It all started with a spider bite, but this one didn’t grant Andrea Córdova any special powers. Instead this one set the literary publicist at Pegasus Books on a long journey with her skin that started with rashes, hundreds of angry and red bumps that itched so much they affected her sleep, and then with the discovery that she had developed POD (perioral dermatitis) from her prescribed steroid cream.
Córdova turned to Reddit and other Internet message boards to learn more about the condition. “It was amazing and infuriating how little attention this skin condition got, seeing how many people suffer from it — women of all ages, infants, men,” she remembers. “It’s a skin condition that doesn’t go away [and] not every medication or product will work on everyone.”
She began to try out every every product, oil, serum, and supplement people said had worked for their POD. Some were successful, some (like apple cider vinegar and tea tree oil) were not. This is now what works for her: avoiding topical steroids, steering clear of fluoride in dental products, removing products with sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) from the rotation, and eliminating other known irritants like essential oils and other fragrances (like citral, linaool, and geraniol). Hydrating and anti-inflammatory ingredients are key. Below, a detailed look at how Córdova keeps her POD at bay.
“It’s not the most glamorous cleanser, but when I was deep diving for POD relief, this cleanser was the most mentioned. It’s like the Canadian equivalent to Cetaphil, minus the parabens. When you go to reviews, the most used term is ‘perioral dermatitis.’ I really believe this product has done the most to keep my POD at bay. Whenever I’ve tried to switch to other cleansers I notice that bumps start to appear. It is magic. I rinse with this cleanser for at least one minute.”
“This is a new and crucial addition. It is anti-bacterial, and I’m not really sure if it’s a toner, but I spray it on before I apply any product to have a clean slate. I discovered this product on my never-ending quest to find solutions long-term to fight POD. I came across it in an Into the Gloss article about how you can use this product however many times you want, and it’s safe. The main ingredient, hypochlorous acid, is found naturally in our bodies.”
“This is super pricey but essential-oil free. Essential oils, despite their reputation as soothing and ‘essential,’ are not essential. They are very irritating, especially lavender and citrus scents. I try to go as EO-free as possible — unfortunately, my toner has a few but in minimal amounts. This has the key ingredients to treating inflammation related to POD: niacinamide, panthenol (B5), sodium hyaluronate (smaller molecular type of hyaluronic acid), probiotics, and turmeric. The most important thing about this product is that it does exactly what it says: It soothes the skin. Even when I have a tiny breakout somewhere, it never burns and feels good to the skin.”
The Spot Treatment
“Another message board–vetted product. Amazon reviews are divided between actual use on babies and POD. Note that there was a formula change a year or so ago so there might be additives. Another option is any diaper-rash cream with zinc oxide in it — the zinc oxide helps with acne and soothes skin. Calendula is a natural oil that contains anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, and anti-fungal properties. This is enormously helpful when I have a spot. After I apply the calendula cream, I feel immediate relief with all of the symptoms.”
The Repairing Balm
“Another recommendation from my amazing dermatologist, Dr. Kleinerman. Again, it has the trinity of POD fighting ingredients: zinc oxide, niacinamide, and sodium hyaluronate. It melts into your skin so easily and seamlessly that it doesn’t even feel like sunscreen but rather another topical serum.”
“If I start to feel a burning or tingling sensation creeping on my skin, I give my skin a nice spray of this mineral water.”
The Cleansing Oil
“I double-cleanse only if I wore makeup or if my face is feeling particularly dirty because I try to not over-wash my skin. I first go in with DHC Cleansing Oil. I picked this up in Japan, and it is incredibly nourishing. It gets all the makeup, dirt, gook, and general nastiness that comes with living in the city. The second cleanse is my good ol’ Spectro Jel (listed above in my morning routine).”
The Vitamin C Serum
“I picked this up in Japan. I saw ads for it everywhere with really remarkable (almost unbelievable) before and after photos. It feels more like an oil, but it has several forms of vitamin C in it, which is a great way to combat hyperpigmentation. As a Hispanic who grew up in South Florida, I spent more time in the sun than I did indoors. I have hyperpigmentation on my cheeks (the ‘freckles’), and I apply this essence just to that area and pat it in. My hyperpigmentation is slowly going away, which I’m happy with. Unfortunately, getting rid of sunspots is not an overnight process.”
“If I’m not using the vitamin C essence, I use the Organic Pharmacy Retinol Night Serum. It’s hard to use anti-aging ingredients when you have inflamed skin. As I approach my 30s, I am trying to prevent fine lines for as long as I can, but I also can’t compromise my skin barrier. This is a really gentle retinol serum. I use this maybe two nights a week, at least three or four days apart.”
“I feel bad for splurging on this, but then again, I don’t. It’s my hard-earned money. Plus, it delivers. You only need one pump to cover your entire face. POD changes your skin forever: the texture, the skin barrier. My skin is dry and reactive. This moisturizer lasts forever, and I only use it on nights that I use a retinol. There is no dimethicone, and if you run the ingredients on skincarisma.com (a lifesaver if you want to understand what ingredients you are putting on your face), the ingredients check out. I honestly think this is my strongest anti-aging product. I don’t know what wizardry is inside this, but I’m 29 years old, grew up in South Florida spending decades in the sun without sunscreen, and I don’t have a single wrinkle. This also is the only moisturizer I’ve gone to sleep with and wake up with no dryness.”
The Anti-Inflammatory Tea
“I’ve been drinking this amazing tea since I was 23. Another thing I discovered on the Internet when I was trying to find cures for hormonal acne. I was surprised to see tea being reviewed on Acne.org. I bought it and haven’t turned back. I drink two cups a day, every single day, and it helps with my hormonal acne. It contains rooibos, hibiscus, red clover, and more antioxidants that help internally with inflammation.”
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