For over ten years I had eczema on my face, elbows, knees, arms, and hands. Using homeopathy and natural remedies for eczema relief, improving my gut health, and quitting cortisone cream allowed me to finally cure my eczema for good. I’m now going on five years eczema free. Read about my story.
Let me start off by saying that my journey to fully healed eczema was a long one. I have made great strides with lots of effort, patience, and perseverance. I previously had eczema on my face, elbows, knees, arms, armpits, and hands. Now, I’ve been eczema free for five years!
The methods I explain in this blog also helped me to heal. However, healing is a learning process. While reading this blog, remember that everyone’s body is different. What is best for your skin and health, might not be exactly the same as what was best for my own. This is just my personal story. Always talk to your healthcare provider before trying new self-care routines.
Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is caused by a combination of immune system activation, genetics, environmental triggers and stress. Eczema was described and named atopic dermatitis in 1933 by Fred Wise and Marion Sulzberger, but it definitely existed before it was named. So how did eczema originate? If you have eczema, your immune system overreacts to small irritants or allergens and this type of overreaction inflames your skin. This means eczema has probably been around forever. Environmental triggers and stressors that can cause eczema have just increased over time, increasing the rate of eczema in the human population.
Most often eczema is caused by external chemicals that irritate the skin. These chemicals can be in skin care, moisturizer, makeup, laundry detergent, fabrics, fabric dye, household cleaners, foods, pesticides, and synthetic materials. For instance, my eczema triggers include latex, sulfites, sulfates, triclosan, parabens, phthalates, food dye, some synthetic fabrics, nickle, and synthetic fragrances.
Is Eczema Hereditary?
While scientists are still learning more about eczema, evidence suggests there is some evidence that eczema may partially be hereditary. Most researchers speculate that eczema is more likely a result of environmental exposures, and families usually share environmental exposures.
Follicular Eczema and Papular Eczema
Follicular eczema and papular eczema are similar, both cause raised bumps that mimic the look of acne. What is the difference between follicular eczema and papular eczema? Both follicular and papular eczema cause rashes of raised bumps, but follicular eczema specifically affects the hair follicle. I experienced both on my arms and some follicular eczema on my scalp.
It is common for eczema sufferers to experience more than one type of eczema at a time. I mainly dealt with dyshidrotic eczema on my hands and contact dermatitis everywhere else.
It was tough having adult onset eczema. I had struggled with eczema on and off in high school, but it got much worse in college. I was stressed all the time, eating very poorly, not nourishing my body properly, struggling with gut health, drinking a lot, and buying cheap skincare. When I finally learned about my skin microbiome in advanced microbiology at LSU, I knew something had to change.
Four things motivated me to pursue healing my skin for good.
1. Constant skin inflammation can lead to skin cancer.
2. I felt ugly. My confidence was low, and I was living my life around my eczema.
3. Long term steroid cream use causes glaucoma… and I had eczema around my eyes. My vision was getting worse every month because all I knew to do for relief from the itching was to use a steroid cream on my face (as my doctor told me to).
4. While getting my degree in microbiology I fell in love with microbes. Especially the microbes making up my body’s ecosystem. I felt like I was betraying my microbiome by using steroid creams with preservatives designed to kill microbes… and I knew that there had to be a more natural way to cure my eczema for good and nourish my microbiome.
Atopic Dermatitis in Adults
Every single time I went to the doctor for my atopic dermatitis I got the same response: “eczema isn’t caused by food, it could be anything your skin is contacting though. Here’s some steroid cream.”
It turns out that the main thing causing my eczema was the steroid cream I was prescribed. I put steroid cream on my skin for eight years. I didn’t lather myself in steroid cream (thankfully), but I did use a small amount on all of my eczema patches about every two days. Have you ever read that “discontinue after two weeks of use” statement in microscopic font on the pamphlet inside the steroid cream box you probably threw away? That statement is there because your skin can literally become addicted to the steroid cream if use it for more than two weeks.
Cortisone creams and ointments were causing my eczema, because they are addictive. I was addicted to the topical medication I was being prescribed. So, if I went two days without the cream, the eczema came back because the itchiness and rash were side effects of withdrawal. All the chemicals and preservatives in the steroid cream also threw my skin microbiome off-balance, exacerbating my symptoms.
