So That Your Face Won't Look and Hurt Like Mine

The post I am writing today is hard for me to share, but at this stage of my life, (60 and hopefully wiser), I feel I want to put my own privacy and vanity aside and I want to share this now to hopefully help my readers and others avoid a similar fate like what happened to my face in the photos above. Ordinarily I don't like to talk about medical things: mine or anyone else's either because I am admittedly very squeamish and a private person too, but if this helps someone else, then good, as helping others has always been both my life and work mission in one way or another.

NOTE: I'm not a medical doctor, nor any kind of medical professional, and I'm not giving you advice here. What I am doing is sharing my own personal allergy story as an increasingly conscious consumer who does her own homework/due diligence, and as a human being with a helper's heart, who would like to see someone else avoid this type of reaction/pain, but please do your own research for your own body and health situation, please!

These pix of my face above were taken several years ago. Usually I look like the lady in the top left, with a smile on her face and a sparkle in her eyes ... until I tried a new "non toxic" makeup line, that is, and ended up looking like the monster-face above. Stick with me here, please, because I'm going to show you below what I use now for my skincare and makeup routine instead. (And the makeup that caused this for me is no longer available, thank goodness.)

The pain? I can't tell you how much my face hurt for six months. I was also concerned about my vision because my eyes felt inside like there was gravel in there. (There wasn't.)

The other pain? Financial and emotional. I went to several MD doctors of all kinds, including one who had been voted one of my city where I lived at the time top allergists in a reader poll for a magazine, and we spent about $3000 out of our own pocket, even though we have medical insurance.

The MD doctors, although well meaning and fairly kind even though they were super busy, as usual, had no clue what was wrong and said things to me like: "Oh boy, something's wrong here!" (That seemed pretty apparent to me, by George!) And one allergist's student intern-y young guy told me and his supervising MD: "Gosh, no, that's really not in our manual!" as he scrolled down an old medical book with his finger, and then they sent me on my merry way with a bottle of Benadryl, (which I'd never take now), and a "So sorry we don't know lady but here's our bill for $700 for one blood test, and oh by the way, the office visit is extra."

At the end of that appointment, I rolled my painful eyes the best I could at my husband who was sitting across the treatment room from me using my "Good Lord, get me out of here!" look, and we both realized I was clearly going to be on my own to figure this out.

Finally my kind regular MD doctor who has some allergy knowledge treated me with two heavy duty rounds of steroids, which I don't like to take unless I am desperate, and I was, but knowing what I now know about steroids too, and that I have other options, I wouldn't do that again, either. Instead, I'd personally use Apis for the swelling, and I'd buy it from Washington Homeopathics as they have given me excellent online/mail order service for years as the oldest homeopathic pharmacy in the U.S. But at the time this happened to my face, the steroids at least got my swelling and pain down until I could get to the bottom of the real problem.

My final "cure" at that particular time was ten rounds of colonics at about $100 each to get whatever had entered my system out. I wanted the steroids out, too. My MD doctor advised against colonics for a variety of his own reasons, but after my own research* and talking to others, and determined to follow my own path and advocate for myself, I listened to my own intuition and did it anyway, and by only the third colonics treatment the swelling began to go down, just as the colonics therapist suggested it would. Side note: I did not find these treatments "fun" in the least, to put it mildly, even though it was a licensed "spa" setting. But it worked.

Alas, I pressed on and as a longtime journalistic writer, English major/teacher with many research papers under my belt, office assistant who once often found info. for my lawyer bosses, and an employee who has worked doing research jobs of all kinds in several libraries, to name a few jobs I've had, research and sleuthing things out come very naturally to curious me, so I was undaunted here in that realm, on this particular case, i.e. mine, trust me.

BTW, I'm not alone here with my face above. Just ask the many other patients I've sat in many doctors' waiting rooms talking with whose allergy problem suddenly came "out of the blue" even though they'd never had an allergy prior. Or ask the emergency room docs who have treated me when I've landed there during our travels, (several times including once drinking huge amounts of charcoal to absorb whatever was seemingly about to kill me or at least had caused very painful bodywide hives.) Or ask the longtime homeopathic instructor I've taken courses from, including courses specific to allergies. This course I took a couple years ago, and her non-toxic course I took recently but it isn't posted to her site yet. These allergy courses have been worth every penny.

