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New Mexico is an interesting place - for many reasons. One example is the fact that we have to worry about the plague while the rest of the country battles Lyme Disease. According to the CDC, New Mexico has only had a handful of confirmed cases of Lyme Disease - ever - whereas the rest of the country has an average of 30,000 cases reported each year.
Up until a couple of years ago, all I knew about Lyme Disease was it comes from ticks and can last a long time. Until my close friend, J., was diagnosed with Lyme disease. She was diagnosed as having contracted the bacterial infection in another state almost a decade after the fact.
It's amazing that she was able to live for so long without the effects of the disease being noticeable. But when it caught up with her, it hit her like a freight train. It was concerning, to say the least, and so I started to learn more about Lyme Disease to see if there was anything I could mix up to help improve her daily pained experience.
Symptoms of Lyme Disease
I think we've all heard about the bulls-eye red rash that can happen when you first contract Lyme Disease. This soon leads to fatigue, headaches, stiff joints, and muscle pain. Lyme Disease, if left untreated, can lead to major issues. And what I saw J. experiencing was some form of late-stage Lyme Disease, and it included symptoms my inexperienced self had never heard of.
Lyme Disease is a bacterial infection that, when left untreated, keeps our immune system running in overdrive. This makes the immune system less effective, overall, and can cause inflammation throughout the body. People experience nerve problems, such as numbness or Bell’s palsy (which causes half of the face to droop). They can develop an inability to focus or concentrate, memory loss, heart problems, and chronic fatigue. And, as if the symptoms aren't bad enough, the treatments for a late diagnosis are super intense. The disease makes you feel like you've been run over by a freight train. The treatments feel like you're being continuously run over by a train of Mack trucks.
When I asked J. if there was anything I could do to help her, she was quick to respond.
"Help me shave again!"
I'll admit - I was shocked that THIS was her concern, considering the battle she was just beginning to fight. But, as it turns out, there are some gnarly things that can happen to your skin when Lyme Disease is left untreated. This is partly due to the bacteria breaking down collagen - a protein building block in our skin and throughout our body. I believe the issue that J. faced is called acrodermatitischronical atrophicans. With this condition, your skin becomes paper thin and can tear easily. It's very similar to what we see in aged skin (as we age, our skin stops producing collagen). This issue meant that J. had to stop shaving because her delicate skin would cut or tear and then become infected.
PAUSE FOR DISCLAIMER
Before I go into the solutions J. and I created, I want to make it perfectly clear that I am not a doctor. These solutions were purely intended to help make J. more comfortable and to help her feel better about herself. The only way to treat Lyme Disease and its symptoms is with a treatment plan designed by a doctor.
Also, because essential oils can be dangerous to people with health issues and many can interact with medication, J. and I got her doctor's approval for every ingredient we wanted to try. Nothing touched her sensitive system without a doctor's approval. Even if J.'s symptoms are similar to yours, don't assume these solutions will help you, and don't assume these products will be safe for you to use. ALWAYS consult your doctor before using any botanical extract or essential oil when you have a medical condition.
Solutions to Support Skin Damaged by Lyme Disease
We approached J.'s shaving problem from both sides. I wanted her to have something that would help prevent skin tears and cuts. And, I wanted her to have a serum that would help her recover if she did get nicked and which would soothe her irritated, delicate skin. We came away with four products - three of which are currently available in our store. These are the two main products that helped J. have smooth legs once more.
Glide Shaving Oils
I wanted oils that had a low density and low viscosity. This would give the blend good "slip" and not be tacky. I wanted a similar feel to the oils used in massage. I needed the blend to be an emollient. This would soften the skin in preparation for the razor blade. I did not want the oil to absorb too quickly because I wanted the oil to help the blade glide across the top of the skin.
The result is Glide Shaving Oils, which include Fractionated Coconut Oil, Grapeseed Oil, Sunflower Seed Oil, and Jojoba Oil plus either Lavender Essential Oil or Scots Pine Essential Oil.
Fractionated Coconut Oil
Fractionated Coconut Oil - also known as MCT Oil - is coconut oil that has been heated in order to separate certain chains of fatty acids. This causes the oil to maintain a liquid state and removes the aroma. Fractionated Coconut Oil has a very high Lauric Acid content. While this makes the oil penetrate quickly and deeply into skin and hair, it also makes Fractionated Coconut Oil antibacterial and it helps strengthen the skin barrier. Fractionated Coconut oil also has that slick, slightly oily feel that gives Glide the lubricating power I was looking for.
