Transforming Inflammation is a post written by Candice Betty, founder of Organic Radiance Skincare. This is Candice’s personal memoir on inflammation, filled with vulnerability, heartbreak, and compassion. All of the ingredients necessary to rise strong and create Organic Radiance Skincare.
I used to work at a biotech company in their biologics development department. At our monthly meetings, I presented our group’s current research to about 150 people, many of whom had PhDs.
Naturally, I created “death by Powerpoint” presentations that included tons of details about the biochemistry development we were doing. The night before, I would get nervous and have trouble falling asleep.
At the meeting, breath became short, my palm sweaty, and my voice soft. I told myself it was normal to be nervous when presenting to a large group, many of whom had advanced degrees. In the back of my mind I knew that when I felt put on the spot, my face would flush, and I would feel heat in my face and get embarrassed.
Although I was confident in my work, my emotional reaction to my face flushing eroded my confidence. I became self-conscious about the heat and redness that would flare up rapidly across my face when I felt put on the spot.
This is something that I didn’t like to talk about at the time.
My Experience with Rosacea
During this time, I went to the dermatologist because the acne cream I was using didn’t seem to be working. I’ve always had sensitive skin, and I thought the redness I had was from the drying creams I had used.
I’d had acne as a teenager, but never redness that didn’t seem to go away. I knew this was a side effect of using retinol creams, especially in the intermittent way I had, and thought maybe my skin was just too sensitive to make it work.
Instead, my dermatologist diagnosed me with Rosacea. I was in my late 20s.
The dermatologist put me on an antibiotic cream to help reduce inflammation. When this didn’t seem to help much, she switched me to Finacea. My skin became very dry using this cream, and I used rich moisturizers to reverse this drying effect.
A couple of years later, I developed reactive Rheumatoid Arthritis after catching a cold.
Right before my 30th birthday, I broke up with my boyfriend. The day that I turned 30, I spent the entire day alone in bed miserable with a virus. It was the worst birthday I’ve had.
By the time I recovered, my knees had started to swell and it become painful to walk. I got scared. This wasn’t like any flu or cold I’d experienced. Maybe it wasn’t related at all.
I went to an orthopedic doctor, who saw my left knee and decided that it needed aspirating. As in draining with a huge needle and syringe. The fluid was sent to the lab, and it was determined that I needed to see a rheumatologist.
Three rheumatologists later, it was confirmed that I had Rheumatoid Arthritis. There were two ways this could pan out. It could be a reactive arthritis associated with the virus that I had. In that case, it would resolve itself within a year. The other possibility was that I’d have it for the rest of my life.
Wasn’t I too young for arthritis?
My primary joy in life was salsa dancing.
How was I going to continue on my salsa team? It was painful just to go up stairs to my office at work. I was prescribed immune suppressants and a temporary leave of absence from work.
I was “face down in the arena,” a phrase Brene Brown uses to describe moments where we feel defeated and overcome with emotion. My heart was broken, and I sat in my apartment for 6 weeks, grieving my loss of dance and my youthful body.
When I returned to work, the prescriptions I was taking had not effected any significant improvement. My digestive system was much for the worse, and I had daily stomach pain. My energy was bottomed out. My interest in biochemistry method development a distant memory.
One of my coworkers recommended a naturopathic doctor (ND) his son had seen. His recommendation came with the disclaimer that he wasn’t sure if his son’s condition had cleared naturally or if what the ND recommended had caused it to clear. I was willing to try anything at this point, so I went.
The ND spent one hour with me at my initial appointment. She explained that with my family history of autoimmunity, if I continued to take immune suppressant drugs, I would open myself up to greater risk of developing another auto-immune disorder.
She recommended that I get off of the immune suppressant, NSAIDS, and drugs to prevent stomach pain. She gave me a combination of herbal supplements first to heal my digestive system and then to balance my immune system. She said that I needed to restrict sugar, caffeine, and gluten carefully in my diet.
She emphasized that I needed to prioritize getting 8 hours of sleep, especially between the hours of 10pm and 2am. I didn’t like that part. Salsa dancing usually started at 10pm, and part of me still had hope that I could return to dance. I decided to keep an open mind and carry out her lifestyle recommendations, with the occasional exception of sleeping at 10pm.