Staphylococcus aureus and Eczema
One time in college I cultured my own skin microbiome out of curiosity. I took samples from various patches of eczema on my body, grew up the microbes in broth, and isolated them on Petri dishes. The isolated microbiomes of my eczema patches all had something in common: they were predominately made up of Staphylococcus aureus.
Now let me clarify, I didn’t have a staph infection. Staphylococcus aureus had become the most popular part of my normal skin microbiome, especially on all the itchy parts of my skin. All the parts of my skin where I put chemical heavy steroid cream. The chemicals and preservatives in the cream basically wiped out all the beneficial microbes on my skin, leaving my skin mostly colonized with resistant Staph aureus. Staph aureus bacteria also produce delta toxin, a toxin that causes eczema.
I started asking so many questions about the root causes of my eczema. I would spend hours on google scholar reading published papers on eczema and S. aureus. There were a lot of nights where I was up until 2 am reading about the causes of eczema trying to figure out what things related to my own eczema… But most of the information I found still said that eczema is incurable. I wasn’t going to give up though.
Natural Ways to Cure Eczema
The first thing that had to change was my terrible diet. I was just starting to learn about the human gut microbiome at LSU, but there was so much not covered in class. The age of microbiome health was just beginning as I was graduating. Luckily, I was still able to understand the complexity and importance of my own microbiome in my health.
So the first thing I changed was my diet. When I was in college, my roommate and I loved to eat hot wings, pizza, mac and cheese, corn dogs, and bagels. We’d eat this way after putting away a bottle of wine or two… obviously not good for skin, gut health, or mental health. You live and you learn though.
When I graduated college in 2014 I moved into an apartment by myself, and living alone helped me to really dive into a healthy lifestyle. My diet changed in gradual stages and I learned more and more about my body with each passing month. For my diet I tried eliminating food groups, supplementing things, being a vegan, being gluten free, being dairy free. I tried growing my own food, making my own skincare… and eventually, I learned enough about my body to know what I needed to avoid and what my body needed to thrive.
Besides food, one of the hardest things I had to relearn is what true skincare really is. My main hindsight pro tip: if you’d be poisoned from putting it in your mouth, don’t put it on your skin. (Keep reading to find out my skincare routine below!)
After a three-year health adventure focusing on diet, gut health, controlling skin inflammation, skin microbiome health, and hormone balancing (all these things are covered below) I have fully CURED my own eczema.
Foods that Cause Eczema
The main foods that can cause eczema are highly processed foods with chemical preservatives, foods with hydrogenated oils and seed oils, foods with GMO and monocrop ingredients, CAFO farmed meat, meat and fish fed GMO grains, and foods with artificial colors and flavors. These are the foods that I completely cut out of my diet, and still do not eat.
The major change in my skin health came after we started Cultured Guru. About half a year into business owning, we began to eat fermented foods with breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We wanted to create recipes with fermented foods for our blog daily, so we had to start getting creative with ways to incorporate fermented foods into almost every meal. This, along with environmental concerns led me to go vegan for a while. I was fully vegan and about 75% raw vegan for a year, while Jon was mostly vegetarian. My intake of fermented foods and vitamin rich plants increased tenfold, and my skin health improved tenfold. But the benefits didn’t last. I was on a mostly a vegan diet for a few years, and I eventually became malnourished, vitamin and mineral deficient, and I was unable to handle stress. My gut health declined and my hormones were imbalanced causing debilitating menstrual cycles.
I now identify my dietary lifestyle as plant-based, but I eat many nourishing animal foods every day. I eat lots of grass fed butter, milk, cheese and yogurt. I thrive eating sourdough daily. I enjoy wild caught fish and regeneratively farmed meat every day. I love raw oysters and steamed mussels for vitamin and mineral rich nourishment. I eat pasture raised eggs every single day for breakfast to help with vitamin D absorption. My hormones are perfectly balanced, I am perfectly nourished, and I feel the best I’ve ever felt in my life. You can read more about my plant-based dietary views here.
