Dermatitis causes itchy, red, spotty skin around the nose and between the mouth, jaw, and chin. For most people this is bad enough, but as a model, it makes life very difficult. Over the last four and a half years, I have tried everything to fix it: hormone-prescribed creams, Sudocrem, exfoliants, moisturisers, soaps, UV-light treatments, just leaving it alone, cutting out certain foods, quitting drinking, and sleeping longer hours. While some of these alleviate and — if used in tandem — can effectively help bring down the inflammation, it wasn’t a long-term solution. And I needed a solution: One morning while working on an e-comm shoot in Spain, I spotted a member of the production team pointing at the screen, screwing their face up and saying rojo. I just prayed they wouldn’t send me home.
Then last year, at an Hermès show in London, my makeup artist suggested I try Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant. I didn’t think much of it (I had tried everything else, to little avail), but as soon as my skin flared up a few days after, I scrambled to order it online. The first time I used it, it was revelatory. It took away the irritation that made me want to touch my sore patches, and helped with blackheads too. While it’s not known precisely what causes Seborrheic Dermatitis, it is thought that it is an irregular immune response to a yeast (fungus) called malassezia that is naturally secreted through oil on the skin. The salicylic acid of Paula’s Choice helps destroy the fungi that causes the auto-immune reaction, effectively resetting my skin at zero and allowing time for the skin to heal.
It’s not recommended you use the exfoliant daily, because the salicylic acid is powerful and your skin needs time to bring back its natural moisture, oils and microbial life. So, I just use this exfoliant when my dermatitis is particularly bad, or I need my skin to look good in a day or so. To apply, I simply add a few dabs onto a cotton pad (or better, a reusable pad) and lightly rub downwards around the affected areas. Generally I’ll do this before going to sleep. It is highly recommended you use moisturiser after application as it can dry the skin quite badly. Usually I have a stash of freebie moisturisers collected from events, or sent to me by brands, or from Christmas presents. (I’m on Neal’s Yard Rejuvenating Moisturiser at the moment.)
Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant isn’t perfect. But living with dermatitis is a matter of damage limitation. Now, when my dermatitis flares up I don’t get stressed (which cruelly, also aggravates the condition) because I know I’ve got this dermatological trick up my sleeve.
Some other Strategist-recommended skincare
Contributor Chelsey Pippin turns to this beeswax salve, when she finds her eczema has flared up on her hands. “All natural and made from beeswax, it’s also got sunflower oil and shea butter. It comes in a pocket-friendly metal tin, and I’ve found it the perfect solution for my flayed hands.”
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