Gratitude Diary

Entry 22: Happier in the Skin I’m In

Since I was diagnosed with nummular dermatitis in the summer of 2016, it has been difficult to do some of the outdoor things I enjoy doing, like camping, trekking, swimming, and soaking up the sun. It was only a month ago when I started feeling some relief.

It has been a month of calm skin, and for the first time in a long time, I feel normal again. I used to dread going out to run a simple errand. The harsh sun and Manila pollution can trigger my dermatitis. Whenever I had a scheduled trip out of town, I had to stock up on oral and topical steroids and wish I won’t have to use them. Aside from environmental factors, stress is also a major trigger for me.

There are far worse chronic skin conditions out there, but I can say I understand what it’s like to feel discomfort every day. For the past two years, I’ve had to deal with red, itchy skin that would regularly ooze fluid and become crusty and scaly. I’ve had to suffer through unpleasant side effects of medication. My confidence also dropped drastically, and I felt so unhappy in the skin I’m in.

But things started getting better a month ago. I believe it’s the result of several factors. My moods have improved, for one. I was able to explore the different products I can use, and I became more aware of my triggers. I’ve also established an effective, step-by-step skin routine.

Little by little, I am becoming happier in the skin I’m in. I still have many scars and small problematic areas in my body. I still have to reduce stress, be extra cautious when outdoors, and religiously conduct my skin routine. I also have to continue spending more on products. But overall, things have gotten better.

If you’re suffering from dermatitis or something similar, here are a few things that have been working great for me. Of course, you must consult your doctor before anything else. It’s always best to get an expert opinion.

  • Reduce stress. Stress is a major trigger for me, so I have to reduce stress as much as I can. If you’re the same, try to do things that are pleasurable to you. You can meditate, do some breathing exercises, work on a personal project, anything you enjoy and that calms you down.
  • Watch what you eat. There are certain foods that can trigger dermatitis. This is something you’ll have to check with your doctor. You can take tests to see which food items irritate your skin. In my case, I have to eat seafood and eggs in moderation. Chicken that still has too much juice in it can be bad for me, too.
  • Work with your environment. It’s more difficult to avoid triggers when outdoors, but there are things you can do, like wear more protective clothing and carry medicine. In your own space, you have more control. I, for example, keep my place (my bed especially) clean at all times. I make sure my room never gets dusty and stuffy, or else I’ll start itching.
  • Find the right products and medication. Keeping your skin healthy and moisturized is most important when dealing with dermatitis. But the challenge is that you can’t just choose any product on the shelf. For example, fragrance-free products are better for people with dermatitis as perfumes can irritate the skin.
    I also used to take oral steroids, as prescribed by my doctor, whenever I had major flareups that were too much to handle. But I’ve discovered some alternatives that are far better for me. My personal care products have definitely changed over the past two years. I’ve tried a number of options and found a few that work for me:

    • Zenutrients Glycerin Pure Soap
      This pure, fragrance-free soap is able to cleanse the skin gently. It’s a bit pricey but totally worth it.
    • Human Nature Fragrance-Free Cleansing Bar 
      This is a cheaper bar soap alternative that’s also very gentle in cleansing the body. I love the Human Nature brand and can always rely on it!
    • Aveeno Skin Relief 24hr Moisturizing Lotion 
      I apply this all over my body after cleansing. It gets absorbed pretty quickly and doesn’t leave the skin feeling sticky. (I also tried the Physiogel Daily Moisture Therapy Lotion, and it didn’t irritate my skin. I just prefer the ingredients in Aveeno.)
    • E45 Cream 
      This one is a thicker and stickier formula that I apply to problematic areas only. It has been great in relieving irritated spots! The stickiness is just something I have to get used to.
    • E45 Itch Relief Cream
      I don’t use this very often since I don’t itch as much anymore. But it’s great to put on before bed, so you don’t scratch while you sleep. (I have to thank C for getting me these E45 products from London. They’ve been working great!)
    • Fucicort Cream
      This is a corticosteroid cream, which is my last resort. I keep a small tube in case things get out of hand and I need something strong to manage my rashes. Thankfully, I haven’t had the need to use it for a while.

I almost forgot what it’s like not having to worry and feel conscious about my skin. These days, I feel more confident to dress up, go out, and do the things I enjoy doing. I’m more present when spending time with loved ones and friends; I’m more relaxed when having some alone time.

I will have to live with dermatitis my whole life, but I have learned to manage it, making me happier in the skin I’m in. And for that, I’m grateful.

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