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I Fixed My Eczema With Fish Oil!

I suffered from dishydrotic eczema on my left hand for over a year, where nothing I applied on my skin could break the cycle of itching, scratching and bleeding. This is the earliest photo I have of my left hand which began developing over a year ago. It started just at the tip of my pointer, but with every round of itching, scratching, bleeding and healing, the area of the vesicles spread, leaving my hand looking like this in October 2014:

dishydrotic eczema 1410-01

At its worst in July this year, the top left corner of my hand was covered in horrible itchy blisters that were constantly in danger of bursting and bleeding, making it impossible to do normal daily tasks like washing dishes, or even having a shower, without bracing myself for pain:

dishydrotic eczema 1507-04

However, the affected skin on my hand miraculously transformed in just 15 days to becoming practically normal after I began taking fish oil supplements–at triple the recommended dosage. I started this regimen 15 days back, and here is what my hand looks like today:

dishydrotic eczema 1509-01

My skin is supple again, albeit thickened with the constant regrowing it was subject to. No more vesicles (blisters) can be seen, and I haven’t felt the urge to scratch in 5 days straight! 🙂

So I must concede that all my efforts at researching and experimenting with essential oils, blends and salves to help fix the problem were ineffective, compared to how well supplements worked. It has reinforced my conviction that it is well worth the effort to try and address chronic skin issues by looking at nutrition first, before turning one’s attention to topical applications.

Here is what I have been taking:

blackmores fish oil

The recommended dosage is 1 x 1000mg capsule after every meal, 3 times a day. My thinking was that if my skin was already on the dry side in general, I was already lacking in essential fatty acids that are needed to maintain a healthy mantle. So first I doubled the dosage, which did result in some improvements in my eczema, but it was only when I tripled it (so I was taking 9 capsules a day) that my skin really improved by leaps and bounds.

Another consideration was a possibility that I was lacking in certain minerals, so I have also been taking some multivitamins and zinc supplements to go with the fish oils. This is the multivitamin which I am OK with:

spectro multivitamin

And here’s the B Complex and zinc supplement I take:

surbex zinc

From what I can tell, it is only when I forget to take the fish oil over 2-3 meals that my skin starts looking (and feeling) irritated and inflamed again. If I don’t take the multivites or zinc, I’m still good.

I don’t have all the scientific explanations as to why this worked for me–but I really, really hope that it can help you or someone you know who may be suffering the same condition as I was.

Do you know of a remedy for this kind of eczema? Please share it with us here so that other readers may also benefit from your insight. 🙂

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5 Simple Tips for Managing Photodermatitis

This is what I looked like back in September 2013.

I had the misfortune of giving myself photodermatitis. Yes, I did it to myself, albeit unintentionally. 🙁 I reckoned that my skin would never be the same again. Although it did eventually look normal and healthy again after 6 months, I was right–because now it seems to have returned, confined to a smaller area on the lower half of my face, but now affecting my lip as well. The prime suspect for the trigger is a new toothpaste that I tried, so I am abandoning it for now.

Photodermatitis is essentially sun poisoning. According to the University of Maryland Medical Centre’s website, “Photodermatitis is an abnormal skin reaction to sunlight, or more specifically to ultraviolet (UV) rays. It can be acute (sudden) or chronic (ongoing). Photodermatitis occurs when your immune system reacts to UV rays. You may develop a rash, blisters, or scaly patches.”

It was horrible. It eventually reached a stage where I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror without tearing up, feeling so wretched and helpless. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what was wrong with me and also searching for natural remedies to help me cope with my condition. Now with this second flare-up, I am much better prepared to manage the symptoms and put myself on the road to recovery much sooner.

Here is what I learned, and I hope that these tips will help you or a loved one too.

1. Stay out of the sun as much as possible

Before I determined what was causing those weepy red patches to form all over my face, arms and lower legs, I thought that the best course of action was to wear as little clothing covering those areas as possible. How wrong I was! It made matters worse, and the patches became even more inflamed. Try to stay indoors when the sun is at its harshest (between 12pm and 2pm) to allow your skin a better chance to recover quicker.

A patch of skin that had crusted over (and eventually became weepy again)
A patch of skin that had crusted over (and eventually became weepy again)

You may notice that your skin looks reddest at the end of the day, and is almost normal when you look in the mirror first thing in the morning. Night time is kindest to your poor skin, when all is dark and cool.

2. Cover up with clothing and sunblock

If you do need to be outdoors, wear breathable lightweight cotton clothing (long sleeved tops and trousers). Break out your most fashionable wide brimmed hat and don’t skimp on the sunblock. This helped me feel more comfortable in my daily comings and goings tremendously.

Trying to have fun with new wardrobe accessories!
Trying to have fun with new wardrobe accessories!

Under normal circumstances my skin already turns a bit red whenever I use conventional cream based sunblocks, so trying to find an even milder, non-irritating alternative for photodermatitis would be a challenge. Thankfully a friend recommended this particular product to me and it was a life saver. Here is a bottle of Sunplay Skin Aqua UV Moisture Milk SPF 50+ (I know, it’s a mouthful :p), which I don’t leave home without these days.

bottle of sunscreen
A staple in my work bag

It has a light, watery texture that you can easily dab gently into your skin. It doesn’t feel at all greasy either. You can buy it online here, and it usually costs around RM35 at most pharmacies.

3. Cool packs are your friend

These will literally take the burn out of your skin immediately. Wrap a cool pack with a soft cloth (finely woven cotton is best) and place it against your affected skin. Be careful not to rub the area too much because it can cause your skin to break and weep. Repeat as often as you feel comfortable with.

