Ok guys so this might not be what I usually blog about but I started this blog to help people with what I have learned in my life. I want to share my story as I think it can help others who are suffering with Eczema. After posting a photo celebrating my skin being eczema free for two years, I had an influx of comments and messages asking for advice from strangers, so the sign was there- I needed to get all this out in a post that could be shared with those who still suffer. After suffering from Eczema for 26 years of my life, I can officially say I am cured! Now I can’t go and say that if you do everything I say you will be cured too, after all, there are so many factors that can affect eczema and everyone’s individual journey is different. However, I have been there, I tried EVERYTHING over the years to heal my eczema to no avail. Here is my story and advice to help you out.
Eczema had been there my whole life. My parents would tell me they use to wrap my hands in mittens to stop me from scratching. I first showed symptoms as a baby. Of course, the most logical thing to do was to see a doctor, who gave my parents a script for Topical Steroids (TS). Of course initially, the TS worked! They work because they suppress our inflammatory response. They are however a bandaid (like most medicines) which means they help symptoms but do nothing to address the root cause. So this started a vicious cycle. The TS would help, but the rashes would reappear a few days later. So I would use more. But then more eczema would appear in different places. My parents had me on a special diet, tried various lotions and remedies but to no avail. This eczema seemed like a life long sentence, heck doctors even told me there was no other way to manage and treat eczema except with steroid creams.
Years would pass and my eczema would go through phases of horrible flare ups to almost gone. I always had a tube of TS on hand. Doctors would prescribe bigger tubes, steadily increasing the percentage strength. I was warned never to use them longer than two weeks, yet the scripts kept coming over the years. TS that were specified not for the face I would use on my face. I am sure my body was definitely suffering from the TS, yet it seemed to be the only thing to give me relief.
I would research all the time for eczema cures, try every single lotion that mentioned it would help eczema. All of them made it worse, some of them even gave me an allergic reaction where I would have hives all over my body. I was broken inside and outside. I had lost all hope. I felt like I would never have normal soft skin. I would look at my friends perfect glowing skin and just die a little inside knowing it would never be me. Little did I know. My healing journey started about 6 years ago. I went vegetarian and radically changed my diet. I started eating more whole foods, had green smoothies for breakfast and stopped drinking alcohol. I cut out too much sugar and processed foods. Of course I would still eat these foods occasionally as I believe having a healthy relationship with food is important. This helped my skin a little, but there was still a long way to go.
While I was overhauling my diet, I was also going through a major shift in my life in my relationship at the time. I was in a dark place mentally and in a very unloving and toxic relationship. I used my time alone to really think about my life and where I was. Was I really happy? I was on a journey of self discovery. It dawned on me that I am responsible for my life and my happiness. No one else is going to write my story for me. I needed to believe in myself and believe that I create my life and to make it better. I left that relationship and never looked back.
What I learned during this time was profound- our outer world is a reflection of our inner world. Just let that sink in a little bit. It has been scientifically proven that our thoughts affect our physiology. So one of the biggest components to healing my skin was to change my thoughts towards myself. To be true and authentic in who I was, what I wanted and to follow my hearts desire no matter what anyone said. I loved and accepted myself even when I was a rashy, itchy mess. My thoughts were healing and so was my skin.
After I got myself out of that relationship, I had a new lease on life. I still suffered from Eczema really badly, but I was in a better place mentally and now had the most amazing partner by my side to help me on my healing journey. I was in the same cycle of using the TS and having good skin then bad. I was basically chasing the eczema around my body. It would heal in one place then appear in another. I felt powerless. One day I was researching again about eczema and came across a website that I am so thankful for in my path to healing- www.itsan.org.
Without this website who knows where I would have been. I read about Topical Steroid Addiction and saw stories of others who had suffered just like me. When you use TS too long, your skin can become addicted to it and the TS can actually be the cause of the eczema. I had no idea. The solution- stop using them altogether. This was a scary thought. How would I treat it going forward? I knew this was the only way to heal. The website had others stories and explained that it simply takes time to heal once you stop using the TS. Lifestyle changes can assist but a huge piece of the puzzle was to stop using the TS. So there it was- I committed and threw away my last ointment tube. I was about to enter unchartered waters for the first time in my 25 years of life!
The first 6 months were the worst. My skin was a red and itchy mess from my head to my ankles (I would say toes but I never got eczema on my feet). It hurt. I got hives randomly and I didn’t know why. I scratched in my sleep. I scratched when I was awake. It was an endless cycle. During my healing process, I did a lot to assist my skin in healing which I will share with you below. After doing all of this, my skin completely healed one year later! I still had a little bit of eczema on my hand that persisted a little but overall I had soft, smooth, normal skin! I couldn’t believe it. To this day, I still have no flare ups. I suffer no more and I hope if you have eczema you too can feel this bliss one day! I truly believe our healing comes from within, from healing our the deep roots and not just with what we do on the outside. Here is my advice for an eczema free life:
Stop using Topical Steroids
This was one of the most crucial parts to my healing journey. As mentioned above, our skin can become addicted to the TS and wreak havoc on our bodies. Do your own research and see the website Itsan and make the decision yourself. This along with the below tips helped me have completely healed skin within a year.
Take a daily Epsom Salt Bath
Salt is so healing for the skin! Plus what better way to relax and de-stress than in a bath! I would light some candles, prepare a warm (not too hot) bath and add a decent serving of epsom salts. Don’t forget to moisturise straight after getting out to lock in the moisture.
Spray apple cider vinegar/salt spray on your skin
Even though you may be left smelling like salad dressing, apple cider vinegar is antibacterial and really helps our skin heal. I diluted it with 50% water and put it in a spray bottle to spritz on my skin after bathing (followed by moisturising). Salt spray works well too so I would mix it up between the two!