It took more than 2 years for me to fully recover, but the improvements were visible. I had lost a lot of strength and gained 20 lbs from not working out. I resumed lifting weights conservatively and got stronger.
During this time, I researched what causes dormant genes, like genes that can trigger autoimmune disorders, to turn on. Lifestyle played an important role. Habits can make or break us. Some of my previous habits were leading to chronic inflammation.
Combining a stressful lifestyle with too little sleep and a diet high in sugars and pro-inflammatory fats was creating an inflammatory response in my body. This inflammation would have a significant effect on my life if I didn’t have a healthy respect for it.
My research led me to an important connection, a more holistic understanding of my health and why I developed RA and Rosacea. Inflammation.
So many of the people I cared for were struggling with health problems, and the connection was chronic inflammation. Learning how to reduce inflammation was what I needed to focus on to manage my Rosacea, avoid more health problems, and to be able to continue dancing, hiking, and traveling.
Organic Radiance Skincare is Born
Organic Radiance Skincare was born while I was still working full time in biotechnology. After learning that inflammation was associated with both Rosacea and RA, my background in science took over and I read all that I could about inflammation.
My company had a library with scientific journal subscriptions, so I used this to research inflammation. It was through this research and my affinity for using plants to heal the body, that Herbe Sois Calming Moisturizer was born.
Author Tim Ferris was an early inspiration of mine, and I was fascinated with his idea of self experimentation. This meant I could test anything I wanted to, and I didn’t need protocols approved or to wait for funding. I decided to do some of my own experimentation making facial moisturizers.
I was most irritated and concerned with the redness on my face. My face creams went against all “oil-free” product recommendations given by dermatologists. I wanted to see if I used quality ingredients with concentrations that I determined, could I reduce the redness on my face and even reduce my breakouts.
This was a trial and error process, as I have very sensitive skin. My first trial with making my own moisturizer with essential oils produced a thin blue cream with a sharp scent. The experience of applying the cream was barely tolerable. Many of the essential oils I was interested in were hard to find as organic oils. Many of them were cost prohibitive.
Over the course of a year, I created dozens of combinations of oils, extracts, and butters to test which of these would reduce the inflammation I was experiencing. Many of them were not tolerable for a second try, let alone daily use.
I had a vision of making a myself a calming face cream, and I did not let these failures leave me discouraged for long.
After over a year trial and error, one version of my moisturizer stood out.
The chemistry and properties of Helichrysum italicum particularly intrigued me. H. italicum was an essential oil with strong anti-inflammatory properties that had safely been used on the skin for generations. This strong anti-inflammatory oil could be applied neat, or undiluted, to the skin without causing sensitivities or reactions. It seemed careless to do so with the price of an ounce of this oil though.
H. italicum blended well with German chamomile to produce the synergystic anti-inflammatory effect I was looking for. Despite the steep price, I ordered them from a wholesale supplier who sold organic oils. I made a trial batch of my moisturizer with these two essential oils based on the hypothesis that combining certain ingredients would produce a synergistic calming effect. Synergy is when two or more components work in concert together to produce a greater effect than each would individually.
My face cream was made with base of aloe vera and shea butter to make it rich and cooling. I added the essential oils for the anti-inflammatory effect I was after. Then hyaluronic acid to help reduce fine lines. I also included silk peptides to help reduce scarring left over from my breakouts.
The cream was thick, rich, and soothing to my skin. After a couple of weeks using this batch as a night cream, my skin looked and felt the best it had since my Rosacea started. It worked.
When I gave family and friends samples of this batch, they started asking for more. Especially the ones with problem skin. This cream wasn’t like anything they had tried before.
It occurred to me that I now had, not only an opportunity, but a responsibility, to help a larger number of people who also struggle with their skin. The emotions that accompany this struggle often lead to a slow erosion of confidence, a “holding back” rather than speaking up.
It became my mission to communicate my story with compassion to people struggling with skin problems, and to help as many people as I could with calming skin care products. Helping people overcome their struggles, internally and externally, is why I write, speak to audiences, and make videos. It is why I’m proud to run a skincare company founded on the values of compassion, shared vulnerability, and holistic healing.
I’d love to hear your story. Have you struggled with skin or health problems related to inflammation? I’ve created several resources on reducing inflammation, which I share with my email subscribers. I’d love to share them with you. Enter your email in the box below.
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