Friday, June 7, 2013

Skin history

I am one of those allergic people.

I suffered severe asthma and eczema from a very young age and in fact, I used to get prednisone shots weekly as a toddler for the asthma until my mom found a pediatrician who helped me get my asthma under control with a regime of Azmacort, Intal and Proventil for short term relief. On top of this, my skin was extremely allergic and prone to eczema. I suffered from eczema on my knuckles and in the folds of my skin (elbows, knees), especially during the summer and when these flair ups happened, hydrocortisone was used to battle as well as prescription moisturizer (I remember the tar smell but don't know the name). 

In addition to these drugs, my mom never let me use soap; only cetaphil cleanser. It was a constant battle until I reached my later teen years and it started to die down, but I always had my trouble spots flair up occasionally. The one that was most disheartening was on my upper lip which would get oozy and red and no matter how hard I tried, I felt that the world could see my struggles. A little melodramatic, yes, but I was a self conscious teenager and the skin condition didn't help. 

I began college without huge issues with my skin. At this point, my elbows and knees hadn't had a flair up in a while but my upper lip still continued to break out with eczema occasionally and I would treat it with a triamcinalone cream. 

One year, I became obsessive about diet and exercise and started eating "clean" -- low fat, mostly unprocessed food, and supplementing with fish oil and my skin was the best it had ever been. I attributed it to the fish oil as I took about 6000mg a day and my skin was soft and moist and had very rare eczema breakouts. But eventually, my habit died off and I went back to having dryer skin with occasional eczema issues. 

After I moved back from college, I was ok for a few years but when I reached my mid 20s, I started suffering from worse allergies, asthma and skin conditions again. I went to an allergist and he prescribed me with
(1) daily Allegra
(2) daily Singulair
(3) 2X a day Advair
(4) topical steroid regimen for my eczematic skin.

If I had a breakout, he instructed me to apply Clobatesol + Bactroban 2 times a day for 2 days, Desonide 2 times a day for 2 days, then hydrocortisone 2 times a day for 2 days. He said this was better than using a strong steroid cream for say a week straight.

At first, it worked like a miracle. By this time, my face was having eczema spots not only on my top lip but also the edge of my jaw line. Applying the steroids cleared them up really fast and my skin went back to being soft and supple.

Fast forward to this spring, perhaps the worst allergy season I have ever suffered. Despite taking Allegra every day, my skin would puff up and itch and develop eczema patches a few days later. I started having to use the clobetasol regime every 2 weeks. By the beginning of May the allergies began to resolve and my skin was feeling better. 

Then the burn happened. 

Late one night, I was heating a microwave bowl of noodle and soup. I set it on the table and sat down to enjoy it but my finger caught the edge of the bowl and it spilled all over my naked leg (I was wearing shorts). I ended up being diagnosed with a second degree burn and the skin that the hot soup had touched started to dry up and later fall off. 

My whole body went into shock after that including the skin on my face. I got an all over rash on my face and upper torso (chest, back, shoulders). At first, I thought it was just my immune system being taxed by my leg's lack of skin and not being able to heal the rash. But the rash became oozy and in desperation I applied clobetasol to the rash. A day after, my skin was better and I was relieved. But as the days wore on, my rash returned. By day 5, it was full on red and itchy.

It looked different than what I was used to classifying as eczema. The skin peeling was a lot thinner and underneath, I could see the redness being caused by my tiny red veins being visible.

This is when I turned to the internet and learned about topical steroid withdrawal (TSA). I visited and when read the "Is this you?" section, I realized YES. This is exactly what I have.

The next day, May 16, 2013, I decided to begin my journey to a topical steroid free existence. 


  1. Have you gone back to taking 6000mg of fish oil? Seemed like that was your cure. I had the sake results and like you tapered off. Bam, skin was a.mess again. I am back to the fish oil hoping to see my skin clear up again

    1. Vee, I'm currently taking 3600 mgs per day approximately but also eating a lot of fish. I want to say that it was slightly different back then as I had never had such bad rashes and I was working out a lot and was in way better health in general. I think for the eczema I was having it was enough but once I entered TSW it's been a bit different because the rashes are so much more widespread.

      It's still good for us to supplement with omega 3's tho because greater omega 3 to omega 6 ratios are anti-inflammatory and the lipids in our skin are obviously lacking and need to regenerate.

      Hope that's clear!