The Joys of Adult Onset Dermatitis / Eczema (Or, Lipstick, I MissedYou!)

A bit of a personal post today, but I thought it was worth writing as when I was googling away trying to find out what on earth was going on, all the articles / blogs I found were about people who had been eczema sufferers their whole life, and I was very much under the impression that people don’t just suddenly ‘get it’. Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to be true.

I’m not sure whether you’ve noticed that there weren’t quite as many selfies on my Instagram account towards the end of last year, and there certainly weren’t any lipstick reviews on my blog. In fact I kind of shied away from photos a bit altogether.

Last Summer, my lips got really dry. Like, really, really dry. Chapped, angry, splitting, peeling. Horrible. Lipstick was an absolute no-no, and I asked everyone under the sun for their lip balm recommendations. It didn’t seem to matter what I used, it only got worse.

Eventually the redness spread beyond the lines of my lips, up onto my upper lip, and the worst of it a large, sore, red, dry below my lower lip. At this point it was obviously not just a case of chapped lips, so off I went to the doctor. What followed for the next few months was much to-ing and fro-ing, various creams, and eventually blood tests to make sure it was nothing serious (apparently seriously chapped lips can be a symptom of various things, including a vitamin b deficiency).

Then, something a bit odd happened. I went on holiday. After 3 weeks in the sunshine, my lips healed up almost back to normal. I raided Sephora and treated myself to some new lippies – hurrah!

Unfortunately the problem came back with a vengeance upon my return. I made another doctor’s appointment

In the meantime I had my checkup at the dentists. The hygenist quickly noticed how sore my lips were, and asked whether I had been given a steroid cream, saying she obviously wasn’t a doctor, but that sometimes dermatitis on the lips could get missed as it can present differently to the skin elsewhere on the body.

Hmmm, well, I’ve never had eczema, ever, but I do sometimes get small patches of dermatitis on my hand (really, really small, never really been bother, and I wouldn’t probably have even have known what it was if my Dad didn’t have the same thing but really badly). It was worth a shot.

Off I went back to the docs. I asked about the possibility of it being eczema or dermatitis (and also really didn’t want to go on strong antibiotics over Christmas! ) He agreed to try a mild steroid cream.

Guess what? It worked! Within 2 days of using the steroid cream the dryness disappeared, and 3 or 4 days in my lips actually felt normal again. It may sound silly to get worked up about what is essentially just really bad dry lips, but honestly, I’d forgotten how it felt not to have that tight, painful feeling. I wore my brightest red lippy on Christmas day with pride, and basically felt a million dollars.

I used the cream for a week, as directed, and then stopped. 48 hours later, you guessed it, red, sore, dry lips, and the patch under my bottom lip came back with a vengence.

Back to the docs I went, and we counted our small victory – it is indeed dermatits. The fact that it got better in the sunshine whilst I was away kind of points to this as well.

I had kind of assumed I’d be sent for some sort of allergy testing. I’d already cut out all skincare products for over a week (apart from super hypoallergenic cleanser and a moisturiser, honestly, it felt so odd not to slather myself in serums and potions every day!) and this hadn’t helped at all, so I really had no idea. I had wracked my brains to think if I’d used any new makeup products in particular that had brought it on, but no, and certainly stopping wearing any products on my lips for months hadn’t helped it.

However, the doc doesn’t seem to think that allergy testing is the way forward until we can narrow it down a little. To be honest, he doesn’t seem that confident in finding the cause, just saying that at least we know that steroid cream works, and that I can just use that to shift it when I have a flare up.

I stamped my feet a little at this. There must be something causing it – after all, it isn’t like I’ve had this my whole life, it only started last year for goodness sake! Also I really don’t want to get into the habit of regularly using steroid cream on my face – it really doesn’t seem like a good idea!

So, the plan became 2 weeks of strong steroid cream with antibiotic in it to see if we can finally ‘blast’ it away, and then keeping a ‘lip diary’ day to day to see if anything I eat or put on them makes them worse.

Sure enough, the steroid cream worked again, and I’m now I’m a week post-steroid and still things seem to be ok – that’s 3 whole weeks of joyful, fabulous lipstick wearing and actually feeling like myself again.

I’m keeping the ‘lip diary’ – so far so good (although I’m becoming a little paranoid that any little itch or dryness is the start of it coming back, so it’s full of insane notes like ‘Dry lips today, is this just Winter, or is it THE RETURN?!?!’)

I’m keeping everything crossed to get to the bottom of this, because LIPSTICK I MISSED YOU!


  • JaxPMeow

    I have the same problem. I’ll allergic to everything I put on my lips with the exception of aquaphor. Organic beeswax I’ve ruled to be a culprit. A company wrote back to me once and suggested I try white beeswax which has been cleansed from pollen which can be irritating to people. Keep me posted

    • Emily_Jayne

      It’s so frustrating, isn’t it? I’ve now been prescribed Hydromol by the dermatologist to hydrate my lips and it seems to be the only thing I can put on to sooth them (other than steroids!) I’ve now had patch testing that’s had some weird results, so waiting for a second referral to the dermatologist. Hopefully I’ll get to the bottom of it soon! Hope you get your issues sorted!

  • Maia Rose Powell

    Have you figured out what as causing this yet?? I am going through something like this for the past two months and it is driving me crazy!

    • Emily_Jayne

      Hi, yup – I now have a diagnosis (will be putting a post up about this soon!) but it has taken me 2 years to get there! Definitely go to your GP and get a referral to a dermatologist if you haven’t already. Good luck getting it sorted!