Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Biggest Organ

Our skin is so important. It protects our insides from the outside world and it keeps all of our vital fluids and organs from leaking all of the place. There are so many other things that our skin does and most of us just take it for granted because it never asks for anything in return. For some of us, though, our skin can be a great cause of pain, discomfort, and stress. I used to think that my skin was not perfect because of all of the issues that I have had. Like others with an auto-immune disorder, I suffered from eczema, psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, etc. I have wrote this previously, but let me reiterate the fact that when you have one auto-immune disorder, the chances of you getting secondary and tertiary disorders jumps exponentially. 

I am certain that many of you have felt some form of uncontrollable itching on your bodies, some form of cracking of the skin, some form of scaling of your skin. None of these things are pleasant. I loved the feel of using Irish Spring soap on my body for so many years. I would use a washcloth saturated with Irish Spring and scrub every single part of my body in extra-hot water. My skin would feel so tight and refreshing after I finished my cleansing routine...for about an hour. For the rest of the day my skin would itch so bad that I could swear I was covered in bees and fire ants stinging me at the same time. For as long as I could remember, that is always what my skin had felt like. I figured that everyone else always felt the same way.

At some point my fingers, eyes, ear lobes, and elbow creases started to dry out and crack. No matter what I did, I couldn't keep them from cracking. Add in scaling and cracking on my scalp and I was not a very happy person. When it was just my skin itching, no one would know what was going on, but when my parents saw the cracking in my skin they started to question what was going on. The conclusion was that my skin was as sensitive as my mother's. I was told that I needed to start using non-soap cleansers since they weren't as harsh on my skin and that I should start using lotion as well to keep my skin hydrated. I was also told that I needed to lower the temperature in my showers since the hot water pulls moisture out of my skin. Like any good little boy, I tried this regime for a day and then went back to what I was previously doing. I didn't feel "clean" when using my mother's products. I found that in addition to having very dry skin I also had very oily skin. This combination makes one very susceptible to eczema and psoriasis. 

Over time, I learned that I needed to stick with the cleansers my mother gave me. To keep my skin from drying out I stuck with the non-soap, turned down the heat on the water considerably, stopped scrubbing, and started using a non-oil based lotion. I had no idea that my skin was so ashen for so many years. As I stuck with the new cleaning regime, the oiliness of my skin lessened quite a bit. I learned from a dermatologist that when you dry out your skin your body uses oil as a means to replenish your skin's vitality by keeping moisture in; oil production goes into overdrive. I was washing my face several times a day because of the oil production. When I learned this new fact, I started using a soft warm cloth to remove excess oil from my skin throughout the day. I was amazed that the amount of oil my body produced went down even further.

I continued to refine my cleansing rituals and the care I put into my skin over the years. I only use Oil of Olay cleansing bars when I shower and I use it at most once a day on my face. I only use a wash cloth with warm water to remove oils and dirt from my face; I never scrub. After a shower, I always use a non-oil, oatmeal based colloidal lotion to keep moisture in my skin. I no longer feel that overall sense of itching anymore. My ear lobes, eyes, fingers, etc, no longer crack the way they used to. I no longer have scaling of my skin. And the wonderful thing is that this regime works VERY well at keeping my skin under control when I have been on prednisone in the past; I just increase the number of light, warm wash cloth wipings. 

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