Senstive Skin and Endometriosis
Can Endometriosis Cause Skin Problems?
Since I was a teenager I've had sensitive skin. When I was about 16 I broke out in a bright red rash around my mouth and nose, which would go scaly and flaky as the day went on. I couldn't work out how to get rid of it and would scrub my skin raw with a red flannel to get off the dry patches and wash it with some stupidly harsh face wash, which I have no explanation for, because that's clearly ridiculous. These skin issues caused me immense humiliation, shame and psychological pain, I hated looking at myself in the mirror, though I was constantly checking to ensure I didn't have any awful flakes appearing half way through the school day. I covered it up with thick make up, and though I did a fairly good job, I longed for clear skin which didn't need all of this oily thick paste and I felt like crying every time the sun came out, as that only brought more exposure. I visited the doctor on one occasion, but had caked my face in make up as I couldn't stand the idea of walking down the road with my bright red traffic light face on display, so they dismissed it casually and called it eczema, but all the medication for eczema couldn't cure this. Eventually, I worked out what was stinging it, what was making it worse and over a year or so, I got things under control.
A few years later, I went through a couple of months of using sunbeds. I was a young girl with cripplingly low self-esteem, and had an unhealthy addiction to fake tanning, which was completely out of control. As a way to combat this, I started trying to get a 'healthy' glow, despite knowing better and having a family history of skin cancer. After a few weeks of regular sunbed use, I noticed my skin beginning to scale again and eventually, the same problem returned. I took a photo and showed my doctors, who diagnosed it as rosacea and gave me a steroid cream. As it turns out, you should never use steroids on rosacea, so that went down well. Finally, after another long period of nothing working (and I do mean long, perhaps two years), I found Avene and noticed that UV rays made it worse, so started using a 50 spf - both got it under control, but only if I used them daily, and I was still left with a slight red tinge around the centre of my face.
This daily battle of maintaining semi-okay skin went on until I was about 26, and just as my endometriosis pain crept back, so did the skin problems. By this point, I was aware that endometriosis was an inflammatory disease, but I had not made the connection between skin inflammation and what was going on inside my body. I had converted to natural products, in an effort to reduce my toxin levels, optimise liver function and reduce excess chemicals that mimic hormones and so blamed it on the changes in skin care. I spent about 18 months testing different products, having mixed results, using essentials oils, super food face masks, the works. Eventually, I found a routine that was costly, but brought my skin back to normality.
Of course, the skin our window into our bodies, and many herbologists and nutritionists will look to your diet if you are having skin problems, as our skin releases toxins or is aggravated by disturbances and imbalances on the inside. What I have also learnt over the past two years is just how many women with endometriosis suffer from skin problems. Rosacea, psoriasis and dermatitis are all inflammatory conditions, and endometriosis has been linked to other inflammatory conditions in the body; a study in 2002 found that women with endo were more likely to have inflammatory diseases such as eczema and allergies (I know aaaall about that one!). So whilst it's so helpful to find a skin routine that calms and relieves the external symptoms, the problems are probably a very big sign as to what's going on the inside of your body. Reducing your exposure to inflammatory foods such as caffeine, sugar and alcohol can make a big difference in decreasing your body's overall levels of inflammation and in turn, will hopefully have a positive impact on your skin. I certainly noticed if I had alcohol, sugar or caffeine, my skin would be more red and much more flaky for the next couple of days or even weeks, until I reduced my levels again.
Now post operation, I am amazed at the difference I have seen in my skin. Ironically, I have had a really bad allergy reaction for the past 5-6 weeks and have spent many minutes of many days blowing my nose, so now I sit here typing this with red sore skin above my lips... But, since my operation, I began to see a clear pattern in my skin condition, which I hadn't seen before because it was constant (as was my endometriosis flare up). Now my pain is settling down to the week before, during and after my period, which sounds like it's three weeks, but probably amounts to two weeks of the month now. Slowly I see my skin issues creeping back in on the days before my period, which must be linked with the hormonal changes and increase in inflammation due to heightened pain levels, it then subsides pretty rapidly once the worst of my pain is out of the way. So even though it seems glaringly obvious to me now, my skin was simply so bad in the past two years because my endometriosis was so bad and now that's settling down, so has my skin. It makes sense, giving that my skin conditions started as I hit puberty! Of course, there were triggers, sun was making it worse (rosacea is aggravated by the sun), stress was making it worse as were certain food groups, but the main cause, seemed to be inflammation related to endometriosis flare ups. Now I am only using my green tea toner, Green People 24hr cream, cleanser and the MooGoo Balm and no longer need to wear any make up around my mouth!
My Favourite Natural Sensitive Skin Products
Below are the products which seriously saved my skin:
- Green People’s Neutral Scent Cream Cleanser
- Homemade green tea toner – I tend to make myself a green tea, and put some aside in a dish to cool. I wipe this gently across my face twice with soft organic cotton wool pads
- Instant Calm Redness Serum - Sea Aster & Wild Oat – Pai skincare has a good reputation for sensitive skin, it has a wide collection of products including a day cream and face wash, but I didn’t find the day cream moisturising enough for the dry patches (though it did help with the redness) and it’s also expensive to buy the entire range. I find the serum works very quickly and can see the difference in skin tone and a reduction in redness within seconds. You can get browse and shop the collection at Content Beauty and Wellbeing online or in store.
- MooGoo Irritable Skin Balm – a strange sounding brand I know (the story goes that their first cream was used to soothe cow’s udders, hence the name)! The range does not test on animals, but some products do contain milk proteins, so do double check if you are vegan or allergic. However, the balm itself is plant based and all their products are natural. They have become the number one brand in Australia for skin conditions such as dermatitis and are now having a big impact in the UK. My skin was improving from the Pai Skin serum, but once I added this into the mix, my skin instantly began healing and within days, my flare up was gone.
- A mix of argan oil and Green People’s Neutral Scent Free 24 Hour Cream for sensitive skin. I mix these two in my hand before applying – the reason why I use a combination is because I need argan oil for the brilliant soothing properties and it hugely helps with dry patches, without leaving my skin oily. However, alone, I find after a few days it can bring up a few small spots. The cream allows me to spread the argan oil across my face without having to use lots, but also really helps to plump out my skin and reduce the wrinkles caused by dry skin patches.
- Organii 50 spf Sun Milk
Collecting all of these products can be expensive, if you’re desperate but short of cash, I think the most important product here is the MooGoo balm. If you can afford to get a few items, I recommend the MooGoo, Argan Oil, Green People Cleanser and SPF if you think you're sensitive.
Good luck and I hope this helps. I would love to hear from you if you have sensitive skin around your flare ups and what helps soothe it!