from becoming big problems.
- Join a support group
Sensitivities and allergies can become so severe that they can impact quality of life and self-esteem. These feelings can become more intense if it takes a while to identify the source of the issue; complete (an aggressive) treatment; or, you’re the only one in your family/circle that is experiencing an issue. Whether digital or in-person, having someone to talk to can help reduce stress and possibly relieve some discomfort. It’s important to know that you’re never alone.
- Avoid triggers
This seems like a very simple thing to do but can be very hard, especially if you enjoy it. Body care products (perfume, essential oils, make up, etc.) and food (fruits, processed and artificial ingredients, breads) can trigger skin issues. And, if you enjoy them, it may be hard to avoid them. We often trade limited exposure for temporary discomfort. But, it’s important to know that sensitivities and allergies are a way for your body to signal that it cannot “handle” the exposure. What may seem minor on the outside could be major on the inside.
These simple steps have helped me to realize my best possible skin. I’m not saying that following these steps will cure all of your issues. But, I hope they’ll help you to have a good starting point.