For the past year, I have battled a skin condition called Perioral Dermatitis. This is the unfortunate combination of acne and eczema that usually appears around the mouth, but in my case appeared around my mouth and other parts of my face.
Over the past year, I have tried just about everything to heal this condition. I put yogurt on my face. I saw a dermatologist. I used topical prescriptions. I tried apple cider vinegar. I endured a colonic. I had infrared sauna sessions. I saw a naturopath. I took medication for parasites. I tried clay masks. I used plain acne face wash. I tried tea tree oil. I took a month off from work to destress. I meditated. I did a healing face dance. I cried. I put frozen corn on my face. The rabbit hole was deep, and I was locked in.
I’ve always had clear skin, so when my skin started to break out in July of 2019, I knew something was up. At the time, I was in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where I was just recovering from a month-long mystery illness that landed me in the hospital.
I had a high fever for over a week, and I had zero energy (I had to shower while sitting on a stool). I had a scary low platelet count, and I had no appetite. I was admitted to the hospital where they thought I had dengue fever, but the tests kept coming back negative.
They ran more tests, but they never did figure out what was wrong with me. They gave me a huge dose of intravenous antibiotics and released me the next day when my fever went down. I still had weird symptoms for the next couple of months, but I never went back to the hospital.
Shortly after I was released from the hospital, pimples started to develop on and around my nose, which I assumed was from all the medication. I was also really stressed, not only because I had been so sick, but because we had been in Malaysia for almost three months helping Luanne’s dad who was dying of pancreatic cancer. It was a sad and intense period, so I was not surprised that my skin was out of balance.
But the weird thing was, the breakout never went away. It only got worse. Even months after we had returned home and I was back to my normal super healthy routine, my skin looked and felt awful.
This was problematic for two reasons. The first being it was really uncomfortable. Unlike run-of-the-mill annoying acne, my skin was super itchy, irritated, and painful, and there was never any relief. Even when I was sleeping, I would wake up from painful bleeding areas on my face that I had scratched open in my sleep.
One evening earlier this year, I was bringing my plate of food to the dinner table and my face was so itchy and painful that I just stopped in my tracks, closed my eyes, and started shaking and crying. I wanted to throw my food across the room and scratch my face off. I finally put my plate down and went upstairs to the bedroom where I had a cry and splashed cold water on my face.
The other reason my inflamed skin was problematic was that I am the face of a whole food plant based company, and I eat a whole food plant based diet. One of the common benefits of eating this way is clear skin, and up until this point, my skin had always been super clear. I don’t usually care what people think about me, but my skin was no longer a reflection of my healthy lifestyle and food choices, and honestly, it was embarrassing.
During this time, I found out that someone who I thought was a good friend had been telling people that I was a junk food addict, that I was drinking again, and that I did not eat a whole food plant based diet. According to them, this was why my skin was so bad.
Hearing these words cut like a knife, and punched me right in the gut. Of course, none of it was true, and I quickly ended that friendship, but I did wonder what people must think. If I ate a whole food plant based diet, exercised and meditated regularly, and didn’t drink alcohol, smoke, or do drugs, then why was my skin so irritated, inflamed, and horrible?
I kept digging for answers while trying numerous different creams, oils, face washes, and masks.
I first went to a dermatologist who diagnosed me with Perioral Dermatitis (PD) and prescribed two topical prescription creams: Metronidazole and Clindamycin. He said these should start working within a couple of days. After a week my skin only got worse, so I stopped using them altogether.
I assumed that his diagnosis had been wrong since my skin did not respond to the medication. I kept looking for answers. I went to Clinique and bought some regular ol’ acne face wash. This totally dried out my skin and left it even redder, while adding a new flaky layer of skin on top of my already inflamed face.
Next, my desperate research led me to wonder if parasites were to blame for my skin issues. I booked an appointment with a naturopath and went into it with skeptical high hopes. I told him I thought I had parasites, so he hooked me up to an electro-acupuncture device and confirmed that yes, yes I did have parasites, several different types in different places in my body.
He prescribed five days of Praziquantel and a colonic on day six. The naturopath told me I would probably get very sick from the medication as the parasites were dying off. After five days of the medication, I didn’t feel a thing. I felt totally normal. I went for my colonic on day six, and it was pretty fucking horrific. You can read ALL about it here.
As it turns out, most people have parasites of some kind or another, including me (as was disgustingly evident during my colonic), but parasites were not the cause of my inflamed, angry, irritated skin. I felt defeated, and I was ready to give up.
Trying to find an answer when you don’t even know the problem is incredibly frustrating. But it isn’t like me to give up, so I decided to take a month off from work so I could unplug, and create space for the problem and the answer to arrive. And that’s exactly what happened.
In the Sweary Love Letter I sent out on Saturday, May 23rd, I told our awesome community of Dirties that I would be taking the next month off to decompress and really figure out what was going on with my skin. Within an hour I had hundreds of responses in my inbox with ideas of what it could be. I read every single email because I was open to anything. And it’s a good thing I did because the answer was in one of those emails.
One of the emails I got was from a dear woman named Mary. She asked if I had ever been diagnosed with Perioral Dermatitis. She told me that she had struggled with it for a year before she found a skincare company called Osmia based in Colorado whose founder, Sarah, had battled Perioral Dermatitis for years before she quit being an ER doctor to make soap and create a solution for her skin.
