A proper introduction to this blog would be to let you know that it was formerly known as “Panda Loves Eyeliner”. What started out as a casual hobby, then turned into a seldom used creative outlet, but yielded a lot of good friends and fellow bloggers from around the world. I kept in touch mainly through Instagram and have loved seeing each of them thrive, but also still encourage and support me in my dabbling in artwork and doodle-ry, as well as feed my itch to buy more makeup—that I obviously didn’t need. But most importantly, we all stayed friends.
I did go on a very long blogging hiatus, went through some life changes and events, and now I’m back and itching to share my recent discoveries, adventures, and struggles with my skin and health. If you followed Panda Loves Eyeliner before, you’ll know I’m obsessed with k-beauty and everything Korean cosmetics. It worked beautifully for me for a long while up until about mid to the end of 2015. My skin was pretty happy (on my face, my shoulders and back is a different beast)—rare blemishes (usually only during that time of month), or an occasional breakout, but nothing too destructive. Fast forward to 2016 until present day, my face is angry, red, a fair amount of volcanic and eruptive cysts (not an exaggeration at all), and not much I can do about it unfortunately. March 2016, I gave in and decided to pay my dermatologist a visit to get everything situated since the “acne” (I use this term loosely because I have no idea if what I’m experiencing is acne or something auto-immune related) was very painful and left lesions or major scar tissue behind, and always seemed to come back no matter what. I have been on acne meds before, which were just antibiotics. They typically cleared up things and dried me out so bad that everything just went away. This time, they prescribed me Bactrim which is Sulfamethoxazole/Trimethoprim.
Long story short, Bactrim and my body did not get along at all and it put me in the ER for a night and then I was admitted to the hospital for two days. It was the worst freaking experience ever. Turns out that taking Bactrim caused serum sickness—I had a hypersensitive reaction to it that caused some crazy flu-like symptoms. It started with a 102 fever the weekend of the first week I took the medication. I went to the Urgent Care thinking that maybe I caught a bug. They told me to go ahead and just take normal flu meds and get lots of rest—I recovered by Monday. I was told that Bactrim shouldn’t cause any fevers and that it should be fine to continue taking it. I waited an entire week after my first fever and decided to restart the Bactrim while at work. Within 20 minutes of my first dose, I began a fever, crazy body aches and chills, and my eyes became bloodshot and the circulation around my face felt like someone was strangling me. I rushed myself home and my trusty roommate at the time, rushed me to the Urgent Care where they “just had no idea what was causing the fever!”. So, they sent me to the ER. Before they diagnosed me with serum sickness, they had to be sure it was not meningitis, which apparently the symptoms I was having with serum sickness were very similar. SO, the doctor required a lumbar puncture be done to rule it out. AND THUS, while I was being poisoned essentially by my acne medication, they had to stab me in the spine to take fluid, with a giant freaking needle to be sure I didn’t have meningitis. Fun times.
This little ER adventure was enough to set me back some serious cash (LIKE OMG) AND make me never want to go back to the dermatologist again. Finally, after a few weeks of recovery, my health returned to normal and I decided to try something I had never done before—see a naturalpath. I figured, well, I tried traditional medicine and antibiotics for my acne and never see a permanent or consistent result, so why not try a more natural approach, that most likely wouldn’t put me in the damn hospital. I was also on a mission to find the root cause and cure it, or at the very least improve things so my face could finally stop being so angry. Another long story short, but actually long (sorry!), I began my visits with a doctor who practiced Ayurvedic medicine, which is an Indian medicine. I don’t know much about it, but the concepts my doctor applied to me and my skin dilemma was balance, correcting my diet, and healing my gut, which should in turn reduce my skin inflammations.
