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Mystery of mysterious skin disease solved after 10 years

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A British man has solved a decade-old riddle about why his face often burst into massive red, flaky splotches, and the solution was found in his office toilet.

Will Hayward, a Welsh journalist, detailed his shocking finding on Twitter, sharing before and after photos of his face’s remarkable metamorphosis.

“It is hard to describe the impact that my skin issue had on my life,” he wrote, detailing multiple incorrect diagnoses by doctors and the incredible lengths he went to find out what was causing “horrible red blotches” on his cheeks and nose.

“Physically it can be very painful but is usually just uncomfortable,” he added.

“The real impact is how it hits my self esteem. I am a young (ish) single bloke.

“In his role as a news reporter in Wales, Mr Hayward is often required to speak on-camera, a situation which would cause him great anxiety because of the splotches.

“When a flare up was at its worse I wouldn’t want to leave the house,” he wrote.

“I would cancel dates I had arranged and would never have my camera on when doing video calls.”

Mr Hayward noted that the flare-ups on his face would get worse after a night out on the town.

For the sake of experimentation, he quit drinking.

He also gave up caffeine and chocolate over time and tried a variety of different moisturizers and lotions in an attempt to rule out any possible causes.

A physician diagnosed him with rosacea four years ago, a disorder that causes facial flushing and can also result in tiny, pus-filled pimples.

In this case, the diagnosis was just the first of many false dawns. Mr Hayward, on the other hand, followed his doctor’s advice and tried the suggested medicinal creams as well as making lifestyle and dietary changes.

“However some problems remained,” he said.

“Though the low level redness was a bit diminished the mega flare ups were just as severe and happened just as often.”

His cheeks had improved, but the spots on his neck and chest were still “as bad.”

He went back to the doctor and was diagnosed with seborrheic dermatitis this time around.

Mr Hayward left with a new prescription in the hopes of making a breakthrough.

Then there was the coronavirus outbreak. Mr. Hayward’s skin improved dramatically in a matter of weeks, he 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,” he reflected.

“I didn’t understand it but I wasn’t complaining.”

Then, as the number of cases declined and Britain reopened, Mr. Hayward began to go out more frequently, and his skin began to deteriorate.

“This was particularly true when I returned to the office after a year and half (away).

“Suddenly I was back to square one, in fact, it was worse.”

After a post-covid flare-up, he rushed back to the doctor, who advised him to get an allergy patch test.

This suggestion proved to be crucial in solving the problem. Mr Hayward was tested for dozens of different compounds and chemicals throughout the overnight test to check if he was allergic to anything. Two compounds, 2-brom-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol and methylisothiazolinone, were found to be positive. Mr. Hayward had to avoid both chemicals for three months to see if they were linked to his psychologically devastating face skin disease. It was not difficult to avoid the chemical with the unusual name.

“It was used a lot 20 years ago,” Mr Hayward wrote, “but was phased out because so many people reacted to it.”

Methylisothiazolinone, which is found in a wide range of items such as soaps, shower gels, shampoos, and sun creams, was “an entirely different beast.” Still, he cleared out all of his household and personal care items and waited to see what would happen. At first, the results appeared to be very promising. He returned to the office after his skin was “doing great,” as he and his journalistic colleagues re-established a post-covid working regimen.

“Within a few hours of being in the office my skin started to burn,” he wrote.

“And by that night I was back to square one.”I was so bloody upset.

“How the hell had this happened?”

Mr. Hayward, frustrated, then had a eureka moment. He recalled that the men’s restroom in his office building was equipped with an automatic air freshener spray that activated continuously throughout the day. The main investigated with his office’s landlord after learning that methylisothiazolinone was widely used in air fresheners. His instincts were correct. Methylisothiazolinone was found in the bathroom spray.

“Turns out … every minute, three of these sprays were essentially waterboarding my face with something I was super allergic to,” he said.

Mr. Hayward communicated with his boss, and together with the landlord, they replaced the air freshener.

“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,” Mr Hayward wrote.

He is still taking antibiotics for his skin issue, but he plans to stop taking them soon. He’s also considering resuming his chocolate consumption.

“I would f—ing love my first Twix in four years.”

Image Credit: Twitter / Will Hayward

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