TRIGGER WARNING: this article references body dysmorphia, eating disorders and contains pictures of second degree burns, which some readers may find distressing.
I love Instagram. Social media often gets a bad rap, especially when it comes to the damage it can do to our self esteem and confidence. Perhaps I've been lucky with the accounts I've followed and the people I've connected with, but I can thankfully count on one hand the times I've found it anything other than positive, supportive and uplifting.
Instagram feels like a safe space. A platform to connect with others who are suffering with their skin. And through something that can often make us feel quite isolated and alone, I've found it's opened up a community full of love and support.
I receive hundreds of direct messages each week from all over the world .. people looking for inspiration, parents wanting advice for their little ones, desperate skin sufferers having found the inspiring pictures on my page and finally experiencing hope in what is often a rather hopeless situation. And then there was Kylie.
Kylie's message came on a day when I was whinging about something completely insignificant. I can't even recall exactly what it was now. I think I was moaning about our lack of summer sunshine and the fact rain was forecast for my birthday at the beginning of July. Talk about stopping me in my tracks!
I regularly discuss with people whether having grown up with a skin condition or developing one later in life would be easier to handle, but I'd never factored something as devastating as our appearance becoming unrecognisable overnight into the equation. Not that it's a competition, but the psychological impacts of visible, chronic skin conditions are so often overlooked. I think it's only if you've been there and experienced the trauma of skin disease for yourself that you can truly empathise.
Kylie is so sweet in her gratitude for the skincare parcel I sent her. I'm not sharing Kylie's story to be considered a skin saviour - it was undoubtedly the least I could do to help somebody through their suffering. But I do want to share Kylie's experience in her own words to emphasise that regardless of how bad you think things are .. you are not alone. And to demonstrate our body's incredible ability to heal under the most devastating circumstances.
THIS IS KYLIE'S STORY
Lying in hospital, hearing the multiple machines beeping, all I could think was; ‘are you a victim or a survivor?’ Just ten hours earlier, I was on a beautiful family walk, taking selfies, enjoying the scenery, blissfully unaware of what was about to unfold.
“David, next door have taken their washing in, fancy a little bonfire & glass of wine?”
Lockdown saw me remove two large holly trees, three fir trees and multiple spiky bushes. I had used the same method to burn these piles of garden waste each time over the past 18 months, a good 90% of them were whilst my partner was away working offshore. Due to the amount of debris, I put a small amount of fuel to the left of the pile, and intended to light it from the right, as I'd previously done.
I now know, after speaking to a fireman, why this time it all went horribly wrong. It was a baking hot day, and the canister had been outside ‘cooking’ in the heat … as soon as the lid opened, the garden - unbeknown to us - was filling with fuel vapour. I was easily a good ten, possibly twelve feet away from the bonfire pile, but it didn’t matter. The flint sparked as I attempted to ignite the fire-lighter .. and boom.
First a blue fire ball, with an unforgettable sound, then all I could see was orange. I was head to toe in flames. The heat was unreal, panic superseded pain, and before I knew it, I was literally rugby tackled to the floor, by David (my ex-military fiancé). From then on, he took over and I did as I was told - something very new to me!!
I was carried to the shower, stripped of my (thankfully full-length) pjs, and gargling water as instructed. He removed my rings and earrings, which I have later learnt saved my fingers and repeatedly rinsed my eyes, saving my vision. I was aware David was on the phone and an ambulance was on its way. I couldn’t bear the cold anymore.
David carried me to the bedroom with a basin where he told me to keep splashing my face. We knew I was going into shock as my legs were uncontrollably shaking, but I focused on cupping water and splashing my face. I could see the damage to my right hand, but it didn’t hurt thank god, or so I thought ‘thank god’! Another lesson learnt… pain is good with burns. And I couldn’t feel mine.
