I first discovered Joanna Rose-Hazel through Instagram and ended up down a rabbit hole of learning about her extreme eczema and her long journey of research, discovery and change to help heal her skin. I just knew I had to have Joanne on the blog to share her eczema advice with you all, so that anyone suffering with their skin can learn from Joanne's experience and advice and start their journey of healing their eczema that little bit sooner. I'm thrilled that Joanne agreed to share her story with us all.
When did you first get eczema and what caused it?
I’ve had eczema on and off from a very young age but I would just use steroid cream every time it came up. As for what caused it I reckon it was likely my diet.
It came to a head in 2017; I had a few eczema patches on my hands and feet that seemed to be getting worse, so I began to change my lifestyle and eat whole foods that were mainly organic. Not too long after this, my body went into full detox mode and broke out in all-over body eczema.
It spread quickly up my legs and then began to cover my stomach, neck and chest. Before I knew it, I was covered in eczema all over, but it wasn't just dry patches. It was angry, weeping and unbearably itchy. There were some days I would literally sit for hours scratching my legs until they bled and the cycle would just continue.
At times, I couldn't leave the house or wear clothes for long lengths of time because I would have to peel them off my legs when I got home. I also wouldn't wear skirts or dresses, because I didn't want people to see it. My skin resembled someone who had been caught in a house fire, it was so black and charred.
It finally came to a head when I started to realize that every morning I was waking up with my face becoming more and more swollen as the eczema began to cover my face.
On the third morning, I woke up as if I had gone ten rounds with Mike Tyson. My face was swollen and I could barely open my eyes. I took myself to A&E where a dermatologist took one look at me and told me I had caused my skin to become this way by 'under-treating' my eczema. Under-treatment meaning not using steroids.
Tell me about your experience of using steroids to try to treat your eczema?
Steroids work; temporarily! It always seems to ‘get rid’ of the eczema but what we don’t realise is that the body slowly becomes addicted because it’s an immunosuppressant. Using the steroids never deals with the root of the issue but just suppresses the symptoms.
Although I knew that healing my skin naturally was the best way, I was so afraid of how my face looked, I felt like there was nothing left for me to do but to take the steroids; but doing that would prove to be one of the biggest mistakes of my life.
Using a strong steroid for two weeks straight as prescribed was probably the worst thing I could have done, as the eczema flared up 10 times worse when I stopped. In the eczema community we refer to this as topical steroid withdrawal and the effects of this are so much worse than the eczema itself.
In the two weeks I used the steroids, my skin 'healed' everywhere I was using it, but after a week my hands began to bubble up as if I had been burned; and I began to break out all over my scalp. Basically everywhere I wasn't using the cream is where the eczema decided to surface but it didn't look like just eczema. It was flaky and very weepy.
I called the dermatologist about what was happening, and without even asking to see me so he could look at it, he prescribed me a stronger steroid to keep using on my hands and a steroid shampoo for my scalp. It was at this point I realized that they had no clue what they were doing, and rather than find out why my skin was continuing to break out they were throwing more medications at it.
Tell me about your journey to heal your skin and what ended up working for you?
It was a really tough road to heal my skin but it started with the decision to not use steroids again.
I started by changing my diet. At first it was trial and error but I started reading and researching like crazy and eventually found a way to eat that really benefited me. I also got rid of everything I considered toxic, from skincare to cleaning products.
Although it was torture going through the process of trial and error, and figuring out the different elements that caused my own eczema, it has been the best thing I could have ever done.
The majority of skin conditions are your body's way of telling you that something is wrong internally. One thing I've learnt going through this experience is that there are many different triggers for eczema and other skin diseases like psoriasis and hyper pigmentation. It could be hereditary, allergies and sometimes even environmental. One of the major factors in my eczema flare up was the fact that we were living in a damp flat riddled with mould.
Eczema is a symptom not a condition; and when you get to the root cause you can and you will heal.
The beautiful thing about healing yourself naturally is that you are in control of your own process. You get to learn your body and the way it functions in a way you didn't realize before. The changes you make to your lifestyle will not only benefit your skin but your overall health and wellbeing. There are many other conditions that can be addressed at the same time, as your body begins to heal from the inside out.
What have you learned about eczema, skin and health along the way?
It’s all connected. I think it’s important to have a well rounded approach when it comes to healing the skin because your body is one.
I learned that healing the skin takes good diet, good exercise and a good skincare routine; but the mental and emotional health is just as important, too.
The skin reveals so much of what is going on inside the body so the key is to find balance in every aspect and eventually the skin will heal itself; because that is what our bodies have been designed to do.
What advice would you give to someone with eczema?
Don’t give up and also make up in your mind first that you want to get better before you change anything. Healing eczema naturally is definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do and I have three children!
There were many times when I felt suicidal because the pain and discomfort were too much and I felt like giving up many times, but because I had purposed in my heart to do it, I carried on.
You may not get everything right first time and your skin might not heal in the time frame you expect, but you just have to keep on going.