You may or may not know, but I've been suffering from eczema / psoriasis for the past couple of years. My skin has always been my biggest insecurity. Once when the acne began to clear up, and I could go outside makeup-free, my skin decided to start a new skin condition. It started near my eyes, behind my ears, around my neck, and then it started traveling… traveling to my elbows, then sides of my hips, my calves, and my back.
It wasn't a big deal. At first. It was simply a minor cosmetic nuisance; yes that dry patch of skin near my eyes was not ideal. Then it became a monster. There was burning, uncontrollable itching, itching that felt like hell had conquered my skin and I scratched my long manicured nails so hard on my skin that my skin would bleed and scab. This happened during work, during meetings, when I was fidgeting, while driving, while sleeping, while eating, while sitting on the toilet, while holding a plank in barre class. There was no situation where the fire burning sensation escaped. Pretty soon I found skin flakes everywhere-on my bed, in the insides of my sweatshirts and jackets, on dining table chairs, in the armrests of guests' homes, inside my backpack, on bathroom counters. I was constantly vacuuming skin flakes off the floor.
What was this? This terrible, painful, all-consuming skin disease was a combination of eczema and psoriasis. They are different, but so similar, and I had both.
Here are the treatments I tried for eczema:
- I went to the dermatologist: Dermatologist prescribed me steroid cream and told me if it didn't clear up with steroids, I could take physical steroids to reduce the inflammation in my skin.
- Allergist: The allergist suggested I take Benadryl to reduce the itchiness. I don't know about you, but any kind of allergy medicine makes me super sleepy! I also got an allergy test but there was nothing conclusive that was related to my skin.
- Calamine lotion: Didn't help any better than lotion, in my opinion: it created a white cast and film all over my skin and would rub off in white flakes.
- Psoriasin: This was a light orange gel that reeked of coal tar. Didn't help more than regular lotion, in my opinion. The smell really turned me off.
- Lotions and potions: I tried Cetaphil, Cerave, Japanese based lotions, petroleum, Aquaphor, etc. I would put GLOBS of lotion on my affected areas and stand around waiting for these lotions to sink into my skin. These lotions were really great at moisturizing and getting rid of the skin flakes, no doubt about that. However, it didn't relieve the itchiness. That was the main culprit for me: If you can get rid of itchiness, you can prevent the scabs and open wounds.
- Hydrocortisone creams: the only one that worked for me was the roll-on hydrocortisone cream with cooling gel. The cooling gel felt so relieving on my skin. However, I didn't want to apply it too frequently, for fear that my skin would run too thin.
- Licodine: This is used as a 'numbing cream'
- Salt float tanks: WOOEEEE, these tanks burned! I wanted to experience a salt float tank because I thought the saltiness of the water would relieve the itchiness. Before you go in, you are told if you have open wounds to apply petroleum jelly on these affected areas. I did, which was almost all over my body. And when I went into the float tank, MAN DID IT BURN! If my affected areas were in a smaller area, then I think I could have withstood the burn, but because my eczema covered ~ 30% of my skin, I had to leave.
- Infrared Saunas: I purchased a membership to the infrared sauna spa and it was quite a fun experience! There was even a TV in the booth! The sauna was very relaxing and I loved the feeling of sweat and endorphin rush! It did help with the itchiness, temporarily.
- Steam rooms: Steam rooms are hot! It did help with the itchiness a bit and did moisturize the skin. A good natural solution if you are suffering from the itchiness
- Red light therapy: This was my first time in a tanning bed! But instead of the tanning light bulbs, it had LED red light bulbs. I'm not sure if it's a coincidence, but this did seem to help reduce the flare-ups. I would highly suggest you try this out if you're struggling with eczema! Even if you don't have a tanning salon that offers this, you can purchase some Red LED light bulbs and shine them on affected areas.
- Aloe vera: I purchased an aloe plant and started using this on the areas. Again, aloe definitely moisturized my skin, but it didn't relieve the itchiness.
- Sat out in the sun: This did help a bit with relieving the itchiness
- Huge band-aids: I purchased huge band-aids and put them over the affected areas so I would prevent myself from scratching. It helped a bit, but every time I showered, I had to take off the band-aids. Also, I found the band-aids were off when I woke up in the morning-unconsciously I must have ripped them off when I was sleeping!
- Celery Juice for eczema and psoriasis: This I would say, helped? Reduced the inflammation? I did follow the medical medium by Anthony Williams; I drank an entire glass of celery juice (Thank goodness for Nekter Juice Bar!) On an empty stomach first thing in the morning. I do believe it did help with the inflammation and reduced the itchiness.
As you can tell, I literally tried everything for my psoriasis. What I learned is that most of the products out there moisturized the skin, but didn't reduce the itchiness.
And the memories of how hard I had to try to get rid of something, only to make whatever I was doing “worse” brought back memories of pain that I wished to erase.
Ezcema is so similar but yet different from acne. It was similar in that it's a skin condition that is so visible to the outside world. It was different in that I could cover it up with long sleeves and long pants-even if it was 95 degrees outside. It was similar in that everything I did to control it seemed to make it worse, and the more I stressed about it, the more it flared up. It was different in that it was incredibly painful-where I would be brought to tears by scratching so hard in the middle of the night.
With Eczema, there is no cure (while acne has the cure of Accutane). I know it's an autoimmune disease, I know it's my immune system overreacting and attacking my skin. I even researched as to if I could die from itching myself to death and creating all these open wounds in my skin-although unlikely, there is a risk of catching infections, such as HIV via open wounds.
I have my eczema under control, although it’s not perfect and it’s still there and it still itches a few times a day (versus every 5 minutes).
My purpose in telling my story is that when I thought one skin condition ended, and life resumed as normal, another skin condition began crawling inconspicuously after. I have learned not to let how my skin, or any external appearance, or anything from the external world affect the way I feel about myself. My skin doesn't affect who I am, it's only ME who gives it permission to let it affect and control my confidence. From this experience, I've learned, no matter what happens to my skin, acne, scars, psoriasis, wrinkles, age spots, etc. I will always love myself and learn to embrace whatever my body is going through.