Don’t apply ice cold packs directly on the skin, no matter how good it feels. It will cause a different kind of burn later!

4. Keep your skin moisturized

150824 teselli body souffle test
An experimental batch of whipped body butter that eventually became our Teselli Body Soufflé

I made my own products to soothe and moisturize my skin back in 2013, which eventually gave birth to our Teselli range of products – but you can also use other products to help with your skin’s healing process. Look for skin moisturizers that have a high level of emollients that will protect your skin from losing too much moisture (which is what tends to happen with most forms of eczema, photodermatitis included). The lighter the texture, the easier it will be to dab it into your skin.

I also tried the Salcura salt/mineral spray, but it didn’t really work for me. I reckon it may be more suitable for eczema types that are caused by mineral deficiencies (in which case you may be better off taking oral supplements for a long term solution). You can find this product at most pharmacies too.

For the lips I also apply sunscreen and a balm to keep them supple and less prone to cracking. It burns constantly (until I apply a cool compress), but I try my best not to accidentally brush them against anything rough (no kissing my kids until they heal, unfortunately) or apply too much pressure on them.

Screen Shot 2015-08-24 at 5.57.03 PM
Note the blisters in the middle of my lower lip. They hurt!

5. Tank up on water and healthy oils

I already try my best to drink lots of water on a daily basis, but the other area that I am not as disciplined with is taking more omega 3 oils, which help to reduce inflammation in the body on the whole. It may help with reducing symptoms for other types of eczema too. (You can read more about the role of omega-3 oils in skin health here.) But on my part, here are the supplements and other foods that I actively tried to eat more of, and regularly:

  • avocados (I used to eat them and give the seeds to the kids to play with – the only fruit I know of that comes with a toy inside! :p)
  • fish oil supplements. I doubled or even tripled my intake vis-à-vis the recommended daily allowance to no ill effect.
  • B Complex supplements with zinc and magnesium. This was mainly to help me cope with managing so much on a daily basis.

I do see and feel that my skin is less dry and flaky when I remember to eat these things (I can even do without moisturizer on my lower legs, which tend to get dry most easily).

So I hope that these 5 tips are useful to you. Take heart, your skin has a good chance of recovering! Just be gentle on yourself, allow your skin enough time to recuperate, and keep your chin up. Do share your own tips in the comments section if you have other pointers with managing photodermatitis, I’m sure your fellow readers would be most appreciative of the additional information!

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Curio: “Organic Salt Soap”

While on my usual rounds at the Section 17 market in PJ one morning last week, I spotted an old uncle selling what looked like blocks of pink coloured things from a small table. He instantly picked up on my interest, launching into a barrage of cantonese explaining what the stuff was. I guess he also noted my blank smile that belied the fact that I could barely understand him so he pulled out a leaflet written in english. :p

They were solid bars of salt, meant to be used in the shower. This was totally new to me so I was rather fascinated (albeit a little sceptical). After the sales pitch about it being great for solving all kinds of skin problems, I thought it was worth trying on myself to find out once and for all if all that stuff was true. BUT let it be known that I felt guilty about it supposedly being imported from Poland… the thought of all the carbon emissions from transporting what are practically rocks across vast distances… eep. :”>

Anyway, here’s the smaller, unpackaged chunk of “organic salt soap” that I bought:

It could be a projectile weapon for the bathroom. Hm.
It could be a projectile weapon for the bathroom. Hm.

This photo was taken after a week’s use. It’s hardly shrunk. It also struck me that the salt looked very similar to the kinds you find on those salt lamps that you put light bulbs in and that supposedly release ions to cleans the air around it etc. Anyway.

Interestingly enough, the eczema on the insides of my elbows which flared up in the heat, seems to have cleared with a day’s use of the salt soap. I also tried it on my face (as instructed by the old uncle), wetting the skin then applying some of the ‘soap’, leaving it on for about 3 minutes before washing everything off under the shower. While I did not notice anything remarkably different after using the salt, I did feel that my skin had a pleasant, healthy texture. It’s like having an isolated dip in the sea, isn’t it?

The only mistake I made was to think that I could rub the bar of salt *directly* onto my skin for a scrubby effect. DON’T DO IT. Not only did it scratch my skin, the salt stung like crazy. Ah, silly me. I should have known better!

So the verdict? It’s an interesting object to have in your bathroom, and for most Malaysians who don’t have bath tubs to use bath salts in, this could be a feasible alternative. I doubt it can completely replace normal soap as a cleansing item. Plus it’s Not something I would use for my hair – and overall I still prefer my soap with all their lovely essential oils and creamy lather! Yes yes, I’m biased…

But here you go – some additional reading on the net yielded these articles that expound the many benefits of salt for our health:

And just in case you’re curious as to what this particular uncle’s claims are on the efficacy of his “Organic Salt Soap”, here’s a reproduction of the contents of his flyer:

  • Imported from Poland
  • Contained of natural Organic Calcium and different types of minerals
  • Provides nutrition to your skin directly
  • Helt to increase metabolism, removes dead skin cell
  • Help to improve your skin healthy level
  • Function: Reduce inflammation, kill germs and bacteria
  • Smoothen and soften your skin if regularly use
  • Good for Itchy skin, sensitive skin, smelly feet, ring worm, white spots, black spots, dark skin, pimples, wound inflammation, scrap, crack heels, removes muscles pain, slowing down your aging process, reduces wrinkles, whitening skin.
  • Contact number: 012-3442038 (Wilson)
  • Contact number: 016-3721312 (Uncle Loo)

Hope you’re having a good start to your week!