Mary had been using their products and following their advice for PD for six months, and she had experienced amazing results.
As soon as I got done reading Mary’s email I felt a full body YES come over me. I remembered that the dermatologist I had seen months ago DID diagnose me with PD, but I had written it off since the prescribed medication didn’t work. I quickly went to Osmia’s website and started reading.
It was the first time in a year that I felt like I might be able to get a handle on this. I placed an order on their website and waited with giddy anticipation. The package arrived the following week and within using their products for three or four days there was a noticeable shift in my skin. It wasn’t as angry and inflamed. It wasn’t as painful.
I kept using the products and following Sarah’s suggestions. Little by little, my skin started to heal. I was overjoyed. I couldn’t believe it was actually working. I should probably stop right here and tell you that I am in no way affiliated with Osmia. I did not get paid to write this blog post, nor have I ever received free products from them. I am a paying customer with absolutely nothing to gain from tooting their horn except the hope that it will help someone else who is suffering from Perioral Dermatitis.
A month after I started using their products and following their suggestions my skin had drastically improved, both with how it felt and how it looked. But I was still getting some painful flare ups and it had yet to go away completely.
One of Sarah’s suggestions is to cut gluten out of the diet and see if it helps improve things. I was really fucking resistant to this suggestion. REALLY fucking resistant. But I gave it a shot because I was curious to see if my skin would respond. So, out the gluten went. And you know what? It fucking WORKED. My skin went from much better to almost totally healed within two weeks.
And then one morning after a hike, I went out to breakfast and ordered a vegan breakfast burrito without even thinking about the tortilla. Halfway through eating I remembered that I wasn’t eating gluten, and so I emptied the contents of the burrito onto my plate and ate it like that.
I kid you not, within a couple of hours my face flared up, and I broke out. This was enough for me to keep gluten out of my diet. I was both pissed that I could no longer eat it and overjoyed that my face was so clear. It was confusing. I went with it. I will be writing a blog post about going gluten-free because it’s something that I never thought I would do, and I have lots to say about it.
I have been using Osmia’s products and following Sarah’s recommendations for 4 months now. I have been eating gluten-free for 3 months. For the past month my skin has been almost completely clear. I’ve had a few small flare ups but they don’t last long and they don’t spread out over my entire face. I believe I still have Perioral Dermatitis, but by using Osmia skincare and implementing a few modifications to my routine, the condition is dormant and no longer bothering me.
There were a few things that I was already doing that help to calm PD, like eating a healthy plant based diet, staying hydrated, avoiding coffee, and getting plenty of good sleep. There were other things however that I definitely needed to adjust. Here’s a list of everything I did to heal Perioral Dermatitis without the use of prescriptions.
I immediately stopped using facial oil to moisturize with (as you will read in the article and guide above, PD hates oil, and that’s exactly what I was using to moisturize my face for months before I found Osmia!).
I use the following Osmia products:
These were the ONLY two things I used on my face for two months. After my skin was on its way to recovery I added in these items that I love:
I stopped using fluoride toothpaste.
I stopped eating gluten (more to come on this soon).
I stopped eating cinnamon (a trigger for PD).
I started taking evening primrose oil capsules.
I stopped using all products with sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate (SLS) (I am loving Molly’s Suds laundry soap!).
I chilled out and stopped taking pictures of my skin everyday.
It’s true that Osmia does an incredible job catering to skin with special needs, but anyone can use their products. If I didn’t have PD I would absolutely use their skincare. I cannot say enough good things about them. Their products smell amazing and feel so good. My skin is happy again and I will forever be grateful for Mary who pointed me in the right direction when she pointed me to Osmia. Osmia is an incredible company, and Sarah, the founder is the real deal. I reached out to Sarah a while back to see if she would be up for chatting with me for this blog post and she said YES!
Here is my chat with Sarah, the founder of Osmia and fellow Perioral Dermatitis warrior.
I meant to ask her more about PD, but our conversation flowed to other fantastic topics. For more specific info on PD, refer to the two Osmia articles I linked above.
Closed captioning available.
Thank you for chatting with me, Sarah! And thank you for creating Osmia, it truly is the best skincare I have ever used.
If you’re suffering from Perioral Dermatitis, know that there is hope! It will take some adjustments to your routine, but it is so worth it. I am overjoyed that after a year, my skin is back to normal.
Chocolatey Garden Smoothie
Chocolatey Garden Smoothie
Makes 2 smoothies
- 1 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk
- ½ cup water
- 1 packed cup leafy greens (like spinach or kale) (50 g)
- ½ cup cucumber, chopped (75 g)
- 1 celery stalk, cut into quarters or smaller to fit into your blender (45 g)
- 3 tablespoons unsweetened cacao or cocoa powder (more if you want more chocolatey flavor / cacao powder will be bitter, cocoa powder will be smoother)
- 1 tablespoon ground flax seeds (can substitute ground chia or hemp seeds)
- 2 big ripe frozen bananas (or 4 small ripe frozen bananas) (200 g / add more if you'd like it sweeter)
Place everything in the blender and blend until creamy and smooth.
Note: If your bananas aren’t frozen, blend in some ice to make it nice and cold.
Wishing you a happy week. May it be filled with a clear path forward.