A WOMAN whose eczema because so bad people thought she had been attacked because of her swollen face has praised a £8 cream for clearing her skin.
Eden Brown, 25, was diagnosed with eczema as a baby and prescribed topical steroids in 2012 - when it became far more severe because of exam stress and perfumed beauty products.
But, while the creams worked wonders for a few weeks, whenever she stopped using them her flare-ups would be so severe she would look as if she had been in a fight.
Eden, who has been dating surveyor Ed, 24, for nearly three years, said: "I was walking down the street in my second year at university in Aberdeen when someone handed me a leaflet saying 'Domestic abuse. No excuse.'
"I was shocked that somebody had given me this. Then I realised, it was because my face was so puffy and swollen.
"My lips were cracked and bleeding, too, so it looked like I had been beaten up.
"It was upsetting knowing that's how bad I looked.
"Domestic abuse is such a serious issue, I can only commend someone for being brave enough to try and help people in that situation - even if I only looked like I was.”
As a youngster, Eden's eczema - which is mainly on her face, hands and neck - was easily controlled using E45 cream.
But when she reached 16 - and started using more scented products, like pungent deodorants and hairspray - she would have weekly, rather than two or three monthly breakouts.
These would leave Eden with swollen lips and eyes, and weeping skin.
Her sensitivity to chemicals in cosmetics was so severe that she could not experiment with make-up - and even started reacting to her mates' products.
I realised it was because my face was so puffy and swollen. My lips were cracked and bleeding, too, so it looked like I had been beaten upEden Brown
She said: "I would always have to leave the room as soon as anyone started using any sort of scented products.
"All my friends would be trying out make-up and talking about the most recent product they'd bought, and it was hard not to feel left out.
"Most of my friends were great, but there was one particular house party where a group of girls started spraying me on purpose with deodorant.
"My entire face and hands broke out in eczema because of it and I’d be left in fits of sneezing, struggling to breathe.
"I couldn't wear deodorant at all at the time. It wasn't like it is now. Back then there were barely any scent free alternatives and you know teenagers, they love anything that smells sickly and strong."
When her eczema started to affect her self-confidence, Eden saw her GP in 2012, who prescribed the topical steroid cream.
"I'd never used steroid cream before, because I'd always managed to keep on top of any breakouts," she said.
"But I think the stress of studying for A-levels and planning for university made it even harder to."
With regular deadlines for coursework and termly exams, the stress of university life made Eden's eczema even more extreme.
She said: "When my skin was particularly bad at uni, I would be walking to lectures and people would not even recognise me.
“I’d go to wave or smile and they’d walk right past - that’s how red and swollen my face was.”
As the skin on her face was so badly affected, Eden felt so self-conscious that she started to hide away.
"I basically became a hermit at university," she said. "It's meant to be a time of finding yourself and making new friends.
"But my skin became so awful I couldn't face leaving the house. Who wants to go out partying looking like that?"
At uni she visited a doctor again, who agreed that she had "problematic eczema," but offered no solution past using the steroid creams.
Eden said: "I'd apply a thin layer of cream when my skin was bad and within a few hours there would be a massive improvement.
"But then, when it did come back - which it always did - it was angrier than ever.
“I wasn’t able to wear white tops for years. The neckline and sleeves would literally turn yellow, my skin was weeping so much.”
Despite seldom socialising, in her third year at university she met Ed, who's she now been with for almost three years.
She said: "I might not have lived the university life I'd hoped for but I met Ed and that's been amazing.
"He's stuck with me through the ups and downs and always makes me feel beautiful - regardless of whether my skin has broken out or not.
"I’ve never worn make-up, so from the outset Ed was able to see how bad my skin could get.
“The worst affected area is my face, so, if he was willing to see past the eczema there then there wasn't much more to be shocked by.
“He told me that looks fade and he wanted someone to grow old and wrinkly with - he really is my rock."
After seven years of topical steroid use, Eden started looking for natural alternatives last September.
She said: "It seemed like my skin was getting worse and worse.
"I'd done some research online and decided topical steroids weren't right for my skin.
"I was sure that they were just offering temporary relief, instead of getting to the root of the problem."
Experiencing a savage flare-up of eczema shortly afterwards, she came across a blog about topical steroid withdrawal (TSW).
A rare reaction to stopping taking steroids, it can cause skin to turn red, burn and even peel.
Eden said: "I saw a blog post about TSW on a skincare website and the more I read about it the more I thought, 'This is me.'"
When my skin was particularly bad at uni, I would be walking to lectures and people would not even recognise meEden Brown
The post recommended Balmond's Skin Salvation, a £7.99 cream available at independent health shops and pharmacies, which had worked wonders for the person concerned.
"By the time I'd finished reading, I knew I had to give it a shot and I started using it," said Eden.
To her delight, the benefits were almost immediate.
"Within three days the skin on my hands were like a normal person's," she said.
"There's no way easy to cover your hands.
"It made a huge difference to my confidence, because your hands are one of the only parts of your body you see all day."
Within two months, Eden says the skin on her face looked better than it had in over a decade.
"It's the best my skin has ever looked or felt since my early teens," she said. "It's like I've got completely new skin.
"It's taken a long time, but I feel like the journey has been worth it.
"It's not just the outside of my body that has benefited from this - it's the inside, too.
"I feel very humble and a lot kinder as a person because of everything I have been through.
"I know that there's a lot more to someone than appears on the surface and I try and remind myself of that.
"I've even started a YouTube channel to help others, especially young people, have a source of information and gain more confidence about having 'bad skin.'”
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Now, Eden hopes that telling her story will turn the focus on TSW.
"I've never overused steroids and only used them as instructed by multiple specialists and healthcare professionals,” she said.
"It's such a misunderstood condition and it's unacceptable that people are still being so readily prescribed steroids when they should be an absolute last resort.
"I cannot believe it's taken so long to get to the root of what was causing my skin condition.
"I've self-diagnosed my TSW, but I'm 100 per cent sure it's the right diagnosis.
"If it wasn't for reading the post about Balmond's, no doubt I'd still be in the dark and using steroids myself.
To find out more about Balmonds Skin Salvation, click here.