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I came to conclude that I’ve grown dependent on steroids after numerous trials with alternative and natural treatments. Although some things have helped with the condition of my skin, no single treatment has resolved my itchy, hot, irritable skin. I’ve spent too much time and energy into researching for the causes of my curs’d skin, but I’m not yet ready to lay down my armour and accept that my life will be ruled by how my skin feels. For those who have skin issues, you know exactly what I mean. You feel like going for a bike ride? You can’t! Because — very predictably — you flush/sweat too easily, fall into an itching fit and must hasten home to a cold shower.

Below is a list and brief description of things I’ve tried to resolve my skin issues, which is what I now realize to be steroid-induced eczema. I gave most things a chance, as long as it made sense and was meant to resolve eczema. Although some things have helped (i.e. moisturizing with grape seed oil), the underlying symptoms of whatever-the-f&(% is going on with my skin was/is very present. Some of these things I continue to use as it minimizes any flare ups or keeps my skin in good condition, while some other things I no longer bother with as it wasn’t worth while (i.e. too much money and unsuccessful).

I moisturized incessantly with different types of oils.

I thought that if I brought moisture back into my skin, it would be happy and functioning. Dermatologists believe that eczematous skin does not function properly because the skin cells are not as “dense” as normally functioning skin (this has been called the Defective Skin Barrier Theory). As a result, moisture retention in eczematous skin is lesser than those who have normal skin. I thought, “If I could get my skin to act normally by adding more moisture, maybe…”

Neem oil, jojoba oil, emu oil, grape seed oil, almond oil, castor oil, sea buckthorn, oregano oil, coconut oil… All in 3-4 week rotations throughout the year to give each oil a chance to reap its benefits. While these all had their benefits and disadvantages, my skin was always thirsty for more. The redness, irritation, itching wouldn’t give out with all the loving I gave my skin. I’ve been using coconut, castor and grape seed oil for months now. I liked the emu oil, but have decided against it for ethical reasons. They kill emus for their oil.

Some people going through TSW complain of a metallic smell from their skin, which has been attributed to fungi growing on the skin, so using the coconut oil for its antifungal properties isn’t a bad idea. I use it for this reason. Castor oil is too thick and heavy, and would take ages for it to sink into the skin. I like the grape seed oil because it’s fairly lightweight and inexpensive. Jojoba oil is nice but over my budget. Coconut oil is also pretty expensive if you get the raw, unprocessed, extra virgin version, so I compensate by using it only on my face, neck, hands, basically exposed skin areas. I would like to give avocado oil a chance but have not found a bulk size that would make the purchase worth my money. I didn’t care for almond oil; it was sort of like grape seed but a tad bit heavier. Sea buckthorn is often sited for eczematous skin, but did not see a difference. I would argue that any slight benefits that it offers would be difficult to discern as skin going through TSW is too damaged to notice its benefits. I will probably go back to it if I need to in the future. For now, I’m happy using grape seed oil as my main emollient.

Gluten

I eliminated gluten, a common food allergy, from my diet. 

I removed gluten from my diet for 90 days (3 months) without success. When I re-introduced it into my diet again in December, I did not see a noticeable difference in my itching responses. The only things that made me itchier was some nightshade vegetables like eggplant and squash, as well as shellfish. I avoided these, but still continued to experience itching in and around my body. Despite my newfound allergens, there was a strong residual itch that could not addressed by eliminating those foods stated above. It was expensive but very healthy. When my income allows it, I would go back to this diet. I was desperate at the time and sacrificed some money in going gluten-free thinking it would help me. Eliminating gluten also allowed me to follow the anti-candida diet, which is often sited as a solution to eczema.

GI Tract

I followed the Leaky Gut and anti-Candidiasis protocol.

I also reduced sugars from my diet to eradicate Candida from my GI tract, which is believed to affect the skin because the GI tract houses 90% of the immune system. The thinking behind the eczema-candida connection is that the skin is the last organ to expel toxins from the body since it’s the outermost surface of the body. Candida overgrowth meant that there was excess faecal matter in my intestines, resulting in intoxication in the thick of my immune system.

Because sugars feed the bacteria which supports Candidiasis, I stopped eating fruits, glutonous breads, pasta, candy, all things sugar for 3 months without any apparent improvement or success. In following the anti-Candidiasis diet, I would also be addressing my leaky gut problem too. Leaky gut is a condition in the GI tract where the overgrowth of candida damages the intestines, making the gut hyper-permeable, thus allowing the toxins created by the candida to seep through the walls of the GI tract and contaminate the bloodstream. Because the body works to remove toxins from the host, toxins in the GI tract and bloodstream means that they will show up in the skin, or so the thinking goes.

Dander

 I reduced environmental allergens from my surroundings.

