The internet is a wonderful thing. Where else can you out find the makeup tips of your favourite celebrities, every single episode of Parks and Recreation and what happened on this day in 1672?
But there are certain things the internet should not be used for, namely medical advice. This is something I learnt the hard way.
Like all beauty horror stories, this one begins with good intentions. I was looking for a natural way to treat the undesirable spots that tend to show up on obvious parts of the face at inconvenient times (hello, pimples).
The back of any spot treatment bottle has enough confusing scientific words to make even a science major’s head spin, leading many people (myself included) to search for natural alternatives. But where we get this advice is not always reputable.
I know, I know, you’re probably thinking, ‘but Sarah, things on the internet are extremely credible, especially if it’s on five different .org sites.’ Not even my years of studying and now working in the field of journalism can help me to distinguish between fact and fiction online.
(Watch: The easiest at-home facial to treat yourself with. Post continues after video.)
So here’s what happened.
I believed the old wives’ tale that pure tea tree oil is a great way to clear up pimples naturally. And logically, it made sense. It’s antibacterial, it’s straight from nature and it even smells great.
Off I went, dabbing the so-called natural spot cream onto my freshly washed face – just like countless internet sites and YouTube tutorials instructed.
The next day I awoke to find my spots unchanged, and the skin around them a little red. I thought nothing of it and added tea tree oil to my mental list of useless internet beauty recommendations, alongside using lemon juice to fade freckles and baking soda to whiten teeth (for the love of your teeth enamel, don’t try that one at home).
It was the next day when I realised the full extent of what I’d done. I woke up at an ungodly hour to a face that felt as though it was on fire.
Sarah's face after using the oil. (Photos supplied)
I looked in the mirror and noticed the red patches had swelled and grown, and I had to use every ounce of self-control not to claw my face off to stop it from itching. It was a full blown allergic reaction.
The next day, the red patches grew and grew, and became bumpy, dry and somehow itchier. I began to resemble a Halloween mask. It continued to spread and swell and itch and ooze, and all those lovely things that come with a skin meltdown. It was time for professional help.
The doctor told me the allergic reaction had turned into Periorificial dermatitis. He prescribed me three months of antibiotics and a steroid cream just to get the sucker under control. Oh, and he also made me promise to never, EVER put tea tree oil on my face again. I was happy to oblige.