Having an autoimmune disease poses a plethora of problems, both physically and emotionally; but aside from the fatigue, aches and pains that make you feel like you’ve been hit by a bus, and weird medication and dietary adjustments, there’s the Hell it can wreak on your skin that just adds insult to injury. With me, the worst of the worst is the unsightly and uncomfortable “Butterfly Rash”, or Malar rash. It’s nicknamed after the butterfly, because it presents over the cheeks and bridge of the nose, typically, and the shape looks like our little winged friend. In my case, the redness across my nose is doesn’t generally present with a raised rash as well, but my cheeks…oh, sweet lord. I get scaly, red skin that erupts in tiny closed comedones and hive-like bumps. It’s tight, warm, and itchy, and it sucks big time.
I have to warn you – it isn’t pretty:
And the worst part of this whole mess is that almost everything i put on it irritates it and makes it worse. And, it seems to just come out of nowhere! What brought it on this time, i believe, is right before my current flare up, i had been using acids on my face fairly consistently for the past couple weeks – a product i’d used before, but not on a regular basis. Usually, i use my trusty Sunday Riley Luna Oil – but i ran out and haven’t had a chance to replace the bottle. That will teach me to deviate from my usual routine…
The difficulty is that flare-ups of my illness hit hard and fast, and if i’m not really paying attention, it will blindside me. I’ve been fighting a cold lately, so i didn’t notice the other symptoms creeping up as some of them are similar to what happens when i have a virus. What clinched it, of course, was the appearance of the Malar rash – pretty much a dead giveaway that my immune system is on the fritz. Fortunately, there are things i can do to alleviate the severity and cut short the duration of the unsightly bug-rash. This involves paring down my usual routine to the basics, because i don’t want a plethora of products on my skin, potentially adding to the irritation. The main thing is to HYDRATE the living f*ck out of my face. Continuously keeping my skin hydrated throughout the day ensures that it doesn’t have the chance to dry out and get scaly.
Because nobody wants a lizard face, amirite?
The first thing i do is to cut out all acids and exfoliating products – as those will just further dry out and irritate my skin. In fact, i cut out ALL actives, including Vitamin-C – anything that alters the structure of the skin. Instead, i concentrate on intense, constant hydration to heal my erupting epidermis. Read further to learn about my routine when my skin freaks out on me!
The Skincare Routine:
Cleanser – The very first step begins with cleansing – i will only use an oil or balm cleanser when my skin is freaking out, because the last thing i want to do is strip my skin of moisture right off the bat. Using a good oil or balm will ensure that my skin retains a healthy moisture level. Until my skin heals, i’ll skip my usual two-step cleansing ritual so that i’m not overdoing it and irritating my face further. My absolute favourite (not pictured because i just ran out, and need to replace it this weekend) is the Eve Lom Cleansing Balm, which is super mild, with a great texture which is like a soft, yet solid, oil. It’s super-gentle, and smells amazing (some people don’t like the herbal scent, but i adore it). This stuff is expensive, i’m not gonna lie – but it’s the only cleanser that’s ever made a real difference in my skin’s health and overall texture. I use only my hands to wash it off, forgoing the muslin cloth it comes with, because any sort of rubbing exacerbates the problem.
Toner – The next step is a super-hydrating toner – something with a thick, milky texture seems to work best for me – right now i’m using the Belif Witch Hazel Herbal Extract Toner for dry skin, and i will skip any toning waters that also cleanse or exfoliate (i usually apply Son & Park Beauty Water, for instance, before the thicker Belif toner when my skin is healthy). This preps my skin with a good layer of hydration, and helps the following products to penetrate better. The Witch Hazel and chamomile are really good for my skin right now, as they help to both purify and heal the skin.
Serum – Next is my beloved Gollum Root – i.e. Ginseng – serum. Ginseng is really excellent when my skin is a hot mess, because it’s very healing when used topically – it’s full of phytonutrients and encourages the skin’s metabolism. I’ll apply this twice a day – it’s the only serum i trust not to make things worse – and as i said, i don’t want to pile on the products right now! I use two different Ginseng serums – either the Sulwhasoo Capsulized Ginseng Fortifying Serum (when i can manage to get my grubby claws on a trial sized bottle, because EXPENSIVE AF), or the much cheaper but equally effective, in my opinion, I’m From Ginseng Serum.