Joette Calabrese is an amazing homeopath/instructor, and a longtime Mom committed to helping other parents too, and had I known of her when this happened to me years ago, I can confidently say now I would have bypassed the MDs, and probably the colonics too, and she would have been my first phone call. As she tells on her helpful practical homeopathy blog, Joette suffered greatly herself from debilitating allergies that kept her virtually "in prison," (but she no longer does thanks to homeopathy), so she knows too what it feels like. Her blog is filled with free and helpful information that she has written about for many years. Even her dog has a homeopathy "dog blog." ! :) Joette also has a servant's heart! I don't know her personally, but that trait comes out in her blog and courses.

But I digress ...

During my own research for my face, desperate for some relief, I also called an organic spa to consider a facial to perhaps help with the swelling and the aesthetician told me the same thing had happened to her and she went to 17 doctors, (you read right), and finally a little ol' longtime acupuncturist guy in a tiny office in a run-down neighborhood whose English was almost impossible to understand got her cured/detoxed with acupuncture and Chinese herbs and told her it was her makeup.

I called him. And when I showed him my pix of my face he was practically screaming at me on the phone:


I told him I had been using it for about three months, so how could it be a problem NOW?!


I stopped the makeup.

You know what it was? I am allergic to shellfish, (which I have known forever due to repeat allergy testing), and my hound-dog-like-sleuthing finally uncovered one ingredient in the makeup that was derived from shellfish, but nowhere on the label was that apparent by the ingredient names.


Thankfully I worked from home, so I hid out there for that six months, with my painful swollen face. And I cried a lot. The lady at the spa who had been to 17 MD doctors? Her reaction was bodywide and she could not work for months. This is not to be taken lightly, in my opinion, as people do die from allergic reactions, too. It's happening more all the time if you notice the online articles.

So, what's the good news silver lining story here, since I try hard to focus on the good news/positive as much as I can in life, and in my work?

Read on, please ...

I have researched and tried more skincare brands and makeup than you'd ever imagine. (Ask my husband.) I've also thrown out boxes of skincare and makeup products over the years, too. Poof, money down the drain. A lot of people have to do this. Maybe you have too.

Why don't I just give up on makeup, you might ask? Well, that might work for some women who like to go "au naturel" with a "hippie-er" look -- but I prefer to look at least a little polished, and sometimes I've needed professional author/media photos taken is another reason, and also because I like to be my best in all ways, and (the right) makeup helps the looks-God-gave-me cause along a little, ya know? And now, at 60, I personally like to cover a few things up, if you get my um ... facial drift.

These days, I always look everything up in the EWG cosmetics database before I use a product as it gives a toxicity rating. And, I read every single ingredient on every single makeup and cosmetic and personal care label. I've educated myself over many years by reading many books, articles, and taking courses. Trust me, I've learned a lot, and some it is very disturbing as to what we are putting on and into our bodies, often unknowingly. Consumer guides.

Homeopathy, by far, has helped me the most with my allergies and sensitivities to many things like light, noise, scents, tobacco smoke, you name it. Turns out, homeopaths have known about this hypersensitivity in some people all along, way back into the 1700s. Go figure. (My grandfather had it too; I remember.) I, and many others including famous people, in my opinion, owe German Dr. Samuel Hahnemann, the founder of homeopathic medicine, a great debt of gratitude. (I'm of German descent so I am proud to maybe share some of Dr. Hahnemann's DNA? Okay, maybe that's a stretch, but after studying homeopathy since 2003 with these great instructors, and taking Joette's classes too, plus all the books and articles I've read on the topic, I do feel by now a certain kinship with Dr. Hahnemann and his homepathic legacy, that's for sure.) :)

My husband Steve is a convert too, and we now both use homeopathy as our first-line go-to treatments for whatever is the ailment of the moment, and we no longer use any over-the-counter medicines other than natural cough drops, and in our 60s we are not taking any pharmaceuticals either. (Except for recent shots my husband needed, or risk going blind in one eye, but that's not a regular thing-y.) Homeopathy changed our life for the better! It's easy to order online, and we take kits like this one and this one when we travel and you know what? I've avoided the emergency room allergy thing-y that way now, blessedly. (We also use essential oils from Eden's Garden, but that's a completely different topic than homeopathy, and another one I've studied quite a lot on my own. More on that later.)

You know how much a tube of homeopathic Apis costs that I personally believe now could have stopped my above facial swelling pretty quick? $6.99. You read right, and that's not $699.00, it's $6.99. I'll say it again: Six dollars and ninety-nine cents. (NOT $700.00 for one blood test plus an MD office visit, only to be told, "I have no idea, sorry.")

