I’ll never forget my lowest moment living with eczema.
When the palms of my hands became so angry and inflamed that people didn’t want to shake my hand because they thought I had something contagious.
A part of me understood, but it honestly didn’t make the rejection any easier.
I was doing everything I could to manage a type of eczema I developed while in grad school called Dyshidrotic Eczema. Typically this form of eczema impacts the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet, and can also disrupt proper nail formation.
During the day, I’d use the creams prescribed by my dermatologist. At night, I carefully slip white cotton gloves over herbal salves I found online with the hope of reducing my symptoms which widely varied depending on the season.
Warmer weather brought out red, inflamed, extremely itchy, burning, cracked and blistered skin. But come Fall when the humidity left the air, my skin would dry out to a point where any movement like bending my fingers would cause painful papercut-like slices in the skin.
It got to a point where I couldn’t go to the gym or do anything that would then cause me to have to wash my hands (or to shower/wash my hair) because just water alone burned so badly.
Blue disposable gloves from Home Depot became a staple so that I could cook or pretty much touch anything without getting my hands dirty.
And I learned how much we take for granted in simple things (like turning a doorknob) that shouldn’t elicit pain, but for me had become an excruciating experience.
This hell went on for two years leaving me depressed, incredibly isolated, and feeling like an utter failure because no amount of “eating a clean diet” free from gluten, dairy, and eggs did a darn thing.
I tried remedies that swore they’d “heal your skin” but never even came close to anything even remotely miraculous.
People living with eczema often express feelings of helplessness and overwhelm especially as rashes get worse. You become afraid of every perceived chemical, food, and allergen trigger around you that ultimately makes you feel unsafe in your environment. While the shame felt in every stare at your rashes (like my hands) erodes at your self-confidence.
Thanks to the support of my family, I eventually found my way back to clear skin by looking at the problem from a completely different perspective (I talk more about my journey here in my podcast called the Healthy Skin Show.) Though I’ve had a few flare ups, those experiences shed light on hidden infections, nutrient issues and hormone imbalances I would have never known of otherwise.
When my skin finally cleared, I could have just moved on with life (as many people do who’ve spent time traumatized by chronic skin conditions). But an inner voice told me that I had to try to help others stuck in the same vicious cycle.
I became deeply passionate about research and decided to start a podcast to shed light and hope on the topic that had taken up 2 years of my life — filling it with pain, shame, and helplessness.
That idea eventually became a strong community of over 60,000 people worldwide who are now asking better questions and taking actions that they had no idea were even an option before.
I turned my own painful experience into curiosity and drive to change how we approach chronic skin conditions like eczema has helped others finally feel hopeful. I’m not pushing strict elimination diets or crazy detoxes, nor am I judgmental about what is right for someone’s journey (ie. to take medication or avoid it). My mission is to hold space for the journey that eczema and other skin rashes warriors are on so that you can potentially find missing links that no one ever considered that will help not just your skin, but also your health.
So if you’re feeling hopeless thinking that you’re just going to spend the rest of your life moving in and out of a cycle of flares, I invite you to see that you’re not doomed.
It is empowering to know that you have options to dig deeper and seek out reasons that drive the inflammation often associated with chronic skin issues.
Know that you can find answers just as I and many others have!