Sunflower Seed Oil
Sunflower Seed Oil is a very gentle and regenerative oil that is great for damaged skin. It supports healthy skin cell turnover and is soothing to irritated skin. While it does absorb quickly, it has a very low viscosity and it is lightweight.
Grapeseed Oil is a very sustainable base oil because it is produced from the seeds of grapes used to make wine. I chose Grapeseed because it is lightweight and slick and would help thin out the blend. It also has the benefit of softening skin, strengthening the skin barrier, and supporting the immune system.
Jojoba Oil is a liquid wax ester that has many amazing benefits for our skin because its chemical makeup is nearly identical to our skin's natural sebum. But the reasons I chose Jojoba are because it is an excellent lubricant and it provides some oxidative stability to the Grapeseed Oil.
Glide Shaving Oil has proven highly effective at helping the razor blade slide across the skin with ease. This reduces irritation caused by shaving and reduces the occurrence of ingrown hairs and nicks and cuts.
All the Way Up After Shave Serum
Even with the awesome shaving oils, J. was still at risk of tearing her paper-thin skin and risked infection because of her compromised immune system. I made All the Way Up to be a warming, soothing, and rejuvenating after-shave serum. I wanted this serum to support the efforts of J. and her doctor in rebuilding her skin and immune system (J. was doing a lot of dry body brushing and she was going through large amounts of Epsom salts from the multiple high-concentration Epsom salt baths she had to take every week.)
This serum contains Grapeseed Oil and Jojoba Oil, as well as Avocado Oil, Jamaican Black Castor Oil, and Sea Buckthorn Seed Oil.
Avocado Oil is another sustainable ingredient. Surprised? This rich oil came about as a means of using the "ugly" avocados that couldn't be sold at market. It is a nutrient-dense oil with a high vitamin count and is purported to have rejuvenating properties in Ayurvedic medicine. I chose Avocado Oil because it penetrates deeply into the skin - deeper than most other oils. This will help distribute the essential oils into the skin and bodily systems.
Jamaican Black Castor Oil
While Gold Castor Oil is processed through cold-compressing of fresh castor beans, Jamaican Black Castor Oil is processed by roasting the beans and using heat extraction. Castor Oil is almost entirely Ricinoleic Acid, which is known to soothe irritated skin, moisturize, and offer relief from muscle aches and joint pain. I read research into the effects of pH on the bacteria that causes Lyme Disease. The ash that makes Jamaican Black Castor Oil that rich, dark color also makes it more alkaline, with a pH of 6.5 to 6.8. So, my hopes were the higher alkaline level would, at the very least, no aggravate the disease.
Sea Buckthorn Seed Oil
Sea Buckthorn is a magical, rejuvenating plant. Sea Buckthorn Seed Oil contains approximately 190 bioactive substances that support the health of skin and hair. It contains 60 types of antioxidants and it is known for supporting - nay...stimulating - skin cell regeneration. This helps damaged and irritated skin recover more quickly and can reduce the appearance of scars. Sea Buckthorn Seed Oil has a diverse Vitamin E profile, containing all four types of tocopherol isomers. Our skin just LOVES that. Sea Buckthorn Seed Oil soothes irritated skin and strengthens the skin barrier. It provides all essential fatty acids and has a near 1:1 ratio of Omega 3:6, which is considered ideal for the human body. It also contains superoxide dismutase, an enzyme found in all living cells and which is thought to be the strongest known antioxidant.
The essential oils in All the Way Up After Shave Serum were carefully selected, as well.
Cinnamon Leaf Essential Oil
Cinnamon Leaf Essential Oil supports skin cell regeneration and is a warming, comforting oil that is also an antibacterial, antimicrobial, antifungal, vulnerary, and immunostimulant.
Clary Sage Essential Oil
Clary Sage Essential Oil counter-balances the Cinnamon Leaf. It's a balancing, restorative oil that has a cooling property that soothes inflamed and irritated skin.
Lavender Essential Oil
Lavender Essential Oil is well known for being relaxing and soothing. It is also a cicatrisant, antiviral, vulnerary, and angalgesic.
Tea Tree Essential Oil
Tea Tree Essential Oil is from another magical plant. For this blend, I included it because it is antibacterial, vulnerary, and analgesic.
All in all, Glide Shaving Oil and All the Way Up After Shave Serum were a success.! They work great for all skin types - not only skin damaged by Lyme Disease. I use both when I shave - I have not had a single nick, ingrown hair, or sign of razor burn ever since I first used them