How To Cure Your Eczema In <1 Weeks, An n=1 Study

just call me adam englebrightoianni

How To Cure Your Eczema In <1 Weeks, An n=1 Study

I've had eczema for as long as I can remember and mostly it's been pretty bad. If I look back at old pictures of myself, like the one below, while I'm obviously an adorable child, my eye is drawn to the red patch on my arm, the scab on the back of my hand. This has been with me a loooong time.

When I was young enough that I can't really remember much of the details, my mum took me to a homeopath in despair because my eczema was so bad. They may or may not have given me some medicine, but they did give me some advice, which stuck: stop eating food with artificial colours in. I did that, and my eczema went away. It's recurred on and off since then but the flareup that's been ongoing for the last while or so has been really bad. I went to the doctor and their response, while sympathetic, was to prescribe me stronger steroids.

Now, having been through the wringer with this a few times, I know how this works. I take the steroids, they help while I'm taking the steroids, then I have to stop because steroid cream thins your skin and stuff if you take it for too long. Also I have it on my face and you really can't use the strong stuff on your face. But GPs can't really do much more, other than refer you to dermatology, and like everywhere else in the UK the system is creaking like anything and it's a real pain to get a referral—you have to either badger your GP (which I'm very bad at) or have a heinously, life-ruiningly severe case—and while mine is certainly putting a dent in my happiness (and has been interrupting my sleep!) I was pretty sure that wasn't going to do it.

So I did what any sensible person would do: I trawled Reddit and looked through the comments of every popular thread on the /r/eczema and /r/eczemauk boards that seemed relevant. The main one would obviously attract the most people, the UK one because that's where I live and different drugs are differently available over here etc. It was pretty grim reading: so many of the threads were people talking about the constant misery of itching, how bad it made them feel, people who had it on sensitive areas which sounds like maybe the worst thing imaginable? A friend of mine who suffers from chronic pain and has also had itchy skin conditions told me they think itching can be worse because pain is often a signal from your body not to do something, so you can not do whatever it is or eventually tune it out a bit, whereas itching is a signal from your body to do something and requires constant, active resistance.

Anyway, there were a lot of suggestions in there, and I made a list, prioritising things that seemed easy or cheap. The list I compiled:

  • Vacuum the bed
  • De-mold the shower
  • De-mold around the windows in my room
  • Get an air purifier
  • Use this homeopathic anti-fungal treatment
  • Take vitamin D3 supplements
  • Take probiotic tablets
  • Drink lots of oolong tea
  • Black tea wash
  • Yoghurt on the affected areas
  • Salt baths
  • Acupuncture
  • AIP diet
  • All this stuff

Now, I didn't get all the way down—I stopped after oolong tea; it's possible that some of these later ones work too, or work for other people! I thought I'd prioritise things that were easy, cheap, or could be done without hassle. They also cover a range of theories about eczema—one annoying thing about it is that there's no real clear consensus as to why it happens. There are any number of possible triggers, but no real conclusive underlying theory of the case. The above covers the gamut from vitamin deficiencies through airborne allergens like dust mites and mold spores, issues with skin flora and fauna to food intolerances and gut microbiome issues. I really can't pretend to understand the fine details of most of the mechanisms at play but the core concepts are simple enough.

Other things I've done in the past: steroids, obviously—until the beginning of the week I was using the steroid hydrocortisone, pretty much the mildest thing you can use steroid-wise—a dermatologist once described it to me as 'practically homeopathic', but while it does work, it doesn't completely clear it up—and as noted above it has side effects and also just makes my skin feel a bit weird? I don't really know how to communicate that to the doctor in a way they can do anything with, but it happens to be true. The weirdness is worse with stronger steroids which I have been prescribed in the past to use for particularly severe flareups. I also use antihistamines, currently fexofenadine hydrochloride which isn't my 'usual' antihistamine—I take cetirizine hydrochloride for hayfever in the summer, but the fexofenadine seems better for the itching. At the beginning of the year I did also try using a sunbed as a kind of DIY phototherapy, which initially seemed promising but I think that was more due to timing around my use of other things and its efficacy seemed to tail off pretty quickly. Sunbeds also carry significant other risks so I have stopped doing that.

So, the things I tried last week:

  • I started with vacuuming the bed—I didn't do like these people did and use my robot vacuum—he's a bit delicate and I wouldn't want him falling off—but that was pretty easy. I have no idea what level of impact this had, but given the extremely low cost and effort, there's no reason not to do this.
  • I also made sure that the windows and shower were free of mold—again, this is something that's probably worth just doing; it's a bit more of a faff but having mold around is bad in all sorts of ways.
  • I bought this air purifier and have been running it pretty much continuously. As Dynomight will tell you, clean air is a really easy way of improving health outcomes so again, if you're willing to put up with paying £40 you're also giving yourself a longer life! And it's a free white noise generator if you have a hard time getting to sleep at night too.
  • Taking a vitamin D3 tablet with the rest of my tablets in the morning. This is probably a bit less risky than sunbeds! You can get a year's worth for £10 and as long as you don't overdose (you'd have to have >10 of the tablets a day) pretty safe. The person in the reddit thread said results took weeks to appear, so this is likely not the thing that's helped most, but I don't think I'm suffering from getting a bit more vitamin D in the dark British winter—especially not as I'm a vegan and so my dietary sources of it are somewhat limited.
  • Probiotic tablets—these form part of the gut health hypothesis; £10 for a month's worth doesn't seem too bad. I tried eating sauerkraet for a while and while I do actually like it I found myself forgetting, whereas I have set routines around taking tablets, so that made things a lot easier.
  • There was an old study out of Japan about how drinking oolong tea could help, so I went down to delightful local tea retailers Bird and Blend and got myself a big bag of Coconut Milk Oolong (it's just oolong and coconut). It turns out oolong is delicious so even if I'm not helping my eczema at all with it, this is pretty good!
  • The last thing I've done—and the one that feels the most impactful, possibly because it's in a Medical Form (a cream), possibly because it has that tingly menthol feeling, is this stuff. It's meant to treat something else (and hey maybe I just have this tinea versicolour thing—don't think so but who knows) but again, it's pretty cheap and it's homeopathic (and therefore hopefully safe), so why not?
  • Also, before anyone makes a joke about the before/after pictures—I've cut down shaving my beardline to once a week in case the more-frequent shaving was irritating the eczema. This wasn't on the list, but might be relevant to some of you! (Eczema was also showing up places I don't shave like the back of my neck, inside elbows etc so it wasn't just that, but I thought I should mention)

And my eczema has gone from this (picture from a few months back, but it was comparably bad):

that's just spilled water on my shirt, don't @ me

to this:

you also get a view up my nose

Obviously the sensible thing to do would've been to try these things one at a time so I could tell you which of the things it was, but I cannot stress to you enough how much this flareup was messing with my shit. I was waking up in the night, and I am usually an extremely solid sleeper. I have now not had the Proper Eczema Itches for (at time of writing) nearly two weeks! So, unless God decided to flip the magic eczema switch two weeks back, it is one or a combination of the things above. I will keep you updated on the progress of this—goodness knows it might come roaring back and I might be in agony in a few days time—but for right now this feels near-miraculous and I wanted to share in the hopes that it might help someone else!

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