Wondering how to on earth to get through Topical Steroid Withdrawal in the winter? Here's some brilliant TSWinter advice from Louise King, aka @louigi_skin!
I have a few memories of walking in the snow early this year when my TSW condition was at its worst. I’ll always remember the pain of cold, harsh winds stinging my broken skin. It was so excruciatingly painful that I would often burst into tears, but I needed the fresh air. Being bed-bound most of the day would drive me crazy. At this point I was too embarrassed to go out during the day which meant that frosty-winter-night-walks became our jam. My mum would wrap my face up in bandages and we would walk the dog in our PJs.
This winter, my TSW is less severe, although like many of you I’m still finding the chilly months challenging. Winter & skin conditions rarely marry up well, so adding TSW into the mix can be extra tricky, but we all hone our little tricks of the trade to survive a combo of this season & topical steroid withdrawal.
Here are my top tips for getting through the coldest time of the year!
Scarfs and neckerchiefs: they will become your friends, no matter what stage of withdrawal you are at. If you are still very oozy, they can be used to disguise ugly bandages.
If you are in the later dry stages, like me, you can use them to disguise flare-ups or very dry skin. There's something comforting about them; covering up my rashy neck with a thin scarf has become one of my lifesavers, and of course this is a lot easier in the winter.
Moisturising: the obvious one (unless you are still doing NMT/no moisture treatment) Everyone’s skin is drier in the winter, and TSW skin is particularly affected. I give my face a very light scrub with a lukewarm towel in the morning and apply a moisturiser then sometimes over the top - hyaluronic acid to seal it in.
Looking after lips: my lips need a lot of love during these months so I keep my trusty Balmonds lip salve with me at all times. I’d be pissed off without it - dry lips are so distracting!
Fresh air: as I mentioned above, I know how painful it is but get out in the cold when you can. It’s normal for us to become hermits in the winter but a blast of fresh air will do you the world of good, both physically and mentally.
Diet: As I write this I’m itchy and I know it’s due to my current winter diet. Or the two red wines I consumed at dinner (also featuring heavily in my winter diet)! This time of year is notorious for eating a lot of naughty treats and it can be difficult to stick to skin friendly foods.
I’m not going to tell you off at this point, or tell you to follow some special diet, although we all know it would help. What I am going to ask is that you do the following: you forgive yourself and enjoy the treats until January. TSW is bad enough, not having real cheese or chocolate at Christmas would have just set me over the edge. Give yourself a break and accept the rich foods might make you itch more.
(Try to) enjoy it: my last piece of advice would be to enjoy the positive things this season brings for TSW sufferers. Being able to cover up my skin in big baggy jumpers and getting comfy at home definitely helped me. Most people tend to stay in more so I noticed I didn’t have the same FOMO as I did in the summer months.
Your #TSWinter advice; I want to thank everyone who sent me their advice to be featured on this blog! You are all fab and I had fun reading your #TSWinter tips, a lot of them were helpful for me too, so I’m honoured to share them below for others:
Via @m.t.paterson: “My #tswinter advice: try not to wash hands too often it can be very drying. Also, despite how tempting it is, try to wear more layers or blankets instead of putting the central heating on because that can be very drying too when we're trying to encourage natural moisture!”
Via @tsw_fall: “Take advantage of the cool weather. I use icepacks when I’m hot and itchy so the cold really helps with the hot flares.”
Via @graceguggs: “Winter advice: it was crucial for me to stock up on soft clothing. Especially turtle necks and scarfs - cotton of course! When it was time for a bath, I would prepare everything ahead of time and get my bedroom in order so I could wrap myself, get in comfy clothing, and get in bed without having to worry about a thing. Because it’s cold and my baths were lukewarm, I needed to make sure I could get cozy - quickly! When it snowed, I tried to make myself get out and walk around. It was crucial for me to get present and enjoy the beautiful season even when I felt awful and emotionally/physically destroyed. It helped me a great deal to cope and reminded me that things change, just like the season. Winter is my favourite season and last year was the worst time in my life. Stay grateful, stay close to people, and buy fuzzy socks and hot chocolate! ❤❤”
Via @kellyanne23: “MY TSWINTER ADVICE: long cotton tops and leggings! Avoid polyester where possible to keep warm under your usual clothing, and for night time to keep the heat in and to let the moisturizers soak in.
- Turn the heating on in your car towards your feet those vents really dry out your face at this time of year.
- A petroleum-free balm for those lips and other chapped areas.
- Hydrate with water and herbal teas such as turmeric and Oolong which help inflammation in eczema.
- Don't overdo it, nest and nap when you can your skin needs time to heal.
- Swap wines for gins at Christmas time sulphates can really cause flares for us TSW guys and gals.
- I asked Santa for a silk pillow so its kinder on my face and thinning hair due to tsw; I've heard good things about them.
- Where possible get out and walk wrapped up sunny crisp days”
Via @libsskinjourney: “My tswinter advice: it sometimes can be so hard to motivate yourself to do exercise or go outside. However, I’ve found on the crisp cold winter days if I go for a long walk my skin really thanks me afterwards. Something about the cold air on my skin instead of staying inside with central heating, that in my opinion just lets the skin breathe and gets the blood flowing to increase the healing process.”
- Dead Sea salt baths
- Be positive (no matter how hard it can be)
- Moisturise (although many tsw sufferers don’t it helps me massively getting on with day-to-day life)”
Via @nikitaelisee: “My TSWinter advice is book a holiday because the flares will make you feel like you've gone backwards on your healing. Also do not drink alcohol because that plus the cold plus the heating is due to ruin everything. Like me right now.”
Thank you all who entered their TSWinter advice! Good luck during the winter months. I wish you all happy skin and a wonderful Christmas & New Year.
Love from @louigi.skin
Louise charts her TSW journey on Instagram @louigi.skin
Balmonds offer information and support, whether you’re going through topical steroid withdrawal, looking for safe long-term management strategies or wondering whether your symptoms match the condition. For more information about TSW, its symptoms and how to manage them, go to the ITSAN website. Other hashtags to follow for peer-to-peer support: #thisisnoteczema #tsw #TSWFab5
Current medical advice is not to use daily topical steroids continuously for more than two to four weeks; then the frequency should be tapered to twice weekly use.
Balmonds Skin Salvation makes a great emollient for dry skin during topical steroid withdrawal: it's soft, gentle, natural and feeds dry, fragile skin with essential nutrients for healing.
If you require medical advice we recommend you always contact your healthcare professional.
If you or someone you are caring for seems very unwell, is getting worse or you think there's something seriously wrong, call for emergency services straight away. For general medical advice, please contact your healthcare professional, this article does not contain or replace medical advice.
Do not delay getting help if you're worried. Trust your instincts.