By Alyce Collins
THIS WOMAN stopped using steroid creams to treat her eczema and is embracing the inflamed skin she has been left with after her damaged skin flaked onto a fellow rail commuter, but her secret weapon is her acrylic nails which stop her from being able to scratch.
Events planner, Laurie Williams (26) from Birmingham, UK, has suffered with eczema for as long as she can remember, but what once just affected the creases of her arms and legs is now affecting over 70 per cent of her body, including her face.
Before eczema took over her life, Laurie could treat minor flare-ups with E45 cream and summer sunshine helped rid her of the problem.
In December 2016 her eczema became progressively worse and Laurie was given a skin plan which included using the steroid creams Eumovate and Metosyn twice a day. Unfortunately, scratching through the night stopped Laurie from sleeping properly and she was later prescribed antihistamines and Atarax to help her sleep by reducing the itchiness.
Laurie hadn’t seen improvement in her skin by the end of summer last year which she considered odd as the sun always helped to clear her skin. This led Laurie to do some research after coming across topical steroid withdrawal (TSW) through Instagram as users warned her of the dangers of what she was applying.
In January 2019 Laurie stopped using all steroids and creams in favour of treating her skin naturally. The withdrawal caused Laurie’s skin to become broken and flaky, leading her to cancel social engagements out of fear of people seeing her skin.
Now, Laurie is healing her skin through a plant-based diet and takes oat baths because the water in a normal bath burned her skin. Laurie stopped wearing makeup because the skin on her face is too damaged, but she has found the positives of wearing acrylic nails which stop her from being able to scratch and break her skin.
“I’ve had eczema since I was little, but it’s always been manageable with flare ups mostly in winter,” said Laurie.
“The furthest back I can remember is when I was about eight years old and I just had it in the creases of my arms and legs.
“When I was younger, I used E45 cream to successfully treat it. The eczema went away quickly in the sun as my skin has always been best in the summer months.
“In December 2016 I was given a skin plan to use Eumovate on my face, neck and creases of my arms and legs twice a day. Then I used Elidel once a day and even on my eyelids before dropping that down to twice a week when it improved.
“I also used Metosyn, the strongest steroid I used, on my trunk and limbs twice a day before reducing down to using Elocon upon improvement. I would also use Betacap on my scalp as that got really flaky.
“I found that with each steroid cream I used, it would work wonders in the beginning, then I would use it again with every flare and the creams became less effective over time.
“In summer 2018 I came across TSW. At that point, I’d had eczema on my body for about two years, it had never fully gone away. I thought it was unusual that my eczema hadn’t cleared up in the lovely summer we had, so I began researching then came across TSW and the Instagram community.
“One of my first Instagram posts was about a miracle cream I used on my face called Elidel, an immunosuppressant. I thought it was amazing because it wasn’t a steroid cream, but I was quickly warned about using this too, so have since stopped, and that’s why I believe my face looks how it is.
“I now have small scars all over my body from where I’ve scratched, and the cut has been so deep and was scratched so many times in the same spot that I’ve scarred my skin.
“I went back to the doctors four times over the next six weeks as I was concerned about using steroids and was given different plans each time, each continuing the use of steroids. I decided to take matters into my own hands, and I stopped applying the steroids completely on January 20, 2019.”
Laurie is embracing her skin and although it’s difficult to endure the symptoms of TSW, she refuses to use such strong steroids on her skin for the foreseeable future.
Years of struggling with eczema has given Laurie scars on her body after scratching created a deep cut repeatedly in the same area. She hopes to raise more awareness for TSW after numerous doctors prescribed her different steroids, rather than looking into the underlying cause and healing as naturally as possible.
“I’ve stripped everything back to basics and I’ve been vegan since the new year 2019, I have oat baths every two days and no longer slather my body with moisturiser,” said Laurie.
“I am also taking daily vitamins, D3, zinc, selenium and acidophilus and drinking lots of juice. I actively avoid taking any paracetamol, which seems drastic, but I’d rather find the underlying cause of my problems and treat it myself rather than masking the symptoms.
“My sleep was disrupted every night without doubt as I’d wake up and scratch for about 30 minutes, five times a night. I have never been a sweater, but I am sweating like mad through the night because of TSW.
“When I first came off steroids, I couldn’t get warm. I’d sit at work with a cup of tea, my coat on all day and a heater by me and I’d still be cold and shivering. My skin was so broken, so it wasn’t retaining heat. I’d also feel weak and my legs would shake.
“People double take when they see me now, but that’s only natural, and some ask me what’s happened to my face and skin. I was a lot more self-conscious at the beginning than I am now, partly because my face is better and partly because I’m so used to looking the way I do.
“However, there was one incident where I was travelling home on a train from London and it was my stop to get off. I brushed down my clothes – as skin flakes fall off naturally – before I stood and shifted past the lady in the aisle seat.
“I reached above her to grab my bags from the top luggage rack and some skin flakes fell on her. She brushed them off politely, but I was mortified and rushed off the train as quick as I could. That small incident really knocked what little confidence I had.
“I want to raise awareness for TSW and urge anyone who thinks they may be experiencing it to look into it. There’s a huge support network for everyone going through it. It’s been great to hear people say they used to look like me because it means there’s hope and I can one day have skin like them.
“I’ve learned that time is the biggest healer. My strength is other people’s TSW success; it’s what keeps me going.”
To see more, visit https://www.instagram.com/eczemauk/