Moisturise twice a day
Some forums discuss “Moisturising withdrawal” however I personally don’t think this method is at all helpful in healing eczema. Skin that is prone to eczema generally is missing the protective barrier that normal skin has, so I think it is important to put that moisture back into the skin especially after bathing. This definitely helped heal my skin. Use only a simple ingredient moisturiser like pure cocoa butter and coconut oil. Store bought lotions that advertise for eczema are generally still full of chemicals and petrochemicals which are horrible for eczema and for me made it far worse.
Use only sulphate and fragrance free natural laundry detergent
Many laundry detergents contain super harsh chemicals that are irritating to our skin. They remain in the clothes after we wash them which can irritate the skin as well as our lungs. I use a very plain eco friendly laundry detergent that is free from harsh sulphates and fragrances.
Sleep with gloves and knee braces
One of the biggest reasons for eczema not healing is scratching! Sure you can stop yourself from scratching during the day but at night, you really have no control when you’re asleep. I would wear long socks as gloves at night and cotton/bamboo knee braces to protect my knees from sweating and from scratching myself in my sleep. Not the most attractive look but it’s all in the name of healing.
Get sun and salty ocean water on your skin
Sometimes exposing your skin when it’s red and raw is the last thing on your mind but it’s been proven that UV light on the skin helps it to heal. I would go to the beach and lay in the sun for at least 20 minutes then go jump in the salty water. Swimming was one of the hardest things as it would feel like a million needles stabbing you all over as the salt sunk into your open wounds. I would curl up in a ball and cry on the sand when I got out, but I knew it was worth it to help my skin heal.
Drink plenty of water
This is an old one but a really crucial one. When you’re dehydrated your body will take water from your skin first. Dry skin= more eczema! So drink plenty of water, even throw some lemon in it which really helps your immune system!
Eat a whole foods plant based diet
Even though I had already been vegetarian for 4 years before I started my topical steroid withdrawal journey, I was still eating some dairy. When I stopped using steroids I also cleaned up my diet again and went vegan and included more whole foods in my diet. I would make (and still do!) a daily smoothie full of nutrients and greens to kickstart my day. I would avoid alcohol, processed foods, sugar and wheat. Foods that are particularly good for your skin are blueberries, turmeric (with pepper to help it absorb), flax seeds, greens, sweet potato, pumpkin seeds, almonds, tomatoes, strawberries, oats, carrots, ginger, raw cacao & avocados.
Avoid allergens! (August 2019 update)
This one is an addition to my original blog which I posted in March. After being healed so long I was eating wheat (bread and pasta) occasionally and was getting pimples all over my body thinking they were razor rash or bacterial related. I then even got eczema behind my knees, the first time in 3 years!! Through meditation I had the thought that it may be the wheat I had started eating again. So once again I cut wheat from my diet and 1 month later I am completely healed again. So my point of this update is to reiterate how important what food we put into our bodies three times a day is! What we eat and our gut health all directly affect our skin and bodies so much. So if you are allergic or intolerant to something, stop eating it! Get in tune with how you feel after a meal. Sit with yourself and ask yourself how you feel. Do you feel bloated, tired, energised or happy after this meal? For me I was ignoring my wheat allergy far too long. Ensure you are eating what food agrees with you so you can fully heal!
Overhaul your personal care products
You would not believe the amount of toxic chemicals in our personal care products! Many contain parabens which wreak havoc on our hormones as well as many chemicals which are known irritants to our skin such as SLS sulphates (you’ll find this in shampoos, soaps & toothpaste). The easiest thing to do is get back to basics with personal care. For me, this meant only natural makeup and skin care, if it wasn’t necessary then I didn’t use it (like soap when showering, water is enough to cleanse our skin). You’d be surprised what you can use from your kitchen as personal care products! Less ingredients which means less chance of irritating your skin. I wrote a blog about this on my zero waste website here.
I start my day with a daily meditation. This helps me focus on my goals and start the day feeling calm and connected with myself. This also reduces stress levels, stress is one of the worst things for us so this is important. Try listening to Aaron Doughty’s amazing meditations or download the app Insight Timer.
Practice yoga or another form of exercise
A daily practice to get your body moving and focus is so important to our overall health and wellbeing. You’ll feel more aligned, centred and connected to yourself which helps so much in healing.
Stress is one of the biggest contributors to disease in our bodies. Chronic stress increases inflammation which means more red skin and flare ups. Practice being mindful and checking your stress levels. One thing I love to do is do a worry check- if you’re stressing about something (or a few things!) ask yourself if you can do something about it right at that moment. If you can, take action! If you can’t, write it down to take action at a later date. Being mindful and present can help us de-stress and feel more connected with ourselves and the present moment.
Practice self LOVE
This one might not seem important, but it really is! How kind are you being to yourself? What is the dialogue you are telling yourself? Is it loving or loathing? Our cells are listening to us and the story we tell them. Whether we think we can or can’t, we are right either way. We must learn to love ourselves, our soul and our bodies. There are plenty of ways to start this journey, one of my favourite teachers is Teal Swan, her books and videos have changed my life! I would not be who I am today if it wasn’t for her teachings.
Heal your thoughts
Your thoughts create your reality. It has been scientifically proven many times that what we think affects our biology. Just take the placebo affect- this is a real thing! If you think you are being healed or can heal, then you will! Our cells are listening and take action based on their environment. If you want to learn more, I suggest reading the book “The Biology of Belief” by Bruce Lipton and “You are the Placebo” by Joe Dispenza. These books changed my life and view on how powerful our mind is!
I hope my story helps you or someone you know! Please share with anyone you know who might be suffering <3