I have to apologize up front because this post is filled with some pretty scary photos that I never intended to be made public. But the longer I suffered with this issue, the more convinced I became that I had to share it with y’all, if for no other reason than as a warning so that none of you suffer the way I’ve been suffering for the last six week.
At the end of July, I started working on the countertops for the studio. I started building the one for the office area of the studio, got midway through that one and decided to change the design, and then decided to work on the long countertop for the mural wall. The countertop is made out of MDF and these laminate flooring boards. You can click here to see the whole DIY countertop process, but long story short, I ended up cutting every single flooring board using my table saw and miter saw.
I had never used laminate flooring for anything before, so I had no idea what to expect. So naturally, since I had never used it before, that means that I had no experience cutting it with a saw, either. This was all new to me.
I don’t really know what laminate flooring is made of, but I did notice that as I ran each board through the table saw, the blade cutting through the top layer of the flooring boards was creating tiny little sparks. The sparks were so small and almost unnoticeable in the bright sun during the day, but because I was still cutting boards as the sun started going down, the sparks became noticeable. And it wasn’t just the table saw that was creating those sparks. My miter saw blade did the same thing when cutting through that top layer.
So that got me a little curious. What in the world was this flooring made of? And more importantly, what was this material I was getting covered in? Thankfully I remembered to wear a mask so that I wasn’t breathing in the dust (and cutting those boards created a whole lot of dust!), but all of the exposed skin on my face, chin, neck, and chest got completely covered in the dust that wouldn’t simply brush off like sawdust from actual wood does.
It took me two days to do the bulk of the cuts needed for the long countertop, and each day, I did all of the cutting I needed to do, and then I went inside and immediately took a shower to get all of the dust off of me since I couldn’t just brush it off, and I can’t stand to be covered in dust like that. But little did I know that this was no regular sawdust. I was covered in something that would tear up my skin and make me absolutely miserable for the next six weeks.
But first, the happy news. The countertop turned out great. I’ve gotten so much use out of it, and I’m still thrilled with how it looks.
So that’s the good part. Now are you ready for the bad and the ugly all rolled into one? Again, I apologize because I never thought I’d be sharing these pictures publicly, and I almost feel like it would be more appropriate had I waited until Halloween when people are expecting to see scary things. But here’s the scary aftermath of my chest being covered with that dust.
That’s not the greatest picture (meaning that it’s kind of blurry) because I took it at night as I was sitting in bed and watching TV, so the lighting wasn’t good at all. But it doesn’t really matter because my skin really did look that bad. In fact, it was worse. Since the lighting isn’t so great, you can’t really get an appreciation for the sores on my skin due to my constant scratching and drawing blood. And get this. That picture was taken 3 1/2 weeks after I had been covered in the dust. THREE AND A HALF WEEKS!! I’ll say it again. At the point in which that photo was taken, I had already been suffering for 3 1/2 weeks with this horrible skin issue.
(And FYI, the shirt I had on was clean. 😀 It looks horrible and very strange on the right side because of the lack of lighting in the room. The photo was taken by the glow of the TV, with no other lighting in the room. But I don’t sit in my bed with filthy clothes on. That shirt is one of my painting shirts, so it has paint splotches all over, but it was clean. 😀 )
Not only did it look bad (and oh my gosh, did it look bad!!!), but it itched like crazy and burned. I had some spots, especially on my chin and jawline, that itched so badly I wanted to claw my skin until it bled. And in fact, as you can see in the photo below, that’s exactly what I did. And just take a look at how bumpy my skin was. I’ve never had skin issues in my life, other than a random pimple here and there, so this was hard for me to look at, and very hard to live with.
Fast forward another 10 days or so, and I was still suffering from painful itching (and yes, still drawing blood because I was scratching so much in places) and some of the skin on my neck turned really white with red, itchy welts. While you probably can’t tell from the photo, all of those red spots were raised and swollen and they itched like crazy.
I had people telling me that I needed to go to the doctor, but what could a doctor do? All they would do is prescribe some medication for the itching and pain. I had already tried over the counter hydrocortisone creams. Not only did they not help, but I really didn’t want to just cover up the symptoms. I needed the root problem dealt with. I needed whatever was embedded in my skin to come out, and a medical doctor would have been less than helpful in that regard.
I thought maybe my skin would just naturally push the irritant out (which I had determined at this point must be something like fiberglass), kind of like the natural shedding of skin will eventually push out a splinter over time. But after getting no relief after several weeks, I finally got proactive about it.
The first thing I tried was bentonite clay masks. Those gave me some temporary relief, but mostly, the clay masks just dried my skin out something awful. So then for the next two weeks, on top of dealing with the itching and burning skin, my skin was also shriveled up like a raisin, which just added to the pain. (Think of having dry and chapped lips where the skin pulls and hurts when you try to take a bit of food, but instead of that being on your lips, it’s all over your chin, neck, and chest so that every movement of my head pulled my dry and shriveled skin and hurt.)