I was treated for about five hours in A&E before taken to the high dependency ward with second degree burns. I had no idea what I looked like or how my appearance might change. The following day I gave David his ‘get out of jail free card’, he didn’t deserve this …
Everyday he visited me, telling me how great and beautiful I looked.🤥
I avoided every mirror in the lifts as I was transferred from high dependency to plastics. I actually laughed to myself at the irony. The girl diagnosed at 22 with BDD (Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), or body dysmorphia, is a mental health condition where a person spends a lot of time worrying about flaws in their appearance), has had the very face she hated, taken away! All those years of grimacing at pictures or crying at my reflection, and I’d do anything to have it back!
‘I don’t care what I look like, I am here and I can see my beautiful daughter grow up, I’ll take the scars with grace.’
That very thought was a game changer ... I can be a victim to this, or I can find my inner survivor. So I searched the web high and low and then remembered the bottle of scar minimising oil I had purchased. It did wonders for the acne scar on my face (a recent pick!) and found the brand on Instagram. ‘Hanna Sillitoe, my goodness recipes’. I followed the account and saw Hanna’s knowledge and research in skin healing was so vast, I got in touch. Much to my surprise, I had a reply in less than an hour! She showed heart, concern and compassion. I sent pictures and gave my medical info she offered to send me some items that she hoped would help aid my recovery.
I soon discharged myself, if I’m being honest, it was physically way too soon, but the separation from my daughter was unbearable. Covid restrictions felt frustrating, my girl wasn’t allowed in to visit me, yet I watched Wembley stadium on television, full of supporters standing side by side. It was enough to sign the papers and go home!
There it was… waiting for me. A parcel full of Hanna’s products, not the assumed samples, but easily over £300 of goods wishing me well. I’m not a crier, and hadn’t cried, until then …. a total stranger, who had seen and heard more of my accident than my own family & friends due to unwanted pity, and shame of how ugly I was. I just somehow felt really comfortable chatting with Hanna.
Each little milestone, I shared with Hanna, and we also shared excitement of how my hypersensitive skin could take her products so soon! I could cleanse, I could moisturise and I could soothe - excruciating doesn’t come close to the intense ongoing pain I was enduring. My scalp took a hit, but Hanna’s shampoo was not only bearable for cleaning, but it broke down the obvious dandruff that would come with healing. The itch that also came with my skin repairing was reduced dramatically with Hanna’s Soothing Spray, and the paraffin prescribed by the hospital that clogged my bright red face, was successfully replaced with her scar minimising oil.
The Multi Strain Biotic not only gave me the sense of cleansing from within, giving my skin every fighting chance, but my gut function, after years of EDNOS (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified) abuse, is working!! I was given the best gift - hope! I saw light at the end of a very long dark tunnel. I had lost more hair than I was left with, my eyebrows and lashes were singed away, but I felt ready to self heal, and start to self love.
I’ll never be fully rid of my unfortunate BDD insecurities, they’re ingrained within, but I find myself now able to speak up about it, to be able share this story and grow. Kindness was received plentifully from Hanna, and if I can offer the same energy back, to her, her followers, or someone else unsure of their burn recovery, I’ll honestly do anything I can!
Please take a look at my pictures and see how amazing the human body is! I’m not without scars to my face, but I’m okay with them, and will continue to use Hanna’s amazing products to reduce them/the pigmentation. I have been given at least a two year recovery road, and I can’t be in the sun or without sunscreen, even screen glare from my computer or TV can affect my skin. My hand took a hit, but physio will help to regain its grip, and I’m not without PTSD, but my progress is keeping me determined to overcome that too. I had a virtual hand holding mine during this whole ordeal…
I do not work for / with Hanna. This is not an advert and no one is gaining from my words. Hanna is successful enough without me singing about her products from the rooftops, but she was kind enough to help a stranger when it was most needed, and deserves every recognition for it. So from the bottom of my heart, thank you xx
Should anyone have any questions, I’m more than ready and happy to speak .. hopefully offering the same energy & kindness 🙏
If you'd like to chat with her or follow Kylie's account, please find her Instagram here The products Kylie has referenced in having supported her recovery are as follows:
- Hanna Sillitoe Multi Strain Probiotic
- Hanna Sillitoe Scar Minimising Oil
- Hanna Sillitoe Soothing Spray
- Hanna Sillitoe Shampoo