After finding out about ‘Topical Steroid Addiction (TSA/TSW) a few months ago, I made the decision to quit steroid creams all together! (Read ‘What is topical steroid withdrawal’ here). Here is an update on my skin 2 weeks in!
(To get the background on my skin prior to this update read my blog ‘My Skin Update – TSW or Just a flare’ here.)
Me and steroid creams
Firstly to give you some backstory, I’ve used a lot of steroid creams in the past. From high potency ones down to the low potency hydrocortisone. I’ve used them on my body and face on and off every year since I was around 15 years old (around 20 years). (To read my full back story pop across to my ‘About me‘ page.)
Giving up Steroid Creams
On Friday 8th February 2019 I decided to use steroid creams for the last time! We had a charity ball that we were attending and I’d been using mild 1% hydrocortisone to bridge the gap between using the stronger steroid creams to keep a lid on my flares and giving up completely. I felt that whenever I stopped the strong creams all together my skin went mad! Red, sore, inflamed and itchy! I felt that by slowly weaning and tapering down, it may help my skin prepare for the withdrawal? I know some folks decide to just stop but having seen what it can do to the skin I decided to taper down. Some would argue it is just prolonging the withdrawal process, however, for me, it felt the right thing to do.
Going through TSW before
Unbeknownst to me at the time, I have actually gone through TSW before… three times. During all pregnancies, I abstained from using the steroid creams all together (tee-total!) as I wasn’t sure on the safety to the unborn babies when the cream entered my system. I always blamed my horrendous eczema during pregnancy on ‘those pregnancy hormones’ and also not taking my ‘antihistamine’ yet actually it was my body craving the creams I’d used for so long and then learning how to function without them.
Knowledge is power!
Having learned of TSW on Instagram, and with seeing fellow Tsw warriors journeys and the pain they were going through, I did worry about knowingly putting myself through it. I questioned when would be the right time. Was there ever a right time? I came to the conclusion that I would go for it after our trip in March. But… after the ball, (and as I’d been keeping a diary of the hydrocortisone usage, and been slowly cutting down) I decided to bite the bullet and go for it!
My first weeks of TSW
The first week saw my skin being it’s usually red, puffy, itchy and rashy self (Like it always did when I’d stop and it was craving the cream!). Prior to knowing about TSW, it would be at this stage that I’d always slap the cream back on but this time was different! Instead, I just moisturised (which I know some decide against when going through TSW) and plodded on.
18 Days into TSW
It went through the dry cycle where it flakes and creases giving us those beloved wrinkles, but was not red and inflamed. This phase, 2 weeks in, is much more bearable than the ‘Red skin syndrome’ phase. My arms, neck, hairline at the back and top of my chest are all patchy, rough, slightly red but very dry currently.
The skin on my face remains dry so I am currently moisturising three times a day. (See what I’m using here on my blog ‘Top 5 moisturisers for extremely dry irritated and allergy-prone skin). I generally tended to moisturise more than this but am now finding morning, lunch and night time enough for now. I’m hoping that by reducing the amount I moisturise, it will actively encourage my skin to start moisturising itself again – Here’s hoping!
I’ve woken up a few mornings recently where I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how my skin is. It’s changed a lot lately and is going through a rough pimply stage.(See image above) I don’t remember this phase before but all I know is it appears to be improving every day.
My chest is rough as are my arms but again they aren’t red and ‘angry’ (Unless I get really hot or am around my triggers: dairy, perfume, animals, pollen etc or if I’m stressed out!)
Over the past two weeks, I also have to point out I’ve had two 5 minute sunbeds. I said I’d always be honest on my blog so it’s only right that I tell you! I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with them. I hate that they make my skin better as I know how bad they are for us. Yet as a dermatologist once said to me “You get in your car knowing the risk of crashing yet still get in to take you places! It’s the same with sunbeds!”
I am very conscious however when using them that they are harmful too so I make sure I only have short ones so that I don’t actually get a tan! I don’t have the type of skin that burns or goes red – I know it’s a risk but when your skin is so sore, sometimes you just have to take the risk in pursuit of a little relief.
I’ve only had a handful this year and won’t be using them unless I have a particularly bad flare. If my skin carries on healing the way it is, I won’t be needing them at all!
My Mental State tackling TSW
In the past, I’ve suffered really really badly with low moods when my skin flares. I felt ugly and felt self-conscious especially when meeting new people. My outgoing personality diminished and I found I would try to blend into the background so I didn’t draw attention to my face. Or I’d do the opposite and mention my skin straight away to avoid it being the ‘elephant in the room’ – This often actually just drew more attention to it! I spent hours covering up with make-up which over time became so draining.
This month I posted this photo on my Instagram and whilst I was so nervous about posting it, once I’d pressed post, I felt a huge sigh of relief. My ‘secret’ was out! People now knew I had eczema. This has played a huge part in me feeling positive about it all. Whilst I know there is no cure for eczema as such, so long as I manage my triggers, avoid things that make me flare and avoid having to use the steroid creams, I can see an end to this!
Who knows, next week my skin may drop a few steps back but that’s ok! I’m in this for the long haul and I’m going to get my skin back to being ‘normal’!
Have you been through TSW?
How long did it take for you to heal?
How long were you using steroid creams for before stopping?
Did your doctor agree with you stopping?
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*I am not recommending the use of sunbeds! This is my journey – Everyone’s skin is different so please consult your dermatologist before considering using one.