I gave up the bentonite clay masks after a couple of tries, and moved on. After determining that the irritant must be fiberglass, I did a little googling and came across this video. The comment section was filled with people who tried apple cider vinegar on their fiberglass-irritated skin and found relief, so I tried it. I put it on the affected areas with a cotton ball, and for a few minutes, my skin burned like it was on fire. But after the burning went away, I did get some temporary relief for about an hour. Sadly, the itching always came back after apple cider vinegar applications. I tried that about three times, and then gave up.
I finally found some lasting relief when my bonus sister Cathi got her activated charcoal soap ready for sale on her website. As soon as she listed it, I snatched up a bar of that activated charcoal soap (you can find her soaps here), and used that on the affected areas. The first time I used it, it stung like crazy (just like the apple cider vinegar, just like the bentonite clay mask, and just like everything else I had put on my skin, including creams, ointments, and even coconut oil). I used the soap in the shower last Friday, and then as soon as I got out of the shower, I used coconut oil to sooth the dryness I was still dealing with from the bentonite clay masks.
I went out to dinner with a friend and my mom that evening, and I didn’t realize it until I was sitting in bed around 11:30 that night, but I hadn’t experienced any itching or burning all evening. That was the first time in weeks that I had any lasting relief.
The next morning, some of the itching was back (but not nearly as bad as it had been), so I used the soap again. Again, it stung, but the stinging was about half of what it was the previous time. And I noticed that some of the redness had gone away, and also those red spots on my neck were no longer puffy and swollen.
Here’s a screenshot from a Marco Polo I sent to a friend this past weekend, and you can see that while my skin still looked messed up, it was starting to look much better. The roughness was going away, and the puffy, swollen spots had gone down. So at that point, I had discolored skin, but it was mostly smooth skin.
I was still dealing with some itching, though. It was no longer the “I want to claw my skin off” kind of itching, and it was no longer constant, but it would come and go throughout the day. So I continued to use the activated charcoal soap through the weekend, and by Sunday, my skin was no longer stinging when I put the soap on it. The soap was feeling soothing. Then I’d follow that up with coconut oil.
But on Sunday night, I had left my coconut oil in the van (I literally had to take it everywhere with me and apply it regularly because of the severe dryness from the bentonite clay masks), and I was feeling too lazy to go out and get it. And without the coconut oil, I didn’t want to use the charcoal soap. So my skin was super dry and starting to feel a little itchy again.
I kept envisioning using something like those nose strips that pull junk out of your pores (I remember using those in high school), but much larger so that it would cover my chin, neck, and chest. I felt like if I had something like that — something that would really stick to my skin and that I could peel off while it stuck to and drew out the irritant — I would feel so much better.
The only thing I could think of was duct tape, and I just happened to have half a roll of black Gorilla tape. If you’ve ever used the black Gorilla tape, you know it’s about twice as sticky as regular duct tape. So this past Sunday night, I sat at the desk in my studio, and for about 20 minutes, I tore off strip after strip of black Gorilla tape, pressing it as hard as I could onto every bit of the affected skin on my chin, neck, and chest, and peeling it off slowly in hopes that it would pull that irritant out of my skin.
And do you know what? IT WORKED! My skin isn’t 100% back to normal yet, but it has felt closer to normal than I’ve felt in six weeks. So for the last two days (Monday and Tuesday) my routine has been washing with the activated charcoal soap (which doesn’t sting at all anymore), letting my skin completely dry, using the black Gorilla tape all over the affected area, and then covering the area with coconut oil.
And with that routine, my skin is finally on its way to looking and feeling normal again. Like I said, it’s not back to 100% yet (it’s only been less than three days since I first used the Gorilla tape), but the color is starting to even out, all of the swelling in the remaining red splotches is gone, and I have fewer and fewer red splotches with each passing day. The itching is about 99% gone, and I haven’t experienced any pain or burning in my skin since the first time I used the soap on Friday. I’ve been doing the charcoal soap, Gorilla tape, coconut oil routine twice a day, and I’m finally feeling normal again.
Needless to say, I’m a little bit terrified of cutting those boards again, but I do have one more countertop I have to make with them. I’ve been putting that off and putting that off, and now you know why. I’m scared to cut those boards because of the absolute pain and misery I’ve been dealing with for the last six weeks.
I will cut them, and I will get that second countertop done. But I can guarantee you that when I cut those boards for the second countertop, there will be no skin exposed to the sawdust from those boards. I’ll wear a Hazmat suit before I’ll take a chance on going through this again.
Addicted 2 Decorating is where I share my DIY and decorating journey as I remodel and decorate the 1948 fixer upper that my husband, Matt, and I bought in 2013. Matt has M.S. and is unable to do physical work, so I do the majority of the work on the house by myself. You can learn more about me here.