This month’s blog comes from blogger and BREVENA fan Jennifer Beckinsale. Jennifer its an advocate for anyone who struggles with Eczema. After fighting it for over 7 years, she is finally able to manage her symptoms. Here is her story:
My Eczema Journey
Back in 2009, I had no idea how drastically my life was about to change. Medically, my life had been rather average. I rarely got sick and felt pretty invincible at that point. By 2010, I no longer felt the same. The skin on my arms and legs had turned into a red, bumpy, oozy mess and it continued to get worse and worse. Doctors were confused and sent me to other doctors and while I seemed to get better with new medications… ultimately, I’d end up just falling further downhill. I was starting to get a little scared, to be honest.
Then, I went to the doctor of all doctors for allergic patch test specialization. Twenty four allergy diagnoses later… it was determined that I have allergic contact dermatitis (a form of eczema) and was even allergic to the medications that were supposed to be helping me. We realized this is why I would temporarily get better before getting even worse… the first of many realizations.
- tree pollen
- common weed
- dust mites
- ammonium persulfate
- dodecyl gallates
- octyl gallates
- sodium benzoate
- benzoic acid
- propylene glycol
- neomycin sulfate
- polymyxin B
- bacitracin zinc
From fabric and metal to food, airborne allergens and more… I avoid a lot of stuff. Allow me to take you on the journey of how I conquered my eczema:
I went through a LOT of testing. I did skin prick and blood tests at more than one allergist office. Biopsies were taken at dermatologist offices to make sure I didn’t have anything contagious. I cut more and more out of my life and eventually, the doctors ran out of tests… but my skin was still reacting. One of the doctors looked at me and said, “What am I going to do with you?”. That was the last thing I wanted to hear. I was getting desperate for answers. Finally, a doctor suggested a specialist they had studied under: Dr. Scheman. She told me he could test for practically anything and was pretty much my last hope. Luckily, I was able to get an appointment with him! After several days of testing, he diagnosed most of my allergies. I say “most” because I decided not to get tested for fabric allergies. We were both doubtful that my back full of patch tests would result in a lot of allergies anyways. I ended up regretting that decision though. After finding out my twenty four allergens and cutting them out of my life… one morning I woke up with the front side of my body covered in eczema. It didn’t take much to realize why: I had slept naked and belly down on one hundred percent polyester sheets. I eliminated polyester from my life and my skin made even more of an improvement. Elimination testing for the win!
Oral and topical steroids are typically the fix from doctors for allergic contact dermatitis. It was either avoid all of my allergens and completely change my lifestyle or take medication for the rest of my life. I figured I’d give the meds a shot. A doctor prescribed me Prednisone and my skin loved it. The problem was… my digestive system did not. After doing some research and listening to the personal stories of others… I learned about some pretty drastic side effects of Prednisone such as mood swings and psychotic episodes. No thanks. The possible side effects coupled with those I was already having fueled my decision to stop taking the pills. I felt a lot better and I haven’t used them since. Next was Desoximetasone which I ended up relying on for a while. It’s a topical steroid ointment and though I still had to avoid my allergens, I was able to quicken the healing phase with the assistance of this ointment. The problem with topical steroid ointment? TSW a.k.a. Topical Steroid Withdrawal. This means your skin becomes dependant upon the ointment and eventually loses the ability to defend itself at all… not something I was really interested in either. I was using the ointment pretty frequently. Eventually, I gave up Desoximetasone. That was about a year and a half ago and I haven’t looked back.
The Anti-Steroid Approach
Since giving up steroids, I’ve become more diligent about avoiding my allergens and found a bunch of over the counter products that ease the healing process of my eczema. From ointments to creams, there are actually a lot of options out there! Body cream has been a huge assistant in the improvement of my skin. Make sure you’re using cream instead of lotion. This is something several doctors stressed to me… Lotion soaks into your skin while cream actually creates a thin barrier, protecting your skin from the elements (and keeping it nice and smooth!). When my skin is dry, one of the products I love to use is Brevena’s Restorative Skin Balm. You can read my review of it here and snag the discount code for 20% off! For all of my other favorite products, you can download my free product guide here.
Developing A Routine
Having a routine is everything. I slowly introduce new products one at a time and have figured out a wide range of products my skin likes. When it comes to eating out, preservatives and dairy (I’m lactose intolerant) are a big issue for me as well. Consuming allergens also affects my eczema. It’s more of a cumulative response, but something I need to be aware of. While imposing restrictions can be really difficult in the beginning, I promise it gets easier over time! Eventually, you will have your new routine and lifestyle down pat. Sometimes you will have to get creative… Covering my desk in glass keeps my skin from coming into contact with polyester resin, carrying a bandanna helps me avoid the metals in doorknobs/handles and cotton gloves are always great to have on hand for touching a multitude of other things. Preparation is key!
If you have eczema, you officially have a license to be more high maintenance about your skin. Your largest organ actually is your skin… and if your largest organ is ultra sensitive… it’s best to show it some love. For example, using body cream right after the shower will help lock in moisture. Also stick with products that are more natural and keep an eye on the ingredient list… the less ingredients, the better. Keep in mind that companies are allowed to change their ingredients without having to put a notice on the packaging. Reading the list takes a little more work, but it’s worth it. I’ve learned this the hard way! Last but not least, when it comes to water keep it lukewarm as much as you can stand it. Hot water = skin inflammation and you don’t need anymore of that! Use it sparingly. Your skin will thank you.
Before I developed eczema, I didn’t give much thought to what I put on my skin. These days, life is a lot different. I’ve had to make a great number of changes… pretty much a complete lifestyle overhaul. While life may look a lot different now, I feel healthy. My skin is clear most of the time and when it flares up, I’m able to bring it back down… all without relying on prescription medication. While life may look a lot different than it did in 2009… it’s a life I love and I look forward to what the future holds.
Sign up for the VIP List!