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‘My skin was red and blotchy for years – I found out why during lockdown’

A writer found out why he’d suffered from red, blotchy skin for years during lockdown, after realising he’d been exposed to the very thing he was allergic to every single day

Will Hayward
Will’s self esteem was affected by his ongoing skin issues

Writer Will Hayward had struggled with red, blotchy, and irritated skin for years, but it wasn’t until lockdown that he realised what was up.

For an article in Wales Online, Will wrote that his skin issues began around ten years ago, with a “burning feeling” on his face leading to “horrible red blotches” within a matter of hours.

Sometimes Will would also suffer from “scratchy rashes” on his neck and in his beard, apparently without any reason at all.

Unsure of what was going on, Will tried various ways to tackle the problem. He gave up alcohol after noticing rashes after nights out, but to no avail.

He went on to try out “every moisturiser under the sun”, slather himself in sunscreen, and even gave up dairy products – nothing seemed to do the trick.

Will tried out “every moisturiser under the sun”, but nothing worked
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Image:

Will Hayward)

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Sadly, Will was left struggling with his self-esteem due to his mysterious flare-ups, and he has previously cancelled dates and turned his camera off during video calls.

When trying to find a cause, a dermatologist wrongly diagnosed him with rosacea, a condition that results in blushing, flushing, and visible blood vessels, gave him some creams and encouraged him to ditch caffeine.

This helped to an extent, reducing some of the low-level redness. However, Will’s blotches and flare-ups remained “just as severe” and appeared just as frequently.

Heading back to the dermatologist, Will was this time diagnosed with seborrheic dermatitis – a common skin condition among those with rosacea that causes itchy rashes with flaky scales.

Will carried on with his caffeine-free diet, his antibiotic rosacea cream for rosacea, and also added a “special shampoo to the mix”. However, once again, he had received the wrong diagnosis.

Will’s skin condition cleared up notably during lockdown
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Image:

Will Hayward)

His flare-ups worsened after going back to the office
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Image:

Will Hayward)

Despite taking careful measures, Will’s skin condition seemed to just worsen, right up until the day the UK entered lockdown. After this point, he saw significant improvements within a matter of weeks.

Will said: “Occasionally it would still go a bit bad but in those early days of the pandemic my skin was better than it had been for years. I didn’t understand it but I wasn’t complaining!

“Then as the world started to reopen I started going out more and my skin gradually got worse again. This was particularly true when I returned to the office after a year and a half last autumn. Suddenly I was back to square one, in fact, it was worse.”

After being referred to another dermatologist, Will underwent a patch test. whereby “loads of different potential allergens” are stuck on a person’s back in order to figure out exactly what they might be allergic to.

It was discovered that Will was in fact allergic to two chemicals, Methylisothiazolinone and 2-brom-2-nitropropane -1,3-diol.

A patch test found that Will was allergic to two chemicals
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Image:

Will Hayward)

The first chemical was easy to avoid, and has been slowly phased out over the past twenty years. However, the first chemical, Methylisothiazolinone, is a different matter entirely, given that it’s found in a number of everyday products.

The list includes toiletries such as soaps, shower gels, shampoos, and sun creams, as well as everyday essentials such as fairly liquid and furniture polish.

After purging his home of such products, Will ran into further difficulties at the office when he realised the automatic air freshener in the men’s toilets contained the chemical.

Will wrote: “Luckily I have a really supportive employer and they removed the product. I am now sat in the office writing this article and for the first time in years I am at my desk and my skin doesn’t hurt!

“Now I may be getting ahead of myself here. I haven’t been back to the doc yet and I am still on the antibiotics. However, I think after a decade I finally understand my condition and know how to manage it.

“Over the coming months, I will be coming off the antibiotics and various cremes and potentially introducing chocolate back into my life (I would f***ing love my first Twix in four years) to see what impact it has.”

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