This is me. I am 35 years old. As a little note before you get to ugly pictures of my skin then a lot of the time i look like the picture on the left.
About 3 years ago from absolutely nowhere my normally ‘normal’ eyelids that i used to be able to use any type of make up on decided to become horribly sensitive. My eyes were reacting badly to something and looked like they were that of an elderly person, the skin was very thin and crinkly, dry, swollen, flaky, red, nasty. When I woke up in the mornings then I would be fully awake but unable to open my eyes. My eyelids pointed downwards because of the swelling to my eyelids and I often end up picking my eyelashes out as they stick into my eyes or lower lashes stick to upper lashes. It continued, persisted, and showed no signs of going away. I felt ugly. When it is really flared up I do not put myself forward for jobs (I am a performer), and I also rarely exit the house except to teach. It is a bit pathetic and vain, and I am aware that there are people far worse off than me with far worse problems to contend with, so at the same time as me being sad for me then i also give thanks for what I do have with my face, my eyes, my vision.
As a child I had very mild atopic eczema on my arms. As an adult this has returned, but only on my eyes and the front of my neck.
My ‘normal’ is not the below pictures, but it is how i get when i flare up. All the below pictures are from the last 2-3 months, but i have lots spanning the last 3-4 years, progressively over the years the pictures on flare ups have worsened.
Creams and Ointments
Originally not wanting to use hydrocortisone (steroid) cream on my eyelids then I researched and tried everything i could, 100% natural things and some not so natural things. I did quite a lot of Googling and since the beginning I have tried a wide variety of creams and eye gels, with varying degrees of success. I have pictured below a few of the creams I have used. It isn’t all of them as some of them got thrown out, or used up. Also included is when I had no idea what was up with my eyes in the early days and purchased anything that looked like it could help… I also tried going on a sunbed so that the rest of my face could be darker so that my red eyes did not stick out so much (it did not work very well…).
I avoid any creams with any type of fragrance. Although most creams even for sensitive skins sting and burn on application. There were a few lovely creams along the way that seemed magical because they didn’t make my skin burn. Such as MooGoo creams, their scalp cream is also designed to be used on the eye area which was good because most creams advise against it. It is 100% natural ingredients which i liked. On a day to day basis this cream kept the skin around my eyes moisturised. Then it stopped working for me.
This year, I had a huge flare up, the worst I had ever had. So much redness and swelling, painful. I would only exit the house to go and teach. After actually crying my way through teaching one evening, feeling like my eyeballs were going to explode, and unable to tolerate light, then I went to the eye hospital a&e. The eczema had got so bad that it had also caused my corneas on both eyes to have multiple scratches.
I had got to the point where trying OTC and natural remedies just was not working. The eye hospital put me on an intensive week of steroid cream, steroid ointment, eye drops, vaseline. It settled things down, though then the Vaseline made my eyes really itchy and then it all came back. I am now seeing a dermatologist and currently on another intensive treatment course with a combination of Cetraben cream, Elidel cream (pimecrolinus), and Emmunate cream (steroid based). Current plan is to settle it down and then find a long term management plan. I have currently abandoned the lovely plan of using natural products, at least for now.
Makeup I can not totally cut out because my employment requires me to wear it (I work on stage as a circus artist). I make an effort to use makeups that are hypoallergenic although sometimes even those trigger a reaction. Also sometimes i am given specific makeup to use, or a makeup artist with their own makeups does my makeup. Even when i feel it stinging my eyes there have been times where i have had to keep it on for the next 5 hours, not nice… When I get to do my own makeup for eyes I currently have some Almay makeup. If anyone has any other awesome brands then please comment on this post as I would love to hear what works well for other people. I am particularly interested in any makeups that can be worn onstage and makeups that are bold colours.
Nail Polish. I rarely use any nail polish on my fingers, if I do then I try not to keep it on beyond what i want it on for. Nail polished fingers touching eyes can be a big trigger for sensitive eyelid skin and I know from experience it triggers me. There are main culprit ingredients in nail polish, notably formaldehyde and formaldehyde resin, which are known irritants. Luckily in recent years a lot of the main nail varnishes are going free from toxic ingredients including these. And there are some brands that are 5 free, 7free, 9 free, even some 12 free. (I’m currently thinking of doing a little trial with some of these since i do like pretty nails).
Sweat. I love Bikram Yoga. Sadly my own sweat does not love me, and increasingly over the last few years I have spent the entire class wanting to scratch the skin off my entire body. It is literally a battle of trying not to constantly scratch all the itches, i lay in savasana and it is anything but relaxing. Oodles of my own sweat definitely does not help my plight and although i hope to return one day then for the moment i am practicing non-hot yoga. Luckily I also like non-hot yoga.
Extreme Cold. As well as not liking being sweaty my skin also detests it when it is really cold, it dries out my skin so so much.
Stress. A definite big trigger is stress. It is hard to avoid when you are a very anxious person anyway, and you live in London, but having this under control as much as is possible is vital to keeping my skin from flaring up. And another reason my yoga practice is really important to me.
This blog post was really difficult for me to write and publish, mainly because it has really ugly pictures of me in it. But I have written this blog post to share with anyone else suffering with it my experiences. I am also always open minded and would love to hear any additional advice other sufferers have on eyelid atopic eczema and products which worked for you, please comment in the comments section if you have any tips 🙂
UPDATE 2020: A few years on! I have minor flare ups but it my eyelids are mostly controlled. I continue to use Elidel cream on my eyelids when they flare up, and continue to moisturise with Cetraben Cream daily. I also have developed eczema on my hands, I use a pretty strong steroid cream on that if it gets bad, most of the time now though it is controlled. I had an allergy patch test which returned negative except for a reaction to the dressings they used. The dermatologists say the eczema is not a reaction to anything and is the fault of my own body. I continue to seek for more natural solutions. My current thing I find helps at the moment is to drink each day a cup of Hot Oat Milk with Saffron Strands and Manuka Honey, it settles things down slightly. If things get bad though I reach for the medicated creams… I have dark circles under my eyes which do not go away, the skin is thinner. I have returned to performing and if someone else uses products on my skin I make sure to put Elidel cream on my eyes that night before bed. I hate that my skin isn’t perfect while waking each day knowing that life is a blessing regardless.