Skin conditions


Skin Cancer

I have had two melanomas; both were thankfully excised with clear margins, requiring no further treatment. Nonetheless, I have spent a good amount of time figuring out how to avoid more melanomas (or other skin cancers, most commonly squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma), and below is my list of every method I can think of.


Early Detection

  • Monitor your own skin/moles for new/changing lesions
  • Annual skin checks - see a dermatologist
  • Total body photography
  • Apricot kernels

Eczema (atopic dermatitis)

Eczema is a skin condition that makes your skin itchy and flaky. Doctors do not know what causes it. Eczema often happens in people who have allergies. It can also run in families. Another term for eczema is "atopic dermatitis."


Dyshidrotic Eczema

According to UpToDate, acute palmoplantar eczema (more popularly known as dyshidrotic eczema or pompholyx) is an intensely pruritic, vesicular eruption affecting the palms, soles, or both. It is characterized by deep-seated lesions ranging from small vesicles to large tense bullae clinically and by spongiotic vesicles histologically. Recurrence is common and patients typically experience frequent episodes for months or years.

In other words, it makes you want to tear your skin off.

I'm not kidding. Dyshidrosis was worse than induced labor before my epidural and spontaneous labor without one. When I experienced it at its worst, I was in Altus, Oklahoma on an Air Force base, and had unimaginable pain and itching in my hands. I literally couldn't think about ANYTHING besides scratching my fingers. I put ice on them, slathered steroids on them, took Ambien, and still cried out of pain and itching half the night, and barely slept. I wouldn't wish dyshidrotic eczema on my worst enemy.

Thankfully, I no longer suffer from it. Which is interesting, because most dermatologists and UpToDate will tell you that it is a chronic, frequently recurring condition. I should clarify: I no longer suffer from it, as long as I avoid the things that cause it. When I expose myself to them, it comes back. So here's what to do.

WHAT IT LOOKS/FEELS LIKE: (click here to see pictures of my own dyshidrosis at its worst)

  • Vesicles (little mini blisters)
  • Ulcerated lesions, after you scratched the vesicles, sometimes with in-between phases of blood filling the vesicles and then having raw, red skin where the ulcer will develop
  • INSANE ITCHING, near the tips of your fingers or toes, primarily where the vesicles are; significantly (but temporarily) relieved when itched
  • PAIN, primarily after you itch the vesicles and break them open, and especially when they form the ulcers and fissures


  • Read this blog post. If it wasn't for this guy, I might still be suffering from dyshidrosis. He talks about the first few points below.
    • Avoid all metal. Jewelry and make-up with heavy metals are the top culprits for bringing my dyshidrosis back. Get a ceramic wedding ring. Switch to Beautycounter, which uses as little metals as possible (see my skin care page). This is KEY. It doesn't matter if you don't have a metal allergy; metal can still cause dyshidrosis in a non-allergic person.
    • Eliminate metals already absorbed by your body. This sounds like voodoo, and to be honest, I didn't do much of it, and I often wonder if I suffered longer because of it.
      • Cilantro oil
      • Chlorella
      • Sweat as much as possible - sauna, exercises, hot tubs, etc - to help your body detox
      • Cut out as much processed sugar as possible. Juice, yogurt, candy, etc. Instead, use whole fruits and vegetables.
  • Avoid contact with hot water
  • Phototherapy/UV light


  • Refer to "eczema" section above; all of those treatments/remedies apply to dyshidrosis, especially coconut oil and vitamin E oil
  • Gloves for bedtime - to seal in moisturizer while you sleep
  • Skintifique Moisturizing Lotion HP - works WONDERS. This is actually all I use now to treat dyshidrosis on the rare occasion it comes back after a weekend of wearing my wedding ring. Their website describes it to be "based on an exclusive patented technology which limits the penetration of pollution and metals into the epidermis while allowing the skin to breathe. " I bought their whole "discovery pack" but only found this one product to be useful, but useful it was! I find it works best when you take it as soon as you notice the "feeling" of the dyshidrosis coming back.
  • Domeboro - worked really well to relieve itching and redness when used twice a day, morning and night. I only need to use this when it's very severe.
  • Ice to the itchy areas for when itching is intolerable.