TSW Eczema (Topical Steroid Withdrawl)
I ditched the Steroid Cream & voluntarily went through withdrawal. Once I found a skincare routine that works, I stuck to it! Since then, I have not tried any new skincare.
If you’ve used steroid cream for an extended period of time, talk to your doctor about stopping. Stopping extended use of steroid cream means that you will withdraw from it because it is an addictive drug. Also, if you choose to quit the steroid cream and go through withdrawal, prepare to look like a molting lizard… in the driest desert. Prepare to be so itchy you feel insane, and to be in pain. I personally broke out in multiple rashes and had chills. It was not easy. I do have an extremely supportive and loving husband who helped me through this.
It took about 3 weeks total for the withdrawals to stop. After, I looked like a whole new person. My skin was actually glowing for the first time ever and all of the eczema was gone! Until I got too excited and tried some face serum I never used before. That’s when the eczema returned on my eyelids. I obviously discontinued the use of the face serum and once again I’m eczema free!
Here are some photos of my puffy, inflamed skin and face and my hives during withdrawal. The worst thing for me was not being able to open my eyes fully. My left eye was always more inflamed than the right and it made me look disproportionate and disfigured.
How did I cope and care for my skin while going through withdrawals? With the most natural skincare products and a lot of self-control. I also gave up all makeup for a few months. I wore no make-up at all for about three months, then gradually added back in mascara and my eyebrow pencil. Now I use Toups and Co. Organics makeup with no problems!
Note: none of the products mentioned here are done so as an advertisement. I tried the two main components of my skincare routine by my own will, on suggestions from friends. I love these products and I am a lifelong customer.
My TSW Skincare Routine
- Moisturize with simple natural ingredients
- during withdrawal I only used Sweet Girl Tallow Balm from Toups and Co. Organics This is what saved my skin through the withdrawal process.
- (update 2021) I now use my homemade tallow balm and the pomegranate argan face oil from Chagrin Valley for moisturizer.
- Facial Steams, then moisturize
- I like to do a facial steam with green tea leaves and hot water. Simply add hot water to a bowl with green tea. Drape a towel over your head and create a mini sauna for your face over the bowl. This opens the pores and allows for better absorption of moisturizer.
- I used soap in extreme moderation
- During topical steroid withdrawal, I used soap only once a week. While healing, I only washed the necessary body parts with soap daily (i.e. armpits, butt, vagina). I rinsed everything else with warm water. I bathed my whole body with soap only once a week (face included). I think this was vital in rebuilding my skin microbiome. The soap I use is from Chagrin Valley Soap and Salve. My favorite is the Adzuki bean soap, which has a lot of ingredients that can help boost the good microbes on skin. I love this company, and it’s especially convenient that they have sample sized soaps you can buy to test out!
- Exfoliating for Eczema
- I used a soft bamboo bristle exfoliating brush. While withdrawing, I dry brushed all my eczema patches and in the shower I used it with just water, no soap.
Can Birth Control Cause Eczema?
Yes, hormonal birth control can cause eczema. Eczema induced by hormonal birth control usually occurs right before menstruation begins, when progesterone levels are at their highest for that menstrual cycle. Taking birth control pills also increases the likelihood of autoimmune progesterone dermatitis, even after you stop using them. At the beginning of 2017 I quit taking hormonal birth control. This has been a vital element to healing my eczema. I am NOT suggesting this for anyone. Everyone is different with different needs. If you are interested in quitting hormonal birth control, talk to your doctor about your options!
How long did it take to heal my eczema naturally?
In all, revamping my health and healing my skin was a three-year adventure for me. I didn’t have a guide book and I just desired to be more healthy and balanced overall, I wasn’t sure what I was doing or what i needed to do and it took time to figure it out. The last step was quitting steroid cream and going through withdrawal.
After all areas of my lifestyle that could affect my skin health were improved, it took approximately 2-3 months for my eczema to disappear forever. If I would have known what to do and made all of my lifestyle changes at one time, I’m guessing it would have taken anywhere from 2-6 months to heal completely.
More Blog Posts on How I Healed My Eczema Naturally
- My Eczema Diet Plan and The Best Probiotics for Eczema
- My Natural Eczema Skincare Routine That Healed My Skin
- Tallow Balm Recipe for Eczema Relief