Essence – Then i apply two good, gentle essences. One for hydration, one to promote healing. The first essence, Dr Jart’s Ceramidin Liquid, is so gentle, and feels amazing on my skin. This super hydrating essence has ceramides, licorice root, aloe vera, and panthenol – all ingredients that hydrate, calm irritation, and promote healing. Next, i apply the Gastropod Goo – i.e., Snail Mucin. The one i use has a super-high concentration (96%) of goo, and little else; the inimitable COSRX Advanced Snail 96 Power Essence. This might be the most important step in my sick-skin routine; it is incredibly healing, is the Gastropod Goo – and has in fact been used for wound healing in Korea for ages. Right before i go to bed, i will re-apply this magic substance over everything else (which means i apply it twice, yes) – and in the morning, things look noticeably better. If i’m home during the day, i’ll slather it on a few times in order to keep my skin saturated with it.
Eye Serum/Cream – since the eye area is extra sensitive, and a lot of my eruptions are directly around this area, i need to be very careful what i use. Thus far, there are two products that don’t make things worse – which is a good thing since this area needs special care and extra hydration. The Tatcha Luminous Deep Hydration Firming Eye Serum has all kinds of anti-inflammatory, hydrating and healing goodies in it – like camellia sinensis leaf, rice bran ferment, Panax ginseng extract, and Squalane. It has a cooling ceramic applicator, which feels SO lovely on my hot, irritated skin. I layer this with a rich eye-cream, because now more than ever, i need the extra hydration. The Sulwhasoo Concentrated Ginseng Renewing Eye Cream has many ingredients in common with the Tatcha serum, but is much thicker – and adds a layer of moisture and protection, without bugging my skin. I only have a trial size of the Sulwhasoo stuff, as the full size is a bit much even for me – eventually i’ll have to find something comparable, or bite the bullet and cough up $180. Gah.
Moisturizer – Until my skin heals, there is only one moisturizing product line i trust to help heal my skin – sans any irritators such as fragrance or alcohol. The Dr Jart Ceramidin Gel Cream, and it’s sister product, the somewhat heavier Ceramidin Cream, (which i also have as the Gel Cream has been discontinued) is a true godsend. Rich in ceramides (hence the name, duh), which help strengthen and build the skin’s naturally occuring protective barrier, these amazing creams are free of anything that irritate my skin, and are the only things i’ve been able to put on the rash comfortably. The cream is going to be reformulated, apparently with even more ceramides, as well as the anti-inflammatory tumeric. You can’t get it here yet, but it’s being sold in Korea now.
Sunscreen – Because sun exposure can actually CAUSE the Malar Rash (a fact i just learned), it’s extremely important to use a good sunscreen with a high SPF. The one i currently use is the Algenist Sublime Defense SPF 50 sunscreen. It’s lightweight, and goes easily under your primer and/or foundation. I’d been forgetting to use it for the past couple weeks, counting on the SPF in my cushion compact and LMdB Peau Vierge, and i suspect that played a part in my current woes. No more will i forget this crucial step! Dermatologists recommend and SPF of at LEAST 30 if you are prone to these types of rashes in order to prevent – and help quicken healing times. You better believe i slathered the stuff on before i left the house this morning.
Protective Primer – the final step in my routine is an occlusive primer, as i forgo any kind of foundation or cushion or BB cream until my skin has healed. Foundation is a non-essential item that my skin just doesn’t need right now – it can irritate skin and clog pores. The last thing i need. Fortunately, there is this awesome primer! The Tatcha Silk Canvas doesn’t just help to somewhat blur and conceal the mess on my face – it also calms my skin and provides a final protective barrier against the elements. It also prevents breakouts – which is helpful! I don’t need things getting worse because of a random spate of acne. The Silk Canvas contains silk powder, camellia sinensis leaf, rice bran ferment, and red algae – all of which help to improve my skin’s appearance while it looks like road-kill; as well as protect, heal, and hydrate, while absorbing excess oils.
Facial Mist – as an extra step, it helps to have a good, gentle facial hydrating mist in order to keep things hydrated throughout the day, especially when you’re working and can’t be slathering snail goo on your face all day. A couple good ones (not pictured) are the Tatcha Luminous Dewy Face Mist, which has tons of goodies like rice bran ferment, and camellia sinensis leaf extract in it, and Mario Badescu’s Facial Spray – which contains aloe and rosewater to soothe and heal.
And that’s it for my patented (not really) Bug-Rash Healing Routine! I truly hope this post has been helpful to anyone dealing with similar skin issues – the main thing to remember is, as my Grandma Mae used to always say, This Too Shall Pass. And if you’re diligent, consistent, and gentle with your skin, it may pass more quickly and less painfully.
If you have any products or a routine that works for you, please tell me about it in the comments! And as always, stay ravishing, Kumquats. <3
XO – Monday