My favorite books about homeopathy for beginners are this one and this one and these from my former teachers make it so easy and affordable to get started.

Well anyway, that's my two cents (pun intended) on that part of my journey, and below is what I use now for my downsized makeup routine, but as I said, everyone is different, so do your own research for your body. Also note that cosmetic and body product manufacturers change ingredients and formulations, so I suggest looking at the labels every time you buy a new product.

On a Small Space Organizing note, all my makeup routine now fits in one little makeup bag, which is washable. Similar.

Another note here is that I can't use every single product I have tried from any of these vendors either. That doesn't mean they are bad at all, or that they won't work for you. For me though, with my history and level of sensitivities, each product I have had to try for myself to stand on its own. Be aware and do your research for you.

What I'm personally using these days without problems:

Facial wash: Devita Chammomile Cleansing Creme (They have changes coming according to their website, so please check future ingredient changes)

Facial and body scrub: Christina Moss Naturals Body Scrub (soft enough for me to use on my very sensitive/soft skin face) or Devita Gentle Aloe Facial Scrub. Both are wonderful.

Moisturizer: This coconut oil doesn't smell like coconut since it's expeller pressed. Coconut smell bothers me but when using this kind, there is no odor. I've tried other brands, but I always come back to this one, and it's even the cheapest price I've found. I personally use it everywhere on my body with great results. We also cook with this!

Foundation: RMS Beauty (RMS founder got super sick herself for years after being a celebrity makeup artist so she started her non toxic RMS makeup and skincare line. Sad but happy-ending story.) Their Uncoverup works just great for me as both coverup and foundation so I no longer use coverup. But if you want to, I've used Bellephoria and Real Purity with good results. I used to use Real Purity all the time, but they keep changing their formulations and I found it exhausting to keep up with the label reading.

Powder: Bellephoria or RMS Beauty I prefer Bellephoria, but have to mix two colors together to get my right shade. No big deal to do that though.

Blush: RMS Beauty, Bellephoria, or Real Purity. I love the Lip2Cheek from RMS and using it for both lips and cheeks saves money.*

Eyeshadows: RMS Beauty or Real Purity (Only for an evening out so not that often.)

Eyebrow pencil: Bellephoria (Only when I go out.)

Mascara: RMS Beauty or Ecco Bella or Real Purity They don't do much for my light and thin eyelashes, but after three coats of black mascara, they help at least for a professional photo shoot.

Lips: RMS Beauty, Bellephoria, or Real Purity (Love the Real Purity lipstick consistency and colors like this one I use as my fave.) Note that Bellephoria lipsticks, while nice and creamy, don't put much color on like most lipsticks, but if it's a "nude" look you're after, they are great for that. I also really like RMS Lip2Cheek if you don't mind a pot instead of a tube. In my purse, I like a tube for size and not having to apply with my finger.

Shampoo and Bodywash: Organic Excellence or Desert Essence or Christina Moss Naturals.

Handwash Liquid Soap: I use this no-fragrance dishsoap and add a few drops of these essential oils into these pump container bottles to make my own non toxic "hand sanitizer."

Hair Conditioner: Organic Excellence or Desert Essence or Christina Moss Naturals.

Hair Styling Spray: Organic Excellence Note that the Organic Excellence brands do have a mild mint smell. Smells of all kinds, especially synthetic fragrances, usually bother me, but so far, this mint has not and I have used it for years. May or may not bother you.

*I like to save money and buy quality at the same time and non/less toxic makeup and skincare may seem more expensive than some products at first, depending on which brands you now use, but then remember that I spent about $3000 on my facial allergic reaction above, not to mention six months of pain and emotional distress, so guess which I personally want to pay for going forward?! And remember how much makeup I've said I've thrown away?!

Also, my husband Steve uses the same bodycare products now too having lived with me as his wife for 39 years. It's not lost on him that my pain has helped him avoid toxic products too, so he's grateful, even though compassionate for me.

Not long ago I told him (again), on one of my days I was weary of being the allergy queen: "I'm sorry you married a chronic allergy girl."

You know what he said? "Kath, you are the love of my life and I will love you forever and then some, no matter what."

Well, into every life a little ray of sunshine must beam, and he is mine!

May you be a "natural" beauty, all of your life!

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