This article was written by EthicaCBD customer and advocate, Mia Cuff, for National Eczema Awareness Month.
For as long as I can remember, I have suffered with eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis. I’m here to explain how my life has been affected by eczema and how EthicaCBD has helped on my journey.
What is Eczema and what are the symptoms?
Eczema is a genetic condition of which there is currently no cure, only ways of controlling it and easing the symptoms.
According to the NHS website:
“Atopic eczema causes the skin to become itchy, dry, cracked and sore. Some people only have small patches of dry skin, but others may experience widespread inflamed skin all over the body.”
Eczema is a common condition among children, with 1 in 5 affected in the UK. I was one of those unlucky kids, with the itchy red rash accompanying me to sleepovers, sports days and birthday parties whether I liked it or not. It was just something I learnt to live with, but ever hopeful that I would grow out of it one day.
Unfortunately, it continued into my twenties, and so too did the endless supply of topical steroid creams to ease the symptoms. As an adult, I’m not alone, with AllergyUK estimating around 1 in 10 adults suffering from eczema.
Topical Steroid Withdrawal
Others who struggle with eczema and other allergic skin conditions will understand the reliance on topical steroid creams. What at first seems a magical solution, often clearing up the rash within hours, soon becomes a dependency, thinning and degrading the skin with every use.
About 4 years ago, I began to notice that the steroid creams were no longer as effective at clearing up the rash as they had been. Around this time, I came across an article about Topical Steroid Withdrawal (TSW or Red Skin Syndrome) and fell down an online rabbit hole into this medical theory. The advice given by members of the TSW community, including the International Topical Steroid Awareness Network, is to completely discontinue the use of steroid creams in order to wean off them, as with any other drug addiction.
I decided to take the leap and ditch the steroids, but what I wasn’t prepared for, was the severity of the symptoms that I would have to endure during my time of withdrawal. Some days, my entire body would flush bright red and burn. The next, it would turn dry and flaky. I would be up all night frantically itching and my bedsheets in the morning would look like something from a horror film. Yep, it wasn’t pretty! After about 8 months of experiencing these unbearable cycles, my mental state had deteriorated, it was difficult for me to continue at my job and I had lost all social confidence.
I went to a skin specialist and was told that I would be hospitalized if I didn’t get my skin condition under control. I was prescribed a course of the highest strength steroid cream available. It was a hard pill to swallow, after all of my hard work trying to wean myself off, but I knew I couldn’t go on the way I was.
The dermatologist also explained to me that I was suffering from contact dermatitis, a type of eczema triggered by contact with a particular substance. Applying steroids is only to calm the immune response to the allergy and so I needed to get to the bottom of what the skin is reacting to in the first place.
With a year-long waiting list for allergy testing on the NHS, I began eliminating as many potential irritants from my lifestyle. Goodbye makeup, fragranced laundry detergents, nice hair products, soaps and sprays.
The difficulty with skin allergies: every time you apply something, you are taking a risk. You might react within the day, or within the week, you just don’t know. Was it that “Allergy Friendly” cleanser you used on Monday? Or the “100% Natural” dry shampoo you used before going out last week?
Eyelid Contact Dermatitis
Flash forward to the present day, I am still on the waiting list for allergy testing, but have become hyper-conscious of what I allow to come into contact with my skin. I now use far less steroid cream than before and feel greater control over my body.
However, my eyelid eczema still persists. Eyelid contact dermatitis is especially difficult to treat as they are so delicate and so steroids cannot be used in that area. What is prescribed instead, is an immunosuppressant cream, which is far from ideal as it has uncomfortable side effects.
I was desperate for an alternative solution, and then my relationship with EthicaCBD began.
How CBD has helped Eyelid Contact Dermatitis
With my newfound ultra-fussiness with skincare products, I was sceptical when EthicaCBD’s founder himself, Ruarri Spurgeon, suggested I try CBD cream for eczema. However, after learning about the natural ingredients in their CBD Infused Night Cream and reading up on the benefits of CBD for skin, I decided to give it a go.
Hesitantly, I applied the cream to my eyelids and face one evening, and was impressed by its thick texture. As I’ve mentioned, my skin is dry. Dry – like desert dry! So the moisturised effects of regular creams usually don’t last very long. But EthicaCBDs Night Cream was different, and my eyelids stayed moisturised significantly longer than usual. The National Eczema Society puts it best:
“Keeping your skin’s moisture intact is one of the most important things you can do to help control your eczema. Moisturizers help protect the outermost layer of skin known as the stratum corneum or skin barrier.”
I awaited the expected allergic reaction, but nothing happened. Months later of daily application, my skin still seemed to love it, and so began my trust in EthicaCBD Night Cream as part of my routine of controlling flare-ups.
Disclaimer for anyone suffering from eczema or any other allergic skin conditions: What works for me, might not work for you and all of our skin allergies are unique. I would never recommend something as a wonder cure for everyone, so check the natural ingredients list, or contact EthicaCBD for more detailed information about the product.
Eczema and Mental Wellbeing
Adults like me suffering from eczema will empathise with the emotional toll that comes with dealing with a skin condition every day. Stress is a trigger for my flare-ups, and my flare-ups cause me to stress, which can be a difficult cycle to break!
To help this, I have also been using EthicaCBD’s CBD oil range, which for me has a calming effect. The routine nature of using CBD drops helps me to break the itch-scratch cycle, and I combine this with relaxation exercises such as mindfulness and meditation.
Are CBD topicals safe for Eczema?
Having tried these products, I have looked into what evidence there is to support CBD as a treatment for eczema/contact dermatitis. I have discovered that although preliminary and small scale studies have been positive, no conclusion can yet be drawn due to lack of evidence.
One study for example found that a CBD ointment helped clear skin and reduced itch and the sleep loss it caused but the study was too small to draw overall conclusions from. What these studies do reveal, and as was put by Peter Lio, MD (clinical assistant professor of dermatology and paediatrics at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and the founding director of the Chicago Integrative Eczema Center)
“I think that for adults who want to try a CBD topical, there’s little to lose,”
Additional tips for coping with eczema
After all these years, I have finally managed to get to a point where my eczema condition is stable and under control. I still look forward to getting allergy tested, and would urge others badly affected with eczema to look into getting tested too.
Some extra tips I have for dealing with eczema and other skin allergies include:
- Fresh air and lots of it
- Minimizing the amount of soaps and skin care you use to a few essential and trusted products
- Minimize the use of harsh cleaning and laundry products
- Keeping your house as free as possible from common skin allergens such as dust, pet hair and mould spores
- Stay strong – you got this!