How To Get Through Topical Steroid Withdrawl (TSW): Acrylic Nails

Zainab Danjuma

Acrylic nails as a weapon against eczema?! It might sound crazy, but it works! Here's Zainab Danjuma to explain.

"Stop scratching!”

I can bet that anyone with eczema has been on the receiving end of these instructions.

Whilst in the middle of a cheeky itch session, these two simple words can send anyone with dermatitis into a blind rage.

“Stop scratching?! You have NO idea how this feels, one can not simply just ‘stop scratching’ - it’s too itchy! You wouldn’t last 10 minutes in my shoes!"

Of course we never respond like this. We usually just hang our head in shame and try ineffectively to rub the area better, or walk away to find a spot to scratch in peace.

At the end of the day, although hearing those words can frustrate us, refraining from scratching is an essential part of controlling and healing eczema flare ups. We all know the euphoric feeling of scratching that itch… only to be overcome with immediate regret once you realise you’ve gone too far and have drawn blood. It’s not pretty but it’s reality for so many sufferers out there.

My story

I was diagnosed with eczema when I was a few months old so I have been dealing with it for almost the entirety of my life. I don’t think I’ve gone a single day without scratching!

I've tried so many treatments, including avoiding eggs and dairy when I was young, only wearing cotton clothing, Traditional Chinese Medicine and of course, topical steroids.

Two years ago, I decided to stop all medication and embark on a Topical Steroid Withdrawal journey and the intensity of that itch went through the roof. Most people describe it as a “bone deep itch” that you can never reach no matter how hard you dig your nails into your skin. I’m not going to lie and say I didn’t scratch throughout my withdrawal. I did… and with the ferocity of a mad woman! However, I very rarely ever caused myself injury, or made myself bleed and that’s all thanks to my acrylic nails.

Now, hear me out! I’m not claiming that they are a cure for eczema, I’m not even saying that can be considered an eczema treatment, but they really help with protecting your skin from aggressive scratching.

The important thing is that they can prevent cuts, and therefore also lessen the chance of infection and future scarring.

What are acrylics?

Acrylics consist of a liquid monomer and powder polymer. It’s applied using a brush, which is dipped into the liquid and then into the powder to form a paste. The paste is then brushed directly onto your nails and left to dry. Once dry, the paste becomes solid and can then be filed into the desired nail shape and then painted with your chosen colour or design. When getting acrylics you also have the option to extend your natural nail length with extensions. 

I know, it’s crazy right? Long nails and eczema, that can’t possibly be a good idea! Eczema sufferers are always told to keep our nails short, but really, the length of the nail isn’t really the problem, it is more so the sharpness of them.

Natural nails can cut like razor blades, regardless of the length because of how thin they are. Applying a layer of acrylic over top essentially thickens the nail, making it blunt and therefore making it harder to cut the skin - and also more challenging when trying to pick at scabs, which is another no-no!

How long do they last?

It really depends on the individual and how fast their nails grow but people usually get their nails done every 2-4 weeks. As your nails grow, the acrylic moves with them and a gap starts to appear between the cuticle and the acrylic. When you go back to the nail shop, they apply more acrylic to this space and blend it in with the rest of the nail.

What if I am allergic to acrylics?

It’s quite common to be allergic to one or more of the ingredients used for acrylics. People with eczema have very sensitive skin in general so it’s best to do a trial, maybe on just one finger, before commiting to a full set.

Another popular nail treatment is gel nails. Gel nails are also applied with a brush but the material does not require mixing - it comes as a thick gel-like liquid that is layered onto the nail and then put under a UV lamp to cure and harden. This may be an alternative for some people if they have sensitivities to acrylics.

Confidence boost

We all like to look our best and sometimes, with a skin condition, insecurities of feeling less than perfect are all too real. That’s why it’s good to invest time in doing things that make you feel good.

For me, getting my nails done is part of my beauty regime. I feel so good after getting a fresh set, I think it's no different to getting your brows threaded or going to get a massage. It's all part of self care and keeping your confidence in check. If it makes you feel pretty, and at the same time protects your skin in the long run, it’s a win-win situation.

Stepping out and choosing bold and bright colours can also boost positivity. Every time you look down at your hands it’s a tiny boost to your mood!

Shapes and designs

There are many shapes to choose from when getting your nails done and it’s good to choose one that compliments your hands but is also practical for your lifestyle. I’ve been getting my nails done since I was 17 and my favourites are the almond shape, and also coffin shape which is also known as ballerina shape. Stiletto nails, with a very slim pointy tip may look intimidating, but I’ve found that the narrower the tip of the nail, the less contact it has with the skin when you scratch. So technically, it might actually be the most effective shape for eczema! Also with such delicately thin nails, you may be more cautious of them to ensure they don’t break meaning aggressive scratching is out of the question

Top tip!

As long as your nail tech buffs the tip so it's not sharp, all should be good.

Ultimately it’s up to you and with the various nail shapes, lengths, colours and designs out there, you’ll never be short of choice!

Over the years, I’ve figured that the best way to keep your set looking fresher for longer is to choose a powder colour.

The main reason is because every time we scratch (which is pretty much all day every day) we slowly buff away at our acrylics. This can sometimes distort the shape of your nails overtime and also round off the shape. I’m right handed, so I usually find that by the time I’m ready to get my fill, the nails on my right hand are slightly shorter than those on my left!

Also, if you’ve finished your nails with a regular nail polish or even gel polish, you will see the colour start to chip away at the edges, revealing the clear acrylic underneath. This used to really annoy me, so I switched to coloured powders and never looked back. Coloured powder acrylics are applied in exactly the same way as regular acrylics but they don't require painting with polish at the end because the pigment is within the powder itself. The colour can never chip or fade! Best of all, by using coloured powders, it opens a whole new array of nail designs like an ombre or solid glitter nails.

So there’s my guide to acrylics. In short (or long!) they provide protection for your skin by making your natural nails thicker and less sharp.

False nails are a commitment though, and do require regular visits to the salon to maintain them. However, if you’re anything like me, you’ll see them as a means of helping to control your eczema that luckily also doubles as pampering treat!

Whether you choose to opt for false nails or stay au natural, just know that we’ll all get through this together, one scratch at a time. Happy healing!


ZAinab DanjumaZainab Danjuma is a vlogger who aims to spread awareness about eczema and the impact it can have on self-esteem. She's now steroid-free and charts her TSW journey online via her YouTube channel and Instagram accounts: @beezeebuzz (personal account) and @TSW_beezeebuzz (skin account)!

Topical Steroid Withdrawal

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