This is my story! I had a bit of mild eczema as a kid growing up and have a family history of the ‘atopic triad’ – I have eczema, asthma, and nasal allergies and so do two of my family members. My eczema was always tolerable and well-managed and if present at all, usually just limited to some itchy spots behind my knees or in the crease of my elbows, or wrists.
When I was a teenager and in my early 20s, I hardly had eczema at all and could use almost anything I wanted on my skin – even those horrible scented body lotions that are full of chemicals and terrible for people with eczema. I usually used products for sensitive skin, like Aveeno, but generally I was not at all limited in what moisturizers or makeup I used.
I did have a period in my 20s where I had bad eyelid dermatitis. I still am not sure what this was due to, but I was prescribed the steroid Desonide and I believe this was my first instance of using steroid creams for eczema/dermatitis, although I didn’t use them long-term.
However, after that cleared, I had relatively clear skin that I didn’t really pay a second thought to…. until around July of 2010.
It started with a small persistent rash under my left eye that WOULD NOT go away. It sometimes got better and sometimes got worse, but it was almost always there. Then, my skin started getting more and more sensitive. I used to be able to use Aveeno sensitive skin moisturizer, but even that would break me out in a facial rash. I tried many, many remedies to no avail. Over time, the rash slowly and gradually got worse, and the skin on my BODY also became more and more sensitive.
Fast forward to summer of 2012 when I started this blog. I was fed up of constantly having a patchy rash on my face (and body) when I had changed or gotten rid of all possible triggers (laundry detergent, facial care products, makeup, not wearing perfume, etc.) No matter what I did, the rash slowly and insidiously started to get worse. On this blog you’ll see that I had tried many, many things – naturopathic/homeopathic doctors, diet changes, steroid creams, etc., some of them bringing temporary relief but none of them resolving my issues.
To make matters worse, certain foods seemed to start bothering me, even though previously I had no known food allergies or sensitivities and ate whatever I wanted – dairy seemed to make me rashy and itchy, citrus foods and tomatoes gave me perioral dermatitis, and coffee bothered my skin too – just to name a few, because it got to the point where nearly EVERY food was suspect.
I had struggled with slowly worsening or sporadic eczema/rash/dermatitis on the following parts of my body for MONTHS – face, neck, shoulder area, elbow crease, wrist and hands, stomach, lower back, groin, and legs from the calf upwards. The only places that were constantly clear are my chest, upper back, butt, lower legs, and feet.
It sucked to get up and look in the mirror and think “I used to be pretty once”. It sucked to itch uncontrollably. It sucked to have a closet full of clothing that you can no longer wear because of all your visible rashes. Eczema affected so many things, including my relationships, my marriage, my social life, and my confidence. I’d like to even blame eczema for the fact that my husband decided to give up on our marriage and file for divorce, even though it isn’t to blame, but probably was a big catalyst. It truly turned me into a different person – no longer happy and carefree, but reclusive, moody, obsessed with my skin and chasing for an elusive cure. I don’t mean to make it such a big deal – some people say “it’s only skin”… but…. ECZEMA IS HELL! Anyone that hasn’t suffered with it just doesn’t understand! This has been my journey to rule out triggers and find out what things work for me.
Around early 2013, I finally found the answer. MY SKIN WAS ADDICTED TO TOPICAL STEROIDS. Even though I wasn’t a hard-core user, I had used them enough and on high-absorption areas like my face, where my skin became dependent on them. I went through a grueling nearly full-body withdrawal complete with oozing, flaking, a weird skin smell, uncontrollable itching, red burning skin, disrupted sleep and body temperature, and lots of crying and feeling bad for myself.
And now my blog has mainly become a documentation of my journey through Topical Steroid Withdrawal. After grasping at so many straws for months, I happened upon the ITSAN forum and realized – this explains everything as to my ever-worsening eczema. It’s been a long, painful, difficult journey but every day brings me a step closer to being fully and completely healed!