Since the move to Panajachel, I have blamed my drying skin entirely on the dusty road we lived on for eighteen months in San Antonio Palópo. I like to conveniently forget my fifty-five+ years, genetic predisposition and lifestyle. A couple of weeks ago, just as I was thinking my cheeks were a bit rough, I ran out of lotion and had to wait a few days before I could replenish. This shouldn't have been a huge problem, except that I didn't read the label on the new Nivea "face cream" that found its way into my house until it was too late.
For days I slathered the Nivea all over my body and face in an effort to soothe and moisturize my parched skin that was getting drier every day. It was awful stuff. It reminded me of the Penaten Zinc cream in a blue can that you protect a baby's bum with. It took elbow grease to rub it in and even though it looked like white whale blubber, I didn't think a whole lot about it until I woke up on Saturday morning with what felt like a sandpaper mask over my face.
I had errands to run. I'd just sold a sculpture and was caught up for the day with printing cards and buying tissue paper and getting the piece to the post office. It wasn't until I got home that I realized my face was in crisis and one look from my partner confirmed it. I sat down with a cup of tea and thought about it. The only change to my skin was this new emollient I was using. I went to the fridge and picked up the bottle. Nivea Happy Time Gel De Ducha Cremoso. Shit! Even I, with my limited Spanish, can translate that. I had been coating myself with, and rubbing into my skin, liquid shower gel morning, noon and night for the past week. No wonder my skin was fried.
CHEMICALLY BURNED SKIN
I started to freak out. I got online at once to find information about what to do for extremely dry, chemically-burned/burnt facial skin and let me tell you, there are plenty of opinions out there. It could take days to plough through it all. Easier to get on Facebook and canvass my friends. They are a knowledgeable bunch and the unanimous feedback (except for one smart aleck who suggested using KY jelly) was to use coconut oil. Still, I needed to slough of the dry skin that was threatening to crack my face but not until my inflamed visage calmed down somewhat. It was getting more painful by the hour and I was reluctant to even touch my face let alone exfoliate.
NO HELP FROM NIVEA
I wrote to Nivea just in case they could tell me something useful but the only response was a gift of coupons for more products (but only in the UK). No one bothered to answer my questions. I also wrote for free online dermatology advice and received a form response. I didn't really expect an answer and certainly not a timely one. I couldn't wait for help anyway. I needed to do something now. Right away. I put a paste of olive oil, honey and baking soda on my face as an exfoliating mask and was supposed to leave it on for fifteen minutes but it stung so badly that I washed it off almost right away. I went to bed with a thin film of olive oil on my face. It felt awful.
Thank God that was the worst of it. In the morning my partner came home with a bottle of Lubriderm. He couldn't find any coconut oil in town. They make it over in San Marcos, but that is a ferry ride away so he picked me up the best face cream he could find. I began a five day regimen of twice daily washings with a dilution of Bragg Organic Apple Cider Vinegar and water to clean and calm down my skin and to get rid of the flakiness, followed by a thin coating of fresh aloe vera gel straight from the plant in the garden. The gel is to soothe the burn. All day long I applied as much Lubriderm as my skin could soak up. It was pretty clear after the first day that I was now doing something right. The dead skin was starting to slough off without peeling off in sheets as I'd suspected it would. The red and blotchy inflammation was slowly disappearing.
I cannot tell you how relieved I am that this turned out OK and how unbelievably stupid I feel. I had visions of ending up in emergency, doctors holding me down while they peeled my face off! Well, not quite - but almost! It took two weeks from the time I began using Nivea shower gel as face cream to completely heal from the resulting chemical burn. One huge lesson learned - always read the label before I put anything on my face - and don't trust anyone else to buy the face cream! And now I swear by organic apple cider vinegar, not only ingested as a detox which I've been doing for a while, but applied topically as a skin clarifier, cleanser and toner.
Next month I will make a point of taking the ferry to San Marcos to purchase organic coconut oil and use both as part of my daily skincare regime. I believe I'm done with putting chemicals on my face.
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