My real problems started when I started sleeping over my boyfriend’s place where cat dander also resided. My face developed these strange, itchy blisters where my face touched his pillow cases, but no asthma. After a few months, I finally clued in (doh!) I started using an anti-dander laundry detergent on everything I laid my skin on (bedsheets, curtains) as I was convinced that the cats living in my boyfriend’s building was effecting my skin reactions.

As a child, my asthma and skin flared around cats and dogs, so I deduced that it was the cats although they did not enter his room. We used an anti-dander solution in our shower soap, an allergy reducer spray by Febreeze. I saw improvement as I wasn’t getting blisters on my face anymore, but still felt unsatisfied, so I completely removed myself from that environment to see if it would make a difference. After weeks and weeks of not visiting his place, I saw no improvement and continued to experience itchy, hot, irritable skin.

Homeopathy

I went to a Naturopath who offered natural solutions. 

I am a strong believer in Naturopathy or at least its principle. Afterall, Western medicine a la steroids is the reason I’m where I am health-wise. I was given Unda 12, 17, 22 & 30, all to assist with my skin’s functioning. I took these for 2-3 months without seeing any marked improvement, while on steroids. I also saw another naturopath who gave me a number of supplements (probiotics, vitamin D, vitamin B, fish oils…). I saw some improvement here in my skin, but still continued to experience intense itching. I continue to use supplements such as fish oils, zinc, silicea, vitamin D, which are all good for the skin, which I can always use some help with.

Mild products

I used mild skin products meant for sensitive skin and avoided fragrance like the Plague. 

I’ve tried CeraVe, Cetaphil, Avene, Aveeno, and so many other brands, though my skin continued to  experience irritation. At times, I would feel stinging/burning sensations when I applied these things. This was especially apparent when I used Protopic (aka Elidel). I eventually stopped Protopic as I saw little to no improvement, and with the price tag on that stuff, it just wasn’t worth it ($93/ 50ml). I’m sure avoiding common irritants like fragrance and using mild product did good for me, but did not completely eliminate my issues. I continue to use mild products to avoid reactions, though I no longer experience sensitivity to them as I did when I was using Protopic. A few weeks ago, I had gotten a little too bold for my own good and went to Lush to grab an old favourite, the Angels on Bare Skin, which I used before my Clobestol days. Serves me right for overreaching. It stung like crazy.

Love life

Thoughts/Conclusion

As a moderately long-time steroid user, eliminating steroids/corticosteroids was the only thing I hadn’t tried. In 2012, I used Clobestol Propionate approximately 30-40 days cumulatively of 365. The diagnosis and pathology of Topical Steroid Addiction suits my experiences with my skin, and is very compelling. Every time I used a round of steroids, I saw an apparent improvement, but saw continued itching, hotness, irritability. I saw a noticeable overall decline in the health/condition of my skin (increased dryness, irritability, redness) soon after I started using Clobestol. Although it gave me anti-flammatory relief, it was temporary and often resulted in “angrier” skin after each use.

I am willing to further endure the symptoms of TSW. It will require a long time to see results, but the before and after photos of healed TSW veterans are profoundly promising. If Joey Brown or Kelly Palace (users of steroids for 30-40+ years) can heal, there is something definite to what Dr. Rapaport is reporting in his medical literature and teleconferences. There are a dozen red-winners (red-skinners / red-winners… haha, get it!?) on ITSAN who show a profound improvement in their skin. This evidence is under-publicized and should be further investigated – but not if the pharms can help it. Dr. Rapaport’s 2,000 healed TSW patients and ITSAN success stories, as well as my skin’s matching pathology to Topical Steroid Addiction (TSA) is strong evidence and worth my while. After several months of researching and trials, TSW just makes sense. If 1… 1 1/2… 2 years from now, I am right where I left off, I’ll let you know. Otherwise, I’ll be living life and loving it. Now that’s a thought I can live with! The song below is by Tegan and Sara, whom I’ve been following for a long time now. Their new song, “Drove Me Wild” begins with the lyrics, “When I think of you, I think of your skin golden brown from the sun.” This brings ideas of fun, comfortable days on the beach – something I look forward to.

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6 responses »

  1. Your story sounds pretty similar to mine, though I’ve had eczema issues since I was a kid. But I tried a lot of the same things as you – oils, no perfumes, tons of different moisturizers, eliminating foods, no pets, on and on with nothing really making much of a difference. The only time I saw a real improvement in my skin was the month and a half I spent in North Carolina and Florida one summer. On the beach, lots of sun and good weather, and I had pretty good skin, just a little dry and that was all. I never tried TCM/natropath medicine but was looking for one when I found out about RSS.

    I’m no doctor but to me it sounds like you have the medical history of a red skinner. I wish you speedy healing!