She began by educating me about eating seasonally—meaning I should be eating veggies and fruits that are in season or as “nature intended” so to speak. I thought, “sure why not!”. I was all in, really no questions asked, because honestly even if I didn’t gain anything skin condition wise, I’d at least have a very healthy diet which isn’t a bad trade off. I spent the first two months drinking 4x the amount of water I was drinking before (I’m not a great water drinker, so four times the amount isn’t much at all), and cooking and eating more homemade meals. I immediately felt better, but as for my skin, it was about the same. She then had me take an official food allergy test since I hadn’t had one done recently. In my last allergy test that I had done at least 5 years ago I had a sensitivity with peanuts, soy, and eggs. My up to date allergy test revealed much more sensitivities—there are three levels of sensitivity low, moderate, and avoid. At least 80% of the foods I had a sensitivity to were in the moderate section with the avoid list containing really about two to three things:
- Bell peppers
- Brewer’s yeast
- All dairy
That’s quite the list aye?! Yeah, trust me I KNOW. It wasn’t that hard once I found that I can eat things that are still somewhat tasty (onions alllll the tiiiiime since I couldn’t have garlic often), and I’m a creature of habit, so I can eat the same thing for a few days in a row before I get sick of it. Along with this allergy test, we also found that I had an extremely high level of candida. Candida is apparently the most common cause of fungal infections worldwide! Don’t let this freak you out—candida is something that everyone has in their guts, some of us (like me) just have an overgrowth of it. Essentially, everything in my allergy test that my doctor asked me to avoid is something that can help my candida grow. If you read up about candida, it’s said that the common causes for the overgrowth can be caused by antibiotics (which makes sense for me when I was on acne meds for a few years), a high-sugar diet, and too much stress. I fall under antibiotics and a high-sugar diet for sure, stress is here and there, but I am sure that my main candida overgrowth causes are my sugary diet and my history of antibiotics. (Again, not a doctor, just personal conclusions about my own body).
Thus, I have very unbalanced gut flora. In short, my skin ailments in theory should improve once I balance my gut! I’m sure some of you have heard or read somewhere that balancing your gut will help your entire body function better and feel better overall. After adjusting and sticking to this diet avoiding all of the listed things above (it was extremely difficult, but I did it and I stuck to it for at least 98% of the time), I felt a lot better—I had healthier and more frequent bowel movements, which before I was apparently not going enough (sorry TMI, but we’re all adults here), more energy and less sluggish from day to day, and I slept better. My doctor also of course, encouraged me to exercise and stay as active as possible and also got me on some supplements. We also thought it was a good idea to attempt to get my body into its most natural state, by taking me off my birth control. (Background—I have been on birth control since I was about 15). For about 3-5 months I took a probiotic, Trifal (for digestive health), Neem (skin health), and Regu-Cycle (for female health) three times a day. I also took a fish oil capsule (to help regulate oil production) once a day. It’s been over 6 months now, and because I’m not made of money, I’m not seeing my doctor anymore (in short—she’s no longer at the clinic I was going to and I moved), I cut my supplements down to one dose every day because I didn’t notice a difference between taking certain ones three times a day as opposed to just once a day (plus it was easier to remember). Aside from the major change in my diet, taking supplements, and sleep pattern (get more sleep), I also reduced the amount of caffeine I consumed a week. I went from drinking coffee every day, to once every other day to twice a week, to once a week at most. This was a bit of a struggle, but doable. I also cut out or reduced greatly my intake of any refined sugar. Reducing refined sugar and all dairy really propelled my progress and was when I actually felt or saw any real improvements in my skin overall.
It’s been over 6 months and I am still following the diet of avoiding most of what’s on my list to a tee, but I am not seeing much improvement. My skin doesn’t get worse, but doesn’t get better, and it always just erupts during that time of month every month. So it’s as though there’s no time to recover, and when there’s a moment where my skin begins to clear up, it’s time for another flare-up.
Why did I just write a freaking novel about this? It’s important to give you some back story so you’re not thinking this all happened over night. I should also mention, I’m obviously not a doctor or an expert in any of the medicines, diets, or skin-related issues I touched on. This is me merely sharing my experience and findings based on my own body and my own skin. So what now? Before my Ayurvedic doctor left the clinic, she did say she wanted me to do some hormone testing, which unfortunately we never got around to. I am working on getting this done soon so I can have more answers or at least more resources to help me continue my journey to better or at least happier skin.
If you’re still with me to this point, I thank you for taking the time to read my drawn out babble about my skin problems. It’s nice to be able to express my frustration and struggles with this and hopefully you’re only reading out of interest and not experiencing what I am. (I wouldn’t wish it on anyone). Out of the suggestion of a couple friends, I will be trying a chemical peel very soon for the first time. With the simple theory that, maybe the boost I need to clear up my skin and then be able to maintain it, is to exfoliate anything dead or get rid of the messed up layer, and allow the new layer to continuously repair with me maintaining it. We’ll see how it goes. I hope you’ll join me on my next post when I tell you about how that goes! Until next time.