This isn't my first time on the forum. I used to frequent it every day during some of my worst periods, but eventually became inactive and have finally returned to share my success story with those who still suffer from exfoliative cheilitis. Being all too familiar with the pain and obsession that EC causes, I hope my experiences may shed light on how to improve your situations, but of course each individual is personal.
Also, I know you guys are often skeptical of people without photos, but I don't carry pictures of my EC days around -- I try not to dwell on it, and I don't want others to see them when on my computer or passing my phone around at a party. So I will do my best to provide as much detail as possible on my history:
I first developed EC when I was thirteen years old and going through my parents' divorce. It was a turbulent time, and I expressed my stress by excoriating my lips and scalp (actually, the scalp thing is still an issue). I had always been a stellar student with good grades, but EC completely destroyed my confidence. Sadly, it became the focal point of my life, determining when I could go out in public, what I could eat and how, and even my ability to smile and laugh. I tried every prescription and nonprescription lotion, oil, and emollient on the market, and visited countless dermatologists. I tried the leave-it-alone-until-big-yellow-smelly-scabs-form-and-fall-off method, as well as the constant moisture barrier method. I tried different diets and dabbled in meditation in the hopes of finding a panacea for the monstrosity on my lips. I spent twelve years living like this and allowed the situation to impact my work and relationships. By the time I reached the age of twenty-five, I was physically and emotionally battered, and perhaps as a result, had developed a tumor in my mouth, which I had to have surgically removed. But there were complications and instead of going through a normal recovery, I was placed on a liquid vegetarian diet (not that I was a stranger to straw drinking at that point heh heh) and visited my doctor every day for a week, where his staff would sanitize and rebandage my mouth. Immediately following this experience, I left the country for a month and became so busy that I barely had time to look in the mirror. When I returned, I was shocked to find my lips had completely healed. I was pleased but still unhappy. After all, I had just spent 12 years in misery, and that is not something you can just turn on and off so easily. Anyway, things gradually turned up and my lips looked wonderful for 5 months at which point another severely stressful event struck my life, reverting my lips back to their old EC ways. I was horrified and went into damage control mode, looking up every remedy on the internet (there is a helpful post somewhere here in which someone compiles all the successful methods of past EC sufferers that I used). Within a week, after one month's relapse, my lips were healed. What worked this time around?
1. Creating a clean environment in my mouth. My mouth was being professionally sanitized when my lips first healed, and even after I stopped seeing my doctor, I continued to use prescription strength mouthwash for two months. The second time around, I decided to begin oil pulling morning and night(another girl had success with that method on this forum) along with brushing my teeth and rinsing with drugstore mouthwash after every meal and sometimes whenever I had free time.
2. Redirecting my attention elsewhere. Reading through all the success stories of people on this forum and elsewhere on the internet convinced me of the psychological root of this condition. Despite everyone's varied stories, the one common denominator appeared to be loosening their fixation on EC and instead doing/ thinking about other things. The first time I healed EC, I spent a month too busy to even look in the mirror. The second time, I imposed a rigid schedule on myself that required me to give my undivided attention to things other than myself. Knowing this would be difficult, I even went on a weekend temple retreat with a friend. These places dictate your schedule quite strictly, so it got me out of my negative lip picking zone. I also began exercising outside in the sun for an hour every day.
3. Going on a mirror diet. I actually got this idea from Filful on the Dermatillomania page of the Experience Project website and realized I had basically done it during the process leading to my first EC cure -- I hid all my mirrors (trust me -- very difficult as someone who loves makeup and fashion and takes pride in her appearance) and timed myself when I did look in the mirror (count to ten, no more than five times a day).
When I returned from the temple and back to the stress of everyday life, I did start picking my lips again, but this time, there was no while line and the resulting damage was tiny little flakes, not big scabby cornflakes like before. I dealt with this by making a honey mask for my lips, which I wiped and exfoliated with an old toothbrush. They look great! Exfoliation is now a part of my daily health and beauty regimen.
What I do hope everyone will take away from my notes is that you ARE more than your EC. Please don't let it run your life because you will be left with far more than unsightly growths on your lips. You all deserve to be happy and I hope you can triumph over this soon.