    • It’s amazing what the sun can for us (and not do for us)! I’m super excited about spring being around the corner. I might start going for light therapy again in a few weeks when my skin is less scabby and I have a better idea of where I am in the process in my healing. I think that finding a naturopath or TCM practitioner COULD be valuable, but in my opinion, I’ll only ever go back after I’m done with TSW if my skin is still eczematous. For now, I’m going to let the TSW do its work. Are you currently going through TSW, Brittany?

  2. The list of things you tried sounds exactly like me – all kinds of oils, I tried elimination diet/candida diet, removing environmental allergens, all kinds of creams, I even sold my car, went to a naturopath, homeopath, tried Protopic which burned really bad, etc. Although it is discouraging to think that we both spent all this time and money on avenues that did not work, it is very encouraging to know we are on the right path to finally HEAL!

    Re: foods, are you still eliminating any foods? After I didn’t get any better whilst on the candida diet, I ‘gave up’ and went back to eating stuff like gluten and some sugars. I DO still avoid all dairy, but since I could eat it before eczema, around 3 years ago, I hope I can go back to it here and there after all this is done….. I miss pizza 🙂

  3. Yes, the best part with TSW is that we KNOW that we’re going to be better off in the end. It was so time/energy consuming trying to find a solution to my skin woes. Going through this blip in our lives is a small slice of the pie! I eat gluten freely and sugar as I did not see a difference when I was on the anti-Candida diet. I read a post by Kelly Palace on the ITSAN forums saying that sugar affects her itching flares. I might consider going sugar-free in the future to see if it makes a difference.

    Do you notice a difference (itching, flaring) with your sugar intake? I’m okay with dairy. I still only ever buy non-dairy milk (coconut, almond) as cow’s milk makes me break out in cystic acne because of the amount of hormones they shoot into the cow’s for faster milk production. I hope that you’ll be able to have pizza (hmm, Hawaiian pizza…) and all things yummy after all this healing pain. It’s the least our bodies can do for us after all this. My fingers are crossed for you!

  4. Hold on…you can beat the beast!!!!

    To make my long story short, I too had to experiment with a truck load of emolients and creams and oils.started with super thick magistral prescription which consisted of aquafor, water and glycerin (originally prescreption was for eucerin in a powder form but since could not get it in the pharmacy aquafor was substituted, the idea here was to avoid preservatives and fragrances and have a super thick cream) and now I use sea buckthorn oil and a
    moisturizing lotion that contains only natural stuff.

    Truth be be told I had to wait and try sea buckthorn again until I saw improvement. I too have jumped back and forth between the oils you mentioned. I am able to do dead sea salt baths now in warm-cool baths. I have been on 20mg Reactine in the am and 10mg apo-docyine at night to help with the itch. I ice and take Tylenol if I hurt. If I would scratch to the puoint of cutting skin I would use some iodine but pharmacist warned me I could only do this for a couple of days on small area of skin since iodine is poisonous and can be toxic. When I told pharmacist the eczema was wide spread in body she said DO NOT use on all your body as that would be toxic. So I was selective when I used it.

    I also did cognitive behaviour therapy as the severity of my eczema ended up giving me anxiety.

    Good family and friends helped so much as did the countless prayers.

    I cried so much and screamed so much from the pain. One night at diner I put my head down on the table and told my family I can’t do this anymore
    They told me we will get through this together. I said
    I do not know what to pray for any more, I think I have lost all hope. That night not knowing what to pray for , I cried and prayed for renewed hope. I went to bed feeling defeated and woke up with new hope.

    I try to take 1 day at a time. I am now 3 months off the cortisone and doing better than the year and a bit I was on it. I am confident by the 6 month mark I will be good to go.

    At the start of the severe eczema I didn’t wanna leave home…in the last month and a half I have gone to two bachelorrettes and danced at my sister’s wedding and that of a good friend’s.

    The cognitive behaviour therapy was a big help,maybe it is something for u to look into.

    I believe you can get through this. I wish you health and healing,peace of mind and great things here on forward :o)

  5. Hi S,
    Thanks for sharing your story with me and your positive words. Great to hear that you did a little dancing at the weddings! Hopefully in a few months, I’ll feel confident enough to do something like that. I do dance in my bedroom every once in awhile and that somehow helps me re-connect with my body again. TSW has really made me feel alienated from physical self and doing little things like that help me get through it. The Behavioural-Cognitive Therapy sounds like a good idea. I was seeing a therapist in university every 2 weeks and am now re-appreciating it as I’ve just realized how costly it really is.

    It’s funny that you said you’ve stopped praying… I’m not very religious or anything, but have found myself praying and pleading with God every so often, sometimes yelling at him/her/whatever for having to go through this. I feel like I’ve watched my 20s pass me by with my skin issues and wonder if I’ll ever have that feeling of being “young and free.” Seeing the before and after photos on the forums whisper “yes” and keep me going. The six month mark is just around the corner for both of us!

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