Day 66 - Why Natural Skincare May Not Be For You

I have struggled with dry skin and eczema on my face for the last 6 or 7 years.  I don't know if it's age, increase in physical activity, or the climates where I've been living, but I've had regular flare ups of itchy, dry, red skin on my chin and cheeks.  I tried just about every moisturizer recommended to me, whether by friends, magazines, the internet, or dermatologists, and none of them worked.  Not CeraVe, not Cetaphil, not expensive stuff from Kiehl's or Clinique, not even coconut oil, which is supposed to cure everything.  

SENSITIVE SKIN AND THE COCONUT OIL FAIL

One winter, while I was living in New York, it got really bad.  I attempted to treat some dry skin with coconut oil, and my skin flared up like never before.  It was red, itchy, and broke out in what looked like a rash.  It felt like my skin was angry with me.  

I went to a new dermatologist in search of help.  He took a look at my very irritated skin, and diagnosed me as having a predisposition to eczema.  He told me that many factors can bring on these flare ups, including heat, sun, alcohol, caffeine, sugar, cold weather, and certain skincare products.  

This made sense.  The previous weekend I had been in Key West, Florida for a friend's bachelorette party, where it was hot, we were in the sun, and we were drinking.  When I came home to New York at the end of the weekend, it was extremely cold, and I had introduced a new and unwelcome skincare product in the form of coconut oil, which actually made my dryness worse.

 So my face exploded. 

THE UNLIKELY MIRACLE CURE

The nice doctor prescribed me some face wash and an ointment, but his most important contribution to my life was to recommend Nivea cream as a moisturizer.  He told me to go home, slather on a thick layer of it, and let my skin drink it in, promising that the itchiness and irritation would ease by morning.  

It worked like a miracle.  I couldn't believe that a drugstore moisturizer could turn my skin around so quickly.  I've used it ever since, and it has saved me from harsh New York winters and similar flare ups time and again.

BUT SURELY NATURAL IS BETTER

Yet, for some reason, I am still occasionally tempted to try new products, and each time I do, end up going back to my old faithful Nivea cream.  Most recently, it was because I took a look at the ingredients label, and was uncomfortable with the amount of petroleum-based ingredients it contained.  

I thought "surely there must be a natural moisturizer that has the same or better benefits."  So I began trying to make my own.  I tried every combination of almond oil, beeswax, shea butter, cocoa butter, olive oil, jojoba oil, aloe vera, and even coconut oil that I could think of.   But with everything I tried, my skin would flare up bright red and get angry at me again.  

So I reverted back to the Nivea cream once more, and immediately my skin was soothed and cooled, and the dry, red patches faded away.  I was so frustrated, that this petroleum-based moisturizer seemed to be the best thing for my sensitive skin.  It doesn't make sense!  

FORGIVE YOURSELF IF NATURAL DOESN'T WORK FOR YOU

Then I remembered my own advice, about how going zero waste and natural is not a game of all or nothing.  If Nivea cream is the only thing that my very sensitive, eczema prone skin can handle, then so be it.  I can use natural products on the rest of my body, on my hair, in my makeup, and know that I've improved my routine and made it less harmful to the planet.  And I can smile with confidence and know that I tried, and that I've found a product that works with my condition.  

On the plus side, it also happens to come in a metal tin, which is recyclable.  One loss, one win.  I'll call it a draw and enjoy my glowing complexion and my plastic-free bathroom.