These pictures were taken when my dyshidrosis was at its worst. I had had it for a couple of weeks at this point but still didn't know what it was, and then suddenly it flared so badly while we were on vacation in Altus, Oklahoma, that I spent an entire day while on "vacation" (visiting my husband while he was at Air Force training) in Urgent Care just needing SOMETHING to help me stop itching and get some sleep. Notice the full spectrum of skin changes:

  • Vesicles (the skin-colored bumps that are filled with clear liquid) scattered throughout my fingers. These were very, very, very itchy; these were what kept me from sleeping.
  • Red bases that had been vesicles, that bled when I scratched them and opened. These were very painful.
  • Crevasse on my middle finger that formed when several vesicles coalesced after being scratched. Also very painful, and took MONTHS to heal.

Contact Dermatitis

According to UpToDate, dermatitis is defined as an inflammation of the skin resulting in redness, itching, and/or scale. Contact dermatitis refers to dermatitis that is caused by contact between the skin and a substance. The substance can be an allergen (a substance that provokes an allergic reaction) or an irritant (a substance that damages the skin). Irritants are responsible for about 80 percent of cases of contact dermatitis.

There are many causes of contact dermatitis. The main goal is to identify the cause.

  • See a dermatologist AND an allergist. I saw many dermatologists who did many patch tests and never diagnosed the true cause of my allergic contact dermatitis. That being said, they can rule out more common skin sensitivities and make sure you don't have any other dermatologic conditions exacerbating or masquerading as contact dermatitis.
  • Go back to the basics when it comes to what you put on your skin. You've probably seen the ingredient lists on the various products you use, and assume they're safe, whether it be because it's a popular product, or it says "all natural" or "organic" or simply because they are sold in stores, so they "MUST" be safe. Don't trust them. Narrow the products you use down to the essentials - soap, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, laundry detergent, and whatever make-up you must use, and research the ingredients they contain (head to "skin care" to get some tools to help you do this), and then use ONLY those products for a few weeks, or until your skin calms down. Then slowly add in other products individually, after having researched their ingredients beforehand, and wait a week or so before adding another to see if you react. It usually takes 12-48 hours, but can take up to 2 weeks, for a reaction to occur.
  • The best treatment is to avoid the allergen or irritant, once you've identified it
  • While trying to identify the allergen/irritant or waiting for symptoms to clear up after eliminating it, use the treatments suggestec in the "Eczema" section above

Common Allergens

The most frequent causes of allergic contact dermatitis are metals, preservatives (used in skin care and cosmetics, among many other products), fragrances, and topical antibiotics. The article by UpToDate below talks about these and other common allergens, and what they are found in (cosmetics, body washes, shampoos, deodorants, hair straightening products, fragrances, adhesives, fabric dyes, etc.

Chemical Accelerants

If you work in healthcare or any other field in which you wear gloves made of rubber and have had unexplained itching/lesions on your hands, READ THIS. I had two years of these symptoms before an allergist finally made the diagnosis - I was allergic to the chemical accelerants (among other things) used to make sterile gloves and exam gloves.

Sterilizing Agents (Formaldehyde and Formaldehyde-Releasers)

After I switched to accelerant-free gloves, I was still having reactions on my arms. Someone at work suggested I switched to gowns that weren't sterilized with the surgical instruments; apparently the way instruments are sterilized in the OR is different than how peel-packed gowns are sterilized by the manufacturer. So I switched from using whatever gown I was given from the set and started using Convertors Smart Sleeve by Cardinal Health, and since then, my skin has been completely clear. In fact, I've had to use the gown from the set several times since, and I reacted almost instantly.

This was two months after eliminating exposure to gloves made with chemical accelerants; this is right before I switched to peel-packed gowns. Six weeks later, my skin was clear.

Contact Cheilitis

(i.e. lip balm allergy)