My Struggle With Sensitive Skin
My skin is like a pair of white pants: everything shows up on it. My emotions, what I eat, what I touch, environmental elements—and, like a pair of white pants, it's just as difficult to treat.
It feels like everything has some kind of effect on me. In the winter, the cold air immediately dries out my skin. At least I can wear sweaters and scarves that cover up my acne and irritation, but that only makes it feel worse. In the summer, sweat makes my skin sting and burn while the added oils make me breakout more. After I take a shower or wash my face, if the water gets too hot, my skin gets red, itchy, dried out, and covered in what looks like hives. Even after getting dressed in the morning, I look like I got in a catfight, with red scratch marks all over my neck, chest, arms, and legs, from my clothing rubbing against my skin.
One of the greatest struggles about my skin has always been not knowing the cause of the problem. How was I supposed to treat it without making it worse? I would do something to treat my acne, only to find that whatever I did made the breakouts redder and more painful than before—my face would peel, dry out, and feel so tight that it felt like it could crack if I did so much as smile.
Having a condition that’s so easily seen by others only makes it harder to live with. I’m very self-conscious about the appearance of my skin, so I end up trying to cover it up with make-up or clothing, rather than actually treating it. Anytime I receive a compliment about my face or skin in general, I can’t help but cower and think, if only you knew what I have to do to cover my blemishes and how much concealer I’m hiding behind.
It doesn’t help that I work as an artist too. Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do, but it’s hard to sit in front of a computer, zoomed in on someone’s face in Photoshop, and not think about my own flaws.
Fortunately, I have learned to accept my condition. But it’s not just accepting it; it’s about addressing the issue. Making the move to finally take control and figure out what was really going on with my skin was the turning point for me. I did my research and found a good dermatologist. Products with the label “dermatologist recommended” or “sensitive skin” don’t mean anything to me. My dermatologist informed me that the real truth is in the ingredients, and told me a good practice is testing products on the back of my hand or a small portion of skin before applying them everywhere.
“Fragrance-free” is my starting point for skincare products and even soaps and detergents. As much as I love warm, clean-smelling towels fresh out of the dryer, my skin doesn’t. Anything with preservatives, alcohol and sulfates are also a no-no. The more complicated ingredients that sound a lot like the name of a Mary Poppins song, like methylisothiazolinone, cinnamates, and sodium lauryl sulfate, as well as more common ingredients such as ammonia, harsh alcohol, parabens, or synthetic dyes are also on my list to steer clear of.
A good rule of thumb for me is this: If I can’t pronounce it, it’s probably not a good idea. Same concept goes for food.
Additives such as MSG, preservatives, sugar, and artificial colorings are troublemakers for my skin. I try to avoid everything that comes out of a box with an impossibly long shelf life, because it means, more often than not, that it’s packed full of additives.
I have to be as attentive about what I put in my body as what I put on it. My best advice to others would be to do your research and learn what’s actually happening. Find out which ingredients negatively affect your skin. Know your body. Take care of yourself.
It’s still a struggle, but I’ve come a long way.
Camille Butler is a 24-year-old visual effects student at Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD).