I began struggling with my skin in 2013. I was standing in the restroom putting eyeliner on when I noticed how red and cracked my cheeks were. It was as if by acknowledging the redness that I also suddenly felt the intense heat. I did a quick body check and realized that aside from my face, I felt fine. When I hovered my palms over my skin I could feel the heat. Leaning in towards the mirror, I turned my head from side to side and wondered if I had had an allergic reaction.
Grabbing a paper towel from the dispenser, I moistened it with cold water and laid it on one cheek and then the other. I repeated the process on both sides for fifteen minutes before my skin returned to its normal pink glow. I looked like myself again, well almost. I was flushed but at least my cheeks no longer appeared cracked and cherry red.
It was around this time that I had begun taking serious steps to getting healthier. Having moved from Boston to Bangkok six months prior, I walked everywhere. Not that I did not walk in Boston, but my commute to work involved considerably more transportation than just the Orange Line. In Thailand I walked, climbed several flights of stairs to the BTS (Bangkok Transit System) platform, changed trains, and if I was feeling brave, hopped on a motorbike to avoid sitting in stagnant traffic. I would then repeat the same journey home in the late afternoon, sometimes changing it up for amusement sake.
With all this change, I considered what this was doing to my body. Sure, I was getting more exercise, eating healthier (because who can resist all that delicious street food), and consuming more water, but in exchange, I was breathing in all the smog and pollution that comes with living in a bustling cosmopolitan city. Furthermore, it was an adjustment living in hot, tropical weather day in and day out, especially since I was used to four seasons.
I began keeping a food journal. I wrote down everything I ate and drank every day, trying to figure out what had triggered my reaction. I did not have another ‘attack’ as I called it for a long time and chalked it up to something I had touched.
A year later, I was lecturing at my university when an intense pain flooded my senses. Gripping the lectern, I prayed I would not pass out. Thankfully, class ended a few minutes later and I was able to catch an elevator to the ground floor. I remembered that the nurse’s office was to my immediate left once I exited.
I walked in, laid on a bed and passed out. Once I was revived with smelling salts, the nurse questioned my symptoms, gave me a hot water bottle and two Ibuprofen. She remarked that my cheeks were tomato red, cracked, and that I looked flushed.
Shortly thereafter, I went to a local hospital and learned that a cyst had ruptured and that another was sitting on my left ovary. This one broke during an ultrasound. It was the second worst pain I have ever experienced, my gall bladder coming in first.
I was given a prescription for morphine, which I subsequently never took as I hated the woozy feeling it created. Instead, I began researching online for natural ways to relieve menstrual symptoms and discovered ginger. I immediately went out and bought myself a fresh root.
As mid-cycle set in I began drinking hot water with a few slices of ginger. I also carried several small pieces in a sealed baggy in the event I needed fast relief. I would take out a piece, chew it slowly while trying not to gag, and then swallow it. In minutes I would feel relief.
While continuing my research, I had also been tested for a wide-range of skin and food allergies. Everything came back normal. I felt relieved but also frustrated. Aside from the morphine I was not offered any other type of help and the only suggestion I was given was to lose weight.
Two years later I moved to Saudi Arabia and with it came another climate and lifestyle change. Strangely, my skin cleared up, but the cysts became more frequent. Doctors at a local hospital suggested I become pregnant to relieve the pain. I ignored this advice and continued to consume ginger and turmeric, which I had begun adding to my daily regimen.
I stopped using my expensive creams and lotions and began washing my face with raw honey mixed with a pinch of turmeric, toning with rose water, and moisturizing with fresh aloe. While my skin became healthier my diet and exercise went south. I no longer walked very much because it was too hot to be outside for long periods of time. I was also consuming dairy and oils as a part of my daily diet.
Once I returned to the U.S. my skin took a turn for the worse. Not to be left out of the fun, my forehead and chin joined in and now mid-month my skin would start to crack. By the time my period would make its appearance, my skin resembled a burn victim. It was cracked, blistering, and painful. I was embarrassed to go to work. Doctors diagnosed me with everything from eczema, psoriasis, to contact dermatitis. I ran the gamut of medications and every month I would face the same predicament. It took years of experimenting with my skincare routine and diet before receiving any answers.
Five years since my first outbreak I have learned that I was suffering from the following:
- A hormonal imbalance
- Low iron
- Low magnesium
As for why my skin broke out in blisters and became inflamed, that is still an ongoing debate to which my doctors have no answer. In turn, I now mostly eat a plant-based diet, and although I do enjoy things like ice cream, I keep my sugar and salt intakes low. I also wash my face with honey but when I want to switch things up I use Cetaphil and moisturize with Teddie Organics Rosehip Seed Oil. I also take a daily vitamin and Evening Primrose Oil in a capsule. This combination has been a lifesaver.
I notice that my monthly mood swings are minimized, my skin no longer cracks, and I have not had a blistering breakout since August 2017. Although it is an ongoing balance, it is no longer frustrating. I have more energy and my body thanks me for the changes I have made.
Check with your doctor first if you are on any medications before deciding to make changes to your vitamin intake and daily skincare regimen.
Any grammar and mechanical issues are the responsibility of the author, and even though she’s an English teacher and does proofread, there may be some errors.