Why I Ditched the Steroids and How I Choose Natural Products
Many people who experience eczema as a child are fortunate enough to outgrow the condition. I was not so lucky. In fact, my skin became the most debilitating when I was in my early twenties. It was at this time that I decided to take a long, hard look at my lifestyle and current treatments. I didn’t know this path would take me to discover natural products alternatives and a natural healing process.
My relationship with steroid creams was un-healthy
It was evident that I had become reliant on my topical steroid treatments. Day and night I would slather them over my irritated skin in hopes they would provide much-needed relief. But instead, the rashes kept spreading and the flares became worse and worse.
I later learned that my skin was actually addicted to these steroid creams. They were a band-aid solution that was no longer working. Doctors and dermatologists recommended I use higher potency steroids to continue combating the condition and in order to see progress.
But I thought - then what? What happens when those inevitably stop working too?
So this sparked my incentive to find a more natural solution. I researched Topical Steroid Withdrawal and decided to set forth on the long journey of detox, natural product alternatives, and organic recovery.
Changing the skin irritants for natural products
To aid in healing, I took an inventory of the products I used every day, especially those that come in contact with my skin. From my skincare and laundry detergent, to my hand soaps, clothing, and foods. There were countless ingredients I couldn’t pronounce, and many added unnecessary chemicals, synthetics, and fillers.
If I wanted my skin to make a full recovery, I had to eliminate allergens and irritants. So I started with the most obvious product - skincare! I purged my cabinets of the highly fragranced creams and serums. All the items that I knew caused stinging but that I hoped one day I’d be able to use. I even turned a critical eye to my trusty products - the petroleum jellies and drug store lotions I’d used for years.
After further investigating the ingredients, I discovered that mineral oils can actually be a skin irritant and are derived from crude oil, which has a possibility for contamination, is a non-renewable resource, and is debated to be a possible carcinogen. With that knowledge, these old faithful also found their way to the bin.
Then it was time to look for natural products as a replacement. I took a trip to my local natural health food store where I spent time comparing labels and carefully studying ingredients. Eventually, with some trial and error, I found a line of organic, all-natural, and glass-bottled cleansers and creams. They were worth the investment and helped restore my skin’s barrier without worry or further aggravation.
Cleansing the bad cleaning products from the house
Next, I looked at cleaning agents throughout my home - particularly laundry, dish, and hand soaps. While laundry detergents aren’t used directly on the skin like hand or dish soaps, they do cling to clothing and absorb into the skin within 26 seconds!
I made the switch to hypoallergenic Free and Clear options and found companies that put an emphasis on natural ingredients and were environmentally friendly. Quickly I found that this made my sheets less itchy (which helped with insomnia and mid-night scratching fits) and my hands less dry and chapped.
Personally, it's been a struggle not to hate my skin. When you're seeing friends, people online, family having clear skin and it's hard not to want to swap with someone (trust me, I've had a couple of those dreams before!).
When grocery shopping, I put an emphasis on organic, whole foods. I’d swap my favorite go-to snacks for healthier options, for natural products. For instance, instead of chips and salsa, I’d slice cucumber and red bell pepper and dip them in homemade guacamole. I also swapped out dairy for plant-based milks - oat milk being a favorite (oats are great for skin in general). I also tried to eat home-cooked meals more and saved eating out for special occasions.
Finally, a closet makeover
Those with skin conditions know all too well that fabrics can either be your friend or foe. Synthetic fibers in particular such as polyester, acrylic, spandex and rayon can all cause irritation. There is something uniquely torturous about finding an adorable, flattering top that instantly makes you break out in hives or that is tolerable at first, but soon has your inner elbows itching like mad. Is it worth it? Absolutely not.
But you even have to be careful with natural fibers. Sometimes the dyes used can cause irritation. And don’t even get me started on wool! I ditched items I no longer wore because of how it made my skin feel. Anything that scratched, rubbed, itched or made me sweat was put in the donation pile.
Moving forward, I would read labels and purchase garments made of 100% cotton, silk, or bamboo. I am very excited to try Clover’s Tencel attire! Because when you feel good, you look good and when you look good, you feel good!
So this has been my journey with organic healing and why I decided to make the transition to sustainable, natural products for my skin and throughout my home.
Larissa is the face behind The Eczema Diaries, a blog sharing natural skincare remedies, body positivity and the intersection of skin conditions and mental health. After struggling through two decades of steroid use without seeing real improvement, she became the detective on her path to holistic healing. Her goal in sharing her experience with eczema is to help others discover natural alternatives, let them know they are not alone and to bring to light the mental health implications of chronic conditions. You can connect with her on Instagram @the_eczema_diaries